Recent Question/Assignment

This document can be used as a template when writing the first draft of your proposal. When writing your proposal, you have to use the headings (1.1 – 1.10) provided in this document. Delete everything written in red, green, brown and blue and substitute with your own information.
A research proposal, or “thesis proposal” can be equated to an architect’s plan. According to Anderson and Poole (2009:27), it is
a carefully prepared document and it proposes a set of actions…It sets forth a plan of action that you intend to follow. Although you will not have to adhere slavishly to the plan, the general thrust and directions are clearly outlined.
A research proposal:
• Justifies your idea and plan of action;
• Lays the foundation (groundwork) for your research;
• Provides the context for your work;
• Reports on the problem you have identified;
• Indicates how you intend to achieve your research objectives
• Explains why there is a need for your proposed research
The proposal should not be more than 15 pages (excluding the list of sources) in length.
The presentation format for the research proposal is as follows:
• TITLE: 14 pt, bold, capital, centred
• 1.1 MAIN HEADING (12 pt Bold, capital)
• 1.1.1 Subheading (12 pt Bold, lowercase)
• 2nd level of headings (12 pt italics, lowercase)
• Listing: use bullets
• Margins: 2.54 cm top, bottom and sides, justify
• Use Arial; 12
Your proposal should have a cover page in which the following information is provided:
MEd in Curriculum Studies, or MEd in Inclusive Education, etc
DEd/PhD in Education
TITLE: (See notes below)
Full names:
Student no:
Postal address:
Telephone number:
Cell phone number:
Date of submission:

TABLE OF CONTENTS (Remember to provide page numbers for table of contents)
1.3.1 Research questions (for qualitative study) OR Hypothesis (for quantitative study)
1.3.2 Aims and objectives of the study
1.5.1 Research paradigm
1.5.2 Research approach
1.5.3 Research design
1.5.4 Population and sampling
1.5.5 Instruments and data collection techniques
1.5.5 Data analysis and interpretation
1.6 RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY (for quantitative study) or CREDIBILITYAND TRUSTWORTHINESS (for qualitative study)
What to do: Give a brief title for your proposed study here. Do not add unnecessary words such as: “An investigation into …” or “A study of …” The important thing is to try and make it as specific as possible. The theme/topic/problem should be clear from the title. (The title is at this stage a working title and may change later on as you progress with your research and come to new insights.)
Example #1: A doctoral student intended to investigate how Grade 3 teachers employ formative assessment when teaching English reading comprehension. For this quantitative study, the title of the thesis was: Teachers’ use of formative assessment in the teaching of reading comprehension in Grade 3.
Example #2: A Masters’ student intended to investigate which factors were significantly related to achievement related to achievement in Science at some secondary schools in the area in which he lived. For this quantitative research problem, the title of the dissertation was: Factors related to Science achievement of selected secondary school learners
Tip: The title must link with your main research question. In Example #1 above, the research question would read: How do Grade 3 teachers use formative assessment in the teaching of reading comprehension? In Example #2, the research question would be: What are the factors related to secondary school learners’ achievement in Science?
Length: The title should preferably not be more than 16 words.
What to do: Write a brief introduction in which you set the stage for your study. Give an orientation to the problem (what it is, why it is worthwhile, why it is currently relevant) and discuss its meaningfulness (why it should be done). Make sure you are not proposing to research something that has already been over-researched. Refer to other studies that have been done on the topic and show where the envisaged problem fits into the existing debate in the literature. Quote from or refer to relevant sources to strengthen your case.
Example: In a study on the use of formative assessment in the teaching of reading comprehension, one would go about as follows: Start by explaining that reading comprehension is a basic literacy skill that should be learned from early school years. Explain that learners in Foundation Phase often experience reading comprehension problems (provide a quote or refer to a source to back this up). Refer to the negative effects of a lack of reading comprehension. Explain that one’s study was prompted by several surveys reporting on the poor reading skills of the majority of South African learners and then briefly discuss these research projects. Demarcate the study by indicating that the study is only going to focus on Grade 3 learners and teachers (explain why) and reading comprehension skills in English home language (explain why).
Tip: Use the proper referencing techniques throughout your proposal! (See Section 1.11.) If you do not use the correct reference technique, your work will be returned unmarked and you will be requested to correct it and resubmit. This will result in a delay in your studies.
Length: Approximately 1 – 3 pages in length.
What to do: Provide an appropriate rationale or reasons as to why your topic needs to be researched and indicate the contribution your proposed study can make.
Example: In the study on the use of formative assessment in the teaching of reading comprehension that has been referred to above, one can now report that the studies that has been referred to in the previous section pointed out that one of the reasons for the learners’ poor reading performance is the teachers’ lack of proper skills in and knowledge of teaching and assessment practices. One should then refer to the importance of formative assessment in teaching and indicate that no study has thus far been done on formative assessment when teaching reading comprehension.
Length: Not more than ¼ page.
What to do: Write down the central problem that your study aims to address (the previous sections should enable you to state the problem).
Tip: The research problem is your compass for the rest of the steps to follow and usually leads to the formulation of a main and sub-research questions.
1.3.1 The research questions (in qualitative research) OR hypothesis (in case of quantitative research)
What to do: Use your problem statement to formulate a main research question and a number of sub-research questions.
Example of a main research question: How do Grade 3 teachers use formative assessment in the teaching of English reading comprehension?
Example of sub-research questions:
• What are teachers’ conceptions of the role of formative assessment in teaching English reading comprehension to Grade 3 learners?
• Which learning activities do teachers employ to support formative assessment of English reading comprehension?
• What is the nature of feedback given by Grade 3 teachers when teaching reading comprehension in English home language?
Tip #1: Sub-research questions must be formulated in such a way that answering them would put you in a position to answer the main research question.
Tip #2: Read Kathryn Kinmond’s (2012) useful chapter, ‘Coming up with a research question’ online:
1.3.2 The aim and objectives of the study
What to do: Provide details of what the study seeks to achieve. Delineate the sort of milestones (achievable objectives) that are envisaged to accrue from the study. The research objectives encapsulate the tasks that need to be done. They focus on “What” needs to be done in research terms. Because research objectives are operational in nature, you have to use performance verbs (e.g. determine, explore, etc.).
If your study is predominantly quantitative, suggest hypotheses here. If your study is qualitative or more exploratory and descriptive, formulate aims and objectives.
Make sure the aim relates to the title, the problem statement and the research questions. Ensure that there is a direct link between the main research question and the sub-research questions.
It is not necessary to refer to research methods at this stage.
Example: For the previously mentioned qualitative problem statement and research questions the aim and objectives of the study are as follows:
The aim of this study is to find out how Grade 3 teachers use formative assessment in the teaching of English reading comprehension?
In order to achieve this aim, the objectives for the research are to:
• determine teachers’ conceptions of the role of formative assessment in teaching reading comprehension to Grade 3 learners;
• establish which learning activities teachers employ to support formative assessment and reading comprehension;
• explore the nature of feedback given by Grade 3 teachers when teaching reading comprehension in English home language.
You can at this stage also indicate the overall purpose of the study, namely that the study will be done in an effort to contribute to the improvement of policy and practice regarding the role of formative assessment in teaching reading comprehension.
Tip: Use bullets or numbering to list the research objectives and place them in sequence – the same sequence in which you will perform the various research tasks. The research objectives will guide your research and should be linked to the sub-questions.
Length: The aims and research objectives should be approximately ?2 page in length.
What to do: Write a preliminary literature review. Start from the general to the specific; or from the situation in other countries to the situation in South Africa/your own country, or give a chronological overview. Make use of recent sources (the majority of your sources should have been published during the last 5 years). However, if you refer to seminal work such as those by Dewey, Bloom, Habermas, Gardner, Kuhn, etc. your sources may be older.
The purpose of the literature review is to integrate your study into a broader framework of relevant theory and research. At this stage you may also indicate shortcomings in previous literature or lack of knowledge about the topic you intend to research. Explain which theories you are planning to use and why?
Tip#1: Familiarise yourself in particular with MEd and DEd studies and other research projects that have already been done on your topic. Note the conceptual, theoretical and methodological approaches used by others in studying related topics. This will help you decide on your own conceptual/theoretical/methodological strategies and on how your own study may contribute to improvements in this regard.
Tip#2: A postgraduate student should be aware of important debates in the field of their research topic and should include them in a nuanced discussion. Avoid providing what is normally called an annotated listing of bibliography (A “he said, she said” presentation of literature). Instead demonstrate to your prospective supervisor that you have read the literature. Critique it thoroughly, showing why some aspects in the literature are valid while others cannot be defended.
Please consult Tutorial letter 101/2018 for guidelines on how to access relevant sources.
The literature review should be 4 – 5 pages in length.
This section answers the “How” question of your research. Headings for this section should be:
1.5.1 Research paradigm
1.5.2 Research approach
1.5.3 Research design
1.5.4 Population and sampling
1.5.5 Instruments and data collection techniques
1.5.5 Data analysis and interpretation
You will obviously select the most appropriate research design and methods for the research problem. Consult a Research Methodology textbook in this regard and refer to research methodology literature when writing your proposal.
What to do: Begin your design at the macro level (the paradigm – a particular philosophy of science - and the overall design) and then move to the micro level (the research methods – e.g. focus group interviews, questionnaires, observations - that you intend to use).
Explain your world view/paradigm (constructivist/interpretivist, post-positivist, pragmatism, etc)
Discuss your approach (which will be linked to your paradigm). Explain whether the research will be exclusively conducted via qualitative/quantitative/mixed method design, or whether it will be a theoretical/conceptual exploration and interrogation of existing data. Provide justification for your preferred options.
Discuss your anticipated plan of action. Describe the proposed context of data collection: Where? When? How? There must be a compelling reason for using a given method – for example, focus group interviews are not a time-saving device!
Explain the selection of the sample and how you will get access to the respondents or research site. Refer to the data collection methods (e.g. observation, questionnaire, interviews, etc), the way in which you intend to capture the data and how the data will be analysed.
Tip: For a Master’s degree you are advised to keep your research design as simple as possible. Stick to your own geographical area for data gathering. Consider accessibility. If you work quantitatively, do not try to involve all teachers and students/pupils in South Africa or in a province. Also keep in mind that postal questionnaires are generally not feasible, as most respondents do not return them. If you use questionnaires, you should be able to deliver them personally.
Quantitative research
Quantitative research is based on a positivist paradigm. Quantitative research often employs either a survey design or a quasi-experimental design, and uses structured questionnaires to collect data. Data is in the form of numbers such as frequencies and percentages.
Qualitative research
Qualitative research is based on interpretivism. Qualitative research often employs either a phenomenology design or a case study design or both (a phenomenological case study), and often uses interviews, focus groups, observation or document analysis to collect data. Data is in the form of words.
Length: The research design should be approximately 3-4 pages in length.
This section will differ depending on your chosen approach.
What to do: Quantitative designs have very specific guidelines for reliability and validity. Read up on these and mention how you will deal with reliability and validity [face, content, criterion and construct validity] in your study. In quantitative research, the focus is on the questionnaire. Reliability is determined statistically as opposed to the face and content validity of the questionnaire itself.
Qualitative designs focus on trustworthiness – also called validity in qualitative designs by some authors. Read up on these and indicate how you will deal with important strategies such as prolonged fieldwork, multi-method strategies, member checking and others.
Length: Approximately 1 page.
What to do: State your awareness of the research ethics principles that should guide the research. Refer to confidentiality and non-disclosure; voluntary informed consent; voluntary participation; the right to withdraw; openness and justice to research participants; commitment to causing no harm.
Length: Approximately ?2 page
What to do: Indicate how you intend to structure the thesis/dissertation. Be specific (the title of a chapter should not be “Literature review”. Rather choose a suitable heading such as “The concept of feedback and its role in the Science classroom”).
A master’s dissertation normally has 5 or 6 chapters as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction and overview;
Chapter 2 and 3: Literature review chapters (sometimes only one chapter);
Chapter 4: Research design and data collection;
Chapter 5: Results and discussion;
Chapter 6: Conclusions, recommendations and limitations of the study.
[Tip: A dissertation of limited scope normally has one literature review chapter only. A doctoral thesis usually has two literature review chapters and sometimes has a whole chapter on the Theoretical and Conceptual framework.]
What to do: Provide a tentative schedule of the different phases of the research, highlighting periods when specific milestones are expected to be achieved.
Supervisors would like to see evidence of the sources that you consulted during the development of the research proposal. These must be presented in a manner that is consistent with recognised referencing styles - American Psychological Association (APA); Modern Language Association (MLA); the Harvard Referencing Style, or the Chicago Referencing Style. Researchers are advised to select a referencing style (s) their respective institutions prefer and be consistent. Don’t mix more than one referencing style in one text. At Unisa the adapted Harvard reference technique is preferred.
You are strongly advised to consult the following website:
The following examples were taken from this website and are included here to give you a first impression of the way in which referencing should be done and how references (commonly known as a bibliography) should be done.
i. One author
According to Smith (2008:67) the role of feedback in assessment ...
... when doing assessment (Smith 2008:67).
ii. More than one author
Blackheath, Wisker and Trafford (2010:14) describes feedback as a process of ...
... when giving feedback (Blackheath, Wisker & Trafford 2010:14). (NB: Note the use of &. & may only be used between brackets – not in a sentence!)
Over the years a number of scholars (Craw 2004:6; Este 2009:70; Meng 1997:4; Ziphor 1986:90) have supported the view that ...
iii. Using a source with more than three authors
Morris, Stein and Back (2000:17) are of the opinion that ...
In subsequent uses:
Morris et al. (2000:47) state that ‘the debate of these particular issues should be left to representative committees’.
iv. Referencing work by different authors with the same surname
... when providing feedback on formative assessments (Smith, J. & Smith, M. 2005:5).
v. Referencing work discussed in a secondary source
Wilson (2003:7, as cited in Austin, 2009:19). (In this case the book written by Austin was consulted. Austin quoted from Wilson’s work.)
i. Book with one author:
Kaplan, R.S. 2010. The modern university. Boston: Sage.
ii. Book with two authors:
Hofer, C.S. & Schendel, D. 1999. Two worlds apart. New York: McMillan.
iii. Book with an editor:
Danaher, P. (ed.) 1998. Beyond the ferris wheel, Rockhampton: CQU Press.
NB: Please note that the date may be placed in brackets, e.g.
Hofer, C.S. & Schendel, D. (1999) Two worlds apart. New York: McMillan.
iv. If you have used a chapter in a book written by someone other than the editor:
Byrne, J. (1995) ‘Disabilities in tertiary education’, in Brown, L. and McNamee, J. (ed.) Voices of students, Rockhampton: CQU Press.
v. Books with an anonymous or unknown author:
The National Encyclopedia (1985) London: Roydon.
vi. Internet sources:
Williams, D. & Stan, M. 2001. A framework for improving assessment. URL: [accessed: 22.07.2012].
African Gap Year. 2008. Why gap? Available from: [accessed on 29-07-2008].
Young, C. (2001) English Heritage position statement on the Valletta Convention, [Online], Available: [24 Aug 2001].
vii. Newspaper articles
Crown, F. (1999) ‘Tax-free savings call’, Sunday Guardian, 4 April, p. 1.
‘Tax-free savings call’, Sunday Guardian (4 April 1999), p. 3.
viii. Journals
Ross, L.B. & Swift, P.J. 1998. Effective management of software development. Journal of Educational Studies, 65(2):3-6.
NB: Note punctuation, capital letters and italics in the example.
ix. Unpublished research material
Storm, J. 2003. Modes of inquiry. Unpublished research report. Pretoria: University of South Africa.
x. Conferences (if not published in conference proceedings)
Watkins, J.A. 2005. The role of external examinations. Paper delivered on 10 October at the First ECD Conference, Pretoria, University of South Africa.
REFERENCES (used to compile this template)
Bitzer, E., Frick, L. & Albertyn, R. 2012. Postgraduate supervision workshop. Devon Valley Hotel. 21-23 November 2012.
Letseka, M. 2011. Writing a research proposal. Unpublished document. Pretoria: Unisa.
Lessing, A. 2012. Writing a research proposal: Guidelines for MEd Guidance and Counselling students. Unpublished document. Pretoria: Unisa.
Mkhwanazi, HN. 2013. Teachers’ use of formative assessment in tehteaching of reading comprehension in Grade 3. Unpublished PhD. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.