How to write a successful Phd Research proposal

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Published Date:01-07-2017
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Writing the MA and PhD Research Proposal: Guidelines 2016 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 4. Writing the 3 000- or 5 000-Word Research Proposal: Guidelines 4.1 Introduction This document provides guidelines for writing the research proposal at MA as well as at PhD level. Please take note of the following before you work carefully through it:  The detailed proposal the English Department requires you to complete should not be confused with the short three-page proposal which needs to be submitted to the Committee for Title Registration (CTR). Length of the detailed proposal for MA candidates: 3 000 words Length of the detailed proposal for PhD candidates: 5 000 words  The detailed proposal should be submitted before the abbreviated version which serves at the CTR.  If your study requires ethical clearance, this clearance must be obtained after the abbreviated version of the proposal serves at the CTR.  Writing a meticulous proposal will help you establish the groundwork for your research study. It will also help you pre-empt any problems you may experience during the course of your writing and research.  The proposal is perused by your supervisor and co-supervisor as well as by the English Department’s Committee for Postgraduate Studies. Please note that it is the Committee’s aim to be supportive, constructive, and helpful, and not to disparage you as a researcher. 9 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 4.2 Writing a Thesis or Research Proposal 4.2.1 What is a thesis or research proposal? A thesis proposal, often referred to as a research proposal, is something like an architect’s plan. It is a carefully prepared document and it proposes a set of actions…It sets forth a plan of action that you intend to follow. Although you will not have to adhere slavishly to the plan, the general thrust and directions are clearly outlined (Anderson and Poole, 2009: 27). More importantly, the proposal not only justifies your idea and plan of action, but also lays the groundwork for your research study. 4.2.2 What are the requirements and Elements of a Proposal? A research proposal should provide a context for your work and clearly signal how you intend achieving your research objectives. It should also indicate why you believe there is a need for your research or why your research question is one that is worth being answered. Your proposal should reflect the following elements which have been adapted from O’Leary (2014: 75): Element Description (Requirements) Title Your title should be clear and unambiguous, reflecting what your research is about. (Of course, the title you choose may be a working or tentative title only; in fact, it will in all likelihood change as your research evolves.) Abstract The abstract or summary should answer the why, what, how, and when of your research study. (It often requires several drafts and is not written first.) Aims or Under aims or objectives, you need to describe the nature Objectives of your research topic or problem as well as explain why it is important. (Make sure that your objectives are clearly articulated; avoid vague, cryptic statements.) Research The research question or hypothesis reflects the essence of question or your research study. Articulating a research question or hypothesis is fairly challenging, and so Kinmond (2012) 10 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS Hypothesis proposes that formulating and then developing a research question should be preceded by identifying a research area and then selecting a research topic. For guidance, read Kathryn Kinmond’s (2012) useful chapter, ‘Coming up with a research question’ online: http://www.sagepub.com/upm- data/47619_Sullivan.pdf. Literature Here, you need to critically assess studies/theories that are Review important to your research. Please remember that the literature review constitutes a piece of argumentative writing in which you critically engage with relevant scientific/academic sources. The literature review does not simply provide background information to your study; it justifies your research question/hypothesis/theoretical framework/method and signals your in-depth knowledge of recent studies in your field. Diana Ridley’s (2012) The literature review: A step-by-step guide for students (Sage) is a useful textbook and two copies are available at the UFS’s Sasol Library. Theoretical You need to position your research study within a Perspectives specific conceptual or theoretical framework. In other 2 words, whichever framework you adopt should inform your study. Methods You need to provide a blueprint for how you intend carrying (This out your research. You should include the following: includes the Your particular methodology/approach: for Research example, a researcher studying media violence may Design.) opt for an experimental methodology; an analyst interested in students’ online interaction may employ conversation analysis.) Your data collection methods: Will you, for instance, conduct semi-structured interviews, carry out a survey, make audio-visual recordings or utilise archived data? Methods of analysis: Will you conduct a statistical analysis or will you conduct a qualitative analysis, for 3 example? Ethical You are reminded that if you are using animals or people in Statement your research study, then you are required to submit an ethical clearance application to the Faculty of the Humanities’ Research Ethics Committee. The Committee needs to approve your proposal before you are allowed to gather your data. Your supervisor will advise you about the 2 Note that you may have more than one theoretical perspective. 3 If you already have preliminary data, then this data and your initial findings should be referred to in the proposal. 11 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS processes involved, but you can also contact Ms Charné Vercueil (vercueilccufs.ac.za). Limitations Include any weaknesses in your study, making sure that you take into account ways to resolve these weaknesses. Bibliography Finally, your proposal should be accompanied by a bibliography so that your supervisor and the Department’s Committee for Postgraduate Studies are aware of the quality of the sources you have used. (They may recommend additional sources.) Timeline It is strongly recommended that your proposal be accompanied by a timeline reflecting the estimated time devoted to each stage of the research process, from data collection to the writing up of the dissertation/thesis. In this regard, you may find it useful to employ a Gantt chart to plan your research study. Visit https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/where-do-you-find-best- gantt-chart-spreadsheet-templates to download such a chart. Alternatively, your Excel whether older or newer, allows you to create such a chart. 12 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 5. The Format of the Research Proposal The proposal should be typed in Times New Roman (font size 12), using 1.5 line spacing. As per the English Department’s rules and guidelines, all cited material should be referenced in full using the Harvard Referencing Style. Academic dishonesty, including plagiarism and other types of academic deception is viewed in a serious light and has severe consequences. 13 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 6. Expectations: Assessment Rubric To meet expectations, you may find it useful to utilise the following rubric which has been taken from http://web.uri.edu/assessment/files/ResearchProposalRubric.2.17.12_000 .pdf. Note that not all the criteria are applicable to a proposal. 14 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 7. Sample Proposals The proposals in this section are not meant to be replicated to the letter; they are simply examples of what proposals in the social sciences/humanities look like. 7.1 Sample 1 The following is a sample research proposal in the social sciences and has been taken from https://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/researchcourse/images/Harvard_proposa l_samples.pdf. (Please note that the proposal follows the MLA citation style and not the Harvard system.) 15 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 16 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 17 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 18 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 19 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 20 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 21 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 22 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 23 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 24 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 25 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 26 Writing the Research Proposal: Guidelines © 2016 Department of English, UFS 27