Graduate School Handbook Part 9 – Registration of the research project (RD1)
PGR9.1 Purpose and objectives for project registration (RD1)
- To demonstrate that the project proposed by the Postgraduate Researcher (PGR), including the methodology that will be used, together with the research governance and supervision arrangements which are in place, are appropriate and viable for study at Doctoral/MPhil level;
- To demonstrate that the PGR has a clear understanding of the scope of their responsibilities for the design and distinctive nature of their own research and its execution, and for their ongoing personal development as a researcher;
- PGRs must gain RD1 approval from the Faculty Research Degrees Committee (FRDC) to be able to continue with their research degree.
Note: Professional Doctorate awards may be subject to specific requirements as detailed in the Programme Specification.
Regulations about research project registration
PGR9.2 Confirmation of project registration (RD1)
PGR9.2.1R Within three months for full-time and six months for part-time of initial registration, all PGRs must submit their project registration (RD1) for review and approval by the FRDC.
PGR9.2.2R The RD1 to be submitted for consideration and confirmation must be written by the PGR and should include:
- a definition of the research project title, the proposed research methodology, and a concise summary of the research literature;
- supervision arrangements;
- a detailed schedule of work;
- an outline of proposed research skills development, training plan and module selection.
In addition, and where applicable to the project:
- an indication of ethical approval application;
- documentary evidence of a collaborative agreement with an external funder, identifying ownership of research data and/or Intellectual Property (IP) contract;
- An application for the restriction of access to the final published thesis or critical commentary where this is deemed necessary (see also Part 10 Research Governance).
PGR9.2.3R Consideration of the RD1 proposal by the FRDC has two possible outcomes:
- Satisfactory – continue registration, or
- Unsatisfactory – refer for resubmission.
PGRs will have one opportunity to rework and resubmit their RD1 proposal.
PGR9.2.4R The resubmission deadline is normally four weeks for full-time PGRs and six weeks for part-time PGRs from the date of notification. At resubmission stage, the only outcomes available are:
- Satisfactory – continue registration, or
- Fail – registration withdrawn.
There will be no further opportunity for resubmission.
PGR9.2.5R The RD1 must be satisfactory in order to continue on the award and advance to the progression exam. Failure at this stage will result in the PGR’s withdrawal from the award by the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB).
PGR 9.3 Major changes to the research project
PGR9.3.1R Any fundamental or major change to either the overall aims, scope or methodology of the research project requires the approval of the Faculty Research Degrees Committee using the appropriate RD form (see also PGR 8.3 and PGR 8.7.1).
Explanatory note: examples of acceptable reasons for change include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A change in the PGR’s employment;
- Lack of successful development of the project in its original form;
- A change to a collaborative agreement or contract, including funding;
- A change in access to resources or data previously agreed that cannot be resolved;
- A change in methodology or data collection, or other major change due to COVID-19 restrictions.
NB. In such circumstances, a change in the composition of the supervisory team may also be necessary to ensure ongoing subject expertise.
Procedures for project registration (RD1)
PGR9.4 Responsibilities of the postgraduate researcher
- To submit the RD1 to the Graduate School Office by the deadline indicated in the written terms and conditions of their award registration;
- To make an application for ethical approval with guidance from the Director of Studies, where the nature of the project requires this.
PGR9.5 Responsibilities of the Director of Studies
- To work closely with the PGR in preparation for the submission of the RD1 and provide guidance on the development of a detailed, well defined project specification and associated schedule of work and reading. NB. The RD1 must be the PGR's own work;
- To ensure that the project proposed is:
- Within the PGR’s capabilities and interests;
- Within the expertise of the supervisory team;
- Practical in terms of available resources and data collection arrangements;
- Appropriate in terms of the requirements of the University’s Code of Good Research Conduct and other governance/policy requirements (e.g. IP requirements);
- Realistic in terms of completion within the permitted registration period.
- To ensure that any ethical approval required has been applied for and obtained before the research begins;
- To conduct a training needs analysis with the PGR and develop a training plan which will develop the PGR’s knowledge and skills to be an effective researcher, and will meet the accredited training requirements and any other requirements for the award. This may also include informal or non-assessed elements as appropriate;
- To support the PGR in the development of their understanding about their role and responsibilities regarding their own research work;
- To advise the PGR on the completion of any further work required by the FRDC in the case of a resubmission outcome, and the incorporation of suggestions for improving the project.
PGR9.6 Responsibilities of the Faculty Research Degrees Committee
- To consider and confirm approval of the project registration;
- To provide feedback on the submission and highlight any additional action to the PGR and/or supervisory team;
- On the advice of the Personal Circumstances panel, to note requests for extensions to the submission deadlines and/or suspension of registration as appropriate in the light of personal circumstances submitted by the PGR;
- To consider the selection and credit value of Masters level modules proposed as part of the training and development plan, and advise alternatives where these are not considered to be appropriate;
- In the case of a resubmission outcome, to set a maximum deadline for resubmitted work (up to four weeks full time, six weeks part time);
- FRDCs may attach conditions to a ‘satisfactory’ outcome decision where it has concern about a proposed project plan;
- The FRDC will communicate the outcome decision and provide feedback to the PGR and Director of Studies in writing (by email from Graduate School on behalf of the Chair). The letter will include confirmation of the module selection, the full supervisory team and the deadlines of all future progression milestones;
- Where the RD1 is found to be unsatisfactory at resubmission, the FRDC will make a recommendation to the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) for the PGR’s registration to be withdrawn. This will normally be executed by Chair’s Action as soon as possible.
Further information and guidance
How long should the RD1 be?
- There is an overall word limit of 3,500 words across specific sub-sections, from the research title to the draft timetable.
- You should aim to be detailed but concise and ensure that you state clearly what research question or issue your project is going to address and how you plan to address it (i.e. what are you going to do, and your methodology - how are you going to do it).
- The RD1 is a detailed research proposal; it is not a mini-thesis in its own right.
- Do include a summary of existing research literature but this must be concise, the word 'summary' is the clue here!
- Do explain how you intend to develop or challenge the existing research thinking in the field, but do not attempt to pad out your proposal with unnecessarily detailed descriptions of other peoples research.
- Ensure you include a timeline/schedule showing when you plan to undertake each major area of activity within the project. Include intended publications and progress milestones.
- Further guidance about the required format and content of the proposal is given in the RD1 form itself.
Will my project require ethical approval?
- If your research will involve human participants, their tissue or data in any way, then you will need ethical approval by the University's Research Ethics Committee (UREC) or one of its Faculty Research Ethics Committees (FRECs) in accordance with the operating procedures set out in chapter 6.3 of the Code of Good Research Conduct.
- This will be the case even if you plan to use anonymous questionnaires or to incorporate anonymised participant data in your research.
- Research which involves NHS or Social Care organisations, or involves human tissues, may also require review by an NHS REC or the Social Care REC.
- You should ask your Director of Studies for advice and guidance about applying for ethical approval. You can also find further information on the University’s research governance and research ethics webpages.
- If your project does need ethical approval, you will be required to confirm that this has been obtained at your next progress milestone.
I have been told that I cannot apply for ‘Accredited Leaning’ for all 60 module credits. Why?
- It is unlikely that the FRDC will permit the full accredited training requirement to be met through the accredited learning process (AL).
- Postgraduate researcher training is designed to enable PGRs to develop effective and independent researcher skills and attributes in line with the requirements of the doctoral qualifications descriptor and generally at a more advanced doctoral level than required for a Masters qualification.
Module choices are considered by the FRDC depending on the specific needs of the PGR. The FRDC may recommend that PGRs take the Research in Contemporary Context module which requires the PGR to take a reflective approach to the application their own research.
(See also Part 6 of the handbook which has further information about the RCC module and how to access details of other UWE Bristol modules.)