How to write a strong DBA research proposal

04 October 2022

Recruitment and Business Development Executive Arione McQueenie, answers the questions she most commonly gets asked about how to write a strong research proposal when applying for the Doctor of Business Administration.

As part of your application to the Doctor of Business Administration at Warwick Business School, you must submit a research proposal which outlines what you are interested in researching as part of the programme. This proposal should centre on a specific problem within your organisation that you are looking to tackle using the practical applied research and organisation interventions you will design as part of the DBA.

One of the most common questions I am asked in my capacity as Recruitment Executive for the DBA is ‘what do I include in my research proposal?’ When considering this question, it is important to remember that although the DBA is an equivalent level to a PhD, the focus of the programme is on applied research rather than theoretical knowledge. Therefore, the proposal does not need to be as in-depth or academic as a PhD proposal. To help you get started with your DBA proposal, below are some FAQ’s, 

What topic should I write about in my DBA research proposal?

A DBA project is motivated by a business problem in search of a solution. Your DBA proposal should outline the problem you intend to investigate and why this is important to you and your business.

Does it have to be a problem facing my business?

Ideally, yes. Your research problem needs to be something you are able to actively design and implement interventions for. This means students will most likely conduct their research within their own business, although in some cases they will consider other organisations in an industry they are interested in (for example, in the case of candidates who work as consultants).

What are the key sections / information to include?

A good DBA proposal should include what you are interested in researching, and how you intend to use the academic insights offered by the programme to tackle your specific issue. Ideally, a good proposal should address the following questions:

  • What is the business problem or opportunity you intend to investigate?
  • Why is this practically and theoretically relevant?
  • What is the domain/literature (e.g. strategy, entrepreneurship etc.) within which your problem is situated?
  • What does this literature discuss about your problem or opportunity and how it can be addressed?
  • Where do you plan to conduct your empirical study and how do you plan to get access to the field site?
  • How do you plan to collect your data (e.g. interviews, observation, surveys, etc.)?
  • How will practitioners benefit from your research?

How long should it be?

Your proposal should be roughly five pages long. This allows us to understand the feasibility of your research as well as allowing better matching with potential supervisors. You should attach the proposal, along with your CV, to your application. We will be unable to assess your application if the research proposal is not attached and this may delay the admissions process.

Any hints & tips?

Get started writing your proposal as soon as possible, as it is always best to give yourself time for edits and rewrites. However, don’t get too caught up in trying to write the perfect proposal, as this only forms a small part of your application. Remember that your problem and ideas to approaching it will probably change throughout the programme; therefore, you don’t have to have all the answers now.

I would also recommend researching our subject groups within WBS. It is important that your research project falls into one of our areas of interest, otherwise we will not have suitable faculty to allocate as your supervisor.

Next Steps:

The DBA only has one intake per year, in October. You can find more information on how to apply via our website.

If you would like to find out more about the programme, or if your question was not answered above, you can email

Arione McQueenie
Recruitment and Business Development Executive