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Research Proposal Preparation and Submission

When preparing a research proposal, there are some differences between research project proposals for postgraduate degree purposes and submission to the FHS Postgraduate Office or study proposals for submission to one of the FHS Research Ethics Committees.

Research Proposals of Postgraduate Students for Submission to the FHS Postgraduate Office

Postgraduate students need to prepare a research proposal according to requirements of their division and submit the proposal to review for scientific rigour and merit. If their project involves research with human participants (e.g. healthy participants or patients), data from human participants, or research animals, the proposal needs also undergo ethics review and authorisation through the FHS Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or Research Animal Ethics Committee (RAEC). Once the scientific and ethical review is completed, students need to submit their research proposal along with required forms to the FHS Postgraduate Office (PGO) for approval of the project by the Faculty.

Students need to consult in the first place with their divisional supervisor on proposal format and procedures  specific to their division. Divisional rules may for example include the presentation of the proposal at a divisional seminar. The supervisor will also in most cases be able to advise on the timing of ethics applications.

A) Preparation and scientific review of a degree research proposal that does not involve human participants, data from human participants, or research animals:

  1. Prepare your research/project proposal according to divisional guidelines
  2. Arrange for review of your proposal for scientific merit and rigour through two independent experts in the field of the proposed research. Your supervisor will be able to suggest reviewers. These reviewers have to be UCT staff members, and will typically be from your division but can also be from other divisions or departments if necessary, e.g. if your research is very inter-disciplinary. Please note that your supervisor or co-supervisors may not act as scientific reviewers of your proposal.
  3. Present your research proposal at a divisional seminar (if applicable in your division).
  4. Download (see links on the right of this page) and complete the departmental Research Proposal Checklist and get signatures of your two scientific reviewers, your supervisor and other co-investigators that will be involved in your research. Consult with your supervisor on who will be the principal investigator and who should be listed as co-investigator.
  5. Obtain from your supervisor a letter confirming that your project will not involve human participants, data from human participants, or research animals, and therefore does not require review and authorization through the FHS Research Ethics Committees.
  6. Download (see links on the right of this page) and complete the administrative forms D1 (incl D3), D2(a) and D3 (only if you have a co-supervisor) and get all required signatures from your supervisor, co-supervisor and Head of Division. Please work with your supervisor to complete the forms.of the FHS Postgraduate Office required for submission of a postgraduate degree proposal
  7. Obtain approval from the Departmental Research Committee and Head of Department: Submit an electronic or hard copy of the completed and signed departmental research proposal checklist, confirmation letter from your supervisor (if applicable), research proposal, and the FHS PGO forms as follows.
  • Submission of electronic copy (please note that documents that require DRC signatures will be returned to you in pdf format)
  • Submission of hard copy
    • At HUB North: to Ms Abbigale Van Der Westhuizen, Rm 5.14, Anatomy Bldg
    • At ESSM: hard copies are not accepted
  • Please allow for at least two working days for the documents to be signed.
  1. Submit a scanned copy of all fully signed documents as a single pdf file by email to for the records of the Departmental Research Committee.
  2. Submit your proposal including all documents mentioned above to the FHS Postgraduate Office for faculty approval and request a acknowledgement of receipt. (Note: It is recommended that you keep a copy of the fully signed documents for your and your supervisor's records.)

B) Procedure for a degree research proposal that involves human participants, data from human participants, or research animals

If your research project will involve human participants, data from human participants, or research animals, you need to prepare an application for review and authorisation of your research to one of FHS Human Research Committees in addition to your degree research proposal. The preparation of ethics applications is described on the page "Ethics Applications".

Discuss with your supervisor when you should prepare and submit the ethics application. This will depend on the stage in your research project at which you will undertake activities that require ethical authorisation, and when you are certain about the experimental design of these activities (e.g. how many human participants or animals you need to involve and what tests you are going to perform on them).

  • If you have clarity about these details already when you prepare the degree research proposal, you should prepare and submit the ethics application at the same time or shortly after approval of your degree research proposal.
    In this case, you will submit the FHS PGO forms and degree proposal once you received authorisation from the FHS Research Ethics Committee.
  • If the involvement of human participants or research animals is planned for a later stage of your research project and/or experimental designs for these research activities will be determined during the early part of your research project, you may need to prepare and submit your ethics application at a later stage in your project.
    In this case, you should proceed with the submission of your degree research proposal and FHS PGO forms as described above, with one exception. For step 5, obtain from your supervisor a letter stating that ethical authorization will be sought at a later stage during the project once the required information, e.g. experimental design, are available.

Non-degree Research Proposals for Submission to a FHS Research Ethics Committee

For preparation of a proposal for a research study that involves human participants (e.g. healthy participants or patients), research animals, or data from human participants but is not undertaken for degree purposes, please follow the guidelines provided on the page "Ethics Applications".

Such research studies may be part of a research project funded through an external grant which are conducted by the grantholder as principal investigator or postdoctoral research fellows.