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MPhil / PhD

Master of Philosophy (MPhil) / Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Research Proposal - some guidelines

The Graduate School is now inviting applications for MPhil and PhD programmes. While the Departmental committee in charge of recommending admission looks at a student's general academic record, special attention is given to the research proposal as an indicator of aptitude for postgraduate research. We hope that the guidelines below might prove helpful to you as you go about preparing your application for postgraduate study in the Department of Comparative Literature. The guidelines provide an informal response to frequently asked questions and are by no means to be interpreted as hard and fast rules.

A successful proposal typically includes a description of the research topic (at least 2 to 4 pages) and a bibliography (2 or more pages).

The Research Project:

  1. Delimitation of the topic:
    Since most topics are infinitely expandable, an indication as to how you propose to delimit your research area can be very helpful.
  2. Guiding Hypotheses:
    We don’t expect you to have arrived at your conclusions before you embark on your research. We do, however, know that your research will be all the more fruitful if you approach it with a clear sense of the ideas that you are testing. Your ability to articulate a guiding hypothesis provides evidence of your readiness to embark on the proposed research.
  3. Theoretical approach:
    There are many different ways of approaching a given research problem. What approach do you intend to adopt? Why?
  4. The projects significance:
    Why, in your mind, is your research project worth undertaking? Is it because nothing like it has been done before? Because earlier scholars have done a poor job of understanding the material with which you intend to deal? Our experience is that students who have some sense of why their research matters to them, and potentially to others tend to find the thesis-writing process less daunting. It is a good idea, then, to begin to clarify this issue for yourself during the early proposal-writing stage.

The Bibliography:

  • ◾Your description should be accompanied by a Bibliography. In many cases bibliographical entries can be usefully divided into primary and secondary materials. Consult the MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines for examples, as well as for the formatting conventions for bibliographies.

Covering Letter:

  • ◾You should also write a letter introducing yourself and your interest in Comparative Literature.

Field of Study:

  • ◾On the application form, there is a space for you to designate your Field of Study. This should be as general as possible to allow yourself plenty of flexibility. (Once you have been accepted, you cannot change this.)


  • ◾Your research topic is that you want to study: you should not attempt to take a subject with the Department because you think it will be attractive to the staff members. Remember to find out as much as you can about the Department (see our website) to make sure that the topic you select can be supervised within the Department.