Guidelines for Confirmation Report Writing


All PhD students are required to submit a Confirmation Report, which is also called a Thesis Proposal, a Research Proposal or a Qualifying Report, within the first 18-24 months after registration. This document provides information about preparing this report and the basic elements that should be included in it. As the requirements for the content, format and length of a proposal vary across disciplines and departments, you are advised to consult your supervisor before you start working on your proposal.

What is the purpose of a confirmation report?

The main purpose of the report is to provide a clear and carefully prepared outline of the proposed research and explain it regarding its focus and the specific methodological approach. It allows you to establish the validity of the research topic for a PhD dissertation and enables your department to determine whether your proposed methods will yield results and understandings worthy of a doctoral thesis. As your research is still at a preliminary stage, the individual sections in your research plan will not be as comprehensive as in your thesis. However, your report is expected to follow the basic structure of a thesis and generally expected to include the following sections:

Literature Review
Preliminary Results and Analysis
Significance and Implications
Future Plan

The following paragraphs of this document briefly outline the content of the main sections of a confirmation report.


The Abstract is expected to provide a clear and concise summary of the proposed research and include brief statements summarising the content of the sections in the report. It should include enough information to allow the supervisor and members of the examining panel to make preliminary judgements on the significance of the study and its validity for a PhD thesis. The completeness of this section depends on the progress of your study at the time of submission. You may have obtained preliminary results or may be in the stage of finalising the research design. If you have not progressed to this stage, you should elaborate the feasibility of the study and state the results you expect to obtain. This section should not include any references or footnotes.


The Introduction to your Confirmation Report is expected to provide the reader with a good understanding of the study, its theoretical basis and objectives. You will need to introduce your research topic, explain its significance and situate it within a concise yet purposeful review of current research in the field relevant to the research topic. The main purpose of reviewing the literature in your Introduction is to identify the research gap that your proposed research intends to address. An exhaustive Literature Review is presented in a separate section following this concise overview of current research.

You should outline how the proposed research addresses the research gap, outline the main aims and objectives of your proposed research, research questions or hypotheses if any, and justify how the methods adopted will enable you to realise these objectives. You should conclude this section with an overview of the organisation of the different sections of the report.

Literature Review

In a Confirmation Report, the main objectives of the Literature Review are to:

  • identify the central focus and the main themes of the proposed research;
  • demonstrate an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the research topic;
  • establish the context for your proposed research.

To write an effective Literature Review, you should not merely refer to existing research; you need to present a carefully crafted research story which critically evaluates and integrates existing theoretical perspectives and findings to identify aspects of the topic that have yet not been investigated, and justifies the research as an attempt to fill the gap in current research the review has identified. You are also expected to justify your methodological approach to the research, indicate how it will address its objectives and allow you to answer your research questions. Your review of the literature could either be part of the Introduction or be presented as a separate chapter, depending on the extent and depth of your discussion and the nature of your research. Commonly noted shortcomings of literature reviews in Confirmation Reports are:

  • a lack of organisation and structure;
  • a lack of focus and coherence;
  • omission of references to influential research;
  • citing irrelevant and unimportant references.


This section of your report introduces the proposed methodology and methods adopted. You are expected to describe your methods and measures in detail, justify their selection and establish their validity in terms of achieving the aims of the research. You should describe the experiment(s), your calculations and data analysis in a systematic and in-depth manner, and explain your research design. It is also important to explicitly state the reliability and validity of your measures and how they are relevant to your research questions and objectives. All procedures selected must be explained and justified to allow your supervisor to assess the feasibility and generalisability of your research design, the validity of its expected results and the significance of the study for a doctoral thesis.

You should state your hypotheses, propositions, or research questions clearly, and show how they link to existing theory and literature. You also need to defend your proposed methods and demonstrate that they are achievable and worthy of doctoral research. This is even more important if your research has not yielded preliminary results and is still at the design stage, as it will inform the reader about what you intend to do for your proposed research and how you will proceed to achieve your objectives. The length and organisation of this section can vary depending on how the study is designed. Alternative headings for this section could include:

  • Methodology
  • Experimental Design
  • Materials and Methods
  • Algorithm
  • System Model and Problem Formulation

As there is considerable variation across disciplines and universities regarding the requirements for this section, you should refer to your departmental guidelines and consult your supervisor for clarification about how it should be developed.

Preliminary Results and Analysis

This section of your report is a critical indicator of the validity of the research design and methods adopted in terms of achieving the research objectives. It establishes your progress towards completing your doctoral research and the significance and originality of the contribution of the study to the field of study.

You are expected to synthesise the key preliminary results which you have obtained by following the procedures outlined in the Methods section. You should present these results clearly and logically using accurate and clearly labelled graphs, tables and figures and analyse them to establish how they are derived from the procedures described in the Methods section. This chapter may be entitled:

  • Results and Analysis
  • Preliminary Results and Analysis
  • Preliminary Results and Discussion
  • Simulation Results
  • Experimental Results
  • Possible Outcomes

Significance and Implications in Confirmation Reports

In this section of your Confirmation Report, you are expected to establish the significance of the research in both practical and theoretical terms, and outline your initial understanding of how you expect the preliminary results to answer the research questions. This discussion is significant in that it will demonstrate the originality of the research and establish its contribution to the field, and validate the worth of the research for a doctoral thesis.

This section mainly demonstrates what the results mean and identifies their significance particularly in terms of addressing the research objectives. You should hence avoid merely repeating the results and briefly commenting on them. Given the preliminary stage of your research, this section will be quite short. However, you should outline the implications for theory and practice and, if possible, identify limitations of the research methods adopted or difficulties posed by your preliminary results. If you have identified any perceived limitations, you should discuss proposed modifications you intend to make to your research design to demonstrate an in-depth awareness of available methods and how you will proceed to overcome the limitations.

In general, this section includes:

  • a brief statement of the overall aims of the study and a summary of the key results;
  • an interpretation of the results in terms of their implications and the significance of the study;
  • an identification of the limitations of the preliminary results obtained and proposed changes to the research design in response to the limitations identified.

Consider the following questions when developing this section:

  • What are the most significant findings from your preliminary results?
  • To what extent do your preliminary results contribute towards expected outcomes of the study?
  • What generalisations can be made following your preliminary results?
  • Are there any possible limitations of your research design and/or your preliminary results, and how might they impact your research?

As you are at a preliminary stage of your PhD study, your discussion will be tentative and you should avoid making strong, conclusive comments.

Future Plan

In this section, you are expected to outline your plan for the remaining part of your candidature. You should include a timeline for your study stating the estimated completion date for each stage of your research and the expected date of submission.


The list of references should include all sources cited in the thesis. You will need to confer with your supervisor or consult departmental guidelines about the format appropriate for your discipline.

Important points to remember:

  • Your confirmation document should provide all information required in a concise yet comprehensive and logical manner. Its expected length is normally between 50-70 pages.
  • For clarification about the content and structure of your report, confer with your supervisor.
  • In terms of language use in your report, follow academic writing conventions and disciplinary conventions, especially with the use of tenses, voice (active or passive) and the use of the first person plural form ‘we’. You should also be more tentative (i.e. less assertive), especially when interpreting your results and discussing their significance.
  • For more information about the content, structure and language use conventions to follow when preparing your confirmation report, you may refer to this link: