A good research proposal is one of the most important aspects of your application to the Executive  DBA Programme.

When writing a research proposal, you need to demonstrate that you have gone beyond generally thinking about an issue to the stage where you can begin to systematically and rigorously investigate it.

We would normally expect you proposal to be a minimum of 1,200 words and a maximum of 2,500 words in length (excluding references).  A good research proposal will answer the following questions and include the following elements:

Why is this research important and why is it of particular interest to the business? 

This should form part of your introductory statement and allows you the opportunity to link the research topic to your background and experience.  

What is the previous research? 

In 2 or 3 pages explain what the most cited research papers are, how they contribute to theory. Which of these theories are you looking to build on and why? Cited papers should be chosen carefully avoid web references. How do these papers relate to each other (use of a diagram or mind map to illustrate linkages may help make good use of space).

What is your specific research question or questions?

Limit these questions to 2 or 3. How do these contribute to the literature, why are they interesting? Where do you see your contribution to the existing knowledge on this topic?

Which method will you employ? 

Why this method what others have you considered? Your method should be sound and practical i.e. straightforward to implement such as taking an established method from previous research and using it or building upon it.

Why this industrial setting? 

Is it because of knowledge, experience or access to data?


Use of a Gantt chart is often a good way of illustrating how your time will be apportioned.

In terms of prior reading the key to good research is often a mix of insight gained from practical experience and a sound knowledge of the literature. The former hopefully you have gained from your previous work for the latter please see Doing a Literature Review by Chris Hart (Sage, 1998) – particularly the first 5 chapters.

Common pitfalls of a research proposal

All too often what would be a strong application to the DBA is let down by a weak proposal. Some common weaknesses, and things that should be avoided, are:

  • Submitting a research proposal in a discipline that does not fall under any of ABS's Academic Department subject areas

  • Vague research proposals which are not grounded in the extant literature

  • Poor referencing

  • Failure to articulate the added value or potential contributions of the intended study

Open access journal articles

The following search tools can be used to access journal articles: