Step By Step Guide To Write A Good Research Proposal
A project proposal or research proposal which denote to the very same thing describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will do the research, and the format of a research proposal varies between the fields of studies, but most proposals should contain at least these few components
- Title page
- Literature review
- Research design
- Reference list
The above outline covers the primary components of a research proposal, there may be some variation in how the sections are named or divided, but the overall goals are always the same. Here, this will article takes you through a basic research proposal template and explains what you need to include in each part.
Purpose of a research proposal
Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal to get your thesis or dissertation plan approved.
All research proposals are designed to persuade someone — such as a funding body, educational institution, or supervisor — that your project is worthwhile.
Research proposal aims
Convince the reader that your project is interesting, original and important
Show that you are familiar with the field, you understand the current state of research on the topic, and your ideas have a strong academic basis
Make a case for your methodology, showing that you have carefully thought about the data, tools, and procedures you will need to conduct the research
Confirm that the project is possible within the practical constraints of the program, institution or funding
How long is a research proposal?
The length of a research proposal varies dramatically. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for Ph.D. dissertations and research funding are often very long and detailed.
Although you write it before you begin the research, the proposal’s structure usually looks like a shorter version of a thesis or dissertation (but without the results and discussion sections).
Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:
- The proposed title of your project
- Your name
- Your supervisor’s name
- The institution and department
Check with the department or funding body to see if there are any specific formatting requirements.
- Briefly explains what you will be doing, how you will do it, and why you are doing it.
- This section should be brief, clear, and easy to understand because it should explain to the person reading your proposal who may not have the technical knowledge to understand everything you write.
- The length should be one paragraph maximum.
The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project, so make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why. It should:
- Introduce the topic
- Give background and context
- Outline your problem statement and research question(s)
Some important questions to guide your introduction include:
- Who has an interest in the topic (e.g. scientists, practitioners, policymakers, particular members of society)?
- How much is already known about the problem?
- What is missing from current knowledge?
- What new insights will your research contribute?
- Why is this research worth doing?
If your proposal is very long, you might include separate sections with more detailed information on the background and context, problem statement, aims and objectives, and importance of the research.
- By now the goals should have been clearly defined, if not, rewrite.
- The hypothesis is the burning question of your project:
- “I theorize that the ____ will/will not _____.”
It’s important to show that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review convinces the reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said.
This section aims to demonstrate exactly how your project will contribute to conversations in the field.
- Compare and contrast: what are the main theories, methods, debates, and controversies?
- Be critical: what are the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches?
- Show how your research fits in: how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize the work of others?
If you’re not sure where to begin, read our guide on how to write a literature review.
- List the materials you will need, where you will buy it from, and the estimated cost for each item.
- At the bottom, add the sum total for the project.
Research design and methods
Following the literature review, it’s a good idea to restate your main objectives, bringing the focus back to your own project. The research design or methodology section should describe the overall approach and practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.
Methodology in a research proposal
- Will you do qualitative or quantitative research?
- Will you collect original data or work with primary or secondary sources?
- Is your research design descriptive, correlation, or experimental?
- Exactly what or who will you study (e.g. high school students in New York; Scottish newspaper archives 1976-80)?
- How will you select subjects or sources (e.g. random sampling, case studies)?
- When and where will you collect the data?
- What tools and procedures will you use (e.g. surveys, interviews, observations, experiments) to collect and analyze data?
- Why are these, the best methods for answering your research questions?
- How much time will you need to collect the data?
- How will you gain access to participants or sources?
- Do you foresee any potential obstacles, and how will you address them?
Make sure not to simply write a list of methods. Aim to make an argument for why this is the most appropriate, valid, and reliable approach to answering your questions.
- Explain what you are hoping to find from this project and the timeline of your project.
Reference list or bibliography
Your research proposal must include proper citations for every source you have used, and full publication details should always be included in the reference list. To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator.
In some cases, you might be asked to include a bibliography. This is a list of all the sources you consulted in preparing the proposal, even ones you did not cite in the text, and sometimes also other relevant sources that you plan to read. The aim is to show the full range of literature that will support your research project.
- Make sure you proofread your proposal. Grammar errors and punctuation errors reflect negatively upon the reader.
- Ask the professor or graduate student who will be mentoring you to read over the proposal to make sure that they can understand what you have written.
- Remember to go over the guidelines for each program you are applying to because they have specific criteria for what they what in your proposal.
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