How to write a research proposal

You are required to submit a research proposal when applying to study a research degree at Western Sydney University. Please read these guidelines carefully before submitting your application.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is an outline of your research project that:

  • Defines a research question and your approach to answering it.
  • Highlights originality or significance of the research.
  • Explains how it adds to, develops, or challenges existing literature.
  • Describes the importance of the research and why you are the right person to undertake it.

Your research proposal may vary in length and detail, but it is expected to be approximately one or two pages.

What is the purpose of the research proposal?

Your research proposal will be used by the Higher Degree Research Director and potential supervisors to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, and the overall feasibility of your research project. The proposal will also be used to assess your expertise and existing knowledge in the area you would like to research, and how your project will contribute to the field of research.

The research proposal provides you with an opportunity to capture the attention of your audience and convince them of the importance of your research and your ability to undertake the project.

Who can help me develop my research proposal?

You should identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal. Ideally, the project will be of mutual interest and the supervisor will be able to provide input into the design, scope and feasibility of your research project.

You should list any potential supervisors in your research proposal.

How do I structure my research proposal?

1. Research theme or question

Provide a clear description of the theme or question to be answered by your research project. This should be one or two sentences.

2. Nominate potential examiners

You should nominate academics who you would like to work with on the project. Provide some information about any initial discussions you have had with potential supervisors and outline why you would like to have them on your supervisory panel.

3. Identify gaps in the current research

You should justify your project based on a review of the current literature on the topic. You should discuss the most important texts, demonstrate your understanding of the issues that need research, and identify the gaps that your research is intended to address.

4. Methodology

You do not need to go into too much detail, but it is a good idea to demonstrate that you have given some thought to how you will undertake the research. You should identify the methods you will use to achieve the project aims and demonstrate that the project is feasible in the available candidature time.

5. Resource requirements

Provide an outline of any specialist equipment, access to resources, travel or other requirements your will require during the project.

6. Timeline

Provide an approximate timeframe (monthly or quarterly breakdown) of how you will complete the research project within the available candidature time.

7. Expectation of research results

What do you expect to discover, prove, demonstrate, analyse, test, investigate or examine at the conclusion of your research? You will not know the answer at this stage, but you should have a clear direction of what you are working towards and why you are undertaking the project.

What are some tips to writing a strong research proposal?

Your research proposal has a direct impact on the overall strength of your application to study a research degree. The following tips will help to strengthen the quality of your research proposal.

  • Ensure your research idea, question or problem is stated clearly and persuasively at the beginning of your proposal.
  • Make sure that you are addressing a demonstrable gap in the existing literature.

  • Contact potential supervisors and ensure that they are interested in your topic and available to join your supervisory panel. Ideally, your potential supervisors should provide advice about your research proposal.

  • Demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your area of research interest, potential research methods you will use, and that your approaches will be suitable to the discipline.
  • The scope of your project must be reasonable and achievable. There are limits to the size and complexity of a project that can be completed during a research candidature. Research proposals are assessed for their intellectual contribution and significance, as well as the potential to be completed on time.
  • Demonstrate that you have a passion for the topic. You must be enthusiastic about the area of research and ready to commit to completing a challenging project within the available candidature time.