Sunday, June 12, 2011

Guidelines for MVA (Master of Visual Arts) Proposal

I have opted to share my progress, research and methodology with students, colleagues and  friends via this blog. Hopefully it will demystify the process of academic writing, conceptual underpinning and unpacking ideologies surrounding specific social, political and philosophical discourses (within the scope of my selected topics).
The context of my work must be seen from a South African perspective, unless otherwise stated. Having lived and worked in this country for most my adult life, it goes without saying that my experiences and the cultural structures serve as a major influence in my perception of the physical world and the cerebral sphere of ideas.

When beginning the process, consider the guidelines offered by the institution to which you are submitting your proposal. Although a basic structure for this document exists, many institutes, schools, colleges and departments within the university's framework may have specific formats and requirements, which must be adhered to. According to UNISA's rules for Masters and Doctoral studies a proposal should consist of:

(a) Proposed title

(b) The research problem

One cannot carry out a coherent research project

unless one first identifies a research problem.

Perhaps where there is a gap in our

knowledge or understanding or where our existing

knowledge could be further refined and

demonstrated. This requires a thorough survey of the

relevant sources and literature. We can talk about the

research problem in terms of what questions: What

exactly is the research problem you have identified?

What questions are you going to be asking in the

process of investigating the problem? What

hypotheses are you going to be testing? What will be

the contribution of your research to the solution of the


(c) A brief literature survey indicating the sources and

literature relevant to your topic, in order to identify the

gaps and shortcomings that your dissertation/thesis

will address.
Context of the research problem

Because of the connectedness of knowledge, all

research problems can be situated against a

background of existing findings and understanding.

Without a clear understanding of this background, it is

of course impossible to identify the gaps in our

knowledge. You should therefore very briefly sketch

the present state of our knowledge of the context in

which your problem is embedded, mentioning the

sources that you have consulted so far that are

particularly relevant to your problem. Depending on

the nature of the problem you have identified, you

may be able to situate it not only within its academic

or research context, but also within a wider (e.g.

pedagogical, sociological, political) context. Part of

your task here is, then, to answer the why question:

Why is this particular problem important enough to be


(e) The method/theoretical framework

The crucial question here is How? How do you

propose to carry out your research so as to address

and solve your research problem, thereby generating

knowledge where previously there had been a gap or

a lack of refinement: At a further level of detail, the

following are possible questions: What kind of data

are you going to use? From what kind of theoretical

and analytical framework are you going to approach

the data?

(f) Outline

In about a page or so you should outline the structure

of your dissertation/thesis, indicating very briefly what

each chapter or section will cover.
(This ‘hypothetical index’ is a necessary beginning, but it will probably

change more than once during the writing process.)

(g) Sources

You should provide full bibliographical references to

the sources you mentioned in (c), and also to any

other sources that you feel are very relevant to your


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