animation & interactive media
higher degree
by research

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tips on writing a draft proposal

Research implies a formal academic process that investigates, analyses, and contributes original knowledge to that field of study. Research Degrees may be undertaken either by thesis, or by project (e.g. publication to CD ROM, film, video or Web document, an exhibition, installation, or other appropriate public presentation).

Where the outcome of the research is a project, rather than a thesis, the most common trap when writing a proposal is to describe the content or subject matter of the published work instead of the 'what, why & how' of the research process. In fact, you must try to keep some of the passion out of your description and be more analytical about what it is you are doing.

The official Higher Degree by Research Application Document has three major components to it. The information you supply for each section should be contained within a single page. It is therefore a sharp, smart document that avoids dense prose and written in a language that is accessible to non-experts.

section A

Title & Description - WHAT is the research program?
The research proposal should have a descriptive title that is clear, concise and which reflects the content of the proposed program. The title should be no more than one long sentence.

The description should provide a detailed and accurate outline of the program which addresses the following:

• what are the aims and objectives of the research?
• what problem(s), issue(s) or question(s) are to be investigated?
• what stages or tasks are involved in the research?
• what resources and facilities are required?
• what is the end product of the research?
• will it be a written thesis, work of art, or some other form or combination?
• what is the location of the program?
• will it be studio based or involve industry research or field work?

section B
Rationale - WHY this research program?
This section should contain a detailed account of the reason(s) for undertaking this research.

• why is this research important?
• what will be the benefits to the community or industry which are
_expected to result from the research?
• how will your research advance the understanding and perception of the issues
• how will your research contribute to that body of knowledge
_that constitutes your field of study?

The benefits of the program to your self-development are assumed and do not constitute a sufficient rationale or reason for undertaking post-graduate research.

Academic research inevitably results in the production of original knowledge. Therefore it is important for the candidate to emphasise this aspect of their proposed research program. This may pose more of a difficulty in certain disciplines than others, such as in the fine arts as compared with the sciences. It is therefore necessary for the candidate to clearly articulate the issues and debates within the realm that represents the focus of their work.

section C

Methods - HOW will you undertake this research?
This section should clearly indicate the nature of the various stages of your program. This is usually best achieved by creating a projected timeline to cover the duration of the program (24 months maximum full-time or 48 months maximum part-time). Single line bullet points rather than lengthy descriptions of each stage is best. List all the activities that will make up the program, and group them into appropriate stages or tasks. These steps should accord with what you have already detailed in your description.

• how long is each stage or task expected to take?
• will some stages run concurrently?
• what information or data has to be gathered?
• where will you gather this information from?
• how will you evaluate this information?
• how will this be implemented into your own work?
• what experimentation or testing has to be undertaken?
• does your project rely on the co-operation of organisations other than RMIT?
• if so, what is the nature of the support?
• are there any funding issues that need to be addressed?
• how you will determine when the aims of the program have been achieved?

The front page of the Higher Degree by Research Candidature application document asks you to summarise your project. In one paragraph consisting of perhaps no more than 3 sentences, try to describe your research and its outcomes. This is an excellent exercise which helps you focus and clarify for yourself what it is that you are attempting. This short description is also invaluable for succinctly describing your project to others and becomes useful in promoting your work.
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further information: Rhonda Smithies
last updated: 8/9/01
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