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Research proposals

What can research proposals assess?

Warwick is a research-intensive university and we claim that our graduates leave with an understanding of, and capability in, research. What better way to develop this knowledge and understanding than by expecting them to develop a research proposal, certainly as a stage towards their final year project. A possible progression would be an annotated bibliography in year1, a research proposal in year2 and a full research project in the final year. A research proposal requires learners to select a topic [intrinsic motivation as it is their choice] and through analysis and synthesis of knowledge, decide an original research question and then propose a way to answer that problem. The requirement to complete a literature review will deepen their knowledge and understanding of the topic and selecting an appropriate research methodology means they need to know the ‘standard’ approaches used in the discipline.


As with essay guidance there are plenty of websites offering advice about how to write research proposals, and one would expect:

  • title
  • background and rationale
  • research question(s)
  • research methodology
  • plan of work & time schedule
  • bibliography

The ability to carry out a literature review (to generate the bibliography) and to select a research methodology means this is an ideal synoptic task to follow courses on both topics. Work plans and schedules will get the learners into the realms of time management and estimates and these are valuable generic skills.

Finally, you need to think how the students will present their proposal: written, oral presentation or poster, and whether this will be an individual or group enterprise. All of these are valuable generic skills that need to be developed in our graduates.

Diversity & inclusion

The range of possible topics [home and international] and appropriate choice of time frames to complete the task [particular needs] will help make the task more inclusive.

Academic integrity

The self-selected nature of these assignments should help to reduce year-to-year plagiarism. Requiring evidence over time - perhaps using the list above to structure stages - would further reduce opportunity for academic misconduct. (Click here for further guidance on plagiarism .)


Student and staff experience

Learning through research is a great way to engage learners, especially within a culture like ours, and there are opportunities to develop a range of transferable skills.


If you think about your own development in this aspect of academe you will, no doubt, recall the difficulties of the early researcher and the support that you needed. You need to plan for this support and guidance for your students.


We might need to check that students do not spend too long on this sort of task to the detriment of other work.

Multiple titles can add to the setting, specifying and marking load for staff.