Ten Tips for Designing Good Master and PhD Research Projects

The elaboration of research project is one of the stages of the selective process of masters and doctorates. The structure of the proposal may vary according to the edital of each postgraduate and university program, but, in general, it contains a delimitation of the theme and the research problem, justifications, suggested methodology, general and specific objectives, expected results, bibliographic review and schedule preview. The edict can still bring criteria that will be evaluated in the project. There are also programs that require research proposals open to new holdings and others that request the project after six months of class. Check out ten strategies for the elaboration of the proposal, synthesized from the guidance of three PhD and Master’s professors from the UFJF:

1 – Propose research that is related to the scope of the postgraduate program

“You need to know the graduate program you are applying for. Sometimes the proposal is good, but the research is not related to what is developed in the program, which has to worry about adherence [set of research that confers identity and unity to the program]. If the proposal does not dialogue, it will generate a problem later, “says Professor Iluska Coutinho, from the Graduate Program in Communication at UFJF.

In general, masters research proposals out of scope developed in the program, the research group or even the advisor may be resisted to be accepted. “Undoubtedly, this will depend on the public notice published. However, regardless of the edict and my limitation, I can only guide students who wish to develop projects associated with my subject matter, “says the coordinator of the Post-graduation program.

2 – Study disciplines before participating in the selection

To better understand the area of study and the functioning of the course, Professor Iluska Coutinho suggests to the interested student to study isolated subjects – which had vacancies remaining in the semester and accept registrations from external students. The selection of these places is usually held weeks before the start of classes. The credits of the subjects can be used later.

3 – Indicate critical knowledge in the bibliographic review

“The review points out that the survey did not come out of nowhere. There are previous studies and there may be open questions, “says Iluska. In this section of the project, the main concepts and studies related to the research object are discussed. For Mateo Laterza, the bibliography must be current and revealing and its quality will depend on the author’s critical reading. The reading of the main scientific articles published in the last years and the knowledge about studies of the group or line of research contribute to the revision.

4 – Identify gaps that will be filled by the development of the project

One of the reasons for the elaboration of the research is to answer existing doubts about the object of study. For this, it is important to check limitations of previous studies, indicate gaps in analysis or present new focus on a topic. From the review, the candidate realizes if his / her research proposal has already been carried out and what differentiates it from the others. “Originality and relevance support, in large part, the quality of a project”, emphasizes Professor Mateus Laterza.

5 – Search for strong references and current data to justify research

The candidate needs to convince the graduate program that their research is relevant. Mention of reliable source data assists with argumentation. The vice-coordinator of the Graduate Program in Chemistry, Mara Rubia, cites, as an example, the citation of scientific journals with a high degree of impact.

6 – Produce clear and objective questions

Perceived and justified the knowledge gap, the next step is to elaborate one or more questions that, in principle, will guide the study. “Candidates confuse theme and research problem. The theme is where the proposal stands, but it has to have specific questioning to be answered, “explains Iluska Coutinho. The inquiry is that it will instigate the elaboration of the work. For this, it must be specific, pointing out what it seeks to be investigated, in clear and objective language, without ambiguity. Another option is to work with a hypothesis to be validated.

7 – Identify specific objectives

“Sometimes we get projects with very general goals. It is necessary to indicate specifically what will be done. For example, work the molecule synthesis of a particular class of chemical compound. But they have several classes. You have to mention what to synthesize, how many to prepare, what are the structures, so that the project is more punctual, “says Professor Mara Rubia. “The objective must be directly linked to the presented knowledge gap; if there is more than one gap, there will be more than one objective, “Laterza adds.

8 – Present methodology coherent to the objectives of the study

The author should demonstrate the appropriate techniques to achieve each type of expected outcome. Discourse analysis and content analysis focus on different aspects of the study object. According to the research, it is necessary to indicate which equipment will be needed, knowing what the program has. “Another important point is to verify if the research will require registration in an ethics committee,” warns Iluska.

9 – Be clear about the time needed to develop the research

It may seem obvious, but the master’s research must be stipulated to be developed in 24 months; and the doctorate in 48. The student should consider that the period will not only be devoted to the preparation of the dissertation or thesis, but also to participation in congresses, organization of scientific events and other activities. The proposal must be realistic with the time available to be dedicated to the project.

10 – Check if there will be funding for research

The proposal is to analyze the behavior of certain species of dolphins on the coast of Santa Catarina? Are there really resources for travel, accommodation, collection, equipment and analysis devices? Check if there are personal or external resources and if the edict requires the proponent to inform the source of funding.