BIOL412-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

Research Proposal

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


To introduce and develop skills in the synthesis of research findings and the writing of a detailed research proposal.

The general aim of the course is to prepare postgraduate students to engage in research through the development of a detailed research proposal – it has been designed for BSc (Hons), MSc Pt I and PGDipSci students as a compulsory component of the 4th year postgraduate experience. It comprises a series of modules in contemporary research methodology and proposal preparation and time to engage with potential supervisors to discuss project ideas. The skills and perspectives developed in this course will serve students progressing to research projects (in BSc Hons and MSc PtII) and those students who decide to pursue other careers.

Recommended preparatory course(s): BIOL411. For those students who begin 4th year in the middle of the year, BIOL411 and BIOL412 must be completed in Semester 1 of the following year.

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Communicate the findings of scientific research in plain English and verbally for a
    scientifically-literate audience (assessment tasks: verbal proposal presentation).
  • Synthesise primary scientific literature to generate a clear and concise argument in support of a
    perspective (assessment task: research proposal).
  • Critically evaluate a colleague’s work and generate constructive feedback (assessment task:
    peer-assessment of research proposal draft).
  • Synthesise primary scientific literature to provide in-depth background and context for
    understanding and critical evaluation of topics in biological sciences (assessment: proposal).
  • Apply an understanding of scientific practice to the generation of new testable hypotheses and
    to the development of advanced methodologies for testing hypotheses (assessment task:
    methodology section of research proposal).
    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Writing a literature review to focus ideas for research proposals. This is essential for MSc Pt I
    students to be fully prepared for Pt II. Beyond University this skill is important for any career
    in research or in an NGO, where you will need to write convincing applications for
    increasingly-limited funding. We will have tutorials to provide instruction on the elements of
    successful proposals and develop your abilities to identify these elements in group sessions.
  • Critical synthesis of information. In everyday life and in many job situations you will be
    required to read information from different sources, construct your own understanding and
    shape your own viewpoint. In BIOL412 we develop your abilities to identify the essential
    elements of research outputs - you will now use these skills in your proposal.
  • Research design. Important for research and in governmental and non-governmental
    organisations. We will provide discipline-specific advice on the major elements involved in
    developing testable questions and designing research projects.
  • Writing critical summaries of other work. Clear and constructive written criticism is essential in
    most professional careers. In a tutorial we will provide instruction on the elements of successful
    critical assessment and help you identify these elements with clear marking rubrics – you will
    use these in your peer-review of a colleague’s work.
  • Verbal presentation. In most careers in science the ability to present findings clearly in verbal
    form is likely to be critical. In BIOL4xx we provide clear guidance on what makes a good
    presentation and you will test these skills in your proposal presentation.
    Graduate attributes
    In planning activities and assessments for this course we will be guided by the descriptors for Level
    8 of the NZQF:
    Knowledge Skills Application
    Advanced technical and/or theoretical
    knowledge in a discipline or practice,
    involving a critical understanding of the
    underpinning key principles
    Analyse and generate
    solutions to complex and
    sometimes unpredictable
    Evaluate and apply a range
    of processes relevant to the
    field of work or study
    Developing identification with a
    profession and/or discipline through
    application of advanced generic skills
    and/or specialist knowledge and skills
    Some responsibility for integrity of
    profession or discipline
    These have been included in the course to allow for in-depth instruction and group discussions on
    specific topics and to provide skills training to enable you to be more effective in planning and
    writing a research proposal. There will be four formal components. These will include:
    1. The Scientific Method: moving from questions to hypotheses. The focus will be on
    hypothesis development (led by Matthew Turnbull). Preparation required.
    2. Proposal writing: creating and communicating ideas from the literature. (Led by Matthew
    Turnbull). Preparation required.
    3. Project development: participating as part of a research team to develop a research project.
    Requires meeting with at least one academic staff member and their associated research
    team to discuss and develop research opportunities. We recommend that this process
    starts in your first semester of 4th year and continues during the break between
    semesters so that you are able to make progress on your proposal in the current

    BIOL412 Graduate Attributes:
    *Critically competent.  Yes
    *Employable,innovative and enterprising.  Yes
    *Biculturally competent and confident.
    *Engaged with the community.
    *Globally aware.  Yes


BIOL411. For those students who begin 4th year in the middle of the year, BIOL410 and BIOL411 must be completed in Semester 1 of the following year.



Timetable 2021

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Tutorial A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 14:00 - 15:00 E12
19 Jul - 25 Jul
13 Sep - 19 Sep
Tutorial B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 14:00 - 16:00 E12
26 Jul - 8 Aug
Workshop A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 14:00 - 17:00 E12
23 Aug - 29 Aug
4 Oct - 10 Oct

Course Coordinator

Daniel Stouffer


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Research Proposal 27 Apr 2021 70%
Peer-review 03 May 2021 10%
Proposal 04 Jun 2021 20%

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,066.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL412 Occurrences