On this page:
- Developing your ideas
- Satisfactory progress
- The full research proposal
- Recommendation on your progress to full registration
Your first major goal as a PhD student will be to progress from provisional to full registration.
You will have to show to the satisfaction of your School Research Committee (or School Postgraduate Committee) that you have the ability and knowledge to undertake a PhD.
The confirmation of full registration is a milestone in PhD candidature.
What You Have to Do
To progress from provisional to full registration, you must:
- write a full research proposal
- present the proposal orally if required by your school
- meet any other requirements set by your school or programme.
Specific school or programme criteria can be obtained from your Postgraduate Coordinator or supervisors.
You will be expected to progress to full registration within 12 months (24 months for half-time candidates). There is, however, variation between schools. Some schools will give you less time.
Your candidature may be terminated if you fail to meet the requirements within the allotted timeframe or if your School Research Committee considers that your work is not of PhD standard.
Developing Your Ideas
The early stages of your PhD will be spent developing your ideas, increasing your knowledge of the literature and formulating research questions.
The first step will be to agree on a programme of study with your supervisors.
Formulating Research Questions
For most students, formulating proper research questions is a major focus of the early stages of a PhD.
Your research questions should emerge from a review of the literature – it should be possible to point to some gap in the literature you hope to fill or to some controversy to which you wish to contribute.
There are other constraints on your research questions, however. Research questions should be such that they:
- can reasonably be expected to be answered within approximately three years of full-time study
- can be answered within the limited space available in a PhD thesis (see thesis length guidelines)
- can be investigated ethically
- can be investigated legally
- are unlikely to incite hatred or belittle identifiable social groupings
- do not expose individuals to danger of any kind when the thesis is published
- do not have answers that are predetermined by the candidate (a thesis should not be an excuse to justify your own prejudices, but an open investigation).
When choosing research questions, you should also bear in mind the expectation that your thesis will be publicly available.
As you move towards full registration, you will need to make satisfactory progress on agreed-upon performance standards. Your school should make you aware of what standards it expects of its students.
Indicators of satisfactory progress will generally include:
- knowledge of the literature in your field of study
- the ability to summarise, interpret and critique that literature
- the ability to design research tasks
- the ability to summarise, interpret and evaluate data
- the ability to communicate research findings in formats appropriate to your discipline
- the ability to argue your case.
Six-monthly progress reports provide a means for your school to document and comment on your progress.
But before your full registration can be confirmed, you will have to demonstrate in your full research proposal that you possess the required knowledge and abilities.
If you think you might benefit from coursework, for example in statistics or methodology, you should discuss things with your supervisors.
In some schools, you will be required to undertake coursework as part of your PhD.
- the courses you take should not normally exceed 60 points in total
- coursework must be relevant to your proposed topic
- you must complete all coursework within the period of provisional registration unless the Dean of Graduate Research approves otherwise (coursework should normally be necessary to your completion of the full research proposal)
- you may be required to achieve specific standards in your courses in order to progress to full registration (you should be informed of this in advance)
- any courses you do will not count towards the outcome of your degree
- you will not be required to pay additional fees if you undertake coursework within the period of provisional registration.
If you wish to undertake coursework for interest and beyond what is required for your PhD, you must apply to the Associate Dean (PGR) in your home faculty. You must explain your reasons and have the written support of your supervisors and Head of School.
The Full Research Proposal
In order to progress from provisional registration, you must write a full research proposal (the length will depend on school/programme requirements). The proposal provides evidence that your proposed research is viable and that you have the capacity to carry it out successfully.
To the extent appropriate in your discipline, the proposal will contain the following elements:
- a literature review
- an outline of the basic thesis/research questions
- discussion of appropriate theoretical frameworks
- details of appropriate methodology
- details of any special resources or equipment required for your research (beyond what is specified in the Minimum Resources Agreement)
- a statement as to whether your research requires ethics approval and, if so, when approval will be sought (if approval has already been granted for the proposed research or for preliminary work, this should be noted)
- a discussion of any intellectual property issues to which your research may give rise
- a statement that there are no foreseeable cultural, social or legal impediments to the successful completion and/or publication of your research
- a tentative timetable for the completion of your thesis, including preliminary goals for the next six months.
When writing your proposal, your supervisors will provide you with advice.
Evaluation of the Proposal
Your proposal will be evaluated by a committee within your school, generally the School Research Committee, to establish that:
- you have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the topic
- your proposal outlines an appropriate theoretical framework which will lead to an original and defensible thesis
- your proposal has been developed following consideration of debates in the relevant literature (you must include a literature review)
- your proposed research aims to add value to existing knowledge.
Note that your proposal may be run through the University's plagiarism detection software.
Your school may require you to present your proposal orally. In such cases, your School Research Committee (SRC) will normally announce the presentation in Victoria News, the University’s weekly news publication, and open it to all staff and postgraduate students who may be interested.
Schools/programmes are free to determine the format of oral presentations, but we recommend that you summarise your proposal and highlight:
- key issues
- the conceptual framework
- the intended methodology
- any problems anticipated in carrying out the research.
You may receive questions and feedback from those in attendance. The SRC should document any feedback for your reference and give you the opportunity to respond.
Recommendation on Your Progress to Full Registration
Having assessed your research proposal and determined whether you have met any additional school requirements for full registration, the SRC (or equivalent committee) will report to the Associate Dean (PGR) of your faculty. Copies of the report will be sent to you, your Head of School and your supervisors.
Possible SRC Recommendations
The SRC may recommend one of four things:
- your transfer to full registration
- that you revise and resubmit your research proposal
- your transfer to a Master’s degree
- the termination of your registration.
Transfer to Full Registration
Full registration will be confirmed by the Associate Dean (PGR) on receipt of the recommendation from the SRC. Your progress during full registration will continue to be monitored through six-monthly progress reports.
Revision and Resubmission
Where you are asked to revise and resubmit, the SRC must:
- provide you and your supervisors with clear and constructive guidelines on the steps required to gain full registration
- specify a date by which all revisions must be completed and the revised proposal submitted.
The SRC will also ask you to include a cover letter upon resubmission of your research proposal indicating what changes you have made. If you decide not to follow all the SRC’s suggestions, you must outline your reasons.
Transfer to a Master’s Degree
The SRC may recommend your transfer to a Master’s degree if it believes that you have not demonstrated the aptitude and level of competence required for PhD study but that your research, with modifications, could form the basis of a Master’s thesis.
Termination of Registration
If the SRC recommends termination of your registration, it should arrange to meet you and explain face-to-face why it considers termination necessary.