Research Proposal & Peer Reviewing


  1. Write a research proposal that combines two or more ideas and/or topics from the previous lectures. You are to write a 5-page research proposal consisting of an introduction placing your idea in context, a problem statement, motivation, research questions, and a proposed idea for tackling the problem. Look up other research proposals online for examples. The proposals will be made available prior to the lecture and subjected to peer review. Submission deadline research proposals:  Friday 7 December 23:59 CET. Submit to Easychair.
  2. Create a research poster (in PDF format) to accompany your idea if you were to present your idea to fellow students. The posters will be made available prior to the lecture and subjected to peer review. Check out the research posters in the corridors of the VU to see what such a poster can look like. Submission deadline for posters: Friday 7 December 23:59 CET. Append your poster to your proposal as our easychair setup only accepts a single submission file. 
  3. Your proposal and poster will be peer reviewed, this means that you are going to review each other’s proposals. We will make available review forms for this, but the questions you can expect are the following (adapted from the LREC2012 review form):
    • Relevance (1-5) where 1 is not relevant and 5 is highly relevant.
    • Knowledge of the field (1-5), where 1 is little if any knowledge of the field and 5 is highly knowledgeable
    • Writing (1-5) where 1 is “the proposal is badly written and its structure is nigh unintelligible” and 5 is “clear and well-written”
    • Originality of the approach (1-5), where 1 is “unoriginal” and 5 is “highly original”
    • Significance of the expected results (1-5) where 1 is “insignificant” and 5 is “highly significant”
    • Overall Assessment (1-5), where 1 is “Poor”, “2” is “Marginal”, 3 is “OK”, 4 is “Good”, and 5 is “Excellent”
    • Reviewer confidence (1-5), where 1 is “do not know the area that well” and 5 “I work in the area, and know it well” (be honest, you will be graded for this too)
    • Detailed comments
  4. Submit your review before Friday 14 December 23:59 CET.
  5. Take the review reports into account when preparing your revised version (which is what reseachers have to do too when we get a paper accepted that needs to be revised for the camera-ready version). Your revised proposal should be accompanied by a response letter in which you state how you dealt with the reviewers’ comments. Submit your revised proposal + poster before Sunday 23 December 23:59 CET.
  6. Create a single slide for your lightning talk during the lecture where you will explain your idea in 1 minute. You will also receive a grade for your lightning talk, so think carefully about the core of your idea and the main message you want to get across and practice your talk! Submission deadline for slides: Friday 7 December 23:59 CET to the Dropbox. Name your pdf file as follows: <LASTNAME>_slide.pdf. Check the slides of Lecture 10 for further details.  

This is an individual assignment! You will be graded separately for your peer review, your proposal, and your presentation on Monday 10 December where you present your idea in a lightning talk of 1 minute.

Reading materials for Research Proposals:

Inspirational reading:

Proposal Template

Here’s a template for a research proposal (adapted from NWO Veni subsidy proposal form)

1a. Details of applicant

Just your name here will do

1b. Title of research proposal

1c. Summary of research proposal

This is the ‘elevator pitch’

1d. Keywords

This is where you say which topics you have combined

2a. Scientific/Scholarly quality

–        Overall aim, key objectives, scientific/scholarly background

–        Problem Statement and Research Questions

–        Originality and/or innovative elements of the topic

–        Research plan (optional: practical timetable)

–        Experimental techniques and/or methodology

–        Originality and/or innovative elements of the approach

2b. Any other important remarks with regard to this application

2c. Literature references

This is not the only way to structure a research proposal. If you want to see some examples, you can look at some research proposals of master’s students here and here. These are also very much in line of the proposals that you will need to write for your thesis, although your proposals will include a more in-depth literature study.


31 Responses to Research Proposal & Peer Reviewing

  1. Snorre Rubin says:

    There is no link to an adapted template. I guess we shouldn’t use the NVO Veni template as such? It has a lot of areas which are not easily defined for us, such as economy…
    Another thing: if we use a reference manager, such as Zotero, what style do you prefer the references be in?

  2. mariekevanerp says:

    Stick to the template you also used for the assignments, the bibliographystyle in there is defined.

    • Snorre Rubin says:

      Just one thing, I am not familiar with LateX and do not want to have to start learning another program at this point. The style in the Word Template looks like IEEE, is that the case? I am already using Zotero to manage my references, so to start to write the in manually would be a bother? Zotero can just change the the style…

      • mariekevanerp says:

        The stylesheets are ACM SIG, this style may have things in common with IEEE (although there are many different styles for different IEEE journals), but you should double check. In no case it should be necessary to put your references in manually, any decent reference manager should be able to output the standard reference styles.

    • Anthony Georgiadis says:

      If we use the template we used for the assignments, then the pages still remain 5? Because I think that this template need more text than others(these for instance that are uploaded as examples) to reach 5 pages.

      • You are to use the assignment proposal. Last year, the research proposal did not make up such a major part of the final assignment so the students wrote slightly shorter proposals.

  3. mariekevanerp says:

    By the way, I would recommend everyone to use a reference manager, in particular when you start writing longer documents (think thesis). I’m very happy with Bibdesk myself, and can also recommend jabref. If you want to keep your reference online, then you can use Mendeley. The big advantage of reference managers is that they format your references for you, doing it manually is a pain, as is wanting to look up references mentioned in a paper that doesn’t have its references organised properly…

    • Snorre Rubin says:

      I can recommend Zotero. It can interface directly with firefox, and through a standalone, with Crome/others, and can collect bibliographic data directly from webpages, e.g. google scholar, or most databases (IEEE, ACM, etc.), so you can import it with a single click. It also lets you share references in a group, using groups.

      • Julien L. says:

        I discovered Reference Managers (my actual study in France isn’t research oriented, so I never wrote a research paper before this semester and probably won’t ever write one again after) during the IIS class, and used Zotero.

        This was simply because Snorre was in my group, and I really appreciated the possibility to manage references as a group. Snorre works with Word, and I use LaTeX, and the integration with both looked like a charm!

  4. Another question: The poster and the slide are two seperate things we have to do? And if yes, what is the difference? The single slide will be used for the lightning talk, whereas the poster..?

    • Snorre Rubin says:

      If I understand it right, the poster is just to show that we can. It is not like the one we made for IIS, if you were in that class, where we had to present it.

    • They are different ways of presenting your work. Often what you see at conferences is that you give a lightning talk and then during the poster session, which usually lasts 1.5 to two hours you have more in-depth discussions with your fellow researchers about your ideas. We will not do such a poster session but we want you to think about and learn how to present abstract research ideas in visual ways, hence the poster assignment. It is often handy to reuse (parts of) your poster for your lightning talk slide (e.g., use the same visualisation and/or running example).

  5. Melvin van Zomeren says:

    Hi I’m still strugling with establishing a research question. I had a good one and started working on it already, but when I asked someone for some information on the topics I recieved papers on the exact subject I wanted to use. The research question I have is: Do search results improve by adding ontologies to database entries?

    I have been thinking about other areas I could research, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything.. Any ideas on where to go from here?

  6. Pim says:

    Is it a big problem if you do not have 5 pages, because I think I now have a rather complete research proposal, but by using the template provided I only get 3,5 pages. But I have the feeling everything I write extra in order to get to 5 pages is not essential information and does not really contribute to my proposal. Also 5 pages in the provided template is rather big for a research proposal in my opinion, especially if you look at existing proposals.

    • If your proposal at this stage is self-contained and intelligible it does not need extra page-filling. Naturally you can still add things to your proposal until the 23rd, when the final version needs to be handed in. Together with the comments you will receive from the peer reviewing on the 15th you should have enough input and time to fill up those 5 pages, if not then you have not done enough explaining, literature research, etc….

  7. I agree with Pim! I don’t want to put dummy information in my proposal in order to have 5 pages. I think mine will be 4 pages maximum.

  8. Pim says:

    Maybe a stupid question, but for the submission of the slide does mean your whole last name (van de Pavoordt) or your last name without prefixes (Pavoordt)? Or doesn’t it matter?

  9. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it gives us a unique and informative filename.

  10. Snorre Rubin says:

    So now that we have the proposals we need to review, those of you who have looked at them have probably run into the same little problem as I have: the proposal is in A4, and the poster is in A1 or even A0. This makes viewing it really irritating, in viewer on mac anyways…

    So I can recommend PDFSam which is open source and available for both PC and Mac, and can split, merge, anything really, with pdfs.
    Split the first submission into proposal in one, and poster in another: this makes it a lot easier to view!

    • Julien L. says:

      You would be surprised by how much power is hidden in the basic “Preview” on Mac OS.

      For instance, if you display the thumbnails (View > Thumbnails or ⌥⌘2) you can manipulate pages directly. To merge the PDF of your poster with the PDF of your proposal, you could just open both PDF in preview, and “Drag’n Drop” the thumbnail of the poster under the thumbnail of your proposal’s last page.

      In a same fashion, splitting the PDF is doable by Copy/Pasting the file. In the first version, delete the laste page by selecting its thumbnail and pressing ⌘+Backspace. (Note that on some versions, ⌘+Backspace deletes the file. You should then try ⌥⌘+Backspace or ⌘⇧+Backspace after getting your file back by selecting Undo or ⌘Z in the Finder…)

      Another useful thing would be when reusing figures from an existing paper, in the case of a vectorial figure which has not been transformed into a bitmap before insertion in the document. By using the cropping function to crop the page around the figure and remove the other pages, you would easily get a PDF of that vectorial figure which you could then insert and keep the “infinite definition” vectorial offers.


  11. Snorre Rubin says:

    And I would like to apologize in advance to those who has to review my proposal, for my mistake in constructing such a HUUUGE poster file.

  12. Snorre Rubin says:

    How do we upload the review forms? I cannot find a upload link/button/area in my role as “PC member”.

  13. Richard H. says:

    You wrote: “This is an individual assignment! You will be graded separately for your peer review, your proposal, and your presentation on Monday 10 December where you present your idea in a lightning talk of 1 minute.”

    1. So are you going to grade the poster too, because its part of the research proposal? It is not listed in the grading list.
    2. Based on your answer of my first question, should we take the poster into account when we write our peer review?

    Thanks in advance.

    • The answer to both questions is yes:

      1 We will also grade your poster as part of your proposal, so you should resubmit that too on the 23rd when you hand in the final version of your proposal. We will not grade your photoshop skills in this but how well you manage to communicate your research idea visually.
      2 as you can see in the review form, there are also some questions about the poster and of course you are free (and encouraged!) to provide more detailed comments about the poster in the text section of your reviews

  14. Astrid says:

    I can see the reviews (including author!) of other reviewers of a paper I have already reviewed… and they have probably seen mine before they wrote theirs. Is that normal?

  15. Yup this is normal in the sense that you can see other reviews in order to resolve possible differences between reviewers. For conferences you sort of want some consensus. But you only see the reviews after you’ve entered your own.

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