Research Proposal | Interdisciplinary Studies | Graduate Studies | UNB

Research Proposal

The M and PhD IDST program is intended to meet the needs of students working across and between disciplines and methodological approaches. As such, it does not specify a particular format for the research proposal. However, there are regulations, procedures, and suggested guidelines, as follows.


A research proposal must be approved by the supervisory committee prior to beginning the research, and before submitting the work for ethics approval (if applicable). The proposal involves a written document and an oral presentation.

Normally, the research proposal is completed following successful completion of all course work, and the comprehensive examination (PhD students only). The supervisory committee determines whether the written proposal and oral presentation are pass/fail. A student who is deemed to have failed either the written and/or oral proposal will be required to rewrite the proposal and/or retake the oral presentation.


The student consults with the supervisor and supervisory committee in the formulation of the proposed research. The student submits a formal written research proposal to the committee who may suggest changes, edits, further drafts, etc.

When the committee agrees that the written proposal is acceptable the supervisor will inform the Assistant Dean of IDST who will make arrangements for the oral presentation.

The student will submit the proposed thesis title along with a one paragraph abstract to Andrea Guevara  for the notice of the oral presentation. Normally, the supervisor and all members of the supervisory committee attend the oral; the Assistant Dean of IDST (or designate) acts as chair.

Written proposal guidelines

The format for the written proposal will vary depending upon the preferences of the supervisory committee, and the proposed research methodology (ies) followed. Some supervisors prefer a short proposal (20 pages), whereas other prefer something akin to the first three chapters of the thesis or dissertation. This decision will be made by the supervisor and supervisory committee in consultation with the student.  

As a general guide, the research proposal typically includes:

  1. Introduction
  2. Theoretical framework
  3. Review of literature
  4. Research design
  5. Time line
  6. Reference list

The introduction provides a context for the study. It usually provides some background to the study, explicates the problem that is being addressed, and includes the research question(s).

The theoretical framework grounds the research in the body of knowledge that pertains to the proposed research and the question being addressed. Sometimes this is combined with the Review of Literature.

The review of literature provides a sense of the research already conducted on the topic, explains where the proposed research fits in this body of literature, and points to gaps that will be addressed through the proposed research.

The research design includes the methodology and methods. The methodology outlines the particular research approach and the assumptions guiding the research. The methods section outlines the specific procedures that will be used for gathering evidence, e.g., it answers questions such as Who? How Many? What? When? Where? and How?

The time-line indicates what the student expects to complete by a certain date, e.g., data gathering, analysis, first draft to committee, etc.

The reference list includes works referred to in the body of the proposal and follows a standard referencing format, e.g., APA or MLA.

Oral presentation guidelines

The student will present her/his proposal (approximately 30 minutes), and will be expected to answer questions posed by the supervisor and members of the supervisory committee. The student may be required to make changes to the proposal following the oral. An oral presentation typically lasts 2 hours.

The oral presentation is open to university and guests.