Robert Mullins

Your Research Proposal

Your research proposal is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of computer science and your particular research interest. Here are a few tips to consider when writing your proposal:

  • It is not a personal statement. It should be a stand-alone research proposal.
  • You should identify, motivate and describe an interesting and novel research direction. This is different to describing a solution. Candidates often fall into the trap of describing an elaborate solution. Finding a good solution is obviously what the PhD is for!
  • Try to be precise when you write especially when describing the reason for pursuing research in your chosen area. Why is it a particularly interesting time to do research in this area? Don't assume it is obvious or that the reader knows what you are thinking.
  • It is good to show that you are familiar with related work in the field, but your proposal should be more than a survey of existing solutions. It should identify a new direction or approach.
  • A good research proposal will look into the future and consider tomorrow's problems, not today's. If you have identified an active research area, try to think what the next important challenge in that area might be.
  • One last pitfall to avoid is to simply paraphrase material collected from these web pages, this tells me very little about how imaginative you are.
  • Your proposal should begin to show how you will tackle the problem, i.e. break it down into smaller sub-problems, goals and deliverables. Please ensure you at least identify concrete goals and dilverables for the first year.
  • Your proposal should be no longer than 3000 words.
  • I am very happy to comment on a draft. I am unlikely to comment repeatedly on many drafts. In the end, the document needs to reflect your ideas not mine!

It might also be useful to ask yourself this series of questions (known as the "Heilmeier Catechism").

Useful Links

More information regarding your research proposal can be found here.

Keynote talks from the top computer architecture conferences (ISCA, MICRO, HPCA, ASPLOS, etc..) may also be a good source of inspiration.