FOR WRITING A
Second edition 2004
(including a summary of the conventions
for citing and listing references that apply
to all assignments, reports and theses in the
Department of Psychology)
Department of Psychology
The first edition of Guidelines for writing a research proposal appeared in 1997. It has inevitably been widely read, not because of its inherent fascination, but because, over its eight year life, numerous postgraduate students in the Psychology Department have had to consult it in order to survive (and in most cases master) the arduous process of writing a research proposal.
Several changes have been made for this new edition. A number of sections which led to regular misunderstandings on the part of readers have been clarified. There have also been minor administrative changes within the Department and the University which have required that some of the content be updated.
However the main change is that the conventions for citing and listing references have been extensively revised to bring them into line with the 5th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001). In addition, the examples covered are more extensive and reflect a wider range of the kinds of references likely to be cited not only in research proposals but also in the thesis itself. This means that this booklet provides a useful source for all postgraduates in the Department of Psychology who want a quick guide to the conventions for citing and listing references for any work to be presented to staff in the Department.
David Edwards, February 2004
1. What is a research proposal and what is it for?
Whether you are planning a small honours research project or a major research project at PhD level, the process of research proposal preparation will help you to think carefully about many aspects of your proposed research. If you embark on a research project without adequate preparation, you run the risk of discovering as you go along that what you have taken on is too large, too small, impossible, or full of contradictions! The guidelines set out in this document are designed to prevent this from happening. By following them, in close consultation with your supervisor, the planning of your research project will be orderly, thorough and well conceptualized. This will ensure that you have an appropriate focus for the research project and that, once you begin the research, you will be able to follow a series of methodological steps which are likely to succeed in answering your research questions.
The finished research proposal is a formal, highly focused document which summarizes your plans for setting about a research project. The format requirements are set out below. It is important to follow these carefully because they reflect the criteria which are used by the committee(s) that will evaluate your proposal (see Appendix 1 for a detailed set of such criteria). At Honours level, proposals are usually reviewed by an Honours research proposals review committee.
Master’s proposals in Clinical and Counselling Psychology are reviewed by the Psychology Department’s Research Projects
Review Committee (RPRC). All other Master’s and PhD proposals are first reviewed by the RPRC, and, once they have been passed by that committee, go on to the Humanities Higher Degrees Committee (HHDC).
Information about the dates on which the RPRC and HHDC meet (and the deadlines for submission of proposals for their agendas) is available in an information document which is obtainable from the Administrative Assistant and usually posted on the Department’s website (Research Projects Review Committee information, 2003). 2. The basic format
Whatever degree your research is for, you will need to follow the same basic principles with regard to the format and structure of the research proposal. Section 3 below provides detailed guidelines as to how you...