DEP: Year 2 – 4.3 Guidelines on the preparation and submission of the thesis proposal

Guidelines on the preparation and submission of the thesis proposal

Submission process

The Dissertation Research Proposal must be submitted electronically through eAssignment by the candidate by the specified submission deadline. Please ensure that your supervisors have provided a comment on your proposal prior to submission (using the relevant Dissertation Proposal Feedback Form for Primary Supervisors Appendix 4.7 or 4.8 as appropriate) and that they have approved the research rationale, aims/hypotheses and methodology. The proposal will then be read by the Research Director in order to help ensure that it represents a relevant, practicable and appropriate project to pursue for the award of the doctoral degree (Appendix 4.9). In some circumstances a second review of the proposal may be requested. This usually occurs when there is concern that the proposal will require major amendments.


The proposal must provide the reviewer with sufficient information to make a reasonable judgement about the relevance and appropriateness of the project. The proposal should be approximately 1500 words and must clearly articulate the purpose, design, measures, participant group(s), data management, ethical issues and theoretical/clinical relevance of the project. A recommended outline follows, with suggestions and guidelines for inclusion in each section.

Title: State the working titles of the proposed empirical study.

Programme: DEdPsych

Date: Submission date.

Investigator: Candidate’s full name.

Research Supervisor(s): Name and positions held of supervisors.

Background: Briefly (two paragraphs) describe the background to the proposed investigation (psychological theory and research findings). Present the rationale for conducting the research that makes a logical link with the hypotheses or research questions.

Hypotheses/Research QuestionsClearly state the main hypotheses (for quantitative methods) and/or research questions to be investigated.

Design: Give a brief outline of the type of design to be used and the rationale behind its use. Where appropriate, describe the design in terms of independent (IV) and dependent (DV) variables.

Participants: Describe the proposed participant group(s) in terms of recruitment, selection and sample size. Please provide a sample size calculation for quantitative projects or a cited rationale for sample size recruitment for qualitative projects.

It is crucial that you estimate the effect of participants dropping out of your study, and/or of difficulties in recruitment. You should consider this when planning your research. It is not uncommon to achieve only 20-25% successful recruitment of those participants identified as suitable and approached. While some trainees have been more successful, it is very important that you consider that the number of participants who either consent or are suitable for your study may be considerably lower than anticipated.

Measures: List all assessment measures to be used, accompanied by a brief statement of the rationale behind each measure. State whether the measures to be used are published and/or in standardised format, briefly noting their statistical properties for validity and reliability. Describe any other materials or apparatus to be used.

Any interview schedules for qualitative work must be attached to the Research Proposal. Enclose one copy of any unpublished measure or questionnaire with your proposal.

We do not usually require you to include standardised tests or copyright materials. However, you should ensure that you deal with the issue of conceptual overlap when using multiple questionnaires. For example, if you want to assess the relationship between ‘depression’ and ‘adjustment to disability’, ensure that you deal with potential item overlap within the scales you choose to measure these two factors. This is because a measure of ‘adjustment’ may include items which relate to depression, such as feeling content with one’s life, feelings of regret or sadness. However, people who are depressed also tend to feel unable to cope with many aspects of life, and they find it difficult to feel that they can have a fulfilling life; so that such items would be common in a measure of depression. As a result, there will be, almost inevitably, a relationship between your measure of adjustment and your measure of depression. Such a finding is not very informative if the items in your scales are measuring similar things. If this appears to be an issue in your research, please include the questionnaires, note any items that seem problematic and discuss how you might deal with this issue.

Procedure: Give a brief description of the procedure planned, for example, how questionnaires will be administered (by hand, post, etc.) and completed (anonymously by each participant, read out by experimenter, etc.). Details should be given on how consent will be obtained. Evidence should be supplied to show that the suggested procedure is practicable (candidates should consider the time required for data collection, the availability of participants, etc.). Candidates must include a statement showing that there is agreement within the clinical/educational setting for the piece of work (ie. confirmation from supervisors, management agreement).

Data Management: A brief outline of the method(s) of analysis which are to be used should be given. Be sure to describe the analysis you will use for each hypothesis or research question identified. If specialised advice will be required in analysing your study, please indicate the sources of support you have negotiated to provide this specialised help.

Systematic Review: Please also state the working title of the proposed systematic review (this could be the question you are seeking to answer in the systematic review) alongside proposed search terms and databases you will be using.

Contribution to knowledge and implications for educational psychology: Briefly outline the potential benefits and the original contribution to child/educational psychology which the research will make.

Cost: All proposals must be accompanied with completed research budget form which has been approved by your supervisor (See Appendix for form). These costs might include funds to pay participants, to order materials or tests or to attend specialist training courses that are essential to your research project. Please set out briefly in your proposal the rationale for these costs and what will need to be provided. You must indicate the total cost for the project and your proposal cannot be approved without this. Travel expenses for you to visit participants need not be itemised in the proposal as these can be claimed in the normal way.

Timelines: Please plan timelines for completion of work,  key dates and stages of the project, through completion and submission of a Gantt chart. Agree these timelines with your supervisor prior to submission of your thesis proposal. See for further information about Gantt charts.

Ethics: Provide a brief statement about the ethics committee approval procedure(s) to be followed. Following the panel’s written feedback, a completed University Ethics Committee application form must be submitted for review by members of the Psychology ethics committee and/or the University Research Governance office.

NHS Ethics Committee and Trust R&D/Governance approval may also be required (for example, if recruitment is conducted through clinical settings, or the data collection involves any DNA eg., saliva). Candidates should be mindful of the time taken to achieve this.

Following consultation with their supervisor(s) and research director as necessary, trainees should decide whether or not they believe their research requires NHS ethical approval. This decision should be explained in the proposal. If a detailed case needs presenting, please add this as an Appendix to the proposal. If trainees do not feel they can come to a conclusion, then they should indicate what steps they are taking to gain advice. Advice may be sought from Trust Audit Offices, R&D Departments, Trust Data Protection officers, University Research Governance Office and members of the Research Team and from local NHS ethics committees themselves.

You are not required to submit copies of your information sheet(s) and consent form(s) or de-briefing statements with the proposal. You will, however, need to make sure that these are checked with your supervisor before submitting them to any Ethics Committee. Please remember that written material for the public must be word perfect and of the highest standard in terms of written English.

Postgraduate Research Supervision AgreementIn conjunction with their supervisor, trainees should complete the Postgraduate Research Supervision Agreement (see Appendix 3.1) and submit this with their proposal.


Occasionally trainees collaborate in data collection with another researcher. Be aware that you will be constrained by the other researcher who may not be working to your timetable and this could affect your ability to meet deadlines. You should negotiate a time-table with the other researcher, involving your supervisor. You should meet regularly with the other researcher to review progress, and solicit your supervisor’s assistance at the earliest possible moment, if a problem begins to arise in data collection.

Proposal Submission Checklist

  1. Research proposal approved by research supervisor.
    a) Your proposal may be submitted with your research supervisor’s comments in track changes.
  2. Gantt Chart approved by supervisor
  3. Completed budget (signed by supervisor)
  4. Completed Supervisor Proposal Mark Sheet
    a) Make sure your supervisors have time (2-4 weeks) to review, comment on, and sign off on your proposal before submission.
  5. Completed Supervisor Agreement

Combine all documents into a single word/pdf and upload to e-assignments by 9/12/19.