P&TX 785: Online Master of Science Research Proposal Preparation Guidelines

  • To satisfy the research requirement for the Online M.S. Program in Pharmacology and Toxicology, students must define a research project within the first semester if they aspire to complete the program in 2 years.
  • Students who anticipate completing the program in > 2 yrs must complete PTX785 by their second semester.
  • The student will be expected to prepare a written proposal describing the nature and goals of the project. 
  • It is suggested that the student work in conjunction with their on-site research mentor and with their KU Pharmacology and Toxicology Faculty Mentor in the selection and definition of the proposed research.
  • The proposal should consist of the following elements: an overall goal or hypothesis, a statement of significance of the research, and a research plan consisting of several specific aims.
  • The following description serves to define expectations regarding proposal preparation.

General Information

  • The proposal should be no more than 4 pages (0.5 in margins, 11-12 point Arial, Times Roman or Calibri font) excluding the reference section.
  • The proposal should state the overall goal of the project, the hypothesis to be tested, 1 - 3 specific aims, a statement of significance and impact of the research and a sufficiently detailed outline of the research approach and time line for completion of the studies. 
  • Please organize as outlined below.

Project Title

  • An appropriate title should be created that describes the overall research topic and be included as part of the specific aims page.

Specific Aims Page

  • This page should define the broad scope of the project, identify your hypothesis and outline some specific experimental aims toward this goal.
  • It is prudent to limit the proposal to no more than 3 aims though this may be adjusted depending on the type of work.
  • This section should be approximately 1 page.

Background and Significance

  • The student should familiarize themselves with published work that is related to the chosen research area. 
  • A short summary of background information that justifies the scientific premise of the study and indicates how the proposed research will impact the field by either significantly extending existing knowledge or challenging existing dogma.

Approach and Anticipated Results

  • The overall project should be envisioned as a series of sub-goals, which as they are individually accomplished, contributes to achieving the overall goal. 
  • The approach section should include a description of the experiments to be conducted, only salient experimental details need to be included. 
  • It should be clearly stated what the anticipated results may be and how these results relate to the achievement of the overall research goal.
  • Briefly discuss any anticipated problems or hurdles that may need to be overcome and alternative directions if applicable.
  • Provide an anticipated timeline to complete the work.
  • The Background and Approach sections should be no more than 3 pages.


  • There is no limit on the bibliographic section but it is prudent to minimize references to those that are directly pertinent to the goals of the project.
  • Appropriate literature citations should be provided in each section of the proposal as justification for the proposed research.
  • The reference list should be constructed to provide full citations listing all authors, year, journal title, volume and page numbers.
  • For electronic resources, doi are sufficient to replace volume and page numbers.

Approval of the Research Proposal and Assignment of the Thesis Committee

  • The student should work with their on-site mentor in preparing this document and submit it to their KU faculty mentor for additional comments.
  • Once your mentors agree that a suitable research proposal has been produced, a Thesis committee comprised of your faculty mentor and 2 additional department members will be assigned.
  • Your on-site mentor will serve as an adjunct member of the Thesis committee.
  • Your proposal will be read by the committee members and you will arrange a Skype conference with the committee and your on-site mentor.
  • At this conference, you will briefly present your proposal (20-30 min presentation) and take questions from the committee.
  • This interaction will allow for everyone involved in your training to meet and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal and come to a consensus about your path forward.