This guide is for candidates who are enrolled in a higher degree research program (PhD, Masters by Research or Master of Philosophy) and who have been asked to submit a research proposal as part of their Research Progress Review or Confirmation of Candidature.


The aim of the research proposal is to convince your school that:

  • there is a need for the research; it is significant and important.
  • you are contributing something original to the field.
  • the topic is feasible in terms of availability of funding, equipment, supervisors, and data.
  • the research can be completed in the expected time period(3-4 years full time for a PhD or 1.5 – 2 years full time for a research Masters).
  • ethical issues have been considered and approval has been given for the research by the University Ethics Committee.
  • the topic matches your interests and capabilities.

What is the difference between a Masters and a Doctoral research proposal?

As research Masters degrees are shorter than PhDs, the main goals and complexity of your proposed research should align with this shorter timeframe. If you are unsure of what is required, you should seek advice from your supervisor or your School’s Postgraduate Coordinator.

Who is my audience?

Your research proposal is normally assessed during your Research Progress Review by the Review Panel. If you are a PhD candidate, your research proposal will normally be submitted as part of your Confirmation of Candidature Review. Most candidates need to submit a written report and present their proposal during their Review. If you are not sure of the requirements within your School or Faculty, contact your supervisor or your School’s Postgraduate Coordinator.

Your goal

The research proposal helps you focus your research aims, clarify its importance and the need, describe the methods, predict problems and outcomes, and plan alternatives and interventions. 

Getting it done

Preparing your proposal will be an iterative process. You will most likely need to prepare a number of drafts, improving each one with feedback from your supervisors. You should be writing regularly to have your proposal completed by the due date.


Demonstrating originality

Your work will make a worthwhile contribution to your field if it fulfils one or more of the following: 

  • it provides evidence to support or disprove a concept, theory, or model;
  • it contributes new data/information, new or improved solution, analysis procedure or a new improved research methodology;
  • it results in a new or improved concept, theory or model.

See next: Structuring the proposal

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