Doctoral School - UAH - Doctoral Thesis - Research Plan

Contents of Research Plan

The Research Plan is a document prepared by students, with the guidance of their tutor and supervisor, in which they draft the planning of the research that will be carried out throughout the doctoral period. Its size and format may vary, but it must include at least the following contents:

  • Title of proposed research
  • Tutor and supervisor(s)
  • Introduction to the subject of research
  • Literature review
  • Working hypothesis / Research questions
  • Proposed goals
  • Methodology to be employed
  • Available means and material resources
  • Schedule
  • Bibliographical references

You can find a template of the plan here:  Research Plan (WORD) 

The Research Plan should also specify whether the proposed methodology requires approval by a Research Ethics Committee (REC).

When does an ERC need to assess the methodology proposed in the research plan? Video presentation: Ethical Research

Assessment is required for all theses with a research phase including:

1) the participation of human beings;

2) the use of biological or biographical material from human beings (such as collecting data from a register, or conducting surveys);

3) the use of animals (animal testing);

4) the use of biological agents or genetically modified organisms.

If in doubt over the need for assessment, please consult the website of the University of Alcalá’s Research Ethics Committee (UAH-REC) (, which includes an FAQs section. As a last resort, please send your query by email to the REC secretariat ( The REC secretariat will decide whether the project requires assessment. Application forms and other information of interest regarding the UAH-REC may be consulted on the same site.

Who performs the assessment?

The University of Alcalá's Research and Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (UAH-REC) or some other accredited committee may be asked to evaluate the research project (although in the latter case it will probably be required to go through the UAH-REC, which will most likely uphold the decision made without carrying out a new evaluation, although this will be studied on a case-by-case basis). In research projects involving medicines or medical devices (e.g. clinical trials with medicines, or post-authorisation studies) the assessment has to be carried out by specially accredited RECs, known as RECms, which are usually based in hospitals (e.g. in any of the 4 hospitals associated with the UAH). Projects that are obliged to be presented before a RECm need not be submitted for evaluation to the UAH-REC.

How are the research plan approval and REC assessment coordinated?

It is important to bear in mind that the REC only evaluate project proposals, in no case studies that have been carried out or are in the process of being carried out. For this reason, if necessary, the evaluation should be requested from the Ethics Committee once the research plan has been drawn up and approved by the thesis supervisor(s) and before it is sent for approval to the Academic Committee for the corresponding programme. Once the evaluation has been requested from the Committee and before it has been decided, in order not to suffer undue delay doctoral students may/should present their Research Plan to the Academic Committee, attaching proof of the request.

However, even if the Academic Committee approves the Research Plan, doctoral students may not carry out the part of the research for which they require the approval of the Ethics Committee until they receive a favourable report from the Committee. Once doctoral students have received a favourable report, they will send it to the Academic Committee for it to be recorded and included in their files and sent to the Doctoral School. If the Ethics Committee's report is negative, doctoral students must present a new Research Plan proposal to the Academic Committee with the changes that this would entail with respect to their initial proposal.

Inclusion of ERC report when requesting permission to defend the doctoral thesis and as an appendix to it

Compliance with the requirement of obtaining a favourable report from the REC where necessary will be checked by the Academic Committee when applying to defend the thesis. This must be reflected in the report that the Academic Committee draws up when authorising the defence. The doctoral student will have to include the corresponding REC report as an annex to the doctoral thesis.

This requirement will be compulsory for students admitted into doctoral studies from academic year 2020-2021 (inclusive) onwards.

Time limits

  • Within the first six months from the date of admission, the students, both part time or full time, will send the Research Plan in PDF format, with the corresponding signatures, to the doctoral programme coordinator. The academic committee will assess this Research Plan as indicated in the  Assessment Report. Should the REC`s approval be required, it should be applied for before submitting the Research Plan to the doctoral programme’s academic committee, and a copy of the application should be enclosed with the Research Plan.

  • Then, the academic committe will have a period of three months to issue the corresponding assement report. In any case, the committe must take into account that this report must be issued within the first nine months from the date of admission of the student.
  • If the report is negative, the student can submit a modified plan within the next 15 days. Once the new version of the plan has been received, the academic committee must issue the second report before twelve months from the date admission of the student.

Once approved by the committee, the Assessment Report and the Research Plan should be submitted to the Doctoral School. Likewise, the academic committee will inform the student of their assessment of the Research Plan.



The Research Plan can be improved and fleshed out throughout the student’s residence on the programme. When significant changes have been made (affecting the title or subject matter, for instance), the academic committee must send the new version of the plan, with its corresponding approval, to the Doctoral School before depositing the Thesis.