Develop a research proposal

Once you have established that you meet entry requirements for your preferred program, you need to clarify your chosen area of study and identify a research area and/or research question, clarify its importance and prepare a research proposal. Your research question will provide the key research focus for the full duration of your degree so it is important that you consult a wide variety of resources and select a topic you feel highly motivated to investigate. Depending on your area of study and research, you may be starting at the very beginning or you may already have a research topic or area of focus from an already established research team.

How to choose your research topic

Choosing a research topic and writing your research proposal can be difficult when you're faced with a lot of choice. Current Griffith PhD candidates and supervisors give some advice to help you create a winning research proposal.

How to develop a research proposal


Think carefully about your motivation to complete an HDR program—what are you passionate about, what topic or question or problem do you want to tackle? Remember you will be spending a lot of time on this topic so a keen interest is a must.


Find a connection with a Griffith school, department, research centre or institute to find a match for your research area and/or research question. Some research centres and institutes have proposed research projects and hot topics for prospective candidates.


Narrow your focus to a single research topic. Once you have connected with your prospective supervisor (step 3 in this guide (PDF 1.4Mb), page 16), it is important that you seek their input and advice on your research proposal. Developing a research proposal is an iterative process, so expect to work on a number of drafts before you finalise your research proposal. You need to allow time to prepare multiple drafts and seek feedback along the way. Your potential supervisor is the best person to contact, so make sure you reach out to find one as soon as possible.


Your draft research proposal should include the following:

  • Student name
  • Dissertation/thesis title
  • Summary of project (maximum 100 words)
  • Rationale—brief review of relevant research in the field
  • Statement of the principal focus of intended research
  • Significance of the study
  • Intended methodology and project feasibility
  • Anticipated project costs (if required by your enrolling school or research centre)
  • Any requirements for specialist equipment or resources.

Your proposal should be no longer than 2–3 pages.

Professors' advice

Do something you’re passionate about—you will need that passion to sustain you while you’re on your research journey.

Professor Sue Berners Price

Dean, Griffith Graduate Research School

Pick a niche area so you can do really original work, and try to make sure it is significant and will make a contribution to the field of knowledge. Pitch it to friends and family and get feedback, be open to change as you develop your question.

Professor Andrew O’Neil

What you’re doing is something that nobody else has ever done before, so you’re going to come across problems that nobody has solved before.

Professor Robert Sang

In preparing a research proposal for your application, keep in mind the objective, which is to demonstrate that you have thought about the topic deeply, have some interesting ideas about the topic, and have considered possible methodologies of research and the project’s feasibility. It is advantageous to show why you think that your chosen topic is significant or interesting.

Professor Gerry Docherty