From topic to proposal: Getting started – 2 ECTS

If you’re fresh into the PhD, this course is there to help you getting started with writing your proposal. In four interactive sessions we touch on different aspects relevant to formulating your research problem, translating it to research questions and thinking about your research approach. You will also meet with other participants in several peer consultation sessions to jointly discuss and reflect on your progress and provide each other with feedback. A coach will be present at these sessions to provide support from their expertise as social scientist.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Wed 6 October 2021 until Fri 26 November 2021

Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201

This course contributes to the process of proposal writing during the start of your PhD project. It supports writing a proposal to convey your ideas and convince others that these are interesting, coherent and that you have a logical point of view. Assignments require you to work on your own project proposal.

Topics in the course are: 
• Research as a way of thinking
• Research as a process
• Formulating research questions

Please be aware that the previous course Research Methodology: From topic to proposal has been redesigned and split into this course which helps you get started on proposal writing, and a course that goes more in-depth into Research Methodology (which is under development).

Target group and min/max number of participants:

Recently started PhD candidates in the Social/Environmental Sciences working on their research proposal. Minimum number of participants is 5, maximum number of participants is 20.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

1. Position their research in relation to seminal and current articles from relevant scientific disciplines
2. Formulate research questions and decide on the appropriateness of having hypotheses
3. Identify what type of research approach is suitable for the research
4. Critically reflect on the coherence of argumentation and justification used in the research proposal


The course will consist of sessions with lectures, information and discussion; peer groups (with expert coach) and self study. You will work on your own research proposal during the assignments.

We will discuss:

- Positioning your research in relation to scientific disciplines/domains
- Short intro into critical literature review
- Positioning your research in relation to seminal work, leading papers and the state of the art
- Drafting the research question
- Characterising and limiting the research
- Drafting a conceptual framework
- Coherence, logical point of view, argumentation in the research design

Literature (digital access through WUR Library):

Ranjit Kumar (2014). Research methodology(4th ed). London, Thousands Oaks, New Delhi: Sage publications Ltd. ISBN 9781446269978.
Tobi & Kampen (2018). Research design: the methodology for interdisciplinary research framework

Other materials will be shared later.


The course will be completed upon active participation in the sessions and showing commitment via the assignments.

Preliminary schedule

Session 1 6-10-2021 afternoon session
Peer group session 1 date and time to be agreed within group, week of 11 or 18 October
Session 2 25-10-2021 afternoon session
Peer group session 2 date and time to be agreed within group, week of 25 October or 1 November
Session 3 4-11-2021 morning session
Peer group session 3 date and time to be agreed within group, week of 8 of 15 November
Session 4 18-11-2021 morning session
Peer group session 4 date and time to be agreed within group, week of 22 november

Course fees

WGS PhDs with TSP 175
Other PhDs, postdocs and academic staff 350
Participants from the private sector 500

Cancellation conditions

Participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.