GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS
NOTE: These are general guidelines only; faculties may have their own discipline-specific guidelines or templates for research proposals, particularly in the health and applied sciences and engineering. Study these Guidelines carefully and incorporate the instructions in the proposal before submission. Pay special attention to the Evaluation Checklist. This will help you evaluate your proposal using similar criteria to those used by the faculty research committee and funding agencies. Provide a table of contents, including sub-headings and page numbers. A dissertation comprises a 50% research project (50% course work). A thesis comprises a 100% research project. The research proposal should not be too long; five – ten pages generally suffice. Your first step is to register a research topic (HDC 1.1) through the faculty research committee. Your research proposal (HDC 1.2) must be ratified within six months of registering the topic.
Purpose of the research proposal To establish that the candidate has: a viable and researchable problem an acceptable plan of action for undertaking the research done sufficient preparation to establish the rationale for the research a feasible chance of completing the research
The order of the layout suggested below may be changed and certain sections may be combined; additional points may also be added. The suggested headings serve as road signs to indicate to the evaluator: what the research problem is how the candidate intends doing the research what the outcomes could be
The examination criteria for a doctoral degree are that there should be clear evidence of originality, creative thinking and problem solving. The requirement for a doctoral thesis is that candidates must provide proof of original and creative thinking and problem-solving, and make a real contribution to the solving of a particular problem in the industry to which their research applies (NQF Level 10 – see page 26 of Higher Education Qualifications Framework Draft for Discussion, July 2004.) For a master’s thesis, candidates must prove that they understand a particular problem in the industry in which they have done their research, are able to analyse and set it out logically, are able to arrive at logical conclusions or a diagnosis, and are then able to make proposals for the improvement/elimination of the problem. (NQF Level 9 – see page 25 of Higher Education Qualifications Framework Draft for Discussion, July 2004.)
Title The title should be concise, as long titles are cumbersome to accommodate in information retrieval systems. Select appropriate key words or phrases, and avoid rambling and meaningless statements such as: An investigation into the possibility of conducting research in . . . Do not start a title with a present participle, such as Investigating, or Analysing. The title should rather read: An analysis of …
Clarification of basic terms and concepts The same words may have different connotations to people, especially if they work in various disciplines. List and clarify or define the main words and concepts that you will use in your research. It may also be useful to provide a list of abbreviations and acronyms with their full names, e.g. SMME. Commonly used abbreviations/acronyms (such as UK, USA) need not be included.
Statement of research problem This is the heart of the proposal. Normally a sentence, or at most a paragraph, is all that is required to describe exactly what the problem is. Many candidates have difficulty in describing the problem: instead they list the objectives, outcomes, needs or other irrelevant aspects. If the research problem is not adequately or precisely described, it is likely to be rejected. The National Research Foundation (NRF) reports that most research proposals are “characterised by poorly formulated problems”. Furthermore, “researchers often indulge in jargon, which...
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