Understanding what’s expected in general terms

As with any piece of writing, the first step to writing a successful confirmation document is to understand what you’re trying to achieve with it.

Confirmation of candidature / transfer to full candidature / first year review / review of provisional enrolment is a time when:

  • the candidate receives formative advice about the direction, scope, planning and feasibility of the project, and the quality of their writing (formative advice, like coaching, is aimed at improving the performance of the advisee, not just simply grading the level of performance);
  • the School reviews the resources that are needed to sustain the candidate; and
  • the University is assured by the School’s review that a continuation of the candidature is likely to lead to an examinable thesis in about the “normal” amount of time in which the student, the School and the University are funded.

The last dot point identifies the critical point – while the university benefits from having research students (much of the research output of universities could not be achieved without research students), it is also costly to have them. Research students require one-on-one supervisor time, room space, access to a variety of resources and so on. Consequently, at confirmation, the University is looking for assurance that there will be a good return on their investment by continuing each particular candidature.

Thus, writing a confirmation document is in many ways like writing a grant proposal – your goal is to convince someone that both you and your project are worth supporting with funds and/or other resources. How do you do this?

Reflection exercise


Take a look at our answer to see the features of a successful confirmation document.

Detailed requirements

Your School should provide you with detailed information on what is required for confirmation, but the general policy and procedures can be found on the Graduate School website.

References and further help

  • A library catalogue keyword search on “research proposals” may help you to find a book with more detail and examples which you may find helpful.
  • Learning Advisers at Student Services can also help you to improve the quality of your writing and understanding of what’s expected of you.

Downloadable resources

Printable notes on writing a research proposal (confirmation document) for research students (PDF 1391kb)

Mind map overview of confirmation documents (PDF 888kb)