The proposal is a deal-breaker, a game changer if you want. This is the main part of your application. This is the main criterion of selection, the topic, the way you write it, how you present it, how you plan it, even your motivation and what type of person you are is transmitted through these 15 pages.
Never underestimate the power of writing, make sure you make an excellent impression and you convince your admission officers that you need to be in this program.
Here are some tips on how to stand out:
1. Be organized
Think of the fact that the admission officers and professors read hundreds of proposals a day and it’s very stressful and eventually even boring. Make their job easy and be organized, they are just ordinary people that have feelings, frustrations and the only way you will ever convince them is through your writing. Here’s an idea – I saw yesterday a comedy about an admission officer in Princeton (see below) think of someone like them when writing.
2. Pay attention to the guidelines
Check on their website, research on the internet and always read their instructions carefully. If the requirement is Times New Roman 12 with a 1,5 paragraph don’t do anything different, if they want 10-15 pages never write more than that. It’s very important to show them that you are attentive to details and that you play by their rules.
3. Ask for 2nd opinions
Take your time, ask a professor whose opinion you trust to proofread it and also ask a couple of friends what they think. It’s very important that your writing is comprehensible, that you make your message comes across in a clear and straightforward way. This is a very important task as you have to write a scientific material that is delivered in a way that even someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic is instantly captured by it. At the same time, be aware that you are not writing an article for the New York Times.
4. Be original
The main aspect of your PhD is creativity: you have to bring something new to the topic, you are expected to make your own contribution. Still don’t re-invent the wheel, be very careful and again take your time analyze, think, brainstorm and write, write, write.
5. Keep it short and simple
Don’t beat around the bush. Nobody likes to read the same idea in 7 ways; you here because you have something to say, right? And seriously the admission officers and professors neither have the patience nor the time to read the same thing over and over again throughout your proposal. Don’t use the fanciest words you found in the dictionary and never try to over-impress because it will be obvious for your readers that you are trying to hard: they can tell! Just keep it simple and relaxed.
Keeping the above in mind on the content, this is the structure your proposal should have:
1. First page: Title, author, date and place
First impression is the title, try to think of it in a way that attracts the interest of the reader and at the same time gives the hint towards the concepts and the questions in your research. Sometimes the title makes the difference so never ever underestimate the power of a good title.
4. Literature review/ State of the art
5. Research questions/Objectives
Appendix: Research Model, Plan
Here are some useful links where you can find in detail how to write each part of your proposal.
I recommend reading Prof. Dr. Qais Faryadi’s article from the American International Journal of Contemporary Research on How to Write Your PhD Proposal: A Step-By-Step Guide