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Where Can I Get Help Writing My Thesis Online?

how to write phd concept paper

You’ve spent years preparing for your master’s degree or PhD. You’ve read, studied and spent hours of time and energy writing papers. Now you’ve arrived at the culmination of all this effort: writing your thesis. There are plenty of compelling stories about the time and energy that students have spent drafting their dissertations and theses.

The good news is that you’re not alone. While you certainly don’t want to hire someone to write your thesis for you, which goes against most institution policies and puts your academic integrity at risk, you can get plenty of help with certain aspects of your thesis online. Whether you’re looking for a little guidance or extensive assistance, various services can make writing or editing your thesis go smoothly.

Dissertation Editor

One of the greatest challenges of writing your thesis can be juggling your family or job responsibilities with your studies. The time that writing takes can add another layer of obligation to your already-packed schedule. Dissertation Editor is a company whose founder is a PhD-educated writer and professor, and it promises to help you complete your thesis or dissertation on time and in compliance with your university’s rules and regulations.

how to write phd concept paper

Dissertation Editor’s primary function is to guide you along in the writing process and provide a helping hand in understanding everything you need to take care of. It places you with a writer who specializes in your area of study, and this individual can help you organize and analyze your research while making sure that your thesis fits your writing style and personality. This company also specializes in helping with any statistical analysis that you use in your thesis.

Thesis Helpers

If you’re concerned about using a service to help you write your thesis because you think it’ll be obvious that you hired help, don’t worry. Thesis Helpers puts its team of experienced writers to work for you to help you craft a thesis that finishes your degree on a high note. No matter what level of help you need, from narrowing down a topic to advanced editing and proofreading, they’re available to help.

how to write phd concept paper

The writers have advanced degrees in their areas of expertise, and one of the best things about Thesis Helpers is that it gives you ultimate say in the final product of your thesis. This company can help you with revisions and additional research, and you can rest assured that your thesis will meet anti-plagiarism standards.

Best Dissertation

Sometimes when you’re writing a thesis or dissertation, you can get stuck on one section or chapter. You may not need assistance writing the whole thing, but getting some help with the exact portion you’re struggling with can come in handy. That’s one of the strengths of using Best Dissertation . You don’t have to rely on it for help with your entire thesis if it’s not what you need.

how to write phd concept paper

Like most of the top thesis-assistance services, Best Dissertation employs writers with advanced degrees who specialize in various fields of study. What truly sets this company apart is the live support that it offers any time of the day or night. It claims to take the stress and strain out of writing your dissertation or thesis.

While some companies place a premium on helping you get your thesis written, others emphasize the editing and proofreading process. If you don’t need help with writing but need a hand with proofreading and editing, Scribbr is a good option for you. Its editors can help you get a grasp on the grammar and tone that are appropriate for academic writing.

how to write phd concept paper

Scribbr doesn’t just provide boilerplate feedback that you can find anywhere. It offers personalized feedback aimed at helping you become a better writer in the long run. You can even see examples of how its editors work by looking at the company’s website.

My Assignment Help

Writing a thesis has its own challenges that other academic writing simply doesn’t, which is why the team at My Assignment Help offers its particular brand of expertise. If you need assistance with a dissertation or thesis at the PhD or master’s level, its writers have the level of education and experience to help you write an expertly crafted and edited thesis.

how to write phd concept paper

My Assignment Help prides itself on hiring subject matter experts, meaning you can pair up with a helper who already has an advanced degree in your field. They understand the nuances of academic writing that are specific to your area of study, and they can provide advice on everything from making your abstract more unique to crafting a thought-provoking conclusion.


how to write phd concept paper


How to Write a PhD Concept Paper

format of a phd concept paper

A concept paper – or concept note – is one of the initial requirements of a PhD programme. It is normally written during the PhD application process as well as early on in the programme once a student has been admitted.

A concept paper is basically a shorter version of a research proposal – in most cases between 2,000 and 2,500 words – that expresses the research ideas of the potential PhD student.

Besides being short, it should be concise yet have adequate details to convince the Department the student is applying to that he/she is worth being admitted to the programme.

Example of a title with a sub-title

References/bibliography, why do phd programmes require applicants to submit a concept paper.

A concept paper serves four main purposes:

  • It gives the Department the student is applying to an idea of the student’s research interests.
  • Based on point one, it informs the Department whether the student will be a good fit to the Department or not. To be a good fit, the research interests of the applicant should match those of the Department’s faculty.
  • Based on the two points above, it enables the Department to offer support to the student throughout his/her PhD studies in the form of supervision and mentorship.
  • Because the concept paper is written – and must be accepted – before the full proposal, it saves the student time and effort that would otherwise be spent on topics that may end up being rejected by the Department. A concept paper is therefore the first step to writing the PhD thesis/dissertation (see the figure below).

how to write phd concept paper

Format of a PhD Concept Paper

The format of a concept paper might vary from one university to another. A PhD student should therefore read the guidelines provided by his/her University of interest before writing a concept paper.

In general, the following is a common format of a concept paper:

Title of proposed study

The title of the proposed study is the first element of a concept paper.

The title should describe what the study is about by highlighting the variables of the study and the relationship between the variables if applicable.

The title should be short and specific: it is best to have a title that is not more than 15 words’ long.

Example of a title:

Use of Mobile Phone Applications for Weight Management in the United States

In order to add more specificity to the title, you can add a subtitle to the main title. The title and subtitle should be separated by a full colon.

Use of Mobile Phone Applications for Weight Management in the United States:

A Behavioural Economics’ Analysis

Background to the study

The background to the study contains the following elements:

  • The history of the topic, both globally and in the proposed location of your study.
  • What other researchers have found out from their own studies.
  • What the gaps in the existing literature are, that is, what the other researchers have not addressed.
  • What your study will contribute towards filling the identified gaps.

The implication of the above is that one must have conducted some literature review prior to writing the background to the study.

Statement of the problem

The statement of the problem is a clear description of the issue that the study will address, the relevance of the issue, the importance (benefits) of addressing the issue, and the method the researcher will use to address the issue.

Goal and objectives of the study

Once you have identified the problem of your study, the next step is to write the goal and objectives of the study. There is a difference between these two:

The goal of the study is a broad statement of what the researcher hopes to accomplish at the end of the study. The goal should also be related to the problem statement.

Any given project should have one goal because having many goals would lead to confusion. However, that one goal can have multiple elements in it, which would be accomplished through the project’s objectives.

The objectives of the study, on the other hand, are specific and detailed statements of how the researcher will go about accomplishing the stated goal.

The objectives should:

  • Support the accomplishment of the goal.
  • Follow a sequence, that is, like a step-by-step order. This will help you frame the activities needed to be undertaken in a logical manner so that the goal is achieved.
  • Be stated using action verbs, for instance, “to identify”, “to create”, “to establish”, “to measure”, etc.
  • Be about 3-4: having too few of objectives will limit the scope of your PhD dissertation, while having too many objectives may complicate the dissertation.
  • Be SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

The video below clearly explains how to set SMART goals and objectives:


Important tip 1: depending on your PhD programme, you may be required to have at least 3 journal papers to qualify for graduation. Each of your objectives can be converted into a separate journal paper on its own.

Research questions and hypotheses

Every PhD dissertation needs research questions. Research questions will help the student stay focused on his/her research.

The aim of the research is to provide answers to the research questions. The answers to the questions will form the thesis statement.

Examples of research questions:

In the title example given earlier about use of mobile phone applications for weight management in the United States, a student may be interested in the following questions:

  • To what extent do adults in the United States use mobile phone applications to manage their weight?
  • Is there any gender disparity in the use of mobile phone apps for weight management in the United States?
  • How effective are mobile apps for weight management in the United States?

Good research questions are those that can be explored deeply and widely as well as defended using evidence. Questions with ‘yes” or “no” responses are not academic-worthy.

When developing research questions, you also need to think about the data that will be required to answer the questions. Do you have access to that data? If no, will your time and financial resources allow you to collect that data?

Important tip 2: Your PhD study is time-limited therefore data requirement issues need to be thought through at the initial stages of your concept paper writing so that you don’t waste too much time either collecting the data in the future or trying to access the data if it already exists elsewhere.

Preliminary literature review

At the concept paper stage, a preliminary literature review serves three main purposes:

  • It shows whether you have knowledge of the current state of debate about your chosen topic.
  • It shows whether you are familiar with the experts in your chosen topic.
  • It also helps you identify the research gaps.

Proposed research design, methods and procedures

This sections provides a brief overview of the research methodology that you will adopt in your study. Some issues to consider include:

  • Will your study use quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods approach?
  • Will you use secondary or primary data?
  • What will be the sources of your data? Will you need any ethical clearance from your university before collecting data?
  • Will the data sources be readily accessible?
  • Will you use external assistance for data collection? Or will you do all the data collection yourself?
  • How will the data be analysed? Which softwares will you use? Are you competent in those softwares?

While the above issues are important to think through, please note that the research design and methods will be informed by your research objectives and research questions. As an illustration:

A research question that aims to measure the effect of one (or more) variable(s) on another variable will definitely require quantitative research methods.

On the other hand, a research question that aims to explain the existence of a phenomenon will render itself to the use of qualitative research methods.

Contribution to knowledge

This is perhaps the most important aspect of a PhD dissertation. Your concept note needs to briefly highlight how your project will add value to knowledge.

Making significant contribution to knowledge at the PhD level does not mean a Nobel prize standard of knowledge (this you can do after your PhD when you’ll have all the time in the world to do so). You can achieve this in various ways:

  • New applications of existing ideas.
  • New interpretations of previous ideas.
  • Investigating an existing issue in a new location.
  • Development of a new theory.
  • Coming up with a new technique, among others.

The last section of the concept paper is the reference list or bibliography. This is the section that lists the literatures that you have reviewed and cited in your paper.

There is a slight difference between a reference list and a bibliography:

A reference list includes all those studies that have been directly cited in the paper.

A bibliography, on the other hand, includes all those studies that have been directly cited in the paper as well as those that were reviewed and consulted but not cited in the paper.

When creating the reference list/bibliography, one should be mindful of the referencing style that is required by their PhD department (that is, whether APA, MLA, Chicago, Havard, etc).

Final Thoughts on Writing a PhD Concept Paper

The concept paper is the first step to writing the PhD dissertation. Once accepted, the student will proceed to writing the proposal, which will then be defended before proceeding with writing the full dissertation.

The concept paper is a mini-proposal and has most of the components expected in the proposal.

However, the concept paper should be short and precise while at the same time have adequate information to enable the PhD Committee of the PhD Programme the student is applying to judge if the student will be a good fit to the programme or not.

Related posts

How To Choose a Research Topic For Your PhD Thesis (7 Key Factors to Consider)

Comprehensive Guidelines for Writing a PhD Thesis Proposal (+ free checklist for PhD Students)

Grace Njeri-Otieno

Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."

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How to Write a Concept Paper for a PhD: A 10-Step Guide

Adela Belin

Table of contents

You’re ready to enroll for your Ph.D. studies but feeling anxious. You don’t know whether your application will be accepted or what it would take to be accepted.

Aside from your academic qualifications, a concept paper is one of the most critical determinants. If you’re planning to pursue a Ph.D., you need to learn how to write an effective concept paper to convince your professors.

Writing a concept paper requires strong analytical skills, advanced research knowledge, and excellent writing skills.

This blog post will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a concept paper for a Ph.D. to get you a step closer to becoming a doctor of philosophy.

What is a concept paper for Ph.D.?

A concept paper for a Ph.D. is a written statement outlining the objectives and concepts of a proposed research study. It acts as an introduction to your dissertation or full thesis.

It is also an important part of the application process for Ph.D. programs and helps the admissions committee evaluate a student's research potential.

It typically includes background information on the topic to be studied, an overview of existing research, and the proposed research design. It also highlights potential results from the proposed study and their practical applications.

Ultimately, concept papers for Ph.D. programs help determine whether a student is qualified to pursue doctoral-level work in their chosen field.

How long is a Ph.D. concept paper?

The length of your concept paper will depend on your field of study and the requirements set by your university. Generally speaking, most universities expect concept papers to be between 3-5 pages long. Some papers may be longer or shorter depending on how much detail your project entails.

Key takeaways

A concept paper for Ph.D. includes:

  • Background information on the topic;
  • Overview of existing research;
  • Proposed research design;
  • Potential results from the study;
  • Practical applications of the study.

How to Write a Concept Paper for Ph.D.?

An effective concept paper will help you get approval from your professor or adviser to begin your doctoral work.

What are the characteristics of a good concept paper?

A good concept paper should present an idea or topic in a clear and concise manner. It should provide an overview of what the research project will cover and explain why it’s important.

Additionally, it should highlight any potential implications of the research study and how they can be addressed or minimized. The goal of the paper is to convince the reader that your proposed project is worth pursuing and that it contributes new knowledge to your field of study.

What are the 5 elements of a concept paper?

The five elements of a concept paper are:

  • Background;
  • Purpose statement;
  • Problem statement;
  • Research questions or hypotheses;
  • Significance or implications for practice.

These elements work together to provide a comprehensive overview of your proposed research project and show why it’s worth pursuing.

Here are the steps to write an outstanding concept paper that stands no chance of being rejected.

1. Define the title and purpose of your study

The first step in writing a concept paper is defining the title and purpose of your study. What will your research be about? And what are you trying to accomplish through it?

The title and purpose of your study will set the foundation for your concept paper. This part should be concise and clear so that readers understand the basis and significance of your research. When formulating the title, ensure it accurately reflects the main focus of your entire research study.

2. Describe the background and scope of your study

The next step is to provide an overview of the background information of your study topic and explain how it relates to your proposed project.

When describing the background of your study, you need to provide some context about why this topic is important enough to warrant academic inquiry.

Highlight any existing studies or theories related to your topic so that readers understand why you have chosen it as part of your dissertation research.

3. Identify the problem statement

Next, identify a problem statement that outlines what issue or gap in the knowledge you are attempting to address through your research project. Every good concept paper should include a well thought problem statement.

Your problem statement should be precise and concise so readers can easily understand what they can expect from reading further.

Here, you should make it clear why there’s a need for further investigation in your chosen field and how your research will contribute new insights into existing knowledge.

4. List your goals and objectives

Now that you’ve established your problem statement, you need to outline the specific goals and objectives that will guide you through your research.

Here, you outline what steps you’ll take and what specifically you hope to achieve in every stage of the study. This could mean anything from creating new theories, testing existing theories or models, exploring the techniques used in other studies, etc.

Your goals and objectives will give the readers a heads-up about what outcomes they can expect from the project.

Ensure whatever goals and objectives you list are measurable and achievable within the scope of your research study.

5. Formulate research questions

Next, formulate detailed research questions (and accompanying hypotheses) based on the topic you plan to explore.

These questions should include the variables you plan to manipulate or measure during data collection. Ensure the questions are clear and written in simple language so readers can understand what you’ll address through the study.

Also, don’t forget to create hypotheses for every research question you write. These are specific claims that will act as the starting points for further inquiry and potential conclusions for the study.

6. Explain the theoretical framework of the study

Once you’ve formulated your research questions, the next step is to explain the theoretical framework or foundational concept of the study.

Identify and briefly explain the theories that inspired you and connect them back to your intended study.

This will set out the context of your project and show that you’ve read and understood existing knowledge on the subject. This theoretical knowledge will come in handy if your application is accepted.

7. Write the literature review

The next step is to write the literature review . Here, you identify information and existing knowledge from previous studies and other published articles.

Your literature review should also include summaries or reviews of key texts related to your topic. You can get information for this section from peer-reviewed articles and online journals like OpenDOAR and CORE.

Remember, all the facts, statistics, and other relevant information must be accompanied by appropriate citations and references.

8. Describe the proposed research methodology

After writing the literature review, go ahead and describe the research design and methodology you’ll be employing.

Some of the critical details to include in this section include:

  • What data collection methods you’ll use? (e.g., surveys, interviews, or questionnaires).
  • How many participants will form your sample size?
  • What data analysis methods will you use? (e.g., qualitative versus quantitative).

Be sure to highlight any ethical considerations involved in your research methodology. For instance, explain the informed consent procedures you’ll use if your research involves human participation.

Also, explain how you’ll minimize the potential risks associated with participating in your research activities.

9. Explain the significance of the study (and its implications)

Now that you’ve explained the methodology, it’s time to let the readers understand why this study is important and why it makes a significant contribution to existing research.

Additionally, explain how this study will impact theory development and its significance for policymakers or practitioners in your field of study.

You should also discuss any potential implications of conducting this research (e.g., ethical considerations or political ramifications).

10. Include references/bibliography

Finally, include references or a bibliography at the end of your concept paper to build credibility for your research paper.

A bibliography enables you to give credit where it belongs by recognizing the owners of your reference materials.

Ensure you format references properly according to the style specified by the institution you’re applying to. This could be for example APA , MLA, or  Harvard referencing style .

What is the difference between a concept paper and a research paper?

A concept paper outlines what you plan to do (in future tense), while a research paper explains what you did (in past tense) after completing your research project. In other words, a concept paper serves as an introduction to your research, while a research paper provides evidence-based results from experiments conducted during your study.

Final thoughts

The thought of writing a concept paper for your Ph.D. can be intimidating at first. However, once you know the right approach to take and invest enough time, the writing process becomes hassle-free.

Start by brainstorming your ideas, researching related topics, and creating an outline. Also, ensure you clearly define your concept and know the exact approach you’ll be taking. This way, you won’t find yourself stuck when your concept paper has been approved for further research.

After completing the paper, revise it to ensure everything is clear and accurate with no typos. In the end, you’ll have an excellent concept paper that will pave the way for you to pursue your doctoral studies.

If you need help writing a concept paper for your Ph.D., turn to Writers Per Hour for assistance. With expert Doctoral writers on the team, we can draft a compelling concept paper that is 100% original and written from scratch as per your requirements.

Last edit at Jul 27 2023

Adela Belin

Adela Belin

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How To Write PhD Concept Paper Assignment?

PhD Concept Paper Assignment

Author : Administrator

  • Assignment Help

A PhD Concept Paper also called a dissertation concept paper dissertation or a research proposal, is a document that contains the ideas and general work plan for your dissertation. Although it may take different shapes, depending on your field of study, its main purposes are to present an overview of the area in which you intend to do research; to provide evidence that this area has not been previously studied, and to map out how you will go about studying this topic.

A good PhD concept paper should be able to give your advisor (or grad committee) confidence that you can successfully complete the project (and with originality). Your dissertation is likely to be successful if it answers these three questions: What is the aim of your study? Why was there a need for this study? How did you carry out the study? Lets see how to write a Phd concept paper assignment.

Concept Paper

PhD concept paper dissertation is a basic assignment for those students who are in the process of completing their PhD thesis. This assignment makes sure that the student has an idea of how to write a PhD Thesis and is aware of what should be done before writing it.

While writing this document, you need to keep in mind that the person reading your concept paper may not have detailed knowledge of your field of study, and therefore, it becomes very important to explain different concepts and references with examples wherever necessary. This article will help you understand what a PhD Concept Paper is and how you can start writing one. You can follow these steps:

Structure of a Phd Concept Paper

Your concept paper should be made up of the following sections:

Introduction –The introduction should include a brief background on what you are going to study, its significance and what is already available in this field. Do you also need to mention why there was a need for your study? What will contribute to your PhD Thesis? Remember that an introduction is not just an explanation of what you plan to do, but it's a sales pitch, so make sure that you write something new or use effective words that can convince others about your topic. Your intro should also include your thesis statement.

Problem Statement – If you give a person some information before he asks for it, then he becomes interested in knowing more. This is exactly what you want to achieve in your problem statement. Present your readers with a problem and then explain why this problem is significant and why they should be interested in your project.

Review Of Related Literature –Once you have presented the background of what you are going to study, it is very important that you discuss (briefly) the research which was already done on this topic. It would help if you mentioned here all those articles/papers published so far and how they fit into your thesis research. Also, try giving reasons as to why someone may consider doing more studies on this topic because there isn't enough information available for further research.

Statement Of The Problem – This section talks about the exact aim of your PhD Thesis. It should give a clear indication that your readers will be able to understand what you are going to study in detail. If someone wants to do a PhD Thesis on a particular topic, he should go through this section and make sure his knowledge regarding the field is well enough to carry out the study. He should come across your research question or hypothesis here, which forms the basis for your thesis research.

Research Questions/Hypothesis –Your problem statement was very general, but now it's time to get specific about what you are going to find out during your PhD Thesis. In order to solve a problem, you need questions that can be answered by research, and these questions form the foundation of every dissertation project. You may have multiple hypotheses but try to keep them as few as possible.

Significance Of The Study – As per the assignment help mentors for dissertation, every research project needs to have significance, and it's your duty to explain why not only you but others should also be interested in carrying out this study. You can do this by providing an overview of how the results will impact the field or whether they will lead to future studies on this topic.

Scope Of The Study – Now that you have covered all the necessary sections, end your concept paper with a section that covers what exactly is going to be included or excluded from your PhD Thesis. This will make sure that if someone else has any related questions, he knows where to find answers. Make sure you mention here if there are any limitations in your project that you have been forced to accept because of certain factors.

Conclusion – The conclusion summarises all the information given earlier in the concept paper, and it should briefly explain exactly where the findings of your study are. It should also answer any questions raised by your reader in his mind.

Concept Paper in Dissertation

References – You need to include a list of references at the end of your concept paper, which can be used for further reading and research.

People will not find your concept paper dissertation interesting if you don't have the references to back up your points, so make sure you work on this section carefully.

Appendix – Some students are advised to include two or more appendices in their concept paper to help others understand things better. You can place tables, charts, graphs and diagrams in these sections, which clearly explain the data that is being presented. Make sure that these sections are useful for readers because it's possible they may want to do further studies based on them.

Outline – Once you have written your concept paper, it is very important that you follow an outline. This will help you track what needs to be included in different sections and chapters. It's also a great way to ensure that all the aspects mentioned earlier are not missed because it gives you an overview of the entire research project. Your dissertation/thesis should consist of clear set objectives which can be achieved by conducting various experiments or studies.

Get Top-Notch Assistance for Your Concept Paper

A PhD Thesis/Dissertation is one of the most important projects that every student will need to complete. It helps you understand a particular topic in detail and makes sure that your research and data collection skills continue to develop during the course of this project. A lot of students have been known to get high grades simply because they have good dissertations/thesis projects, which can be used as guidelines for those who want to follow the same path. In order to come up with a unique dissertation or thesis work, some students hire professional assignment help providers who can help them achieve their desired results quickly.

The concept paper is just a small part of dissertation writing, and the student should not give it too much importance. A lot of students tend to focus more on this section and end up forgetting about the rest, which can result in an imbalance between various sections and chapters. The best way is to organise things in such a manner that you present all your findings at one point or another. You may also want to look at dissertation examples for sale online if you feel overwhelmed by the entire process and need some help with standard format requirements for each section.

My Assignment Services is here to assist with all of your academic needs. Whether you need essay editing, assignment help or just some guidance on how to brainstorm ideas for that next big paper, we've got it covered! Head over to the contact page and submit a request today so one of our dedicated team members can get back to you ASAP. Let's work together to make sure all your college worries are gone in no time at all. What do you want us to help you with? Fill the form now !

how to write phd concept paper

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How to Write a Ph.D. Concept Paper

Stuart robertson.

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.

About the Author

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

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How to Write an Effective Ph.D. Concept Paper (A Brief Guide)

When applying for Ph.D., although academic qualifications matter, the ultimate determinant of whether a university accepts your application is the concept paper.

A concept paper or a concept note is essential for every Ph.D. student. This paper is written in the initial stages of a Ph.D. application or during the program after admissions.

A concept paper is essentially a shorter version of a research proposal. The aim is to ensure students understand what is expected when writing a thesis or dissertation. Therefore, you must know how to write a perfect concept paper to impress your supervisor and the Ph.D. admissions committee.

This blog in-depth blog article will show you the steps and tips for writing an impactful concept paper for a Ph.D. so that you become a pro at it and fulfill the requirements for the doctor of philosophy position.

What is a Concept Paper?

It takes special interest to become a Ph.D. student. As you take on the new academic journey, you must prepare for the research work ahead. As a Ph.D., you must contribute to theory by developing a new theory or content area, debunking an existing theory, or extending an existing theory to make sense in a given context.

In preparation for the Ph.D. research journey, you will write a concept note or concept paper that culminates into a research proposal and then the study itself.

Consider the Ph.D. concept paper as a blueprint or roadmap for your doctoral journey that guides your research work. It should outline the proposed research topic, aims and objectives, methodology, and potential contributions to the academic community.

Concept papers are essential for those pursuing a Ph.D. because they lay the foundation for writing a research paper (dissertation or complete thesis).

Concept papers outline ideas for a proposed research project. Most people will confuse a concept paper with a research proposal. While they may look similar, they vary in the writing process and presentation. A concept paper aims to explain what the research is about, the proposed research methodology (design, frameworks, and data collection/analysis methods), and why it is crucial.

It is often a short paper, mostly 2-3 pages long, which includes the proposed research title, a brief introduction to the topic, the aim of the study, problem and purpose statement, research questions or hypothesis, research methodology, data analysis methods, and the project timeline and budget.

Besides Ph.D. candidates, principal investigators, professionals, or researchers can also submit a concept paper to a funding body to secure financial support for a research project. Students in their final year of undergraduate or masters-level studies can also submit a concept paper before beginning a research project.

This article focuses on the Ph.D. level concept paper, although you can transfer the tips when writing any concept paper.

Related Reading: How to write a research proposal.

What is the Purpose of a Concept Paper?

You will be required to write a concept paper for many reasons. Some of these reasons are:

  • Some universities use concept papers to screen Ph.D. candidates. It can best set you apart from potential candidates, especially if you propose a unique and beneficial research study.
  • Your department will get an idea of why you are writing the paper. This will help them decide whether or not they are a good fit for the department and whether they qualify to pursue a doctorate.
  • The supervising committee can assess whether the proposed study is feasible, ethical (if human subjects are involved), and worthwhile. If it is not, they might suggest considering another research question.
  • A well-written concept paper will grab the committee's interest from the word go allowing them to seek funding for the project.
  • A well-planned concept paper will establish a clear plan for writing a dissertation paper.
  • The supervising committee can also carefully consider your understanding of the research topic and decide whether you need support.
  • A concept paper is the first step to writing a Ph.D. dissertation. Since the paper must be accepted before the proposal is written, it saves the department and the student time and effort, which would have been spent writing a paper that would have been rejected.

Related Blog: How to write a Dissertation Proposal.

What are the Main Elements of a Research Concept Paper?

A concept paper must follow a structured procedure. It should have certain elements; otherwise, the supervising committee will reject it, and you will not continue your research. Even though there are no set rules for how it should be, there are certain elements that the paper should have. These elements are:

  • Rationale - This is why you want to conduct the study. You have to outline the topic in question, state why you chose to focus on it, and include its significance and what gap(s) the research will fill. A rationale is almost similar to a literature review because it states the purpose and solutions for solving the problem.
  • Conceptual framework - this is core in any study. It serves as a guide to research, showing the relationship between ideas and how they relate to the main research topic. The best way to come up with a conceptual framework is by using mind mapping. Create a list of relevant keywords and check where they can describe your topic concisely.
  • A hypothesis is an expectation or prediction of what is to be tested. In other words, it is what you expect to be the study's outcome. Hypothesis arises from the conceptual framework.
  • Project Description is a brief summary of the study's goals, objectives, and needs. It also includes the timeline of when the research is expected to be completed.
  • Estimated Budget is a forecast of the money needed to complete the research or program. You should also briefly describe how the money will be utilized.

These are essential items to include in your concept paper. However, if your committee asks for a specific format, make sure you follow the format.

Below is a basic format for a concept paper outlining some of the contents:

  • Introduction
  • Problem statement
  • Purpose statement
  • Aims and objectives
  • Research Design
  • Research Methods (Sampling techniques, data collection instruments, data analysis methods)
  • Contribution to knowledge

Altogether, these contents should be briefly covered without wasting words and space. Some concept papers, including references, can be as long as 2000-2500 words.

Related Blog Articles:

  • How to write a perfect grant proposal.
  • How to write the article for a journal article in a paper.

How to Write a Ph.D. Concept Paper: The Twelve Steps

The format of writing a concept paper will depend on the requirements of your university. Therefore, you should read all the guidelines to know what to expect. With that said, here are the general expectations of a concept paper.

Step 1: Understand the Purpose of the Concept Paper

A concept paper is a preliminary document that introduces your Ph.D. research idea to your academic advisors and the review committee.

It has to demonstrate your proposed research project's significance, feasibility, and originality.

The concept paper should lay the groundwork for your research and highlight your ability to articulate and plan a well-structured Ph.D. study.

The foremost step is to read the university's requirements so you can plan everything around.

Step 2: Choose a Sound Research Topic

At the Ph.D. level, you are expected to contribute to existing knowledge by:

  • Developing a new theory or creating a new knowledge or content area
  • Critiquing an existing theory and demonstrating its shortcomings
  • Extending existing theories by merging knowledge and concepts from different related theories.

You need to, therefore, come up with a researchable topic that addresses an issue in the area or field of specialization.

You can choose a topic or problem based on your professional experience. You can also build on your master’s level research topic or project.

Research project teams and supervisors are also good platforms for getting unique topics.

Ultimately, you must research widely and read peer-reviewed scholarly journals to identify limitations and research gaps to compose a great topic and title for your Ph.D. study.

Step 3: Develop a Title of the Proposed Research

Assuming you have consulted widely and settled on a topic, creating a title comes first when writing a concept paper.

A title is a stand-alone statement that summarizes all your project ideas. You have to show an understanding of the subject by creating an accurate, descriptive, and interesting title.

According to the American Psychological Association , a good title should identify all the variables you are trying to investigate and show their relationship.

Ensure you avoid words that do not add meaning to the title.

Also, ensure the title is short and precise. If you want the title to be more specific, add a subtitle below it. Make sure you separate them using a colon. For example,

Mobile Apps for Weight Management: A Review of the Latest Evidence to Inform Practice

Step 4: Write the Background of the Research Study

Background or introduction is the first section of a concept paper. This is where you state the topic you want to address and briefly explain the causes of these problems. Ensure you explain this part correctly so your audience can understand it. Conclude this part by showing the "opportunity" available for you to "fix" the problem. The opportunity is usually in the form of your values or skills.

This section should contain the following:

  • Global and local history of your topic
  • Other researchers' contributions to the topic
  • Gaps that exist in your field and what other researchers failed to achieve
  • How will your study fill the gaps you've identified

The inference here is that you had conducted a literature review before you began writing.

Additionally, ensure you provide references for your narrative, as it will help you establish authority for all the data given.

Step 5: State the Problem

This is a brief and clear statement of what you want the study to address. It explains the purpose of your paper. It also introduces the topic you are trying to investigate and how your research will help solve it. Provide supporting documentation, such as statistical data, emphasizing why you must conduct the research. In addition, include the relevance of the problem and the methods to address them.

Write this section well to grab your target audience's attention and support. Even if you care about the research, you must convince them it is worth their time. So make sure you use intriguing words.

Step 6: Define your Goals and Objectives

After identifying the problem, the next step is writing down all your goals and objectives for the research. Take note that is a difference between goals and objectives.

The goal means what you expect to achieve once you have finalized the study. When writing this part, relate it to the problem at hand.

Every study should have only one goal. Having multiple goals can confuse both you and the reader. However, note that one goal can have multiple elements that can be accomplished through the set objectives for the projects.

Objectives are detailed statements of how you intend to accomplish the goal you have set for the project. These objectives should:

  • Support you in achieving your goals.
  • Be in a step-by-step format to help you achieve all the activities needed for the goal.
  • State them using words like, measure, identify, create, etc.
  • Not more than four. If they are few, they will likely limit the scope of your dissertation. If they are many, they will complicate it.
  • Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realist, Time-bound) tool. This tool can help you plan and set achievable goals.

Step 7: List the Research Questions  or Hypothesis

For every Ph.D. dissertation, you will be required to come up with a research question. A research question helps give an overview of what you are trying to investigate. Remember that the aim of any research is to come up with answers to questions. These answers then help in forming a thesis statement.

Research questions will help direct your research methodology. Including them in your concept paper will help show the link between the research and methodology used.

For many Ph.D. students, creating a research question is the most challenging part of writing a concept paper. This is because these questions will direct the whole project. Therefore, you must stay focused on the main issue of the research to come up with the right ones.

Consider the following examples of research questions for your project.

Are mobile apps effective for weight loss?

Are adults in the USA invested in using mobile phones to manage their weight?

Remember that a good research question can be explored deeply as you back it up with facts. Additionally, think of all the data that is needed for the questions. Think of whether you can access this data, and if not, how many resources are needed.

Step 8: Write a Preliminary Literature Review

When writing a concept paper, you must write a preliminary literature review to serve the following purpose.

  • Show your audience that you are Knowledgeable about the topic you have chosen.
  • Show your familiarity with the experts in your field.
  • Identify any existing research gaps.

The literature review aims to identify all the major literature that will support your research topic. The literature review also allows you to analyze and synthesize previous research on the problem.

Make sure you connect your topic to the theoretical model you have identified in the literature.

Note that to develop a strong concept paper, you must base it on a wide range of literature and then minimize it into a critical point summary.

Step 9: Outline the Research Methodology

This part will show how you intend to conduct the research. It involves showing the relationship between the goals you have identified with the methods you plan to use in the research process. As you write this section, make sure you consider the following issues.

  • Whether or not your study will use qualitative or quantitative methods or both
  • Where you will rely on primary or secondary data
  • Where will you source this data from
  • Whether it will be easy to access the data
  • Whether you plan to ask for assistance to access the data or you will handle everything yourself
  • How do you plan to analyze this data, which software will you use, and whether you are good at using them?

Your research methods will be informed by the goals and objectives you set earlier. For instance,

If your research question is to measure the effectiveness of either one or more variables on another, you will use quantitative methods. On the other hand, if your research question aims to explain a phenomenon, then you will use qualitative methods.

You can also show how the project will be managed and the techniques used. If you will handle the project with the help of other people, write down the final team and the responsibilities laid down for them. This includes the sponsor of the project, key stakeholders, and support functions.

Establish the project's help chain and the required support sequence and timeframe. This will help identify the problems that arise during each stage.

Step 10: Create a Timeline (and a Budget)

You have to provide a timeline for your project. Present a realistic timeline for completing different stages of your Ph.D. research. This timeline will provide a glimpse of your research plan.

Your number of critical deliveries (milestones) defines a timeline. The success of the projects depends on these milestones should be connected to specific dates.

Setting milestones for your project will help in managing the flow of work. They also show that the project is on time. In addition, having a timeline show that your project is feasible and that you have considered all the practicalities of each phase of your study.

This section is crucial because it will help you manage your time and work.

If your project should be completed within 17 weeks, the timeline can be like this.

  • Title - 1 week
  • Introduction -1 week
  • Need for the Study-2 weeks.
  • Background -3 weeks
  • Goal and Objectives - 1 week
  • Research Questions or Hypothesis -1 week
  • Preliminary Literature Review -3 weeks
  • Research Methodology- 2 weeks
  • Knowledge contribution- 2 weeks
  • Reference – 1 week

Step 11: Outline the Expected Contributions

Clearly articulate the potential contributions your Ph.D. research will make to the academic community and the real-world implications/applications of your findings.

Explain how your research can fill gaps in existing knowledge and offer practical applications.

Contribution of knowledge refers to information provided to increase the project's team's efficiency. This is perhaps the most crucial part of a Ph.D. dissertation.

You need to show your project's value to the existing knowledge. Show why people should give your research a moment of their time.

Making significant knowledge to study us is crucial at the Ph.D. level, but this does not mean your project must meet Nobel Prize standards. However, there are things you can do to ensure it meets these standards:

  • Come up with a new theory.
  • Provide new interpretations of previous ideas.
  • Conduct research on an existing problem in a new location.

Step 12: Include Bibliography/References

The last part of your concept papers is the bibliography or references. A reference to a detailed description of the sources of your information. It aims at avoiding plagiarism by showing the words, phrases, and ideas that are your own. The references here are usually in the form of a list you write at the end of the paper.

Checklist for a Ph.D. Concept Paper

Take note of the following before you write a concept paper.

  • The chosen topic should interest you.
  • The topic should be academic inquiry and not casual.
  • Ensure the chosen questions can be researched by different academic means instead of opinions that cannot be verified.
  • All questions should be answerable through research.
  • Make sure you state at least one hypothesis.

You should remember that a well-written concept paper not only gives you a roadmap for the Ph.D. journey. It also impresses your academic advisors or Ph.D. admissions committee. You have to ensure it is perfect by all standards.

Actionable Tips for Writing a Concept Paper

You must have the right tips to guide you to write an effective concept paper. These tips are:

1. Read Extensively

Before writing the paper, you must read what others have written about a similar topic in your field. This will give you a sense of what is expected, what research has been done in your field, current trends about the methodology you plan to use, and substantial findings to support your research.

2. Understand the Instructions Given

Like any other academic paper, a concept paper comes with instructions from the supervising committee. However, the number of students who jump into writing without reading the instructions will surprise you. This alone contributes to otherwise avoidable poor grades.

Therefore, carefully read the prompt and look for specific words such as length, formatting, and citation.

Once you understand the instructions, it will be easy to write your concept paper.

3. Be Direct

Avoid beating around the bush when writing a concept paper. Your paper should be clear and concise to make an impact. Concise writing does not mean using a few words but the strongest words to show what you mean.

4. Keep it the Required Length

A concept paper for your Ph.D. project should not be more than three pages long. That is between 250-500 words. Remember that the aim is to give a clear summary of the project you intend to do. So do not overwhelm your target audience with too much information that may be unnecessary.

5. Ask Yourself the Write Questions

One of the best ways to refine your research question is to ask yourself questions. Your idea is raw and unstructured at this stage of writing your concept paper, so no one will understand it. You need to refine it as much as you can.

Asking yourself questions about the idea, you must refine and clarify them.

7. Revise and Edit Your Paper

The first step to editing your work is checking for any errors that may negatively affect your work. Revising involves cutting, omitting, moving, and changing words or phrases to improve your writing. Look closely at your work during editing to check for punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors. Also, make sure you check for sentence structure and tone. This Ph.D. paper demands high standards.

Sample Ph.D. Concept Paper

Title: Exploring the Impacts of Virtual Reality on Spatial Cognition and Navigation Skills: A Mixed-Methods Investigation Introduction Spatial cognition and navigation skills are fundamental cognitive abilities crucial in our everyday lives. As technology advances, virtual reality (VR) has become a powerful tool for simulating real-world environments and experiences. This Ph.D. research aims to explore the impacts of virtual reality on spatial cognition and navigation skills, with the ultimate goal of enhancing human performance and understanding the implications for future technological applications. Research Problem and Objectives The research problem revolves around understanding how exposure to virtual reality environments affects individuals' spatial cognition and navigation skills compared to real-world experiences. The primary objectives of this study are: To assess the differences in spatial cognition between individuals who regularly use VR and those who do not. To investigate the effects of VR exposure on navigation abilities and spatial memory. To explore VR's potential benefits and limitations for spatial training and cognitive enhancement. Background and Rationale Spatial cognition and navigation skills are essential for wayfinding, environmental exploration, and efficient decision-making. Prior research has shown that environmental and experiential factors can significantly influence an individual's spatial abilities. With the rise of VR technology, there is a growing need to understand how virtual experiences may affect human cognition. The significance of this research lies in its potential to inform the development of VR applications that optimize spatial learning and training. Additionally, it may shed light on how VR can address spatial cognitive impairments in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders or age-related decline. Theoretical Framework The theories of embodied cognition and spatial learning will guide this study. Embodied cognition posits that cognition is influenced by bodily experiences, suggesting that virtual experiences may have a comparable effect on spatial cognition as real-world experiences. On the other hand, spatial learning theories emphasize the role of environmental cues and memory processes in shaping navigation skills. Methodology This research will employ a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative assessments with qualitative interviews. The study will involve two groups of participants: one group with regular VR users and another with limited or no VR exposure. Quantitative Phase: Conduct standardized spatial cognition tests (e.g., Mental Rotations Test, Water Maze Task) to measure participants' baseline spatial abilities. Administer a series of navigation tasks within both virtual and real-world environments. Analyze the data using appropriate statistical techniques to compare performance between the two groups. Qualitative Phase: Conduct semi-structured interviews with participants to explore their experiences and perceptions of spatial cognition in virtual and real-world scenarios. Employ thematic analysis to identify recurring themes and insights from the interviews. Potential Limitations and Challenges Some potential limitations of this research include the difficulty of precisely replicating real-world scenarios in virtual environments and the variability of individual differences in spatial cognition. Additionally, the study's generalizability may be limited to the specific VR technology and environments used in the experiment. Expected Contributions This Ph.D. research aims to contribute to the emerging field of virtual reality and its impact on human cognition. The findings could lead to practical applications, such as using VR for spatial training in educational settings or designing more user-friendly virtual environments that support spatial cognition. Conclusion This Ph.D. concept paper outlines a comprehensive investigation into the impacts of virtual reality on spatial cognition and navigation skills. This study seeks to advance our understanding of the relationship between VR experiences and human spatial abilities by employing a mixed-methods approach and grounding the research in theoretical frameworks. Through this research, we hope to pave the way for future advancements in VR technology, ultimately benefiting various domains, including education, healthcare, and human-computer interaction.

Final Word on Writing a Great Concept Paper

A concept paper is an essential academic text written by those pursuing a Ph.D. program. It initiates the phase of a dissertation for the Ph.D. program. Once the supervising committee approves it, you will write your proposal before moving to a dissertation. In other words, the concept paper is like a mini version of a research proposal, only that it is meant to be brief. It is like a mini-proposal; make it brief, concise, and coherent.

You have to know how to write it correctly by starting with a title page, background, statement of the problem, etc. Include every section to ensure your work flows well and covers what is needed.

Although writing a Ph.D. concept paper can be intimidating initially, you can use the steps and tips outlined in this article to excel at it. If you need help writing a concept paper, we have erudite writers who can help you. Our expert Ph.D. writers will create a well-researched, organized, and polished concept paper that is 100% original and written based on your instructions. We allow you to connect and directly engage with your doctoral writers as they work on your paper.

Is Concept Paper Short or Long?

A concept paper is short, but this will vary depending on the university. This piece of writing shows all the components of your Ph.D. research project. It aims to give the project an overview so the supervising committee can understand.

How Many Pages Should a Concept Paper Be?

The university or the Ph.D. program you are pursuing will determine the number of pages of a concept paper. Usually, it ranges between 2-3 pages, but it can go up to 20 pages, primarily if written as part of a funding process.

how to write phd concept paper

Gradecrest is a professional writing service that provides original model papers. We offer personalized services along with research materials for assistance purposes only. All the materials from our website should be used with proper references. See our Terms of Use Page for proper details.

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How to Write a Concept Paper in 7 Steps

Lindsay Kramer

Before you can write a research paper, or begin your research, you may have to write a concept paper.

A concept paper is a short academic paper that explains the research you plan to conduct. It covers your research goals, how you’ll carry out the research, how you’ll collect data, and the questions you aim to answer through your research.

Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

What is a concept paper?

A concept paper is typically a two- to three-page paper that concisely explains a proposed research project. If the paper is for a funding application, it may be twenty pages or longer.

In the paper, they demonstrate why their proposed project is worthwhile. The paper covers:

  • Research goals
  • Questions the research aims to answer
  • The research methods the author will use
  • The types of data that will be collected

A concept paper is also known as a research proposal. They may be submitted to investors to secure funding, or a student may submit one to their supervisor before starting a research project. Through reading a student’s concept paper, an academic supervisor can assess their project’s feasibility and, if necessary, suggest adjustments the student can make to improve their project so it’s more realistic or valuable. Similarly, prospective investors can decide whether a project is something they’d like to support. Undeveloped or unrealistic projects can end at the concept paper stage

7 steps for writing a concept paper

A concept paper’s title should directly express the paper’s content. Think of it as a preview for the reader. The title can be the question the proposed project aims to answer, or it can be a short statement that summarizes the paper.

2 Introduction outlining problem and gaps in knowledge

In the introduction section, provide an overview of your research project. This should include a short overview of the current state of your research area and existing gaps in this area. After explaining these, state which of these knowledge gaps you aim to fill with your research. This section should also mention any contradictory theories regarding the questions you aim to answer.

3 Mission statement

Your concept paper’s introduction should also include a mission statement . This is a sentence or two that concisely states your research purpose in an engaging way. Remember, the goal is to get your project approved—so your mission statement should communicate why the reader’s approval will benefit your field.

4 Research aim

Your concept paper also needs to address the reason why you’re conducting the specific research you’ve planned. This part, along with the following two sections, are sometimes grouped together as a concept paper’s project description.

In this section, cover the following:

  • The reason why your research is important
  • The questions you aim to answer through your research

5 Methodology

A concept paper also needs to discuss the methodology you plan to use while conducting your research. This is the strategy or strategies you will use to collect data, such as:

  • Experiments
  • Case studies
  • Observations

This section should also include any ethical concerns that could arise during the research period.

6 Outline of proposed methods and potential impact

After describing your proposed methodology, write a section that discusses exactly how you’ll conduct your research using these methods. Be as specific as possible—if you plan to utilize resources like specialized equipment or collaborate with an expert in your field, include this information in this section. In this section, outline how long you expect the research to take and note the specific milestones you plan to hit during that time frame.

This section should also discuss your research’s potential impact. Discuss who your research and results will impact and how it will impact them. For example, you might conduct a study on undergraduate sleep schedules and publish a paper that supports campus-wide policy changes that promote healthy sleep cycles for students who live on campus.

A concept paper also needs to include a section that addresses the project’s budget. The section should explain the overall cost and break it down into individual expenses so readers can see exactly how the money will be spent.

Tips for writing a concept paper

Write to your audience.

A concept paper is a piece of academic writing, so use a professional tone . Avoid colloquialisms, slang, and other conversational language. Your concept paper should use the same tone and style as your accompanying research paper.

Write according to your reader’s familiarity with the subject of your concept paper. For example, if you’re proposing an IT project and your intended reader is the head of your university’s IT department, you can use technical jargon they will understand. If the intended reader is somebody in a non-technical role, avoid jargon and make sure you define every vocabulary word that might not be familiar to them. By ensuring your reader understands your concept paper, you increase the likelihood of them approving your project.

Use an engaging, accurate title

Just like a clear, intriguing subject line increases the likelihood of a recipient reading an email, an engaging title increases the likelihood of your reader not only reading your concept paper but understanding it. Choose a title that’s concise (fewer than 15 words or so) and accurately reflects your paper’s content. After reading your paper’s title, your reader should not be surprised by your proposed research.

Keep it to an appropriate length

If you’re a student writing a concept paper for an undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral project, two to three pages is generally the right length for your paper. Don’t worry about getting too detailed about the specifics of your research; a high-level overview is sufficient.

Concept papers meant to secure funding from investors can be longer than academic concept papers.

How is a concept paper different from a research paper?

The main difference between a concept paper and a research paper is when they’re written in relation to a research project. A concept paper is written before its author begins their research, and a research paper is written after they’ve completed it. In other words, a concept paper introduces readers to its author’s academic project, and a research paper explains the outcome of the project.

Concept paper FAQs

A concept paper is often a two- to three-page paper that concisely explains a proposed research project.

When do you need a concept paper?

You need a concept paper to outline a proposed research project. Often, they are part of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral research proposals. It’s also common for entrepreneurs and individuals conducting scientific and public-service-related research to write concept papers to garner support for their work.

What are the main steps of writing a concept paper?

Write an engaging, accurate title

  • Outline the problem you aim to solve
  • Write a mission statement
  • Explain your research aim
  • Explain your research methodology
  • Explain your research methods and the potential impact of your work
  • Discuss your project’s budget and how it will be allocated

While a concept paper introduces a proposed research project by outlining its purpose, process, and goals, a research paper discusses a completed project in detail.

how to write phd concept paper

how to write phd concept paper

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What is a Concept Paper and How do You Write One?


  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • August 26, 2020

Concept Paper

What is a Concept Paper?

A concept paper is a short document written by a researcher before starting their research project, with the purpose of explaining what the study is about, why it is important and the methods that will be used.

The concept paper will include your proposed research title, a brief introduction to the subject, the aim of the study, the research questions you intend to answer, the type of data you will collect and how you will collect it. A concept paper can also be referred to as a research proposal.

What is the Purpose of a Concept Paper?

The primary aim of a research concept paper is to convince the reader that the proposed research project is worth doing. This means that the reader should first agree that the research study is novel and interesting. They should be convinced that there is a need for this research and that the research aims and questions are appropriate.

Finally, they should be satisfied that the methods for data collection proposed are feasible, are likely to work and can be performed within the specific time period allocated for this project.

The three main scenarios in which you may need to write a concept paper are if you are:

  • A final year undergraduate or master’s student preparing to start a research project with a supervisor.
  • A student submitting a research proposal to pursue a PhD project under the supervision of a professor.
  • A principal investigator submitting a proposal to a funding body to secure financial support for a research project.

How Long is a Concept Paper?

The concept paper format is usually between 2 and 3 pages in length for students writing proposals for undergraduate, master’s or PhD projects. Concept papers written as part of funding applications may be over 20 pages in length.

How do you Write a Concept Paper?

There are 6 important aspects to consider when writing a concept paper or research proposal:

  • 1. The wording of the title page, which is best presented as a question for this type of document. At this study concept stage, you can write the title a bit catchier, for example “Are 3D Printed Engine Parts Safe for Use in Aircraft?”.
  • A brief introduction and review of relevant existing literature published within the subject area and identification of where the gaps in knowledge are. This last bit is particularly important as it guides you in defining the statement of the problem. The concept paper should provide a succinct summary of ‘the problem’, which is usually related to what is unknown or poorly understood about your research topic . By the end of the concept paper, the reader should be clear on how your research idea will provide a ‘solution’ to this problem.
  • The overarching research aim of your proposed study and the objectives and/or questions you will address to achieve this aim. Align all of these with the problem statement; i.e. write each research question as a clear response to addressing the limitations and gaps identified from previous literature. Also give a clear description of your primary hypothesis.
  • The specific data outputs that you plan to capture. For example, will this be qualitative or quantitative data? Do you plan to capture data at specific time points or at other defined intervals? Do you need to repeat data capture to asses any repeatability and reproducibility questions?
  • The research methodology you will use to capture this data, including any specific measurement or analysis equipment and software you will use, and a consideration of statistical tests to help interpret the data. If your research requires the use of questionnaires, how will these be prepared and validated? In what sort of time frame would you plan to collect this data?
  • Finally, include a statement of the significance of the study , explaining why your research is important and impactful. This can be in the form of a concluding paragraph that reiterate the statement of the problem, clarifies how your research will address this and explains who will benefit from your research and how.

You may need to include a short summary of the timeline for completing the research project. Defining milestones of the time points at which you intend to complete certain tasks can help to show that you’ve considered the practicalities of running this study. It also shows that what you have proposed is feasible in order to achieve your research goal.

If you’re pitching your proposed project to a funder, they may allocate a proportion of the money based on the satisfactory outcome of each milestone. These stakeholders may also be motivated by knowing that you intend to convert your dissertation into an article for journal publication; this level of dissemination is of high importance to them.

Additionally, you may be asked to provide a brief summary of the projected costs of running the study. For a PhD project this could be the bench fees associated with consumables and the cost of any travel if required.

Make sure to include references and cite all other literature and previous research that you discuss in your concept paper.

This guide gave you an overview of the key elements you need to know about when writing concept papers. The purpose of these are first to convey to the reader what your project’s purpose is and why your research topic is important; this is based on the development of a problem statement using evidence from your literature review.

Explain how it may positively impact your research field and if your proposed research design is appropriate and your planned research method achievable.

Tips for Applying to a PhD

Thinking about applying to a PhD? Then don’t miss out on these 4 tips on how to best prepare your application.

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This post explains where and how to write the list of figures in your thesis or dissertation.

Do you need to have published papers to do a PhD?

Do you need to have published papers to do a PhD? The simple answer is no but it could benefit your application if you can.

Join thousands of other students and stay up to date with the latest PhD programmes, funding opportunities and advice.

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