Major Research Paper

Completion of a Major Research Paper is required. The MRP is approximately 50 pages in length. The research paper must be approved by the Supervisory Committee. The paper must demonstrate primary research or an original historiographical approach and must be defended before an Examination Committee.

MA MRP Guidelines and Processes


All MRP/Thesis research involving human subjects must be approved by the Research Ethics Board (REB) before the research may start.

This pertains to all students, faculty or staff conducting research at Nipissing University. This also includes research on campus by individuals or organizations that are not Nipissing University affiliated, while on campus, using University facilities, equipment or resources.

The Nipissing University Research Services website will provide all the forms and resource materials needed to submit an ethics protocol for review,

Additional information regarding Ethics at Nipissing University is available from Martee Storms, ext 4055.

MRP Proposals

The School of Graduate Studies hosts a Graduate Research Conference where graduate students present the research proposals they have developed in preparation for their MRP.

Proposal tips are also available in a downloadable PDF format 

Proposal Tips

The Research Supervisor is responsible for providing proposal preparation details and requirements.  The following is an overview of some general proposal writing tips for specific questions, please contact your Research Supervisor.

Purpose of a Proposal

The purpose of the MRP/Thesis proposal is to convince your program that:

  • there is a need for the research; it is significant and important;
  • you are contributing something original to the field;
  • the topic is feasible in terms of availability of funding, equipment, supervisors, and data;
  • The research can be completed in the expected time period. Usually 15 weeks from the proposal approval for full-time candidates.
  • The topic matches your interests and capabilities.

Your work will make a worthwhile contribution to the field if it fulfils one or more of the following:

  • it provides evidence to support or disprove an argument, concept, theory, or model;
  • it contributes new data/information, a new improved solution, analysis procedure or research methodology;
  • it results in a new or improved concept, theory or model.
The goal

The MRP/Thesis proposal helps you focus your research, clarifies its importance and the need. It describes the methods, predicts the problems and outcomes, and plans alternatives and interventions.

How should I structure the proposal?

The following are recommended sections for your MRP/Thesis proposal. Please check with your supervisors for optional sections, variations and additional sections that may be required.

Routine Information

This can be a full cover page or a quarter page header.

  • Name
  • Address, telephone and email details
  • Degree for which you are a candidate
  • Supervisor’s and co-supervisor’s names
  • MRP/Thesis proposal title
  • Date
Statement of Topic

Introduce the audience to the general subject area and how your topic is related. Briefly point out why it is a significant topic and what contribution your work will make.

Goals of the MRP/Thesis

Set out specific objectives of the research.

Review of the literature

This, together with the following section on the theoretical orientation, will be the main substance of the proposal and will be the basis for discussions of your methods and your total research program.

The literature review should explain the relation of your topic and research goals to significant literature and recent (and current) research in your field. The form of the literature review may vary according to the nature of the field: experimental, philosophical, theoretical, comparative, etc., but its purpose will be the same in all fields. The literature review should place your proposed research topic clearly in its relevant research context, and should demonstrate your awareness of significant similar or relevant research.

You may need to make qualitative judgments concerning the literature. Be careful not to allow the evaluation of previous work to become a large open-ended task. You should consult with your supervisors on the types of questions you need to be asking and what boundaries you should place on your literature review. In one sense the literature review for the proposal is incomplete. You will continue to expand and update the literature as your research progresses and as you locate new publications. The final literature review will be included in your MRP/Thesis.

Ask Yourself . . .

Which pieces of research seem to have been most successful, the most promising and which less so?

What are the major lines of criticism that can be levelled at previous work?

What major omissions, gaps or neglected emphases can be identified?

Theoretical Orientation

Your aim here is to state your basic ideas on the topic.

  • First, state the various theoretical approaches taken in your topic. Which one do you propose to use in your research and why? Where, tentatively do you stand on the topic?
  • If there are various theories on your topic or in your field, which one(s) will you use in your conceptual framework for your MRP/Thesis?
  • Which terms or trends do you wish to follow up from the literature review?
  • Do you have any fresh suggestions of an explanatory, interpretative, or programmatic kind?

Describe your proposed methods in sufficient detail so that the reader is clear about the following:

  • What kind of information will you be using?
  • From what sources will the information be obtained?
  • What resources will you require?
  • What methodology will you be using?
  • Why have you selected this approach?
  • What ethical and safety issues have you identified and how do you propose to proceed?
Research program timetable and milestones

This will usually be from the date you began your degree to when you expect to submit the completed research.

The time-line can be formatted as a table or a list. Include when you will start and finish important aspects of your research, such as: literature research, required training or attending courses, stages of experiments or investigations, beginning and completing chapters, reviews and seminars you will give, and completing the MRP/Thesis.

Tentative MRP/Thesis chapter outline

You should check with your supervisor if this is a required section of the MRP/Thesis proposal.

Present the chapter outline as a draft contents page with brief annotations of expected content or stages. Follow the standard sections relevant to your type of research. Look at past theses in your area and discuss your ideas with your supervisor.


List all publications cited in your proposal. Use the style recommended by the program or your supervisor.

Adapted from: Thesis Proposals: A Brief Guide. Written by Pam Mort for the Learning Centre, University of New South Wales © 2009.

Graduate Research Conference Process

The Graduate Research Conference is attended by the student’s supervisory committee (Research Supervisor and Second Reader), the Graduate Coordinator/Chair and possibly guests of the student including their family and/or friends.  The Nipissing University community is invited to attend the proposal presentations via an invitation email.

During the conference each student is allowed about 30 minute to present their research proposal with a 10 minute question period following the presentation.

MRP Proposal Approval

The research proposal must be approved by the student’s supervisory committee before they continue with their MRP research.  Students receive proposal approval using the MRP/Thesis Proposal Approval form.

Degree Extensions

Students who have not completed all degree requirements no later than their MRP/Thesis submission deadline may request an extension of one-term. An extension will be considered provided that they have applied as required within the time limit and provided that the degree requirements can be reasonably completed within a one-term period.

To apply for a degree extension, you must complete a Degree Extension Request Form outlining the causes for the delay, confirming satisfactory progress towards the completion of your degree and a reasonable expectation of completion within one term.

First MRP Submission Formatting and Technical Guidelines

Font size must be a minimum of 11 points and preferably Arial. You may use a smaller font size for graphs, formulas, and appendices.

  • The spacing of the printed lines must be at least one-and-a-half spaces, on one side of the paper only. Formatting style should follow the latest version of Chicago A guidelines and using the Notes-Bibliography system.
  • The preferred location for footnotes is either at the bottom of the page or at the end the MRP text. The Turabian Style Manual should be consulted in conjunction with these guidelines.
  • The size of the pages should be 8 ½” X 11” (21.5 cm X 28 cm), the text reading across the 8 ½” (21.5 cm) dimension.
  • The left-hand margin should be at least 1 ¼” (32 mm), and the remaining three margins should be at least ¾” (20mm) to the main text.
  • For questions not answered in these guidelines, you are urged to consult your Research Supervisor and to use your discretion in maintaining a consistent style.

Check that all pages are present, in sequence, and correctly numbered. Every page in the MRP must be numbered, except for the title page and the Certificate of Examination.

The preliminary portion of the paper should be numbered with small Roman numerals placed in the centre of the page, about half an inch from the bottom. Numbering begins with the Abstract as iv. The Title Page, Certificate of Examination page count as pages i, and respectively, but the number does not appear.

Preferred placement of the Arabic numerals is in the upper right-hand corner (about half an inch from each edge), including the first page of the reference or bibliography and appendices.

The accepted order within the preliminary sections of the paper is as follows:

  • Title page
  • Certificate of Examination (after defence)
  • Abstract
    • Acknowledgements (where applicable)
    • Table of Contents
    • List of Tables (where applicable)
    • List of Plates (where applicable)
    • List of Figures (where applicable)
    • List of Appendices (where applicable)
  • Introduction

The remainder of the MRP, starting with the first page of the introduction should be numbered with Arabic numerals starting with number one (1) and on from there.


Illustrations should be positioned the same as the main text, if possible. Illustrated material will reproduce well if drawn in dark, opaque ink. Colours will appear as varying shades of grey on a photocopy; therefore, labels and symbols rather than colours should be used to identify the lines of graphs. Cross-hatching rather than colours will provide a sharper contrast for shaded areas.


Black-and white photographs, with a matte, non-glossy finish, are recommended for submission. All photographs should be digitally embedded into your MRP and kept within the margins as stated above. Photographs with dark backgrounds should be avoided. Slides are not acceptable. Electronic photographs and scanned images must have a resolution of at least 600dpi for black and white images and 300dpi for colour images.

Images downloaded from the Internet such as GIF and JPG files cannot be used.

Charts, graphs, maps, and tables:

Charts, graphs, maps, and tables that are larger than the standard page should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. It is recommended that oversized pages (large charts, graphs, and plates) be reduced, if possible, but notations or writing on them must be easily legible and no smaller than 9 points.


If copyrighted material is included in the MRP (such as questionnaires, graphs, tables, maps, illustrations, web pages etc.), the student must submit a letter of permission from the copyright holder (i.e. the creator) granting permission to use their material. All materials copied from web sites are considered to be copyrighted unless a statement on the site explicitly says otherwise, in which case a copy of that public domain statement must be submitted with your MRP. Failure to include proof of public domain or a permission letter from the copyright holder is a serious offence.

This letter of permission should be addressed to the student and a copy should be included at the back of each submitted MRP. Referencing or citing the material in the MRP is not sufficient. MRP with outstanding copyright infractions will not be accepted until corrected by the student.

The student is responsible obtaining a letter of permission early on in the process or this could delay the submission of their final copy of the MRP.


All MRP must have an abstract included. The following technical guidelines must be followed:

  • Font size must be a minimum of 10 points and 10-15 characters per inch and the lines of text must be double-spaced, on one side of the paper only.
  • The size of the page(s) should be 8 ½” x 11” (21.5 cm x 28 cm), the text reading across the 8 ½” (21.5 cm) dimension.
  • The left-hand margin should be at least 1 ¼” (32 mm), and the remaining three margins at least ¾” (20 mm) to the main text.
  • Symbols, as well as foreign words and phrases, must be clearly and accurately displayed.
  • Do not include graphs, charts, tables, or illustrations in the abstract.

MRP first submission process

The student’s Supervisory Committee should approve the MRP before the formal submission to the SGS.  Once approved, the student should send a digital copy of their MRP in PDF format to the School of Graduate Studies via email (  Once the MRP is received, the SGS will distribute the document to the members of the Examination Committee for review prior to the Defence.

The submitted copy must include a title page and must be presented to the SGS before the stated deadline