For many applicants, the research proposal is the most challenging element of the application.
The proposal must be max 1500 words (including references but excluding bibliography) and include:
What is the research question that will be answered in the PhD?
If required, you may include an overall research question and a series of sub-questions.
Ensure that your research question is stated at, or near, the start of the proposal. Ensure too that it is stated in a clear way; assessors should not have to search for your research question.
Be aware that it takes time to craft a research question; expect to spend time researching and then thinking about the question, and then set aside additional time so that the question is framed in a clear, concise and precise manner.
Why should this research question be addressed?
In particular, by addressing this research question, will you augment scholarship in the area? This goes towards the question of whether the PhD will make an original contribution to scholarship in the relevant field.
Consider, too, the significance of the question at the heart of your proposed PhD. It is not sufficient to claim that a proposed PhD is original because it has never been studied before; it could be the case that it has not been studied because it has not been deemed significant, ie, worthy of study.
The proposal does not need to feature a literature review. However, the assessors will expect to see reference to the literature, both to demonstrate your knowledge of the current state of research in the field in which you hope to study, and to support your claim that there is currently a gap in the literature which your PhD will fill.
Your task, in other words, is to establish the research context. In doing so, if you fail to demonstrate familiarity with key sources in your field, including how your proposed PhD relates to these, it is likely to raise doubts as to the quality of your proposal and your aptitude for a PhD.
What method and methodology will be adopted to address the question?
What is the proposed timetable for the research?
One of the questions the assessors will ask is: does the proposed PhD seem viable? In particular, is it viable within the time available? Within the funds available? Using the method(s) proposed?
The quality of the presentation should be high; sloppiness will count against the proposal. And remember: do not exceed the maximum word count of 1,500 words, including references but excluding bibliography.