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Research proposal

Your research proposal is a blue-print of the research that you plan to undertake. A well-prepared proposal clearly outlines why the research is important, what the research questions are and how these will be addressed through the research.

It also articulates the parameters of your study and enables you to identify the key milestones, requirements and resources needed to achieve your research objectives.

Plan your research

It’s important to spend time thoroughly investigating your potential research area and planning your research. It can be useful to formalise this as part of a project management plan that aligns with your research proposal.

The designing and undertaking your research web pages will assist you with selecting a research topic, reviewing the literature, conceptualising your research and developing a project management plan.

Before preparing your proposal

Given the level of detail required for a research proposal, you should prepare your proposal only after you have:

  • investigated your research topic using relevant literature;
  • discussed and confirmed your research questions with your supervisors;
  • identified the appropriate methodologies to answer your research questions; and
  • ensured that the necessary resources are available to undertake the planned research.

Proposal elements

What do I need to do for my proposal?

  • Identify and define the research problem
  • Contextualise the research problem using relevant literature
  • Define the research questions or hypotheses and outline how they will be answered through the research
  • Justify the significance of the research and state the original contribution that is expected to be made
  • Outline the appropriate methodologies that will be used to answer the research questions
  • Explain the approach/es that will be used to analyse data
  • Consider issues of quality in the collection and analysis of data
  • An estimated budget of the research costs and how these will be funded

Proposal format

The specific format, detail and scope of your research proposal will vary depending on your discipline and level of degree. The maximum length of a Master by Research and Doctor of Philosophy research proposal is 7,000 and 10,000 words respectively.  It should be written in sufficient detail to ensure that others can fully understand the proposed research study.

Your supervisor is the best person to advise you on what’s expected, including the appropriate length for a research proposal in your school.

In addition to your written research proposal, you will also need to present a seminar based on your proposal. See the Proposal seminar web page for more information.

Additional support

If you need additional support in preparing for your proposal seminar or later with the revision process you should consult your supervisor. You may also wish to seek support and advice as you are developing your proposal from the University’s research support staff in the Centre for Learning and Teaching and Graduate Research School, visit the SOAR centre or attend a research training workshop.

GRIP Module 5: Confirmation of candidature also provides some useful advice and resources on this topic. See the GRIP Blackboard login web page for instructions.

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