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POI Asked for Research Proposal?


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Hi all,

I'm applying for doctoral programs, including one in Canada, and have been sending out email inquiries to potential advisors stating my overall research interests, etc. I received a fast, promising response from a university in Canada (one of my top choices) stating the professor is interested in my research in principle, but would like to see a research proposal (if I have one) and an outline of what I've already read, etc.

This is something of a surprise to me, as I was under the impression you should not be too specific at this stage - it's important to leave room for your potential future school to have input in your project. While I have some good overall ideas of what I want to research and could certainly see myself writing a proposal, I have not yet compiled a bibliography or a specific thesis statement.  I also plan in my doctoral research to expand my work in Jewish art, which was my Master's thesis field, to include African American works, which is a new area for me (so I don't have a ton of experience there yet). I had thought the soonest I would need a specific project outline would be my dissertation proposal. I'm feeling a lot of pressure to make this great, but don't want to overthink it! I also have a fair amount of work left to do on my applications themselves.

I don't want to keep this person waiting for a response for too long, and am considering responding that while I don't have something readily available, I am happy to put something together if they will allow me a bit of time. Does this seem like a good response?

Have any of you written a research proposal for admissions before, and if so, do you have any advice about length/content/etc.?  I Googled it and found some good overall outlines, but I'm concerned there are art history-specific expectations I might be missing in using these formats.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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A POI of mine in Canada had a similar request. Mine was good enough to land me an interview, so I'm guessing I followed directions properly. It will require a bit of research, but it should be about 1.5 pages. List about 3 sources. You should be solid. They're mostly just checking to make sure you know enough about what you want to do to write a good research proposal. That will not, the majority of the time, be what you will actually be working on in your program. Good luck! You got this!!

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It seems to me like the best course of action is to describe where you're actually at in your research/writing/thinking process as truthfully and eloquently as possible. Which is to say, don't feel like you need to scramble right now to read all the most recent scholarship on "African American works" in order to project an air of confidence to describe a potential "thesis" -- an advisor will likely see straight through that anyways. Instead, focus on narrating your methodological and scholarly investments in the work you've done on "Jewish art" -- and then pose some smart questions/thoughts about how you envision yourself bringing those methodological and scholarly investments to bear on different objects by different sorts of artists. In other words, focus on narrating what you do know well and what type of thinker you are.... what sorts of questions you have asked in the past, and what sorts of questions you plan to ask as you begin work towards a PhD. 

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