All students applying to be admitted to the Faculty of Law’s PhD programme are required to submit a research project proposal attached to their online application. The following guide may assist applicants when completing this task. Please note that the following is only to be used as a general guide and that it does not guarantee acceptance into the PhD programme.
The project proposal should not exceed 6 A4 pages (excluding bibliography). The document must be in Times New Roman, font size 12, spacing 1.5 with all margins (right, left, top and bottom) set to 2 cm.
Research project proposal
Your research project proposal is an integral part of the PhD application process. It is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of and passion for the subject and make a persuasive argument about what your project can achieve. The quality of your research proposal will demonstrate such factors as whether you are capable of critical thinking and analysis, whether you are capable of communicating your ideas clearly and whether your project is feasible within the three-year period of PhD studies.
The research project proposal you submit at the PhD application stage sets out the general framework for your project. The project proposal should not contain a full account of the PhD programme or contain considerations of all the problems, materials, choice of methods etc. which will be included in the thesis. The final project will take shape as your PhD studies continue. Therefore, the initial research project proposal does not exclude the possibility of any potential alterations being made to the original description of your project once you are admitted into the Programme. Thus, you should view your project proposal as a document that will evolve as your research progresses, instead of viewing it as a summary of the final project at its date of completion.
Your project proposal outlines your proposed PhD project and should:
i) Reflect your interest in the subject,
ii) Define a clear research question(s) and lay out your proposed approach for answering it/them,
iii) Highlight the originality of your project and its significance for the field in question,
iv) Explain how your project will add to or develop the existing academic scholarship in the field,
v) Include any significant source materials on which your project will rely and/or explain any empirical research you will undertake, and
vi) Demonstrate the feasibility of your project within the given three-year period.
We recommend that, as an absolute minimum, you set aside several weeks for preparing your research project proposal. Coming up with a research topic, defining research questions, identifying appropriate research methods, collecting any preliminary data and checking your references is time consuming.
1. Project title
The project title should reflect the core of your research proposal.
2. Project abstract
This section provides a summary of your proposed research and outlines the research objectives, and the significance and intended research outcomes of your project (maximum 1200 characters).
3. Subject and research objective(s)
This section relates to the chosen subject and main research objectives of your project. Attempts should be made to formulate these as clearly and concretely as possible. The subject and research objectives should be delimited in a manner which demonstrates that it is realistic to complete the research project and your final PhD thesis within the three-year period of your enrolment.
The section should set out what research related problems the project will address, as well as the rationale for examining such problems (e.g. the formation of new theories, an investigation into legislative needs, an investigation into the protection needs of certain legal persons, etc.).
In relation to the above, it is important that you clearly define your research objectives and how they make your research project novel and ground-breaking, thus contributing to the existing scholarship on the subject. A research project that merely describes the content of current legislation will generally not be accepted. Instead, a more independent and analytical effort is required of your project (e.g. interpretation, legal policy considerations, the formation of new theories, etc.).
Furthermore, it should be noted that the research project proposal that you submit at the PhD application stage does not exclude the possibility of any potential alterations being made to the original research objectives, if you are admitted into the PhD Programme. However, one should note that a cursory or abstract treatment of the subject and research objectives increases the risk of your project being rejected.
4. Major research question(s)
This section should identify the research question(s) and can consist of the hypothesis or problem your research project will address (e.g. what is the impact of the particular EU directive on Danish law in the given field? does the proliferation of international courts contribute to fragmentation of international law?). One should bear in mind that the section on research questions is closely linked to research methods that you wish to employ in order to answer your major research questions.
5. Review of relevant literature
The overview of material should demonstrate to the assessment committee your grasp of the relevant literature in the field so that the committee can determine how your proposed research project can make a valuable contribution. Here, you should make sure that you include any sources that you think would play an important role in your research. It should comprise any domestic or international material that you intend to procure and include in your analysis (e.g. scholarly work, treaty law, case law, customary law, unpublished material, interviews, questionnaires, general principles, etc.). You should include an account of how the material will be used, should give consideration to whether there are any particular difficulties you may encounter when obtaining the material (e.g. the right of access to documents or sourcing material from abroad, confidential material) and if there are perceived obstacles in obtaining material, then state how such difficulties can be overcome.
6. Methodology and method(s)
This section should outline the methodology and method(s) that will be applied in the research project and state why you wish to adopt the particular methodology and specific method(s).
A distinction should be made between the research methodology and the research method(s) you wish to adopt. Methodology is the overall conceptual framework that is applied when analysing the research questions you have posed. It is what guides your questioning of the particular field of research and what helps you answer these questions. It further explains why certain methods or tools are used when conducting your research. Research methods are tools, techniques and processes that you utilise when conducting your research (e.g. traditional legal dogmatic method, comparative law method, interdisciplinary methods (law and politics, law and economics, law and science)). The methods are shaped by the methodology and research questions.
In addition to outlining the specific methods, you should provide reasons on why the specific methods were chosen as the preferred tools. You should further address whether there may be any disadvantages associated with adopting your chosen method(s) (e.g. the risk of collecting empirical data that may not be representative, risk of the analysis being one-sided if only one method is adopted, etc.). If methods that are not legal are used to a large extent in your project, it may be appropriate for you to indicate how you will ensure that the methods from other disciplines can be used correctly and at a sufficiently high level.
The research project proposal should end with a concise timetable where you indicate, as realistically as possible, how you intend to plan your work. Here you should provide a half-yearly outline of how you will complete the project within the prescribed three-year time period making sure that all programme requirements are met. Your timetable should take into account that there are 840 obligatory work hours that you have to complete during your period of enrolment (primarily teaching and other related duties) and that the PhD programme includes attending conferences, PhD courses that correspond to approximately 30 ECTS credits and research stays at other institutions either in Denmark or abroad, etc. If you already have concrete plans for research stays at specific research institutes or universities, or for attending certain conferences, etc. this should be stated in the timetable together with reasons as to why such plans would be beneficial to your project.
Furthermore, you should carefully consider the scope of your research and be able to explain the feasibility of your project taking into account its purpose, research questions, method(s), material used, etc. and be able to show that you will be able to complete the project within the given timeframe.