Proposal outline


Nelson M​andela University Business School's Research Office will only assess proposals that meet the below requirements:

  1. The cover page must include your name and surname, as well as a clear envisaged study topic AND Business School research theme.
  2. The length of the proposal: 10 - 12 pages EXCLUDING the reference list. Proposals that exceed the required length will not be considered.
  3. Font size: 12 Font type: Arial or Times New Roman.
  4. Spacing: 1.5 Margins: 2.54 cm (top, bottom, left and right)
  5. Preferred referencing style: APA Referencing Style

Proposal Content:

  • What the research problem is (especially, what seems to cause it).
  • A selection of previous efforts/studies to solve the problem and what the gaps in these studies were.
  • The proposed solution by the student (even if the solution is a better understanding of the nature and causes of the problem).
  • The envisaged contribution that the study will make to business and management practice and/or government policy on business and management.
  • A clear and succinct main research objective in statement format (e.g. The primary objective of the study is to improve A by investigating the relationship between A and B, C, D and E or gaining a better understanding of A and relevant other aspects).
  • Providing an idea what data will be collected, from whom and how it will be analysed.



DBA Coursework (ProDBA) or DBA Research (DBAR)


TITLE: Provide a title for your study (not exceeding 15 words)

INTRODUCTION (not exceeding 1½ pages)

  • Provide a brief context of the research location.
  • State the research problem
  • Briefly summarise findings of previous studies or industry efforts to solve/ address the problem
  • Indicate the deficiencies in these studies/ industry efforts
  • Explain briefly the significance of the current study for particular audiences
  • State the purpose statement (also called the research objective) of the current study.

PROBLEM STATEMENT (not exceeding 2 pages)

  • Explain the background and nature of the problem/ issue/ phenomenon to be researched.
  • Explain the potential causes of the problem/ issue/ phenomenon. Briefly discuss previous studies/ industry efforts that were conducted to solve/ better understand the problem/ issue/ phenomenon. Explain how each of these studies/ efforts fall short from your perspective and how these shortcomings (confusion, lack of knowledge, inconclusive findings) therefore provide the research gaps for your study. Please cite at least 12 different sources/ references (not older than five years).
  • Provide your proposed solution to the problem/ issue. From your perspective, what should management be doing to solve/ better understand the problem? If you do a quantitative study, please provide a hypothesised model to solve/ address the problem. If your study is a qualitative one, please explain how answers to your research questions would enable you to gain a better understanding and therefore a solution to the problem/ issue. If you do a mixed methods study, explain how the respective qualitative and quantitative research processes will enable you to solve/ gain a better understanding of the problem/ issue/ phenomenon.


  • Review studies/ industry efforts in the past 10 years that have investigated your research problem.
  •  Identify the deficiencies of these studies/ industry efforts. e.g. methodological flaws, variables overlooked, etc.
  • Write about areas overlooked in these previous studies/ industry efforts, including topics, special statistical treatments, significant implications, etc.
  • Discuss how a proposed study will remedy these deficiencies and provide a unique contribution to the scholarly literature/ industry/ your profession.
  • Not fewer than 30 literature pieces on previous studies and/or industry efforts must be cited.


  • Briefly list and discuss 1 or 2 reasons why your study is an improved effort to solve the problem.
  • Briefly list and discuss 1 or 2 reasons why your study will add to the scholarly research and literature in the academic field in which your study is located.
  • Briefly list and discuss 1 or 2 reasons how your study will contribute to new knowledge in the profession that you find yourself.


  • Formulate your primary research objective/ purpose statement (not more than 2 sentences for quantitative and qualitative studies and not more than 4 sentences for mixed methods studies).

SECONDARY RESEARCH OBJECTIVES (not exceeding a half page)

  • List (in single sentences) and number your secondary research objectives.
  • These are normally sub-research objectives related to the primary research objective.

SAMPLING DESIGN (not exceeding 1 page)

  • Briefly explain your chosen sampling design (how your participants will be selected).
  • Clearly indicate your population or sampling frame (the units of analysis and industries or institutions they find themselves in) from which the sample will be drawn.
  • Clearly explain the criteria for inclusion and exclusion of participants, cases or objects in the sample.
  • Clearly indicate your target sample size.


  • Briefly discuss the data collection approach(es)/ methods that will be used in your study, e.g. mail survey using closed-ended and/or open-ended questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, institutional reports or documents, observation, etcetera.


  • List not fewer than 30 sources that you have consulted and cited in your proposal above. Use the APA or HARVARD referencing techniques.

NOTE: The length of the proposal must be between 10 and 12 pages.