The RPE is a four-month research exercise, designed to provide a time-constrained but otherwise realistic simulation of PhD-level research activity, including the formulation of a research plan, full engagement of the supervisory relationship, tangible progress towards the fulfillment of the research plan, and presentation, both oral and written, of the research outcomes. Although the RPE project might well be designed as a component of an on-going research project that will eventually be published, it is understood that the RPE project need not be publishable in isolation. In practice, preliminary or negative outcomes, as long as they are well motivated and well executed, are perfectly acceptable.
The RPE is designed to help mitigate the risks (for both students and supervisors) associated with fast-track entry (PhD-track of the MSc program) to the PhD program. In this context it provides an important check before a commitment to the PhD is finalized. The RPE has also been adopted as a mechanism to provide early feedback to students newly admitted to the PhD program, together with their proposed supervisors, about deficiencies that could portend serious impediments to the timely completion of the PhD degree.