Preparing a research proposal

Before you apply for a research degree, you'll need to develop a research proposal. The proposal should establish that your planned research addresses a problem that's significant enough to warrant an investigation. It also needs to make an original contribution to the existing body of knowledge.

Forming the outline of your research

A suitable proposal demonstrates that you have a clear vision of what you want to investigate, why it's an interesting topic, how you’ll approach the research question, and what the expected outcomes will be.

Your proposal can be invaluable in forming an outline of your thesis if it's well-designed. You should seek the advice and assistance of the academic with whom you've discussed your proposed topic.

Structure and content of the research proposal

It's important to write a detailed description of your proposed research, so the university can assess your proposed field of study and identify an appropriate supervision team.

The intricacies of your proposal aren't binding, and it’s common for them to change as your research progresses.

What to include

Ensure you write the proposal in clear, simple terminology. Your supervisor will provide advice on what should be included. Ask yourself the following questions when preparing your proposal:

  • What are the aims and objectives?
  • What is the focus of my research?
  • Why is my research important? What is the context of the research, its background and significance?
  • What gaps exist in the current, published knowledge? How will my research help to fill these gaps? What is novel or unique about my proposal? Does it follow on from research that I have already been involved in?
  • What is your research plan? What are the project aims, design, and methodology?
  • What is the scope of your project? Is it narrowly focused on a particular issue or will it seek to answer broad questions?
  • What outcomes do you expect from the project? What changes to our understanding might come out of it, and who will benefit?

Word length limitations

Your research proposal will form part of your application for candidature. Research proposal lengths vary depending on which area you propose to study:

  • Faculty of Arts and Education: 750 – 1,000 words
  • Faculty of Health (except School of Nursing and Midwifery): 750 – 1,000 words
  • Faculty of Business and Law: 750 – 1,000 words
  • School of Nursing and Midwifery: 1,500 – 2,000 words 
  • Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment: 300 – 500 words
  • Institute for Frontier Materials: 300 – 500 words
  • Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation: 300 – 500 words.