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Research plans

A research plan is a document that doctoral students must prepare to define the objectives their doctoral thesis is aimed at achieving, the methodology and resources they will employ and a timeline for the work to be carried out. Students must submit a research plan by the end of their first year of study, counted from the date of first enrolment. As a general rule, oral presentations of research plans also take place in the first year of study and are conducted in person.

Research plans must include the following elements:

  • A cover with identifying details: title, author, thesis supervisors, the school where the thesis is being completed or the research group, and the submission date (month and year). Do not indicate any personal data, apart from your name and surname (as per the General Data Protection Regulation). You should also indicate your mode of study in the doctoral programme (full- or part-time).
  • Objectives.
  • The state of the art with respect to your research topic.
  • A brief description of the methodology to be used.
  • An approximate timeline for execution. Work plan.
  • References.
  • Appendix (previous results if there are any; no limit on length).

Recommended length: 20–30 pages (not counting the appendix)

Suggested generic template 

Students must publicly defend their research plan before an examination committee made up of three PhD holders. As a general rule, two members of the committee will be professors on the programme and the third will be external to the programme or to the UPC.


Research plan defence periods

There are two research plan defence periods each year, one at the end of each semester, as specified in the calendar below:



2022-2023 academic year

Deadline to give notice

of intention to participate

Deadline for submitting

research plan
Research plan defence date
1st period 17 January 24 January 1-10 February
2nd period 14 June 21 June 3-14 July


1st period: for students who started their doctoral studies in the second semester of the previous academic year

2nd period: for students who started their doctoral studies in the first semester of the current academic year

Students who wish to present their research plan must take the following steps:

  • Enrol for the research plan before the defence date.
  • Send an e-mail to, specifying the period in which they intend to present their research plan (in accordance with the dates indicated on the calendar), with the following details:
    • First name and surname(s).
    • Title of the proposed thesis.
    • Name of the thesis supervisor (or the tutor if the thesis supervisor is external to the UPC)
  • Upload their research plan at Atenea PhD in the specific section for research plans. (It is not necessary to submit any printed copies.) Until a research plan has been validated by the thesis supervisor, updated versions may be uploaded as many times as necessary. (The thesis supervisor will receive a notification every time the file is modified.)
  • Research plans must be in PDF format so that they can be analysed by the UPC’s anti-plagiarism system.

Thesis supervisors will validate proposals via the same platform. Once validated, proposals are final.

The research plan defence consists of a 15- to 20-minute oral presentation (PowerPoint or similar), followed by comments and questions from the examination committee (5–10 minutes). A mark of "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory” will be awarded. Doctoral students may improve and add details to their research plan over the course of their studies. Students must receive a positive assessment to remain in their programme. If the academic committee identifies significant deficiencies, it may require that the doctoral student re-submit their research plan in the next period.


Industrial doctorates may be subject to confidentiality provisions that require the prior authorisation of the company involved for certain data to be made public. Doctoral students are responsible for requesting authorisation, if required, as provided in the applicable agreement.

If a company requires the application of confidentiality measures in relation to the presentation of a student's research plan, this requirement must be stipulated in the agreement in effect. The following documents must be submitted to the Academic Management Service for doctoral studiest:

  • Confidentiality request form. The need for confidentiality measures must be justified, and the original copy of the form, signed by the author and thesis supervisor, must be submitted.

    Confidentiality requests must be authorised by the programme coordinator.

  • A copy of the agreement in force

If a request is authorised, the EEBE Academic Service will require committee members to sign a confidentiality agreement before they have access to the research plan.

Examination committees

Examination committees for each research plan presentation period will be established by doctoral programme coordinators.

The thesis supervisors and tutors of doctoral students who will be presenting their research plans during a given period may not participate as examination committee members. Therefore, the members appointed will depend on the students taking part.

Research plan presentations are public events. Accordingly, the EEBE Academic Service will communicate the appointment of each committee to its members and to the students and departments concerned.

Measures to ensure confidentiality

If a research plan includes points that affect confidentiality and/or intellectual or industrial property, the committee may establish mechanisms to maintain confidentiality and protect IP. Such mechanisms may affect the public defence of the research plan.