It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a graduate researcher at RMIT, particularly in relation to ethics, intellectual property, copyright and authorship.
If your research involves humans, animals or gene modification you will need to apply for ethics approval.
You should talk with your supervisory team about this as soon as possible, because ethics approvals are not granted retrospectively and if you do require ethics approval this must be organised before you complete your Confirmation of Candidature.
You must allow time to apply and obtain approval by an ethics committee, as data collection cannot begin until approval has been granted. Consult with your supervisory team about whether you need to build ethics approval into your research timeline.
The University has an intellectual property policy, which you should familiarise yourself with. The default position is that any intellectual property (IP) that you create will be owned by you; however it is possible for the University to request that students enter into an intellectual property and/or confidentiality agreement prior to commencement of their research project.
You also need to understand the guidelines that apply to authorship of the papers and reports you might produce.
Copyright and privacy
As well as the ethical and IP implications, you must be aware of copyright and privacy issues that may apply to your research from the earliest stages of your candidature. While you can include images, figures, diagrams, photographs, journal articles and conference papers in your thesis for research and examination purposes, you must ensure that you have obtained informed consent, as well as permission to use copyright works if your research is published.
- lodging an archival copy of your thesis in the RMIT Research Repository, which all candidates are required to do
- publication of any chapters in a journal or other publication
- presentation at a conference that is published or presented publicly.
The RMIT Library 'Publishing your research: choosing where to publish' guide provides guidance to HDR candidates about how to manage permissions and publishing associated with your research.
All applicants for a postgraduate research program at RMIT University should have a proposed research topic that is aligned with at least one of RMIT's identified research strengths. Your discussion with the academic staff in your proposed school will assist you to identify whether your research proposal will be an appropriate fit for RMIT's research strengths.
Your proposal should be a two to five page overview of your research divided under the following headings:
- Title and topic
- Research questions you plan to investigate in the context of existing research/literature in the area
- Significance and impact of the research
- Methodology/research tasks required to undertake the research
- Any particular needs, if applicable (e.g. resources, facilities, fieldwork or equipment that are necessary for your proposed research program).
A good way to start your proposal is to think about your potential audience.
- Who is your academic audience and how might this work affect their understanding of the field?
- Is there an audience beyond academics, such as practitioners or the general public, who might care about your work? Why should they care?
In most cases it is sufficient to demonstrate that there is academic interest, but identifying the potential broader interest in your findings can be a way to help you find the most relevant and pressing problems.
Unsuccessful proposals tend to suffer from a number of common problems. The most common is that the researcher is not really asking a genuine research question, but seeking supporting evidence for a preconceived idea. Ask yourself: are you seeking new knowledge or trying to prove something you think you know?
Sometimes, especially in creative practice based research questions do not easily present themselves. Some research is ’iterative’: the researcher must test their assumptions through field work or creative project work before the questions come into focus. In these cases it is important to focus on what your research has to offer others beyond your own personal and professional development.
The research proposal can be a difficult document to write. If you are already in contact with potential supervisors they may read over early drafts and provide advice.
These books might also be helpful in understanding research degrees and how to write a research proposal:
- Evans and Gruba (2002), How to write a better thesis, Melbourne University Press.
- Denholm and Evans (ed) (2006), Doctorates Downunder, ACER Press.
- Booth, Colomb and Williams (2003), The craft of research, University of Chicago Press.
- Dunleavy, P (2003), Authoring a PhD, Palgrave Macmillan.
- Rugg and Petre (2004), The unwritten rules of PhD research, Open University Press.
Some programs require more lengthy proposals with additional elements or additional selection tasks, such as the presentation of a portfolio. These are detailed in Program Overviews.