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Research proposal

The proposal process is designed to provide:

  • a forum in which a proposal committee can assess the research plan for postgraduate research projects in the PhD, MA and EdD programs.

  • an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to receive critical feedback on their research plans in a non-threatening environment;

  • an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to enact an important part of academic practice, i.e., the communication of knowledge through public presentation.

Effective proposal

An effective proposal will provide information to the committee related to points 1 -4 below

  1. The proposal will allow the committee to develop a clear understanding of the details of the project.

The proposal should:

· provide a brief, introductory outline of the project

· establish why the planned research is significant;

· establish a conceptual framework for the project and locate the planned research within a body of related research, usually through the development of a critical review of this related theory and research;

· establish a clear rationale for the planned research that explains how the research will advance current understanding in the area;

· specify the objectives, or research questions, that have been established for the project;

· set out details of the research design and the research procedures to be used;

· explain how the research procedures will allow each of the research objectives to be addressed;

· consider possible conclusions that might be drawn upon completion of the project.

· Show that ethical issues associated with the project have been considered.

  1. In considering the above elements a committee will assess whether the:

· writing is clear and concise,

· arguments being made are clearly structured,

· review of literature is comprehensive,

· significance of the research is clearly established,

· objectives for the research are clearly expressed and cover a body of research appropriate for the degree;

· research procedures are suitable for achieving the research objectives;

· research procedures will be used appropriately.

  1. The committee will consider whether the research project will, if completed as planned, result in furthering of the educational research community’s understanding in the chosen field; and

  2. Be satisfied that suitable financial and material resources are available for the project.

Standards for research

Abraham Kaplan argues that attention must be paid to standards of professional competence that govern the conduct of any inquiry, standards that will allow judgements that a researcher is “doing well” in carrying out a research activity. These standards may be seen as involving the researcher in issues that are at a more general level than concerns with specific research types.


• Is the topic for the thesis of significant educational value?

• Has this significance been clearly established?

Specification of the research topic • Is the topic for the thesis clearly specified

• Have the research questions been stated in a way that they can be answered?

• Are the background assumptions made by the researcher specified?

• Do these assumptions guide the research questions and methods in a coherent fashion?

• Have basic terms been defined clearly?

Relationship to existing research • Has the relationship between the thesis topic, or the research question, and previous theory and research been established in a suitable manner?

• Has the topic been linked clearly to related thinking in the field of educational research?

Research procedures

• Were the research techniques or procedures suitable for answering the research questions?

• Have these procedures been described in sufficient detail?

• Was the research plan practicable given the available time and budget?

• Have the research techniques been applied in a competent manner?

• Has awareness of the ethical dimensions of the research been demonstrated?

Discussion and conclusions

• Are the conclusions sound and well justified?

• Is the explanation of findings theoretically tenable and does it consider both what is, and what is not, confirmed by the findings.

• Have the implications of, and possible applications for, the findings been identified and discussed?

• Have the limitations of the research procedures and findings been identified?

The thesis argument

• Does the thesis show evidence of critical evaluation of ideas and findings?

• Is the overall argument in the thesis developed in a coherent manner?

• Is there evidence of insight/creativity on the part of the student.

General presentation of the thesis

• Are the findings reported in a format that is generally accessible to the educational community and appropriate for the field of research?

• Is the standard of written expression appropriate for a research report?

• Is the writing style clear and concise?

• Have the sources of literature used in the project been referenced in an appropriate manner?