How to Write a Ph.D. Concept Paper

The concept paper is often the first step of a lengthy research process.

A concept paper is an initial stage of a Ph.D program where the candidate student submits a proposal of what they wish to study and research as part of their doctorate. A concept paper is typically two to three pages in length and covers, broadly, the research problem, the context and methods of research. The concept paper is submitted to the Ph.D. candidate's doctoral committee, who may provide some feedback on the concept paper.

Describe the setting of your study or research. Identify geographical locations relevant to your research, as well as individuals, groups or communities that you will be studying or who will be affected by your study.

Identify questions that you will attempt to answer with your research. Consider developing a central question to pursue, as well as several subquestions that will contribute to an overall understanding of the central question.

Describe what method you will use to conduct your research or study. Describe the activities, such as interviews or observational studies, that you will use to gather data and insights.

Research relevant literature on your proposed area of research and list any relevant literature that you will be consulting when writing your dissertation. Similarly, research any studies or other relevant research that has already been completed.

Identify experts, researchers and professionals in your area of study that may be able to provide you with insights and information.

Describe the hypothesis of your research, if you have developed one. At this stage a hypothesis is not necessary, but is something that you should at least be thinking about.

Develop a time line for your research or study. Set goals and dates at which you will have certain aspects of your research completed.

Stuart Robertson has been freelance writing since 2008, covering topics such as health, environmental issues and technology for websites such as and Environmental Graffiti. He has a bachelor's degree in political science.