There is no single, expected formula for the shape of the research proposal, except that applicants are expected to observe the 2000-word limit (excluding bibliography; including title and footnotes). One recommended (but not compulsory) structure for the research proposal is as follows.
- Title of proposed research project.
- Brief statement of aims.
- Review of literature.
- Research question(s).
- Outline methodology.
- Issues of practicality, access and ethics (which may include an outline timetable).
A brief statement of aims should be no more than a short paragraph.
The review of literature is an important part of the proposal. It should critically analyse the debates in the academic literature relevant to the central research question/hypothesis. In this way applicants will show their understanding and mastery of the ‘state of the art’ in their chosen research area. Applicants should certainly know the relevant criminological literature and, in the spirit of the multi-disciplinary aims of the programme, may bring in academic literature from other fields, provided it is relevant to the central research question. The review of literature will also demonstrate the originality and relevance of the research question(s) by showing how they emerge from the key debates in the field. Associated with these debates will be more or less explicit theoretical dimensions. In a critical analysis of the literature, applicants will also show their ability to bring out and understand the theoretical issues at stake. Applicants will also be expected to show their engagement with a ‘social problem’, which is more than just a technical issue.
In their analysis of the literature, applicants should bear in mind that a cultural and/or global criminology seeks to look at crime, harm and control in their broad social and political contexts. In this way the research will examine issues of wider critical relevance and not just related to crime fighting or legal processes (for example) considered in isolation. We expect our successful graduates to emerge from the programme with far more than than just technical expertise. DCGC graduates will possess the intellectual skills of high-level critical analysis that include consideration of ethical and political issues. Employers interested in the high-quality graduates of our programme will expect nothing less.
There will be a central research question. As indicated above, it will emerge from a critical analysis of the key academic debates in criminology and related fields. There may also be one or two ancillary research questions. In broad terms, the research question(s) will address a ‘problem’ of significance to the DCGC as reflected in our research themes. The research question should be of critical relevance. Demonstrating ‘critical relevance’ means that reviews of literature and research questions should address, in broad terms, a social problem associated with the crime, harm or crime policy in question. Such social problems may relate, for example, to one or more issues of justice, ethics, inequality, democracy, power relations, harm and so forth. In this regard, we believe that ‘politics’ and ‘policy’ are related, so that an appreciation of the politics of a problem will also have relevance, directly or indirectly, to policy prescriptions whether in criminal justice policy or, more widely, in social policy and political strategy.
The methodology will involve a brief description of the research method or methods. In essence the method or methods will be capable of answering the central research question (and may address any ancillary questions) in a reliable, valid and feasible way.
The applicant should also give brief consideration to practical and ethical issues. Practical issues will include those of language, access and time. At this point the applicant may add a brief, outline timetable of work over the three years.
The Selection Committee will evaluate the ability of the applicant to write their research proposal in a way
- that clearly demonstrates its originality and relevance;
- that is lucid, focused, properly structured and concise;
- that gives a clear narrative proceeding from the review of literature to the central research question (emerging from the critical analysis of the literature) and on to the methodology, which reliably, validly and feasibly answers the central research question;
- that is appropriate in terms of its style of expression to a proposal for academic, doctoral research.
Applicants should not exceed the 2000-word limit (excluding bibliography and an abstract of max. 300 words). Any research proposals that are significantly over or below this limit will be considered by the Selection Committee as weaker. Remember that the Selection Committee not only evaluates the originality and relevance of research proposals but also the skill of applicants to express themselves in a focused, clear and concise way.
Academic staff of the DCGC are willing to give general guidance about whether or not a research proposal falls within the themes of our programme and may help you with further academic orientation, identifying supervisors and mobility pathways. However they are not obliged to collaborate with you on developing the details of the proposal because this is evaluated as part of the application process.