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Cracking the assessment criteria code

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

One of the challenges in preparing a proposal is understanding the questions. What precisely are you being asked to address in each assessment criterion? In order to understand the question you first need to understand the terminology. With that in mind, here are our definitions of the essential elements of a proposal.



Significant need /problem / challenge

The significant issue or real-world problem or challenge that that could be addressed by research (with supporting evidence, such as statistics).

Research problem

The limitations of the current research and what new knowledge is needed to tackle the significant need/problem/challenge.


The demonstrable need evidenced through public statements identifying the need/ /problem/challenge.


The point you aspire to be at the end of the project. It signals what you hope to achieve, your overall intention in the project. An aim is generally broad and ambitious, but not beyond possibility.


A proposed explanation/conclusion/finding that your research will test. (Only if required for your field.)

Objectives or Goals

The objectives (there are usually more than one) are the specific, measurable steps you will take to achieve your aim. This is where the project becomes tangible by describing what you are going to do.

Methodology and methods

The specific approach to the research project and the detailed steps you will take to conduct the research. This is where you describe how you will conduct the project.


The publications, tools, frameworks, activities, events, services, and products that enable your research outcomes to reach people.

Expected research outcomes

The new knowledge that will exist at the end of the project that didn’t exist before.


The evidence that your new knowledge is being used. Ideally, these lead to benefits and impact (e.g. through uptake and integration of your research outcomes into policy, or through translation or commercialisation of your research outcomes).

Benefits and impact

The effect the implementation of your research outcomes has beyond academic impact. What have the outcomes of your research enabled? What is being done differently due to the uptake of your research outcomes? What advantages have been gained and by who? These are often grouped into categories of social, economic, health, environmental, cultural and commercial benefits.

Team track record and environment

The specific details of your team’s expertise, experience, and collaborations that make them the best fit to achieve your project aim. This can include the research environment (facilities, resources, technical support) you can collectively access. This should include the specific details of your team’s track record that make them the best to conduct this important research.


The staffing/research capability, equipment, access to data, travel etc that you will need to conduct the research project.

Communication plan (during the study)

The activities and outputs you have planned to ensure you disseminate research progress and outcomes to stakeholders (both academic and non-academic) during the course of the project.

Communication of research outcomes

The activities and outputs you have planned to let the appropriate audience/s know about your project findings and new knowledge after the project is completed or significant milestones have been reached.

Measuring impact

The activities you will conduct during the course of the study and beyond to collect evidence to show your research outcomes are being adopted and are having impact and benefit.


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