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Guidelines for MComm/MPhil Research Proposal


These are general guidelines only and may vary depending on the writing style of the student

  • Study these Guidelines carefully and incorporate the instructions in the proposal before submission.
  • Pay special attention to the Evaluation Checklist. This will help you evaluate your proposal using similar criteria to those used by the faculty research committee and funding agencies.
  • Provide a table of contents, including sub-headings and page numbers.
  • mini-thesis comprises a 50% mini-thesis, (50% studio course work), especially for MCOMM criteria.
  • thesis comprises a 100% research project.
  • For candidates appliying for admission the proposal should not be more than five pages (For admitted students see Downloads). 
  • When admitted, candidates will first have to register the research topic (CDPG 1.1) through the office of the coordinator, and should be done within three months of registration.
  • The final research proposal (CDPG 1.2) must be ratified within six months of registering the topic.


Purpose of the research proposal

 To establish that the candidate has:

  • a viable and researchable problem that the department will be able to handle
  • an acceptable plan of action for undertaking the project/research
  • done sufficient preparation to establish the rationale for the research
  • a feasible chance of completing the programme.

The order of the layout suggested below may be changed and certain sections may be combined; additional points may also be added. The suggested headings serve as road signs to indicate to the evaluator:

  • what the research problem is
  • how the candidate intends doing the research
  • what the outcomes of the research could be 

The examination criteria for a master’s thesis are that candidates;

  • must prove that they understand a particular problem in the industry in which they have done their research/project
  • are able to analyse and set it out logically;
  • are able to arrive at logical conclusions or a diagnosis; and
  • are then able to make proposals for the improvement/elimination of the problem. 

1.         Title

The title should be concise, as long titles are cumbersome to accommodate in information retrieval systems. Select appropriate key words or phrases, and avoid rambling and meaningless statements such as: An investigation into the possibility of conducting research in . . . Do not start a title with a present participle, such as Investigating, or Analysing. The title should rather read: An analysis of …

2.         Statement of research/project problem

This is the heart of the proposal. Normally a sentence, or at most a paragraph, is all that is required to describe exactly what the problem is. Many candidates have difficulty in describing the problem: instead they list the objectives, outcomes, needs or other irrelevant aspects.

If the research problem is not adequately or precisely described, it is likely to be rejected. It is important to note that poorly formulated problems might lead to long periods of completion. Furthermore, researchers often indulge in jargon, which seems to obscure rather than explain what the research problem is. CANDIDATES SHOULD ENSURE THAT THE RESEARCH PROBLEM AND THEIR OBJECTIVES REMAIN THE FOCUS OF THEIR THINKING AND WRITING.

3.         Background to the research/project problem

Since the statement of the problem should be very brief, it is necessary to explain separately what the background to the problem is. Clarify the area of concern, or what needs to justify the research (this could be a sub-heading). Any information that helps the critical reader/evaluator to understand the problem may be included. Indicate why you believe that it is, in fact, a researchable problem. This section could be combined with the literature review, or form a sub-section of it.

4.         Preliminary literature review

An adequate preliminary literature review is required for the proposals. The purpose of the preliminary literature review should:

  • Provide evidence to the departmental post-graduate committee that the candidates are well acquainted with past and current research in the intended field of study.
  • Prove that the project/research will not duplicate past or current research.
  • Indicate how the intended project/research relates to similar and past projects/research; in other words, the literature review positions your project/research within the existing body of knowledge.
  • Indicate what related aspects of existed research require further research.
  • Provide a rationale for the choice of problem.

In the final thesis/project report, a much more complete and extensive list of References (all sources cited) will have to be presented than in the initial review.

The guidelines provided by the School of Graduate Studies of the university entitled: Research and the APA method of reference/bibliographic citation: a research writing and style guide for postgraduate students, should be followed meticulously (see the SGS manual and the Postgraduate page on the departmental website for more on this: i.e.

5.         Hypotheses or research questions

If you state hypotheses, indicate whether they are statistical or non-statistical hypotheses. If statistical, indicate at what level of statistical significance they will be accepted or rejected. Depending on the nature of your methodology, it may not be necessary to base your research on hypotheses. You may list certain fundamental research questions or underlying assumptions that underpins your research.

6.         Objectives of the research

Clarify the aims and objectives of the research. Where feasible, objectives should be divided into main and subsidiary objectives, and should be numbered. It must be emphasised that ALL INDICATED objectives MUST be well articulated and SHOULD BE REALISTIC and ATTAINABLE. In writing the proposal and most importantly, the thesis, it is important to remain focused on the objectives.

7.         Research design and/or methodology

This is the cornerstone of the research proposal, and therefore a critically important section. Failure to handle this section properly can lead to the research proposal’s rejection and even to the rejection of your admission. While you may not be able to give final details of your methodology at this preliminary proposal stage, it is important to give a sound provisional indication so that the evaluator is satisfied that your methodology is relevant and acceptable. Candidate should also NOTE THAT THE MCOMM PROGRAMME IS A DESIGN-LED/PRACTICE-BASED PROGRAMME

Clarify your method of investigation, e.g.:

  • Questionnaires
  • Personal interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Design techniques, etc.

Indicate your sampling methodology, e.g.:

  • Size of sample
  • Population
  • Experimental and control groups
  • Prevention of bias, etc.


Indicate statistical methods and substantiate why you intend using the proposed specific statistical methods (should the study be directed in such methodology).

Indicate ethical considerations and indicate how to tackle such challenges if need be.

It must be noted that within some studies there seems to be no correspondence between the stated aims of the research and the chosen methodology. Often the descriptions of the methodology are restricted to the mere statement that qualitative or quantitative research methods were to be utilised. Instruments designed in other contexts are also relevant to the studies.

Plan your investigation in phases, setting measurable target dates where feasible.

8.         Delineation of the research (Delimitation)

Delineate the boundaries of your research, e.g.:

  • A study of design firms with fewer than 25 employees.
  • Festivals that take place in the Kwabre East District only.
  • A study of advertising agencies in the Kumasi Metropolis, etc.

It might be helpful to indicate what will not be covered by your research.

9.         Significance of the research

Indicate the significance of the research. Why is it important?  Whom, or what industry, will it benefit?  This is usually vital, especially since this can help for funding.

10.       Expected outcomes, results and contributions of the research

What are the expected outcomes and what do you wish to achieve, e.g.:

  • A new theory
  • A prototype
  • A new model
  • An artefact
  • A new design process
  • A solution to a practical problem
  • A specific aid to practitioners in a particular field
  • An instrument of use in the animation industry, etc. 

What contribution will this research make to the body of knowledge in the particular field of study?

11.       References cited (APA)

This is a list of the literature referred to in your research proposal. Do not include titles not cited, or that have no relevance to your research problem. You should have read the references you list (or at least the relevant parts). Indicate how they relate to your research.

Distinguish clearly between a list of References cited and a Bibliography. The latter includes all material consulted, including background reading not necessarily cited. Alternatively you may provide separate lists of References Cited and Other References.

12.       Keywords

Give up to ten specific keywords or phrases, which will be used to index your research in relevant databases.




If your research is multi-disciplinary, clarify which disciplines it covers, in which discipline the main thrust lies, and what interdisciplinary interaction there is with other disciplines or fields of study. Make the context of your research quite clear, e.g., does it fall within the sub-discipline of Industrial Relations, which resorts under the discipline of Human Resource Management, or does it address legal aspects of Industrial Law and thus resort under Law.

Planning and time parameters

 Funding agencies find it especially useful if you give some provisional indication of what time parameters you are setting for your research and what the expected completion dates for the specific sections and tasks are.

Materials and infrastructure

“Infrastructure” includes equipment, facilities and support services.

Pilot study

In some projects a pilot study should be done. Your supervisor should advise you. When little information about the proposed research project is available, it is advisable to execute a pilot study on a few selected aspects of the research proposal. A pilot study could:

  • check the methods to be used
  • collect data on which the actual sample size will be based
  • iron out some practicalities of the project.

The pilot study may appear under a separate heading, or may be incorporated as a sub-section under Research Design, where the preliminary pilot study findings may serve as a basis for the actual research design. 

Interface with other institutions/industry

Here you may clarify to what extent your research will be undertaken by utilising the facilities of other institutions or companies, or whether you will have access to expertise at other institutions.


For large projects it is useful to include a simple budget, stating cost of equipment, running and travel costs, salaries of research assistants, etc.



 (This checklist incorporates the items used by government funding bodies in their evaluation of research proposals.)

1.         Problem identification

1.1       Is the problem/line of enquiry clearly defined?

1.2       Is the basic research problem well formulated, or is it poorly and vaguely structured?

1.3       Is it briefly and concisely stated?

1.4       Does the researcher indulge in jargon which obscures rather than explains what the research problem is?

2.         Background to the research problem

2.1       Has there been an adequate description of the background to the problem either under a separate heading or as

            part of the literature?

2.2       Has the area of concern regarding the problem been identified, i.e., has the need that exists to research the

             problem been clarified?

2.3       Have the basic terms and concepts been clarified, either under a separate heading, or as a suitable sub-heading?

3.         Preliminary literature review

3.1       Is there clear evidence of a review of the literature?

3.2       Is there a theoretical engagement with the relevant literature (where possible)?

3.3       Has appropriate literature been examined in order to provide the background and rationale to the problem and

            its formulation?

3.4       Have relevant sources been used to identify the problem?

3.5       Does the literature review correspond with the aims of the research?

3.6       Are the cited references acceptable?

3.7       Are textual references and bibliographic citation correct? 

4.         Conceptual framework (if it is required)

4.1       To what extent are the conceptual framework and theoretical assumptions clearly stated?

4.2       Has the study been clearly delineated under a separate heading or sub-heading, i.e., have the boundaries of the

             research been stated?

4.3       Has a suitable hypothesis (or hypotheses) been formulated, or has a suitable research question(s) been stated?

5.         Objectives

5.1       Have the objectives been stated clearly?

5.2       If there are more than three objectives, have they been divided into main and subsidiary objectives?

6.         Research design

6.1       Is the project and research design well structured and outlined, or is it poorly articulated?

6.2       Has the research methodology been articulated clearly?

6.3       Is there a clear correspondence between the stated aims of the research and the chosen methodology?

6.4       Is there a mere statement of the qualitative or quantitative research methods to be used, or is there justification

            for their use?

6.5       Have the sampling methodology and data collection technique been adequately clarified?

6.6       Is the analysis appropriate to the aims of the research?

7.         Significance

7.1       To what extent will the research make an original and creative contribution to knowledge (at doctoral level)?

7.2       Alternatively, to what extent will the research analyse and diagnose a particular problem, set it out logically, arrive at

            conclusions and make proposals for the solution of the problem (at master’s level)?

7.3       Why is it important to undertake this research?  Whom will it benefit or to whom will it be important?

7.4       Is the proposed research likely to promote further investigation within and/or across disciplines and fields?

7.5       Has the expected outcome (or outcomes) of the research been clearly identified?

8.         Feasibility

8.1       Is the problem researchable and is it feasible?  Do the preliminary data and available resources support its


8.2       Does the candidate’s academic profile or potential support his/her ability to accomplish the project?

8.3       Does the supervisor (or supervisors) have a research and supervision profile to support the candidate?

9.         Other general comments

            Is the proposal well structured or poorly compiled?  If the latter, what should be done to make it a well-structured


10.       Language

            Has the research proposal been proofread and edited?