If you are applying to be part of an established research project, you may not be asked to write a research proposal.
Such projects with a research topic chosen and led by individuals are still the most usual route to a doctorate in some of the sciences.
THE “IDEAL” RESEARCH PROPOSAL General recommendations A proposal should be as general as possible in order for it to be reviewed by (and capture the attention of) any social scientist, but it should also be as specific as possible in order to trigger the interest of the faculty member(s) who could potentially become your supervisor(s).
Try to make clear which parts of your project are conventional wisdom, and which are innovative.
If your topic (or theory or method) has been very widely discussed in your field, you should highlight the novelty (theoretical, empirical or both) that your project represents with respect to previous works.
The feasibility of the project is not an issue in many proposals, but could become a potential concern in some of them.
Highlighting paradoxes and unexpected results can also be a powerful tool to motivate readers whose research interests are far from yours.
Try to keep the spotlight on the main idea(s) of your project along the whole text while clearly spelling out your concrete plans.
However, predominantly in the social sciences, arts, and humanities disciplines you will be required to write a research proposal as part of the application procedure.
Guidelines for the proposal should exist in the institution and/or graduate school where you wish to study.