Postgraduate Programmes

Information for prospective M & D students.

Dear Prospective M or D Student

This information package is for students who wish to study for an academic (dissertation-only) M degree or a thesis-based D degree in the Department of Psychology at Unisa. If you are interested in the M in Clinical Psychology, the M in Research Consultation or the D in Consulting Psychology, this document is not for you, you will find information about those degrees on this page.

Thank you for expressing an interest in registering for the proposal development module that precedes registering for an academic M or D degree in Psychology. Your application will only be successful if the following two criteria are met:

a) You meet the minimum requirements for enrolling for an M or D degree in Psychology, namely you have an accredited Honours degree in psychology (not industrial, organisational or educational psychology) with a minimum of 60% (to register for an M degree) or an M in psychology (not industrial, organisational or educational psychology) with a minimum of 60% (to register for a D degree).

b) A proposal development supervisor is available for you in the department.

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to find a supervisor and if we are unable to do so you will not be able to register. To help us, you need to do the following:

1. Formulate a topic and identify prospective supervisors

Below you will find a list of research focus areas in the department and the names and profiles of our supervisors. Please look through this information and formulate a topic that fits in with the department’s and our supervisors’ priorities. You will see that we have indicated which supervisors have capacity to take on additional students, but some of the others may again have spare capacity once their current students graduate.

2. Write a brief topic outline

The brief topic outline is not a full research proposal but should make it clear exactly what it is that you want to research for your dissertation or thesis. Below you will find a more detailed description of the format required for your brief topic outline.  

3. Application

Apply via the Unisa website. Applications usually open toward the end of October for the following year. Emailing us is not the same as applying – you have to apply via the Unisa website. The qualification you have to apply for is “Master of Arts in Psychology General (98402 - GEN)” or “98555 Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)”. These are purely academic degrees that do not lead to registration as a psychologist. Be sure to upload your topic outline as part of your application. Your application will be forwarded to us.

We will send your topic outline to potential supervisors and if any are interested and have spare capacity, we will approve your application. If we are unable to find a supervisor, we will unfortunately have to decline your application.

4. Register

Only if we are able to find a supervisor for you and approve your application, will you be able to register. Registration can be done via the Unisa website from January 2022.

Format: Brief topic outline

The topic outline should be 3 to 5 pages long. It is not a full research proposal but should make it clear what it is that you want to research for your dissertation or thesis. Clear arguments, careful proofreading and a good grasp of the background to your study are important. Make sure that you include the following:

Title of research project

Try to find a title that captures the essence of your research project but which is concise and to the point. It should be clear from your title what you want to do. Tip: Look at the titles of articles published in psychology journals (for example in Psychology in Society - This might give you ideas on relevant issues in the field, and it will also illustrate what a good title should look like.

Your name and student number

Indicate your name and student number. If you have previously been registered with Unisa using a different surname, please indicate that.

The names of potential supervisors

Indicate which supervisors you think might be interested in your topic. If you have had contact with potential supervisors, indicate who they are and if they have agreed to supervise you.

The research question

What do you want to research? Provide a description of what question or questions you want to answer in your study. A good research question is one that has the potential to add to existing knowledge. In other words, try to focus on the gaps in current theory or research.


Although you are not required to provide a comprehensive literature overview here, you need to provide a brief overview of some theory and research relevant to your research problem.


Why do you want to do this? You should try to motivate why you believe that this question is interesting or important (not so much to you personally, but more generally in terms of its relevance to psychology as a research discipline).


How will you do the research? Tell us how you intend to conduct your research to address the research problem. Give a brief description of your research design and indicate how you will collect the data (questionnaires, interviews, observation, etc.). In the case of quantitative research, briefly indicate which variables will be measured, what questions will be asked and, if appropriate, list your dependent and independent variables. If you intend to use a more qualitative approach, indicate where the interviews/text you intend to collect will come from and the procedure you will use to collect it. Very briefly, indicate who your participants will be and how they will be sampled. Issues to consider include whether your plan is realistic. For example, do you have access to these participants? You should also briefly reflect on ethical considerations in as far as they are of relevance to your project. How will you analyse the data? Briefly indicate how you intend to analyse the data (measurements or text) once you have collected it. You do not have to give full technical details, but your proposed analysis should be appropriate for the type of data you collect.


It is important that you use academic or scientific sources and not popular literature. List the sources (such as journal articles or books) that you cited in your topic outline. Follow the reference system used by the American Psychological Association (APA). If you are not familiar with the APA system, there are guides at the following websites – _

A brief biographical statement

Write one short paragraph about who you are, e.g. where you have studied, what degrees you have, any research experience you have, and what your current occupation is (if you are employed). If your current position can be helpful in gaining access to data, explain how. Please - no more than one short paragraph.


Last modified: 2021/09/10