Research proposal guidance

Course image: Pg Cert Counselling Skills course

The following document is a guide to support you in the development of the research proposal as part of the application process for the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology.

Preparing your research proposal

As part of your application you must submit a research proposal which indicates a possible topic or area that you would like to research as part of your training on the professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. Your research proposal should give as detailed as possible information about the research you wish to undertake.

Your research proposal, is an important part of your application as it demonstrates your knowledge of the proposed field of study and your ability to frame a project conceptually and propose an appropriate methodology. It also ensures that your topic is relevant to the research expertise in the school and University (see appendix 1 for research supervisors research interests). So, while there will be scope to develop your research proposal further under supervision, it is understood your research focus will remain the same. Therefore, it is important that you first consider how your research project aligns with the research interests to ensure you have a viable research topic.

As a guide your research proposal should enable the reader to obtain a clear understanding of the research that is to be undertaken and the context in which it sits. It should be between 1,000-1,500 words, including references.

Essentially, the reader will be given answers to the questions “what?”, “why?” and “how?” i.e. what is the research, why is it being undertaken, how is it going to be carried out and how the submission is going to be presented.

The description of the research should not be written in such a way that it is inaccessible to the non-specialist (i.e. specialist language should be kept to a minimum).

The following is not meant to be prescriptive and you may want to structure the proposal differently, it is just a guide to help you consider all elements of a research proposal.

Research Proposal Guidelines

The importance and relevance of your project
The Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology is primarily concerned with researching real professional issues in Counselling Psychology practice. Therefore, make sure your research project is relevant to the field of Counselling Psychology. Ensure you explain why you think your research is important, identifying any current gaps in the research literature and the contribution you consider your research will make to research and practice.

A brief review of the literature
You need to indicate some of the literature that you are going to use, try to include some of the main arguments and viewpoints in the field, indicating their relevance to your research proposal. Also make sure you include how your research sits within this current body of research.

Theoretical framework/methodology
In this section you need to clarify which methodology you will be following and why. In particular, you need to explain the relevance and usefulness of your chosen methodology to your particular project. You should clearly explain why and how the approach you plan to use will fit your topic and the problem you are addressing. Include any data sources you plan to use? How do you plan to collect data (e.g. interviews, a survey). Describe the process you will use to analyse the data.

Identify any ethical issues or issues around risk that your research might pose and how you will mitigate or manage these.

List the publication details of all the works you have referenced in your proposal. Use a standard referencing format (e.g. Harvard). This should help us to understand the literature you are familiar with.

Research Supervisors' Research Interests

Dr Shelley Gait

  • Social-cultural-political discourses and the construction of psychological ‘mental’ health and well-being
  • Alternative discourses on mental health, e.g. hearing voice network
  • Systemic influences on mental well-being
  • Interpersonal dynamics in groups and organisational contexts
  • The intersection between the person and the political
  • The intersection between philosophy and psychotherapy.

Research Methods: Qualitative Approaches e.g. Constructionist Grounded Theory

Melody Cranbourne- Rosser

  • Spirituality and mental health
  • Vicarious trauma and practitioner care
  • Personal and professional development & therapeutic use of self
  • Creative practice / therapeutic play
  • Sexual abuse / harmful sexual behaviour / child sexual exploitation

Research Methods: Qualitative approaches e.g. IPA, heuristic inquiry

Dr Philip Tyson

  • Mental health and different therapeutic approaches
  • Cross-cultural and class issues in counselling and psychotherapy

Research Methods: Qualitative research 

Dr Deborah Lancastle

  • Psychological aspects of women’s reproductive health
  • Quality of life, stress and coping, coping interventions
  • Eating disorders

Research Methods: Quantitative research methods. Between/within/mixed between-within research designs. Research in NHS settings

Dr Catherine Purcell

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

Research Methods: Quantitative research; Participatory Research; Qualitative research; Mixed-methods and case studies

Dr Nicky Lewis

  • Psychological and emotional resilience
  • Experiences of, and responses to key transitions (retirement amongst others) and impact on performance and performing
  • Social support mechanisms for coping with and performing through key transitions

Research Methods: Predominantly alternative paradigms and action research –narrative, auto ethnography and insider/ practitioner action research

Dr Gareth Rodrique-Davies

  • Substance misuse, addictive behaviours and craving

Professor Bev John

  • Addictions
  • Behaviour change, psychological factors in chronic conditions
  • Intervention development and evaluation

Research Methods: Quantitative, qualitative, desk based, mixed methods

Dr Ioannis Angelakis

  • The relationship between early adverse experiences and the development or maintenance of various psychopathological disorders.
  • The link between psychopathological conditions and suicidality
  • Impact of early adverse experiences, including corporal punishment, physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • Quantitative research methods: cross-sectional design, prospective/longitudinal design, experimental designs 

Research Methods: Qualitative research methods: Interviews concerning social validity (importance of the research goals, acceptability of the procedures, satisfaction with the outcomes

Dr Sheila Spong 

  • Power and influence in counselling
  • Discourses of counselling and school-based counselling

Research Methods: Qualitative approaches Discourse analysis Participatory research

Dr Lesley Spencer

  • Genetic counselling, teaching counselling and therapy supervision.

Research Methods:Qualitative approaches: Grounded theory, IPA, heuristic

Dr Alyson Richards

  • Developmental Disorders. particularly dyspraxia‚Ä®
  • Emotional and Social Difficulties and Mental Health in children and adults 

Research Methods: Qualitative methods