Research Plan


When applying for the doctoral programme
  • Research plan is a key document.
  • It is usually appr. 5-8 pages (line spacing 1,5, 12 pt)
  • Research plan also includes:
    1. Your schedule for completion of required studies (60 ECTS)
    2. Your schedule for dissertation work
    3. Your plan for funding
    4. In case you plan to include an artistic component: work plan and schedule
  • Write your research plan completely by yourself.
  • Here are some general instructions for writing a research plan. They are not compulsory – the research plan is free of form. You can find other instructions on the internet, see e.g. Academy of Finland's research plan guidelines.
Guidelines for writing a dissertation research plan
 Title and abstract

Title of the project. The title should capture the essential of the research in just a few words.
Doctoral thesis titles often include an explanatory subtitle in addition to the main part. For example Louna Hakkarainen’s dissertation: Caring for technology. Evolving living lab collaboration.

Abstract should crystallize your research research question and how you plan to approach it. It’s length can be only a couple of sentences, but it usually is half a page and shouldn’t be more than one page. Imagine that your are writing for someone who doesn’t know anything about your topic. Try to entice your reader. Abstract is a public document, other parts of the research plan are treated as confidential.

Also remember to mention your name and contact information at the start of the research plan.

 Research topic and objectives

Introduce the topic of your research, its general objectives, and the main research question. Specify what is your aim and what is your hypothesis. It is helpful to present subquestions related to your research topic.

 Background and theory

Make a short review of previous research related to your topic. Make detailed references to earlier research and art or other productions and literature and shortly describe their focus. Also share your possible earlier work in the area (e.g. your related Master’s thesis).

Literature review should show that you have already done some work on your topic, and know the framework. It should also describe your theoretical background or at least your perspective to the research question. Describe what has not been researched yet and why it should be researched.

You may also present what kind of studies you need to be able to realize your research plan.

 Methods and data

The methods you plan to use specify how you will answer your question. Explain how you plan to collect your material (interviews, literature, archives, creating your art etc.) and how you plan to analyse it (data analysis). Outline your material carefully – you cannot include everything.

Present a plan for storing the data and who has the rights to use it. Also view the ethical questions related to acquiring and using your data.

If you want to include your own art productions or design projects to your dissertation present a plan for artistic component. Explain when and here you plan to have your exhibition etc., how many will there be and what is their role in your research.

 Schedule and funding of the doctoral studies and dissertation

Present a schedule for the doctoral studies which includes the required studies (60 ECTS), time needed for the dissertation and possibly artistic parts.

Full time studies take appr. 4 years and part time studies 4-8 years, plan your schedule accordingly. Be realistic.

Suitable timeframe is to present the plan by academic terms (autumn and spring).

It is not necessary to list all the studies in course level, often credits are enough. E.g. autumn 2019, studies in the research field, 20 ECTS.

Mention if you plan to include studies from other Universities to your degree or if you plan to undergo a research period away from Finland. If you don’t plan to live in the Helsinki region for the whole duration of your studies, explain what kind of periods you plan to present at Aalto University and how you plan to complete the required courses.

Funding: The way you plan to fund your studies affects their length. Present a detailed plan for funding. Especially in the case of productions and exhibitions (artistic components of the Doctor of Art degree), present your budget.

Autumn 1Spring 1Autumn 2

general studies and studies in the research field 15 ECTS

funding applications

finetuning the research plan

methodology studies 10 ECTS

general studies 5 ECTS


studies in the research field 10 ECTS

transcribing interviews

first article


Describe your expected results and their significance. You may also present possible practical applications of research results. Do you have a plan for publication and other dissemination of research results?


List of the most important research literature. Only sources used in the plan should be listed.

 After studies have started

It's important to keep your research plan up to date after the start of your studies as you might need it for applying for grants etc. Each funding agencies can have its own intructions for the form and lenght of the research plan, check them out before applying for funding.

During your studies you may ask comments for your research plan from your advisor.