Honours thesis in psychology/Proposal

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Honours thesis in psychology: Research proposal guidelines


Honours courses at different universities may or may not formally require a Research Proposal. In any case:

  1. Developing a research proposal and getting peer review is a critical step in a scientific research project.
  2. It is better to find out about potential research design flaws early on, while they can still be addressed, than to find out later (e.g., from examiners).


A research proposal can take different forms depending on the Honours course. For example it might be:

  1. An oral presentation at a meeting of the supervisors and their other students such as a lab meeting.
  2. An oral presentation to the other members of the Honours class.
  3. A poster presentation (as used at University of Canberra).

In the first two cases, you would be expected to speak for at least 10 minutes and to accompany your talk with some audiovisual material (such as PowerPoint slides). You would also be expected to answer questions on your proposal.

In the case of University of Canberra's poster, you are expected to present:

  1. Electronically by creating a new discussion thread post with an attached file via Moodle.
  2. A hard-copy poster. Provide easy-to-read, key details about about the proposed study to help reviewers understand the study and provide critique. Keep it simple. There is no need for glossy printing or lamination. For example, 9 A4 sheets (in a 3 x 3 layout) consisting of large font (min. 18 pt) bullet-points prepared as a word-processing document could be very effective.
  3. A 5-minute verbal précis of the proposal to reviewers and interested fellow students.
  4. Copies of relevant additional information (e.g., draft survey).

Reviewers will discuss your proposal with you and provide some written comments for further discussion with your supervisor. Obtain at least two reviews from academic staff. Fellow students may provide additional feedback. If appropriate, make adjustments to the study's focus and design.


These sections are recommended for research proposals (check with your supervisor for further advice):

  1. Title page
    1. Working title
    2. Student name
    3. Supervisor name
    4. Date
  2. Introduction: A brief review of the literature and justification for why the topic is important.
  3. Aims & Hypotheses: Concise statement of research question(s) (aims) and briefly how these aims fit into the literature area (justification of your aims). Clearly state the study’s hypotheses (Note: Hypotheses need to be testable – see also Analyses).
  4. Method:
    1. Design: Describe the research design (e.g., experimental, quasi-experimental, or non-experimental, between-subjects or within-subjects, etc.). Consider potential confounds and how they will be dealt with (internal validity).
    2. Participants: Consider the target population, sampling frame, sampling technique, anticipated return rate, sample size and power (demonstrate how the sample size is adequate for your design). Note whether you or your supervisor have a dependent relationship with this target population. Describe how participants will be recruited.
    3. Materials/Measures: Describe how the independent and dependent measures are to be operationalised and the psychometric properties of proposed measures.
    4. Procedure: How will the study be carried out? How will the data be collected? What steps will be followed with participants? What will be done with the data?
    5. Ethical issues: Summarise potential ethical issues and explain how they will be dealt with. Consider whether approval is required from the University’s Committee for Ethics in Human Research or any other organisation.
    6. Costs: Provide details of any project costs, such as equipment, and how these will be paid. Where possible, students are encouraged to use free materials.
  5. Analyses: Summarise the planned data analytical techniques for addressing the hypotheses.
  6. Timeline: Outline key project milestones and their due dates, including ethical clearances. See timeline for more information.
  7. References
  8. Appendices: e.g., a copy of the instrumentation to be used, informed consent statement