You are required to submit a coherent research proposal on a certain engineering topic chosen… 1 answer below »

Griffith School of Engineering and Built Environment
7001ENG Research Methods for Engineers, Trimester 1, 2019
Instructions to final assignment – Research Proposal
Task description: You are required to submit a coherent research proposal on a certain engineering topic chosen
by you. The aim of this assignment is to assess your knowledge and understanding related to conducting a research
project and skills in writing a research proposal. It includes the delivery of a structured research proposal, which
contains the essential elements of a proposal, as discussed in the lectures. This assignment contributes in part to
your total understanding of the scientific research process, including initial definition of the research problem,
generation of research questions, recommendations for undertaking the research, and dissemination of research
findings. The overall objective of this assignment is for you to give a comprehensive, well structured, and
methodical approach, with adequate supporting literature references, on HOW the particular selected research topic
needs to be investigated. You are NOT expected to conduct actual research in the selected topic.
Due Date: Monday, 27th May 2019 at 23:59.
Weight: 55
Marked out of: 100
Type of assignment: research-based, individual assignment
Research topic: You may select any research topic that has relevance to your Engineering field.
Submission: Name your proposal as sXXXXX_Proposal.docx, where sXXXXX represents your student number.
Submit your research proposal through Learning@Griffith, where a submission point will be available under
“Assessment”. Your submission will be checked for plagiarism using text-matching software (Turnitin); therefore,
make sure your work is original and has never been submitted before, either at Griffith University or elsewhere.
Before submitting your final version, use the ‘Draft Submission’ point to check the ‘originality report’. You can
submit and re-submit your draft as many times as you want to check this report. Each time you upload your draft,
the system will generate a new originality report, showing the percentage of similarity between your submitted
work and a database of other published work. As a guide, a returned percentage below 15% would probably
indicate that plagiarism has not occurred. So please make sure your similarity is below 15%. The draft submission
point is only for you to check the Turnitin originality report for your submission. Your draft submission will not be
checked / marked.
Late submission: An assessment item submitted after the due date, without an approved extension from the course
convenor, will be penalised. The standard penalty is the reduction of the mark allocated to the assessment item by
10% of the maximum mark applicable for the assessment item, for each working day or part working day that the
item is late. Assessment items submitted more than five working days after the due date are awarded zero marks.
Length of the research proposal: 2000-2500 words. The tolerance in word limit is +10%. The list of references,
provided at the end of your research proposal, will not count towards the word limit.
Report template: You MUST use the report template provided on L@G. Reports provided in other formats
will not be accepted and will be awarded zero marks.
Learning resources: You should use these assignment instructions together with the information provided in the
lectures from week 07 onwards.
Required elements (structure) of a research proposal:
1. Project title:
As described in the lectures, your title should serve as a ‘mini abstract’ of your investigation. Check the examples
provided in the lecture slides.
2. Project summary:
Length: 200-300 words. Every proposal should have a summary. The summary speaks for the proposal, provides
the readers with their first impression of the project, and, by acting as a summary, provides the readers with their
last impression. To present the essential meaning of the proposal, the summary should summarize the significance
(need) of the work, the major aim of the project, the procedures to be followed to accomplish the aim, and the
potential impacts of the work. Though it appears first, the summary should be edited last, as a concise summary of
the proposal. Please refer to lecture notes on how to write an effective project summary.
3. Keywords:
Choose between 3 and 5 keywords related to your study. Please refer to lecture notes on how to formulate effective
4. Introduction:
An effective introduction discusses the meaningfulness of the study with presentation of the problem or issue. It
serves as an argument advocating the need of study for your chosen object and gives a clear insight into your
intentions. It is in the introduction section that you will use a persuasive language, convincing the readers that your
research is important and will advance knowledge in your field.
The introduction section should cover the following topics in some form:
Contextualization and presentation of the topic/object under investigation: Explain the background of your study
starting from a broad picture. This introduction should be at a level that makes it easy to understand for readers
with a general science background.
Benefits of the topic/object under investigation: clearly articulate why your research subject is important,
highlighting its benefits to the economy, society, environment, etc.
A review of previous studies in the area under investigation with statements of what is lacking in the current
knowledge: Provide information about what other researchers have found regarding the subject under investigation
(literature review), identifying research gaps in the field (i.e., research needs).
Aims and objectives: Start by providing a single goal statement (the “overarching aim”) that explains what the
study intends to accomplish, followed by more specific objectives.
A few typical goal statements are:
The overarching aim of this study is to…
… overcome the difficulty with …
… discover what …
… understand the causes or effects of …
… refine our current understanding of …
… provide a new interpretation of …
… identify the issues…
… evaluate the impacts of…
… investigate the relationship between…
Example: The overarching aim of this study is to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the hydrodynamic
behaviour of the Nerang River, Australia, and recommend adaptation and mitigation strategies to minimise the
risks of flooding in the Nerang River catchment.
After providing the overarching aim, you must provide the several objectives (specific targets) that support the aim
of the research investigation. Remember that objectives are time-specific, and always follow a logical order.
The specific objectives of this research are:
– To collect and analyse river discharge data from the Nerang River;
– To calibrate and validate a hydrodynamic model for the Nerang River using the collected data;
– To simulate the hydrodynamics of the Nerang River under various climate change conditions;
– To analyse the impacts of climate change on the hydrodynamics of the Nerang River;
– To identify flood frequency and risk, and recommend adaptation and/or mitigation options for the Nerang
River catchment.
Note: the overarching aim is a broad statement. The objectives are specific actions you will take in order to reach
the overarching aim. They are listed in a logical sequence.
The words “aim” and “objective” are often confused with each other. They both describe things that a person may
want to achieve or attain; however, each is different in its scope. Aims are more global in nature. They are the big
vision and are more general in wording. Objectives are more specific and defined in nature. They are time-related
to achieve a certain task, and are the measurable outcomes of activities undertaken to achieve the aims; they are
described as achieved or not achieved. Obviously, objectives should align with the study’s aims.
Note: It is in the introduction section that most of your references should be cited. You must show that you
have looked through the literature and have found the latest updates in your field of study in order for a proposal to
be convincing to an audience. This process also helps you to be sure that your investigation is not just “reinventing
the wheel.” A discussion of the present understanding and/or state of knowledge concerning the problem or issue
sets the context for your investigation.
Introduction sub-sections: it is sometimes convenient to break down the Introduction section into smaller sections,
for example:
1. Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Aims and objectives
Find below an example of an introduction section taken from a research proposal entitled: “Optimised Wastewaterto-Brine
PRO-RO Systems: Laboratory and Modelling Studies”:
You will see that the following paragraphs provide context (first paragraph), as well as benefits / importance of the
subject under investigation, Wastewater-to-Brine PRO-RO Systems (second paragraph):
From 2013 to 2016, the global amount of fresh drinking water produced through seawater reverse osmosis (RO)
desalination increased from 25 million m3
to 36 million m3
[1] and this amount will continue to rise because of
the increasing strain on freshwater resources imposed by population growth, economic development, droughts and climate
change [2]. Despite drought relief, the boom in RO desalination will exacerbate environmental issues by increasing energy
demands and the production of waste brine [3,4]. Such issues are driving interest and innovation in RO systems powered by
clean, emission-free renewable energy sources, and safer methods to dispose of brine [6]. At the same time, the expansion
of urban populations and economic development is leading to greater quantities of municipal wastewater effluent, which,
like desalination brine, has only marginal economic value [7]. It is known that substantial benefits could accrue from
utilising these two residual solutions to generate clean, renewable energy from their salinity differences using a membranebased
technique called pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO) [5]. The PRO technique involves a semi-permeable membrane that
separates a low-salinity feed solution stream (e.g. wastewater effluent) from a high-salinity draw solution stream (e.g. RO
desalination brine). As water moves from the feed solution side to the draw solution side to equalise the osmotic pressure
on the two sides, chemical potential is transformed into hydraulic pressure in the draw solution side. The volume expansion
is restricted to increase the hydraulic pressure in this side, and the resulting pressurised flow can be used to spin hydro
turbines for electrical power production or can be used directly to supplement the mechanical load required for RO
desalination systems [8,18].
The integration of renewable energy generation from wastewater-to-brine PRO with seawater desalination via RO (referred
to as wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO systems) has been recently suggested as a potential approach to reducing energy
demands of RO desalination systems and mitigating the impacts caused by the discharge of RO concentrated brine into the
ocean [e.g. 5,9–14]. In wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO systems, PRO is used to supply some of the power requirements of
the RO desalination process [5,9–14], reducing the costs of the fresh drinking water production with RO. Compared with
other sources of renewable energy used in RO desalination, such as wind and solar energies, which have intermittent and
variable intensities [4], PRO has potential to provide a much more stable and continuous supply of baseload power, and
achieve a significantly smaller footprint area [5,9,11]. Moreover, the environmental impacts of RO desalination can be
significantly reduced with PRO, as the brine generated in the RO process is diluted back to seawater concentration in the
PRO process prior to its discharge in the ocean. As well as reducing energy requirements and disposing of residual waters
safely and beneficially, wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO systems offer an opportunity to add economic value to unexploited,
low-cost residual streams that would otherwise be wasted [5,9]. Therefore, wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO systems are
potential candidates for producing drinking water with lower cost and minimum environmental impacts.
The following paragraph provides a review of previous studies with identification of research gaps (last sentence,
in particular).
Studies have demonstrated that the extractable energy from the mixing of a fluid with a concentration similar to wastewater
effluent and a fluid with a concentration similar to desalination brine is 1.5 kWh per m3
of feed [9,16]. In a previous study
conducted at Griffith University, it was demonstrated that a seawater-to-brine PRO plant, utilising brine from the Perth
(Australia) desalination plant, could generate energy to offset around 10% of the power used in the desalination process
[15,17]. This energy offset would be higher if wastewater effluent was used, because the salinity gradient with brine would
be significantly enhanced [14]. In another study, simulations using brine from a projected desalination plant and wastewater
effluent from an existing treatment plant in Brisbane showed that a 5.0 MW PRO facility would be feasible to be
implemented [5]. Modelling studies conducted in Singapore [1] have shown that the specific energy consumption of a
PRO-RO system could be reduced to 1.0 kWh per m3
of produced fresh drinking water, which is about 40% of the specific
energy of current state-of-the-art RO desalination plants, representing a significant energy savings. Another modelling
study has shown that RO specific energy consumption could be reduced even further with an optimised dual-stage PRORO
system configuration [12,17]. Recently, the Japanese Megaton project announced the implementation of a pilot PRO
system that will recover the salinity gradient energy from RO brine and wastewater effluent using newly developed
membrane modules [13]. These findings and follow-up initiatives suggest that investigations of wastewater-to-brine PRORO
systems are warranted. However, there is still an urgent need to quantify the actual energy savings in these systems, and
to find forms to increase the energy efficiency, such as optimum plant configuration and membrane properties.
The following paragraphs provide the overarching aim and specific objective of the study:
The overarching aim of this project is to investigate various technical aspects related to wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO
systems, assisting in the development of optimised, energy-efficient systems to produce clean water with low cost and
minimum environmental impact.
The specific objectives of this project are:
? Objective 1. With laboratory approaches, to quantify the energy consumption of a wastewater-to-brine PRORO
system, and compare it with the energy consumption of a standalone RO system.
? Objective 2. With laboratory approaches, to determine the power efficiency of a wastewater-to-brine PRORO
? Objective 3. With laboratory approaches, to determine the optimum operating pressure of a wastewater-tobrine
PRO-RO system.
? Objective 4. To develop a novel mathematical model to assess the power consumption and energy efficiency
of wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO systems.
? Objective 5. To calibrate the above model using the data obtained from Objectives 01, 02 and 03.
? Objective 6. To study various wastewater-to-brine PRO-RO system configurations and membrane properties
using the calibrated model from Objective 05.
5. Methodology:
This is where you will outline the strategy for conducting your investigation in order to achieve your aims and
objectives. In other words, this is where you will describe your research approach (i.e., how to conduct the study).
Note: you are NOT expected to conduct actual research in the selected topic, only describe HOW you plan to do it.
When it comes to constructing your research plan, one of the most important factors to keep in mind is that of
alignment between your aim, objectives and methodology. In the methodology section, you must describe
clearly how each of the objectives will be achieved. If possible, please use this standard sentence: “Objective 1 will
be accomplished through/by….”. Then describe the methods and materials used, laboratory set-up, important
formulas, tools (e.g., computational models, surveys), data collection process, data analysis, etc.
Consider these aspects when writing your methodology:
Will you have to collect data for your investigation? How will data be collected? Will you use secondary data
(collected by other researchers or available through databases)? Will you have to run lab experiments to collect
data? Will you conduct field work? How will lab experiments and field work be set up? What measuring
instruments will you use? How will the collected data be analysed? What comparisons will be made? What
variables will be investigated / correlated? What calculations will be made (show formulas for better
understanding)? What resources will you need (laboratories, computer, personnel, instruments, software packages)?
Will you interview people / conduct a survey? How will these interviews be conducted? Will you need ethical
approval for the survey? Will you use computer modelling and simulation in your analyses (describe your computer
models)? Will you conduct a literature-based research? What will you look at in the literature and what
comparisons and analyses will be made? Have you linked your methodology with your research aims and
objectives? Will you use a case study? If so, please describe the studied area/organisation/project and state why it is
important to study this area/organisation/project, and how the results of the project will be useful to other
areas/organisations/projects (i.e., the “transferability” concern of a research project).
Frequently asked questions (from students from previous offerings):
Can my methodology be entirely literature-based? Yes. While all research proposals will include a literature review
in the introduction section, it is possible to produce a research proposal in which the methodology that you are
recommending for the project is entirely based on a review of the literature. If you do this, it is important to review
the literature from an explicit angle and identify some themes to make the review distinctive from what is shown in
the introduction. A research proposal that has a literature-based methodology usually involves the selection and
discussion of theoretical material and detailed comparison of theories in terms of their applicability. You might ask
how useful certain concepts or theories are for understanding particular patterns of behaviour in engineering. You
might ask the advantages and disadvantages of an engineering method. You may review methods available for
estimating engineering parameters, and talk about the implications of choosing such methods.
Remember that in literature-based research projects, the focus of attention is not so much to discover something
novel for an engineering field, as to reach a judgement about the value of key concepts or theories that already exist
in that engineering field.
Examples of project titles based on literature review methodology: “Review of factors influencing the performance
of strain gauges”; “Review of the models available for climate change predictions and implication of their use for
temperature change predictions”; “Review of trend analysis and climate change projections of extreme
precipitation and floods in Europe”; “A review of the advancements made in solar power technology in the last
decade and future trends”.
Can my methodology involve a case study? Yes. Here the focus of attention is on a particular community, a region,
an organisation or an existing engineering project or development. The attraction of this kind of research is that it
stems from empirical curiosity but is at the same time practical. You may be interested in a wider question but a
case study enables you to focus on a specific example. A major challenge in case study research is connecting your
own primary research or re-analysis with the broader theoretical themes and empirical concerns of the existing
literature. Remember that the outcomes of the investigation have to be transferrable (i.e. useful to other contexts or
Examples of project titles based on case studies: “Qualitative assessment of transit needs: the Nebraska case”;
“Ensemble streamflow forecasting experiments in a tropical basin: the São Francisco river case study”;
“Environmental impacts from seawater desalination plants: a case study of the northern Red Sea”; “Challenges to
urban transport sustainability and smart transport in a tourist city: the Gold Coast case study”; “Burj Dubai: an
architectural technical design case study”; “Structural systems and tuned mass dampers of super-tall buildings: case
study of Taipei 101”.
Can my methodology involve a survey? Yes. Some research projects want to collect and analyse the opinion of
people on an engineering product or idea, or to seek information to assist in the developing of a new product or
idea; in these cases, a well-structured survey methodology should be used. Example of research project titles
involving survey methodologies: “The perception of the male population with colour blindness on the colour
scheme used in traffic lights”; “The opinion of male and female travellers on the sizes of airline seats”; “Improving
airport organisation performance: a survey research based on the Dubai International Airport case study”. You can
see that the surveys always intend to improve the quality of life of human beings, which is the main overarching
purpose of engineering research.
6. Dissemination of findings:
Describe the strategy that you intend to adopt in order to disseminate the results of your research project, reaching
as wide an audience as possible. Example: writing research papers and publishing them in peer-reviewed journals
related to your field (what is the target journal, what is its impact factor?), participating in conferences, giving
interviews, organising workshops, etc. You must discuss your strategy to reach the scientific community, general
public and practitioners.
7. Estimated project timeline:
For this assignment, assume that you are given between 1 and 2 years to complete your project (set the maximum
time at your choice). To build the timeline, you will need to map out what you will do and when you will do it
(suggestion: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly). Your objectives must also be mapped out in your timeline. You should
also include time to prepare and submit publications related to the project, and any other strategy used to
disseminate the research findings (for example, attending and presenting a paper in a conference). The timeline
may take the form of a chart (like a Gantt chat) or flowchart, or any other organizer you choose.
Consider the following questions when setting up your schedule: When will your research start and finish? Are
there particular stages to the research (example, laboratory set-up, data collection, interviews?) What objectives
have I set for this investigation? Have they been addressed in the timeline? Is the timetable realistic/feasible? Have
I included my strategies to disseminate the findings?
8. References:
It is essential that research proposals include a list of references at the end. Please ensure that all work cited in the
text is included in the reference list, and that the dates and authors given in the text match those in the reference list.
You must also ensure that all references in your reference list have been cited in the main body of the proposal.
For this assignment, students must present supporting material from at LEAST six (6) journal papers published in
journals with an Impact Factor (for example, Journal of Automation in Construction, IF = 2.4). Although
mandatory, the list of references will not count towards the word limit.
Note: Reference styles vary greatly across disciplines and across publications. Each time you prepare a paper for
submission in a journal, you should check the reference style required for that particular journal (the style is usually
provided in the journal’s website).
For this assignment, you will use the format specified in the research proposal template provided on L@G.
Some other elements of a research proposal that may be included in your assignment but will not be assessed are:
“Expected Outcomes”, “Expertise of the Research Team”, “Researchers’ Roles”, “Budget”, “Facilities”,
“Limitations”, “Management plan”, and “Feasibility of the project”. If you decide to include some of these
elements in your research proposal, be aware that these will not count towards the word limit and towards your
Criteria & Marking: You are expected to demonstrate a sound understanding of how to plan and design a
research project and write a research proposal. Marks will be given for various criteria as following:
WEIGHT EXCELLENT (100% of the available marks) POOR (0% of the available marks) MARK
Project title, summary
and keywords (weight:
The title chosen serves as a mini-abstract of the investigation. The project summary is within word
limits; the summary speaks for the proposal when it is separated from it, providing the reader with
an idea of the issue under investigation, the importance and significance of the study, and methods
to be used. At least 3 keywords are provided and these are connected to the topic under
investigation and are different from the words provided in the title of the proposal.
Poor choice for a title; project summary and
keywords not present.
Introduction (weight:
The topic/object under investigation is clearly introduced with appropriate background information
and contextualization, with facts backed up with appropriate references. Previously published
literature is discussed and research gaps and issues are identified. The aims and objectives are
appropriately formulated and clearly presented. The topic is relevant, and the proposed study will
address an issue that has never been investigated before. The language used is persuasive and
convinces the reader that the project is important, and is novel.
The introduction section is not present, or the
introduction does not provide the reader with
background information, significance of the
research, research aims and objectives.
Methodology (weight:
The strategy recommended for conducting the investigation, and achieving the aims and objectives
of the study, is sound and feasible. The methodology is presented in a clear and logical way,
explaining how data will be collected and analysed, and how each objective will be
achieved/addressed. The methodological strategy seems to successfully lead to an answer to each of
the specific objectives, and to the overarching aim (strong alignment between objectives and
methodology). The methodology is transferable and replicable.
The methodology section is not present, or the
methods described will unlikely lead to an
answer to the research question(s); or the
methods are poorly described (illogical)
Project timeline and
dissemination of results
(weight: 10%)
The timeframe is feasible. All tasks involved in the investigation are mapped out in the chart.
Specific objectives are clearly displayed on the timeline. A sound strategy to disseminate the results
of the study is provided, including mechanisms to disseminate the project outcomes to the scientific
community, to the public and practitioners.
The timeframe is not feasible and many tasks are
missing in the chart; there is no strategy to
disseminate the results of the study or the
strategy provided is not feasible.
Report structure,
presentation and
organisation (weight:
Required template has been used. The research proposal is logically organised. All the essential
elements of a research proposal (title, summary, keywords, introduction, methodology,
dissemination of findings, timeline, references) are present. Appropriate sections and sub-sections’
headings to separate content are used. Figures & tables (if provided) have high-quality resolution,
are numbered, captioned, & are discussed in the text. Captions of figures and tables are wellwritten
and placed accordingly. Equations are appropriately presented.
None of the elements expected are present in the
research proposal. Poorly organised and
Writing (weight: 10%)
Research proposal contains no grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. A high standard of
writing and excellent expression have been demonstrated (fluency, correct word choice,
conciseness, and logic). Correct paraphrasing style has been used. The size of the research
proposal is within word limits.
Many errors, which significantly limits the
understanding of the content.
Citations and references
(weight: 10%)
In-text citations and references are presented in the style provided in the template. At least 6
references from journals with IF have been used. References are provided for important statements
and these are from high quality, genuine sources (preferably from peer-reviewed journal papers
and books).
No references have been used to support
arguments, or if used, these are of poor quality
and unreliable.

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