There is a range of support you can access to help you submit a high quality research proposal.

Your proposal should follow the GRS Research Proposal Guidelines and should be 15 pages or less in length. Your supervisory team will provide you with support to prepare your proposal. The Graduate Education Officers also offer support with the provision of advice about the aim, format, submission of proposals and how they are assessed, as well as a range of support tools.


Research Proposal Guidelines for students enrolled in the Arts, Business, Law & Education Faculty, Engineering & Mathematical Sciences Faculty, and the Science Faculty:

Research Proposal Guidelines for students enrolled in the Health & Medical Sciences Faculty:

Advice for completing each section of the guidelines

Section A. Project Title and Summary
Title: Choose a title for your project that reflects your research question in one succinct phrase. Your title should include your key words. You may find it useful to review some thesis titles in your research area in the UWA Research Repository. Your title can be revised over the course of your candidature.

Summary: Provide a succinct overview of your project and clearly indicate why your proposed research is important, what your project aims to address, and how the project will be undertaken. Often it is easiest to write the summary after you have completed the research proposal as you can more easily identify your key points at this stage. Include only these key points in your summary - do not include anything new.

Section B. Research Project

You have the freedom to structure this section of your research proposal (aims, background and research project) in whatever way is most appropriate for your project and for your discipline.

You will need to describe the purpose of your project and what it aims to achieve. Clearly indicate how the project is significant and addresses an important problem. State the topic of your research. Frame this as a problem or question that you will answer. Provide an overview of the project.

Also provide the background or context from which your project has emerged. This concise literature review should lead your reader to your research question. You will be providing information that assists in understanding the significance of the work, strengthening a claim to originality and showing you have engaged with the relevant literature and can therefore justify the worth of the project.

As your proposal is only 15 pages in total, refer only to the key references in your chosen research area. A more comprehensive literature review will be required for your thesis.

Students enrolled in PhD programs should also clearly indicate how the project is original. One of the assessment criteria for a PhD is that is provides "an original contribution to knowledge of the subject with which it deals"

Philips (1992) has listed different definitions or originality that might be useful (see Phillips, E. 1992. The PhD: Assessing quality at different stages of its development in Zuber-Skerritt, O (ed.) Supervising Beginning Researchers. Tertiary Education Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane):

  • Carrying our empirical work that hasn't been done before.
  • Making a synthesis that hasn't been done before.
  • Using already known material but with a new interpretation.
  • Trying out something in this or another country that has only previously been undertaken in other places.
  • Taking a particular technique and applying it to a new area.
  • Bring new evidence to bear on an old issue.
  • Being cross-disciplinary and using different methodologies.
  • Looking at areas that people in the discipline haven't been done before.
  • Setting down a major piece of new information in writing for the first time.
  • Continuing (extending) a previously original piece of work.
  • Providing a single original technique, observation, or result in an otherwise unoriginal but competent piece of research.

Also include in this section an outline of the conceptual framework, design and/or methods. Describe the specific techniques or procedures you propose to use to collect and analyse your data. Convince your reader that these techniques or procedures are appropriate for the type of study your are proposing and show how these distinct techniques will be used.

Because the person reviewing your research proposal is unlikely to have expert knowledge of your research field, it is highly recommended you mention research similar to your own that has successfully employed the same methods or methodology. In this way, you can justify the approach you have selected for conducting your investigation and assessing your evidence.

Section C. Research Project Details
Confidential information, sensitive information and/or intellectual property issues: If your project involves confidentiality or intellectual property issues, you should read the relevant confidentiality and intellectual property rules and policies. A simple guide to confidentiality and intellectual property issues is also available here, and includes an IP toolkit. If your project does not involve confidentiality, sensitivity or intellectual property, you should state clearly that no such issues exist.

Field Work: If you are intending to undertake fieldwork, UWA must be able to contact you while you are in the field. You may also need to obtain the appropriate documentation, such as a research visa, if you are intending to do research in another country. In some cases this may take several months, so it is wise to apply early. Before you travel, you need to:

Facilities: If your project has any special requirements, such as specialised equipment, techniques or literature, you will need to indicate how this equipment will be obtained, how you will obtain training for the specialised technique or how this literature will be accessed. You should consider what facilities, resources and skills are available in your school or at UWA and what access you have to facilities, resources and skills outside your school or UWA.

Statistics: If your project involves statistical analysis, describe briefly what this analysis is. Will you undertake the analysis yourself? If so, do you require training or support for this analysis. You may choose to complete some approved statistics units as you can enrol in up to 24 points of coursework units if the specified coursework units are necessary for completion of the degree program. If not, who will undertake this analysis for you. A free statistical advice clinic is offered by the Centre for Applied Statistics which also offers regular statistics short courses.

Skills development: You should assess if you need to develop any particular skills in order to complete your project. Using the skills audit proforma, break down your project into stages, assess your ability to complete each of these stages with the skill set you currently have. If your audit indicates you require skills development, indicate how you plan to acquire these skills. This could be through coursework, short courses, or one-on-one training at UWA or another research facility.

Approvals: It is essential that all required approvals, safety and other training is complete prior to the commencement of the project. More details about ethics approvals are available from the Human Ethics Office and the Animal Ethics Office.

Research Proposals can only be provisionally approved until approval is obtained. When approval is obtained, you need to contact the Graduate Research School and provide them with the approval number.

You also need to assess the health and safety risks of your project in accordance with the UWA Safe System of Work. The safety risk assessment and the risk control strategy must be approved by your Supervisor and Head of School (or Graduate Research Coordinator) and kept on file by your Supervisor. The related guidance and General Safety Risk Assessment form for this approval is available online.

Data management: Prior to the commencement of your project, you should complete a Research Data Management Plan. This plan outlines ownership, collection, organisation, storage, backup, retention, disposal and access of the data generated during the course of your project. For further assistance with data management, refer to the Research Data Management Toolkit.

Research project plan: Create deadlines for each stage of your project so you can work steadily towards completing the project. Your submission date is critical, so when constructing a research project plan try working backwards from this date. Provide a plan of these deadlines from enrolment to thesis submission. Where appropriate the plan should include time points related to experiments, studies, fieldwork, research communication, statistics courses, lab safety courses, and approvals. Each year, in your annual report, you will expected to update your project plan. A Gantt chart or timeline is the recommended format for this plan.

A GANTT chart example is provided. This chart is appropriate for a full time PhD student commencing in JAN 2019. Readjust the dates according to the date of your enrolment, the course you are enrolled in (2y Masters, 3y PhD), and your course enrolment type (full time or part time). The timeline items are suggestions only. Add, delete or change row headings as required for your particular project needs. For example, deleting ethics approval, adding research parts, and/or changing the types of training you intend to complete.

Section D. Research Training
A Gantt chart or timeline is the recommended format for this plan. Gantt chart proformas are available in Excel or you can adapt the GANTT chart example provided.

You can find the due dates for your degree milestones via StudentConnect. This includes due and achieved dates for items such as annual reports, research proposals, and travel award reports. See How to Check milestones via StudentConnect

Section E. Budget
Budgetary considerations are important, especially if you have limited access to funds. You need to ensure your project is feasible and establish where the funds will be coming from to finance it.

You will be expected to detail the costs of the project. Include a breakdown of major costs, including administrative, research, training and travel costs. You may find your research project plan and your research training plans useful for identifying the items to include in your budget.

Please indicate if the $1850 Graduate Research Student Travel Award will be used – this is the only funding that should be attributed to the GRS.

Justify the inclusion of each of the major items listed in the budget. It is not sufficient to write ‘these items are essential for the project’. You need to explain how each budget item contributes to achieving the aims of the research project and how the estimated cost for each budget item was calculated.

Section F. Supervision
Example: Principal and Co-ordinating supervisor W/Prof XXX (75%): Meetings every two weeks. Review of research progress at each meeting. Will provide feedback on drafts of each chapter as completed and one review of the final thesis. As co-ordinating supervisor, W/Prof XXX will be responsible for ensuring that all administration and reporting requirements from the supervisors are met. She will receive all correspondence from the Graduate Research School relating to the candidate, and is responsible for all communication with and between other supervisors.

Co-supervisor A/Prof YYY (25%): Meetings every second month with student and principal supervisor. Area of expertise is in ZZZ and will provide advice regarding this component of the project. Will provide one review of the final thesis.

Submission and approval

Once completed, you will submit your Research Proposal for approval by a member of the Board of the Graduate Research School.