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Postgraduate Studies

Your Research Proposal

Once you have registered and your supervisor has been allocated, you will be able to begin working towards your research proposal. Your proposal must be submitted on forms PG4a and PG4b for approval by your supervisor and the Head of Department. Your research proposal is then approved by the relevant Faculty Research Committee and noted by the Higher Degrees Committee.

Forms PG4a and PG4b are used for submitting your Research Proposal. The headings below refer to form PG4a (the proposal content). The actual Research Proposal (PG4a) should not be more than 20 pages in entirety (i.e. including attachments).

Find copies of all PG forms on the DUT student (link) or staff portal (link) – or ask your supervisor.

Field of Research and Provisional Title
In this section you should provide the field of research and the provisional title of the research project, with a brief description, if the title is not self-explanatory. This is a provisional working title. The title should be descriptive enough to inform the reader what the research is about. There are a number of conventions regarding the title:

  • Use only sentence case (i.e. The only words to have an initial capital letter are the first word of the title and any proper nouns);
  • Do not use any abbreviations in the title (i.e. all words must be in full);
  • Do not use any acronyms in the title.

Context of the Research
This section should provide the general information regarding the research that will be undertaken and should make it clear why the problem is worth addressing. You should sketch the background and, where appropriate, should provide a brief theoretical framework within which the problem is to be addressed. You should address the questions: What motivates the research? Why is it being undertaken? How will the results add to the body of knowledge? Where research arises out of problems encountered in personal, social, economic, historical, political or literary contexts, these problems should be briefly stated.

Research Problem and Aims
This section should either set out the specific question(s) to which you hope to find an answer, or the research problem which is to be solved. In the case of open-ended topics, it should outline the subject/area/field to be critically investigated. It should indicate clearly what the aims of your research are.

Literature Review
This section includes a brief review of the main seminal literature sources (mainly scholarly journals, but text books, media articles, Internet and other sources can be used). Use the Harvard Method of referencing (see more about this later). Show clearly how the literature is linked to your topic, the problem statement and the research objectives.

Research Methodology
In this section you state the research paradigm; qualitative/quantitative or both. The research approach/strategy will also need to be stated. For example:
Qualitative: Action research, developmental research, case study research, ethnographic research, grounded theory research, etc.
Quantitative: Mathematical, modelling and simulation, experimenting, testing, etc.

Plan of Research Activities
In this section you should provide a summarised work plan for each year of the project, giving information for each research activity per year, under the following headings:

  • Activity
  • Timeframes (target dates for the duration of the project)

Structure of Dissertation / Thesis Chapters
In this section you should briefly state the proposed content of each chapter in one clear sentence per chapter.

Potential outputs
In this section you should provide details on envisaged measurable outputs (e.g. publications, patents, students, etc.)

  • Expected national and/or international acclaim for the research and contribution of research outputs to building the knowledge base;
  • Exploitability of outputs, e.g. applicability to community development, improved products, processes, services in SA, region and/or continent;
  • Expected effects of research results.

Key references
In this section you should list a maximum of 20 key references which have been cited in the above sections using the Harvard or IEEE referencing style. Consult the latest reference guide available through the DUT Library for guidelines on the Harvard referencing style. A version of the DUT referencing style is available on the EndNote program, which can be downloaded from the DUT Library website.

Funding for editing and proofreading can be included in the Proposal budget.

After these sections there is a section on Ethics, followed by declarations by:

  • The student
  • The supervisor
  • The HoD

Before submission to the FRC, the HoD will have your proposal checked and approved by a suitably qualified reviewer.

The PG4a form is signed by the Chair of the Faculty Research Committee once the proposal has been approved by the FRC. The first 2/3 pages are then detached by the HoD and submitted to the HDC for noting of the proposal and budget.