Research Proposal Guidelines
It involve writing a research proposal for a potential research project that seeks to answer questions about an invasive species or system in New Zealand.
The proposal must have these components:
1. An invasive or potentially invasive species in NZ
2. One or more clear hypotheses
3. Application of a genetic technique or evolutionary theory to test those hypotheses.
You will need to explain clearly what the issues are surrounding this biological invasion (i.e. critically review the literature what is known about this system, what needs to be determined for the invasion to be understood/controlled/eradicated), and explain how you could use evolutionary theory and/or genetics to address those issues (i.e. explain design of experiments, which molecular tools you will use, and how those tools may need to bew adapted).
There are three deadlines you need to meet.
1) You need to identify the organism(s) or system you be proposing to research, and explain in no more than TWO sentences why you are interested in this species/system. It is entirely your choice which species or system to concentrate on choose something that interests you, but is also likely to add to our understanding of invasion biology in general.
2) Hand in a 1 page pre-proposal / expression of interest Details of what is expected to be in the pre-proposal are below.
3) Hand in your full research proposal
This two stage proposal application (pre-proposal and full proposal) is commonly used by funding bodies in New Zealand and, increasingly, around the world. Usually the pre-proposals are assessed and only those researchers who submitted the best pre-proposals are asked to submit a full research proposal. Hence the pre-proposal is where you convince a general science audience and the funding body that your research is important enough to be worth funding. The full proposal is reviewed by specialists in the field of research and focusses on showing that your research is well designed, contributes to existing knowledge, and is achievable.
The research pre-proposal is a short document that should get the following main points across clearly and concisely: what are your questions, why are they important, and briefly, how will you answer them. The main body of the pre-proposal is to be no more than 1 A4 page in at least 10 point type and 2cm margins. This doesnt include references, which can be up to another 2 A4 pages. It also doesnt include the title or summary paragraph. If you want to include figures or tables, they can also go on a separate page (i.e. not included in the 1 page limit). Your pre-proposal should consist of:
1) Title page, listing title of project and a short summary paragraph of up to 150 words that describes what your project is about. The summary should strive to be understandable to an educated non-scientist.
2) Main body of the proposal, which is no more than 1 A4 page, and describes what your questions are, why they are important, and briefly what methods you will use to answer your questions. Remember the why is more important than the how so spend more time on justifying why your questions are important, than explaining how you are going to answer them. As a rough guide, use about 2/3 of the page to explain why your research is important (with plenty of background literature cited to show you understand the current state of understanding in the field and how your research fits into it), and the remaining 1/3 page to explain how you will answer those questions. Methods should be described generally (e.g. I will use microsatellite markers to determine population structure), leave the details for the full proposal.
3) If you want to add no more than one figure OR table (if relevant), you may include on a separate page.
4) Reference list for papers cited in your proposal, on 1 to 2 separate pages. Make sure you correctly cite all sources you have used in the text, and list them in the reference list. You should only use peer-reviewed sources, and you should cite references in the text by number rather than by author . I expect that you will be reading from the primary research literature (research papers) not basing your proposal entirely off of reviews. I will be checking whether references reflect recent literature (i.e., at least some references within last 2 years).
5) In the reference list, please give the full title and Journal name of papers (i.e. dont follow the abbreviated form of Science or Nature in the reference list only in citations in the text). You need to have done enough background reading, and cited enough papers, to make it clear that you understand how your proposed research fits in with what other people have done, and how it will add to whats already known. As a rough guide, a real outline proposal would normally include 20 40 references. I dont expect you to do that much reading in such a short time! But please use whatever references you think are appropriate. You need to have a reasonable understanding of what others have done in order to explain why your proposed research is scientifically important. References that are not relevant and have been added simply to bump up the total would make a real grant proposal assessor assume you dont know what you are doing, and so in this exercise will detract from your grade.
Please dont think that because its only one page it will be really quick and easy to write. Often it is shorter pieces that need more work; you need to be really clear and concise to get your point across in such a short space. Every sentence should be there for a reason, and add to your argument. Anything that is not directly related to convincing someone to fund your research should be deleted.
In terms of realistic scale, you should be aiming for a research project that can be completed in 2 to 3 years, with a total operating cost (not including salaries) of around $20,000 to $40,000 per year. A detailed budget is not required until the full proposal stage.
Full research proposal:
This is a more substantial document than the pre-proposal, and will provide much more information. It consists of:
1. Title page, listing title of project, your name & student number, and a short summary paragraph of up to 150 words that describes what your project is about. (Not part of 4 page maximum). This can be the same as the pre-proposal if no fine tuning needed.
2. The main body of your proposal must be 3 to 4 A4 pages in at least 10 point type and 2cm margins. Same rules as above: doesnt include title page, figures/tables, references, or budget in the page limit.
2.1. As a rough guide I would suggest about 1/2 page that describes the overall aims of the research (what are you trying to achieve with this research), 1 page of background, and 2.5 pages listing your research questions in detail and how you are going to answer them (methods).
2.2. The background section will explain why you want to answer your questions and is where you demonstrate that you have adequately reviewed the literature (i.e., will have many citations) by showing how your proposed research fits with what has already been done and adds to it. This builds heavily on your pre-proposal, taking comments into account.
2.3. The full proposal should show more depth in terms of questions to be answered, and should list these in detail.
2.4. Methods should be reasonably detailed, so that the assessor of your proposal is able to accurately judge whether your proposed experiments are likely to be able to answer the questions you propose answering. Methods should be cited to sources, and must be appropriate to the research question.
2.5. For the methods you need to explain things like, whats your experimental design, where are you going to get your samples from, how many samples per population, which molecular markers are you going to use to answer each question, why is that marker the best one to use for that question, etc. You DONT need to include details such as what the PCR conditions will be (if using PCR).
3. You may provide up to 1 page of figures / tables as needed. This is optional but any figures must have a descriptive caption and be referenced in text.
4. You must provide a Vision Mturanga statement (Up to page).
4.1. Background information on VM is available here: MBIE
4.2. Vision Mturanga is about unlocking the potential of Mori knowledge, people and resources for the benefit of New Zealand, recognizing the importance of Mori as partners in science, building capability of Mori individuals, businesses, and groups, and maximizing the relationship between Mori and the government through science and innovation through the Treaty of Waitangi.
4.3. You Vision Mturanga statement should recognize at least two of the following major components:
4.3.1. The role of Mori Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and traditional knowledge of the ecosystems of New Zealand
4.3.2. The role of Mori ownership and managers of commercial enterprise (e.g., Mori economic interests in fisheries, pine forestry, agriculture, development). The Maori economy is currently worth nearly $40 billion NZD and growing faster than the economy as a whole, with major investment in forestry, fisheries, and agriculture. Mori also have major economic interests in the tourism industry, Mnuka honey, and in many small businesses.
4.3.3. Impacts on Mori use of natural resources, including harvesting Kai (food) from the land and water, including potential use of native AND non-native species as a source of kai (food; e.g., pigs, deer, watercress).
4.4. Your Vision Mturanga should outline what steps would be appropriate to take in a research project (possibly including consultation, communication, and/or direct involvement in research)
4.5. In the unlikely event that your research has absolutely no significance for Mori, you must provide a justification of this (Up to page).
5. References can be up to 2 additional A4 pages. Use as many references as you need to get the background information across. Follow the same format as in pre-proposal.
6. You also need to provide a budget for your work, Up to 1 additional page. You should be aiming for a research project that can be completed in 2 to 3 years, with a total operating cost (not including salaries) of around $20,000 to $40,000 per year.
6.1. The main criteria that I will assess your budget on is whether you have recognized the major line items correctly, and given a realistic estimate of the number of each item required. (e.g., DNA extractions and PCR amplifications from 500 samples of stream water). Make sure that every component of your research with a cost exceeding $200 is identified.
6.2. It does not matter if your prices ($) are correct, and I wont take off points for this.
6.3. One of the main purposes of having you write a budget is that it can allow me to understand what you are proposing better. In previous years, a well itemized budget has saved a proposal that otherwise could have received a failing grade.
7. You must include a justification of your proposed sample size, based on prior literature, power analysis and/or simulation. Up to 1 additional page.
8. A timeline that describes when you expect to complete each stage of the project (this should be on either a 2 or 3 year time scale).
9. Whether you are likely to require any permits or approvals from government bodies (such as DOC or ERMA) or from the University (e.g. animal ethics approval). You would need to get a permit from DOC if your project involves collecting animals or plants on DOC land, or sampling native species. You would need a permit from ERMA if your project would involve any genetically modified organisms (this includes simple transformation of bacteria for marker development). You would need animal ethics approval if your project involves any handling of live animals (for any reason).