Research proposal and confirmation of candidature

If you are a doctoral student (PhD, PhD by portfolio or Professional Doctorate), your research proposal is due six months from the start of your degree.

If you are a Master of Research student, your research proposal is due three months from the start of your degree.

Successful completion of this milestone leads to confirmation of candidature.

You need to submit your proposal, your completed Statement of Agreement and your Research Induction Plan.

The following resources will help you meet the requirements of this milestone.

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Your research proposal will be loosely based on the research outline you prepared for admission to your degree, but will provide a more comprehensive guide to the literature, method, methodology, structure and timeframe of your research.

The research proposal is used to assess your performance so far, and the feasibility of your research program. It is:

  • an action plan for candidature and a major reference point for the Reviews of Progress
  • aligned with the Statement of Agreement, explaining how you will develop the Research Degree Graduate Qualities.

It is extremely important that your supervisors provide input into the development of your research proposal.


Provisional enrolment and confirmation of candidature

Your enrolment is provisional until your candidature is confirmed.

Your research proposal and Statement of Agreement must be approved by the Academic Unit or Institute Research Management Committee for confirmation of candidature to occur. This has to happen before you can proceed with your research.

The length of your provisional candidacy is counted as part of the total time to undertake your degree:

  • Doctoral students have a maximum of 4 years (FTE) to complete but should aim to complete their degree within a maximum of 3 years (FTE)
  • Master of research students have a total of 2 years (FTE) candidacy to complete their degree.

For students in research professional doctorate programs, confirmation of candidature requires the completion of 18 units of the coursework component, approved by the Program Director, within six months (FTE) of commencement.

Australian and New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia (domestic) students, please note that if you exceed your 4-year time limit you are required to pay tuition fees to the University.

See the AB-58 Research Degrees Policy and Procedures for your degree for more details.

Confirming candidature

The Confirmation of candidature form (editable PDF) is to be completed by the Chair of the Research Proposal Confirmation Panel (or equivalent) and forwarded to Graduate Research, Candidature when finalised.


Preparing your research proposal

Research proposals are normally 10 to 20 pages long, and should contain the following sections:

  1. Statement of the research topic and rationale for the research
  2. Research methodology
  3. Trial table of contents
  4. Brief bibliography

See Guidelines for the Preparation of Research Proposals in Research Degrees for more information.

University guidelines stipulate that a PhD will make 'a significant original contribution to knowledge and/or the application of knowledge within the field of study' and a Master of research will make 'a contribution to knowledge and/or the application of knowledge within the field of study'.

The University recognises that each research degree student may require specific equipment, e-research infrastructure, laboratory or studio space and funds adequate for the completion of the research program. Expenses may include travel arising from field work, experiments and data collection and the cost of consumables.

You and your supervisor will need to identify these project-specific costs when preparing your research proposal. Where your project is a subset of your supervisor's funded research project, these costs could be allocated from the project's budget. Costs must be presented and negotiated with the executive dean/institute director prior to confirmation of candidacy, and included in the Statement of Agreement which is submitted with the research proposal.

See the Appendix AB-58 AD1 Minimum Resources for Research Degree Students for more details.


Proposal writing workshops are tailored to discipline areas, with one set for business, social sciences and humanities students, and another for sciences, health sciences, engineering and technology students.
There is a mix of series and stand-alone workshops. Be sure to register  for all workshops in a series. There are also weekend workshops and writing retreats.


Resources related to finding research information, finding and writing research proposals and referencing are available here


Submission and review of your research proposal

The procedure for approving research proposals varies according to the academic unit, institute, or centre. Consult the academic regulations, your supervisor or your Research Degree Coordinator for details.

The following steps are typically involved in research proposal development and review:

Step 1 - Development

Work with your supervisors to complete a Research Induction Plan (usually at the end of the first 2 weeks), outlining the negotiated timeframe for getting the research proposal approved, including lodgement of drafts and return of comments by the supervisor.

Complete your Statement of Agreement (usually at the end of the first month), and work on the proposal itself.

Step 2 - Submission

Following approval by your supervisors, submit copies of your written research proposal, your Research Induction Plan and your Statement of Agreement to the Research Degree Coordinator.

If a timely research proposal cannot be lodged you must request permission to extend the timeframe - at least one month in advance and normally for a maximum of three months.

Step 3 - Assessment

A panel reviews your proposal and makes a determination that either:

  1. the proposal is accepted and the Statement of Agreement is appropriate for supporting the research project and timelines OR
  2. amendments are required for the proposal and/or Statement of Agreement to be accepted and candidature to be confirmed OR
  3. the research proposal and/or Statement of Agreement should not be approved and the research degree student may be suspended OR
  4. the research proposal and/or Statement of Agreement should not be approved and the research degree student should be transferred to another program.

Step 4 - Notification

The research proposal, Research Induction Plan and Statement of Agreement, along with a recommendation from the review panel regarding confirmation of your candidature, goes to the Dean of Graduate Studies. You are advised of the outcome via your student email.

  1. If the research proposal is accepted, date of confirmation of candidacy is reported to Graduate Research, Candidature.
  2. If the research proposal is not considered acceptable, it is returned to you with written information indicating why it was not acceptable. You will have to make revisions in conjunction with your supervisor and re-lodge the proposal for further consideration in a given timeframe. You may need to submit an extension to lodge research proposal form:

If you do not have your research proposal approved within the maximum time allowed, your candidature will be suspended, but you may apply for readmission. Refer to the academic regulations for details.

* Notes:

FTE = Full Time Equivalence

If you are doing a Doctor of Philosophy (by Portfolio of Publications), you will submit a research statement. Enrolment and re-enrolment conditions still apply. See the academic regulations.

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