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Developing a Research Proposal

  • Module code: QC7720
  • Year: 2019/0
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: To complete the
  • Co-requisites: None


This module is designed to introduce students to the process of planning, designing and preparing a research project by allowing them to put into practice their knowledge and understanding of educational research acquired in the previous module (Research Methods for Education). The module provides students with opportunities to define and refine the focus of proposed research, to identify, clarify and articulate their research questions, to consider the ethical and practical issues raised by their methodology, and to determine their precise methods and hone their research skills. It ensures that students are enabled to design and manage a professionally-relevant research project that follows the principles and standards of educational research as a systematic enquiry.


  • To identify and critically evaluate prior knowledge in the chosen field of inquiry;
  • To create clearly defined research questions informed by ethical, political, methodological and epistemological considerations relevant to professional practice;
  • To critically identify appropriate and rigorous theoretical approaches relevant to their field of study or area of interest
  • To develop research skills and specialist knowledge through the clarification of a problem in preparation for the Research Dissertation module.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Critically engage with relevant theory and research to inform the design of a relevant investigation;
  • Propose the theoretical and empirical dimensions of a research project relevant to education practice;
  • Propose suitable research questions to be addressed within their field of study/area of interest;
  • Outline the main literatures to be reviewed, the need for resources of various kinds and the timetable for different components of the work;
  • Articulate the structure and rationale of the project;
  • Incorporate a critical ethical dimension to the research design for complex and specialised contexts.

Curriculum content

  • Introduction to the principles and key features of a research proposal;
  • Development of focused research questions in the context of a proposal;
  • Theoretical dimensions of a proposed research;
  • Clarifying, elaborating and justifying the methodological approaches and research strategies in relation to proposed research;
  • Clarifying and elaborating the strategy for managing and monitoring the project;
  • Principles and protocols for ethical compliance;
  • Making claims to knowledge and originality based on anticipated outcomes of research.

Teaching and learning strategy

The module uses a wide range of teaching and learning approaches to enable learning from the distance and meet the needs of students around work, with different personal commitments, and across time zones, and to help them become enquiring, reflective and autonomous learners. It comprises a variety of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities (e.g. virtual classes, virtual reading groups, online tutorials, video-recorded lectures, video-recorded instructions, wiki's, reading tasks and discussion boards) utilising university's Vurtual Learning Environment (VLE) on Canvas to provide flexibility and convenience for all students.

The teaching is learner-centred. Students, with the support of the tutors, will take responsibility for their own learning. Students are expected to do their preliminary reading/tasks, which initiate and contribute to their understanding and bring their thoughts/questions for discussion with their peers and tutors in virtual classes using the web-conferencing provision of the Canvas platform. The virtual classes are set for synchronous collaborative group work on set tasks and for learning through e-seminars and e-workshops. Virtual classes for collaborative work on set tasks between the peers in small groups are set up by the students themselves following the available guidance on Canvas. Virtual classes for whole-group collaborative discussions, seminars or workshops are set up by the tutor(s).

Online discussions will continue after the virtual class. Each discussion thread will critically analyse a key element of the proposed research in the context of a proposal (e.g. research questions, research aims, theoretical dimensions, methodology and strategies for managing and monitoring the project, ethical considerations and anticipated outcomes). This activity will be supported by online tutorials, by arrangement, and will feed forward into the final assessment. The online tutorials will allow the students to explore and discuss their developing ideas with regard to their proposed research.

Students will need to have access to a computer that will allow full participation in the course. A computer that will allow full participation in the course will be a PC or Mac (ideally not older than five years) that runs a modern operating system (Windows 7, 8 or 10; Mac OX 10.7 or greater) and web browser (current versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox or Safari on a Mac). In addition, students will need access to a broadband Internet connection and will require speakers or headset and a microphone. A webcam would be useful but not obligatory.

Key skills are evident throughout the module with research capabilities, information literacy, problem-solving and advanced communication skills being fundamental to the students' developing understanding of their role as a research-engaged learner. These are listed within the table which maps learning outcomes and assessment.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Video-lectures/seminars Online workshops Guided learning/directed tasks Online individual and group tutorials 30
Guided independent study Researching topics Preparing for presentations and assessment tasks, e.g. production of a podcast file, webinar, e-poster or written report Collaborative online learning groups 270
Study abroad / placement N/A
Total (number of credits x 10) 300 (30 credits)
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

In this module students will develop their ideas for a research proposal. They will be assessed on an individual basis according to their rationale, proposed methodology, and ethical awareness.

Formative Assessment:

Podcast of online recorded presentation - reviewed by peers/tutors - Rationale for the proposed research to include: (i) the core research questions, (ii) the field(s) of study or practice to which they relate, (iii) the theoretical, empirical or other dimensions in the work, (iv) the main set(s) of literature to be reviewed, and (v) the anticipated outcomes. 

Online discussions (synchronous and asynchronous) - Specific questions will be set with the tutor and students facilitating the developing discussion. The set questions will be designed to support the students' developing understanding of specific elements of the module, for example, exploration of key methodologies and critical evaluation of data collection tools. 

Formative assessment will be supported by one-to-one tutorials (using Canvas conferencing platform) to feedback and feedforward towards the summative assessment. There will be a draft schedule of the online tutorials, which will be published on Canvas after consultation with the students and taking into account their needs and differences in time zone.

Video-based material will have the option to add subtitles to assist students with SEND and students with English as second language from overseas.

Summative Assessment

Part 1 (30%): A 20-minute podcast to present a critical review of a refereed article that could inform and guide the proposed research. The presentation consists of (i) a summary of main points, (ii) a critical evaluation drawing upon other articles, and (iii) a critical reflection that describes the relevance of the information for the focus topic and research idea.

Part 2 (70%) Written assignment 2000 words. A research proposal to outline: a) the intellectual rationale and theoretical and empirical dimensions for the proposed research, b) the proposed methodology and research design, and c) the strategy for managing and monitoring the proposed research project.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Critically engage with relevant theory and research to inform a self-selected enquiry Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment
Demonstrate a deep and systematic understanding of the relationship between theory and practice Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment
Identify problems and develop appropriate research questions within their field of study/area of interest Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment
Critically select and justify appropriate research design and methods that might best facilitate pursuing the research questions in the field of inquiry Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment
Critically select and justify appropriate analytical techniques for different types of anticipated data Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment
Critically select and justify appropriate analytical techniques for different types of anticipated data Formative written task and online presentation Summative written assignment

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
A 20-minute podcast presentation (1000 words equivalent) Coursework 30%
Writen assignment (2000 words) Coursework 70%
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that the major element of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module. Pass mark is 50%

Bibliography core texts

Denscombe, M. (2012). Research proposals: A practical guide. Maidenhead: Open University Press. E-book available from iCat

Punch, K. (2016). Developing effective research proposals. 3rd Ed. London: SAGE. E-book available from iCat

Bibliography recommended reading

Agee, J. (2009). 'Developing qualitative research questions: a reflective process', International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22 (4): 431-447.

British Educational Research Association (2018) Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research (fourth revision)   

British Sociological Association (2017) 'Statement of Ethical Practice'. Durham: British Sociological Association.

Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: How is it done? Qualitative Research, 6(1), 97-113.

Cohen L , Manion L & Morrison K. (2018) Research Methods in Education 8th Ed.

London: Routledge. Available as E-book from iCat

Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2012) A Student's Guide to Methodology, 3rd Ed. London: Sage. E-book available from iCat

Fraser, D. (1997). Ethical dilemmas and practical problems for the practitioner researcher. Educational Action Research, 5(1), 161-171.

Kingston University (2014) Ethics Guidance and Procedures for Undertaking Research Involving Human Subjects. Available here

Thomas, D. & Hodges, I. (2010) Designing and Managing Your Research Project: Core Knowledge for Social and Health Researchers, London: Sage. E-book available from iCat


Action Research (Sage)

British Educational Research Journal (Wiley Blackwell)

Educational Action Research (Taylor & Francis)

Journal of Mixed Methods Research (Sage)


British Educational Index (BEI)   

British Educational Research Association:  

Research at Kingston University:

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