Having settled the student into the candidature by clearly articulating the goals and gaining agreement about how the relationship will be conducted, the immediate milestone ahead is achieving Confirmation of Candidature.
This research design phase involves the development of a research proposal in the months leading up to the confirmation of candidature. This is a critical phase in the HDR process as this is when most of the major decisions regarding the research topic take place. The candidate has to aware of the probationary nature of their candidature until their candidature is confirmed, with the research proposal formally accepted and ethical clearances gained.
The design phase involves preparation, not just for the actual study, but also for the associated ethics issues associated with the project.
The Confirmation of Candidature is a critical phase within the research process. The project will not be able to proceed until candidature is confirmed. For many HDR Candidates, this is the first challenge, as they are faced with changing their broad idea into a defined research topic and question, which will be the focus of their study for several years ahead.
Often candidates will have a general idea of what they want to do, or have homed in on a specific area of research, but usually these are too broad to be achievable by one researcher within the given time frame, and will have to be further refined.
In addition, their knowledge of the chosen area and related areas may be limited. The demands of a study at this level mean that past research in the area will need to be thoroughly understood, so that their study can build from such a platform and extend it.
Considerable resources are expended on HDR projects. The student has to generate a strong case for the rationale of the project and the feasibility of the research. These will be critical issues to be examined in the proposal presentation stage.
Finally, in most universities the completed proposal is reviewed by academics either within or outside the faculty and is often presented orally in a symposium or presentation. The supervisor must ensure the candidate is aware of the current format for such an event, the timelines involved and the skills required. Students should be encouraged to attend other proposal sessions to gain an understanding of the process. Students should also review their own proposal using the criteria that reviewers will use and become familiar with the process of responding to reviewers’ critiques.