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Centre of Latin American Studies


Writing an MPhil research proposal

As part of your application for the MPhil in Latin American Studies, you are asked to submit a short research proposal for the dissertation you intend to write. Your proposal should persuade your readers of the significance and feasibility of your project, and of your suitability to carry it out. Be as specific as you can about the material/subject you wish to research, your methods, and your hypotheses. Any research project will naturally change shape as you begin work on it, and you are free to alter your approach later, in agreement with your supervisor. You may also choose a different topic when you arrive in Cambridge, providing that suitable supervision can be found.

You are not expected to contact a proposed supervisor before you submit your application, but you may, if you wish, indicate on your application form if there is someone you would particularly like to supervise your dissertation.

How will my research proposal be evaluated?

Your proposal will be assessed against a range of criteria. These are likely to include:

  • the significance of the research project
  • the quality and originality of your ideas
  • the feasibility of your project: does it look likely that it will be completed within the time available? Are your methods appropriately chosen?
  • how well you are able to situate your ideas within broader debates
  • your knowledge of the subject and existing literature relevant to your project
  • evidence of critical thinking
  • the degree to which your previous studies have adequately equipped you for this project
  • the precision, accuracy and fluency of your written style, and your ability to formulate and structure ideas effectively

What should I include in my research proposal?

A research proposal should identify a problem, justify its importance, and propose a feasible and effective way of addressing it. You must therefore contextualize your research questions in the relevant literature, argue convincingly that these questions should be studied, and show that you are capable of answering them in the space of 15,000 words, which is the maximum length of the dissertation for the MPhil in Latin American Studies. You should draft a clear, concise, and coherent research proposal of around 500 words (excluding any references), ensuring that you cover all the points below.

  • Define your research questions clearly and succinctly, and explain why they are important.
  • Indicate what has already been published on the subject and how your research will extend or challenge that work, or how it will fill a gap in scholarship.
  • Outline the intervention(s) you intend to make within broader debates and the original contribution(s) you expect to make to existing knowledge and/or conceptual frameworks.
  • Explain the methods you will use in your research and justify them as appropriate.
  • Give details of any fieldwork you intend to carry out.
  • Outline the skills and experience you bring to the project, and how your previous studies have prepared you to carry it through to successful completion.