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Components of a research proposal.

In general, the proposal components include:

Introduction: Provides reader with a broad overview of problem in context.

Statement of problem: Answers the question, “What research problem are you going to investigate?”

Literature review: Shows how your approach builds on existing research; helps you identify methodological and design issues in studies similar to your own; introduces you to measurement tools others have used effectively; helps you interpret findings; and ties results of your work to those who’ve preceded you.

Research design and methods: Describes how you’ll go about answering your research questions and confirming your hypothesis(es). Lists the hypothesis(es) to be tested, or states research question you’ll ask to seek a solution to your research problem. Include as much detail as possible: measurement instruments and procedures, subjects and sample size.

The research design is what you’ll also need to submit for approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) if your research involves human or animal subjects, respectively.

Timeline: Breaks your project into small, easily doable steps via backwards calendar.

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:


Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

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As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your 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, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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How to write a research proposal?

Department of Anaesthesiology, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Devika Rani Duggappa

Writing the proposal of a research work in the present era is a challenging task due to the constantly evolving trends in the qualitative research design and the need to incorporate medical advances into the methodology. The proposal is a detailed plan or ‘blueprint’ for the intended study, and once it is completed, the research project should flow smoothly. Even today, many of the proposals at post-graduate evaluation committees and application proposals for funding are substandard. A search was conducted with keywords such as research proposal, writing proposal and qualitative using search engines, namely, PubMed and Google Scholar, and an attempt has been made to provide broad guidelines for writing a scientifically appropriate research proposal.


A clean, well-thought-out proposal forms the backbone for the research itself and hence becomes the most important step in the process of conduct of research.[ 1 ] The objective of preparing a research proposal would be to obtain approvals from various committees including ethics committee [details under ‘Research methodology II’ section [ Table 1 ] in this issue of IJA) and to request for grants. However, there are very few universally accepted guidelines for preparation of a good quality research proposal. A search was performed with keywords such as research proposal, funding, qualitative and writing proposals using search engines, namely, PubMed, Google Scholar and Scopus.

Five ‘C’s while writing a literature review

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Object name is IJA-60-631-g001.jpg


A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer.[ 2 ] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about the credibility, achievability, practicality and reproducibility (repeatability) of the research design.[ 3 ] Four categories of audience with different expectations may be present in the evaluation committees, namely academic colleagues, policy-makers, practitioners and lay audiences who evaluate the research proposal. Tips for preparation of a good research proposal include; ‘be practical, be persuasive, make broader links, aim for crystal clarity and plan before you write’. A researcher must be balanced, with a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. Being persuasive implies that researcher must be able to convince other researchers, research funding agencies, educational institutions and supervisors that the research is worth getting approval. The aim of the researcher should be clearly stated in simple language that describes the research in a way that non-specialists can comprehend, without use of jargons. The proposal must not only demonstrate that it is based on an intelligent understanding of the existing literature but also show that the writer has thought about the time needed to conduct each stage of the research.[ 4 , 5 ]


The contents or formats of a research proposal vary depending on the requirements of evaluation committee and are generally provided by the evaluation committee or the institution.

In general, a cover page should contain the (i) title of the proposal, (ii) name and affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators, (iii) institutional affiliation (degree of the investigator and the name of institution where the study will be performed), details of contact such as phone numbers, E-mail id's and lines for signatures of investigators.

The main contents of the proposal may be presented under the following headings: (i) introduction, (ii) review of literature, (iii) aims and objectives, (iv) research design and methods, (v) ethical considerations, (vi) budget, (vii) appendices and (viii) citations.[ 4 ]


It is also sometimes termed as ‘need for study’ or ‘abstract’. Introduction is an initial pitch of an idea; it sets the scene and puts the research in context.[ 6 ] The introduction should be designed to create interest in the reader about the topic and proposal. It should convey to the reader, what you want to do, what necessitates the study and your passion for the topic.[ 7 ] Some questions that can be used to assess the significance of the study are: (i) Who has an interest in the domain of inquiry? (ii) What do we already know about the topic? (iii) What has not been answered adequately in previous research and practice? (iv) How will this research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this area? Some of the evaluation committees, expect the last two questions, elaborated under a separate heading of ‘background and significance’.[ 8 ] Introduction should also contain the hypothesis behind the research design. If hypothesis cannot be constructed, the line of inquiry to be used in the research must be indicated.

Review of literature

It refers to all sources of scientific evidence pertaining to the topic in interest. In the present era of digitalisation and easy accessibility, there is an enormous amount of relevant data available, making it a challenge for the researcher to include all of it in his/her review.[ 9 ] It is crucial to structure this section intelligently so that the reader can grasp the argument related to your study in relation to that of other researchers, while still demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. It is preferable to summarise each article in a paragraph, highlighting the details pertinent to the topic of interest. The progression of review can move from the more general to the more focused studies, or a historical progression can be used to develop the story, without making it exhaustive.[ 1 ] Literature should include supporting data, disagreements and controversies. Five ‘C's may be kept in mind while writing a literature review[ 10 ] [ Table 1 ].

Aims and objectives

The research purpose (or goal or aim) gives a broad indication of what the researcher wishes to achieve in the research. The hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study. The objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

Research design and method

The objective here is to convince the reader that the overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the research problem and to impress upon the reader that the methodology/sources chosen are appropriate for the specific topic. It should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

In this section, the methods and sources used to conduct the research must be discussed, including specific references to sites, databases, key texts or authors that will be indispensable to the project. There should be specific mention about the methodological approaches to be undertaken to gather information, about the techniques to be used to analyse it and about the tests of external validity to which researcher is committed.[ 10 , 11 ]

The components of this section include the following:[ 4 ]

Population and sample

Population refers to all the elements (individuals, objects or substances) that meet certain criteria for inclusion in a given universe,[ 12 ] and sample refers to subset of population which meets the inclusion criteria for enrolment into the study. The inclusion and exclusion criteria should be clearly defined. The details pertaining to sample size are discussed in the article “Sample size calculation: Basic priniciples” published in this issue of IJA.

Data collection

The researcher is expected to give a detailed account of the methodology adopted for collection of data, which include the time frame required for the research. The methodology should be tested for its validity and ensure that, in pursuit of achieving the results, the participant's life is not jeopardised. The author should anticipate and acknowledge any potential barrier and pitfall in carrying out the research design and explain plans to address them, thereby avoiding lacunae due to incomplete data collection. If the researcher is planning to acquire data through interviews or questionnaires, copy of the questions used for the same should be attached as an annexure with the proposal.

Rigor (soundness of the research)

This addresses the strength of the research with respect to its neutrality, consistency and applicability. Rigor must be reflected throughout the proposal.

It refers to the robustness of a research method against bias. The author should convey the measures taken to avoid bias, viz. blinding and randomisation, in an elaborate way, thus ensuring that the result obtained from the adopted method is purely as chance and not influenced by other confounding variables.


Consistency considers whether the findings will be consistent if the inquiry was replicated with the same participants and in a similar context. This can be achieved by adopting standard and universally accepted methods and scales.


Applicability refers to the degree to which the findings can be applied to different contexts and groups.[ 13 ]

Data analysis

This section deals with the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis including sample size calculation. The researcher is expected to explain the steps adopted for coding and sorting the data obtained. Various tests to be used to analyse the data for its robustness, significance should be clearly stated. Author should also mention the names of statistician and suitable software which will be used in due course of data analysis and their contribution to data analysis and sample calculation.[ 9 ]

Ethical considerations

Medical research introduces special moral and ethical problems that are not usually encountered by other researchers during data collection, and hence, the researcher should take special care in ensuring that ethical standards are met. Ethical considerations refer to the protection of the participants' rights (right to self-determination, right to privacy, right to autonomy and confidentiality, right to fair treatment and right to protection from discomfort and harm), obtaining informed consent and the institutional review process (ethical approval). The researcher needs to provide adequate information on each of these aspects.

Informed consent needs to be obtained from the participants (details discussed in further chapters), as well as the research site and the relevant authorities.

When the researcher prepares a research budget, he/she should predict and cost all aspects of the research and then add an additional allowance for unpredictable disasters, delays and rising costs. All items in the budget should be justified.

Appendices are documents that support the proposal and application. The appendices will be specific for each proposal but documents that are usually required include informed consent form, supporting documents, questionnaires, measurement tools and patient information of the study in layman's language.

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your proposal. Although the words ‘references and bibliography’ are different, they are used interchangeably. It refers to all references cited in the research proposal.

Successful, qualitative research proposals should communicate the researcher's knowledge of the field and method and convey the emergent nature of the qualitative design. The proposal should follow a discernible logic from the introduction to presentation of the appendices.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.


Write a Research Proposal

Structure and content, introduction (to topic and problem), research question (or hypothesis, thesis statement, aim), proposed methodology, anticipated findings, contributions - impact and significance, tables and figures (if applicable).

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The structure and content of a research proposal can vary depending upon the discipline, purpose, and target audience. For example, a graduate thesis proposal and a Tri-Council grant proposal will have different guidelines for length and required sections.

Before you begin writing, be sure to talk with your supervisor to gain a clear understanding of their specific expectations, and continually check in with them throughout the writing process.

  • Organizing your Research Proposal - Template This 6-page fillable pdf handout provides writers with a template to begin outlining sections of their own research proposal.

This template can be used in conjunction with the sections below.

What are some keywords for your research?

  • Should give a clear indication of your proposed research approach or key question
  • Should be concise and descriptive

Writing Tip: When constructing your title, think about the search terms you would use to find this research online.

Important: Write this section last, after you have completed drafting the proposal. Or if you are required to draft a preliminary abstract, then remember to rewrite the abstract after you have completed drafting the entire proposal because some information may need to be revised.

The abstract should provide a brief overview of the entire proposal. Briefly state the research question (or hypothesis, thesis statement, aim), the problem and rationale, the proposed methods, and the proposed analyses or expected results.

The purpose of the introduction is to communicate the information that is essential for the reader to understand the overall area of concern. Be explicit. Outline why this research must be conducted and try to do so without unnecessary jargon or overwhelming detail.

Start with a short statement that establishes the overall area of concern. Avoid too much detail. Get to the point. Communicate only information essential for the reader’s comprehension. Avoid unnecessary technical language and jargon. Answer the question, "What is this study about?"

Questions to consider:

  • What is your topic area, and what is the problem within that topic?
  • What does the relevant literature say about the problem? – Be selective and focused.
  • What are the critical, theoretical, or methodological issues directly related to the problem to be investigated?
  • What are the reasons for undertaking the research? – This is the answer to the "so what?" question.

The following sections - listed as part of the introduction - are intended as a guide for drafting a research proposal. Most introductions include these following components. However, be sure to clarify with your advisor or carefully review the grant guidelines to be sure to comply with the proposal genre expectations of your specific discipline.

Broad topic and focus of study

  • Briefly describe the broad topic of your research area, and then clearly explain the narrowed focus of your specific study.

Importance of topic/field of study

  • Position your project in a current important research area.
  • Address the “So what?” question directly, and as soon as possible.
  • Provide context for the reader to understand the problem you are about to pose or research question you are asking.

Problem within field of study

  • Identify the problem that you are investigating in your study.

Gap(s) in knowledge

  • Identify something missing from the literature.
  • What is unknown in this specific research area? This is what your study will explore and where you will attempt to provide new insights.
  • Is there a reason this gap exists? Where does the current literature agree and where does it disagree? How you fill this gap (at least partially) with your research?
  • Convince your reader that the problem has been appropriately defined and that the study is worth doing. Be explicit and detailed.
  • Develop your argument logically and provide evidence.
  • Explain why you are the person to do this project. Summarize any previous work or studies you may have undertaken in this field or research area.

Research question or hypothesis

  • Foreshadow outcomes of your research. What is the question you are hoping to answer? What are the specific hypotheses to be tested and/or issues to be explored?
  • Use questions when research is exploratory.
  • Use declarative statements when existing knowledge enables predictions.
  • List any secondary or subsidiary questions if applicable.

Purpose statement

  • State the purpose of your research. Be succinct and simple.
  • Why do you want to do this study?
  • What is your research trying to find out?

Goals for proposed research

  • Write a brief, broad statement of what you hope to accomplish and why (e.g., Improve something… Understand something… ). Are there specific measurable outcomes that you will accomplish in your study? 
  • You will have a chance to go into greater detail in the research question and methodology sections.

Background or context (or literature review)

  • What does the existing research on this topic say?
  • Briefly state what you already know and introduce literature most relevant to your research.
  • Indicate main research findings, methodologies, and interpretations from previous related studies.
  • Discuss how your question or hypothesis relates to what is already known.
  • Position your research within the field’s developing body of knowledge.
  • Explain and support your choice of methodology or theoretical framework.

The research question is the question you are hoping to answer in your research project. It is important to know how you should write your research question into your proposal. Some proposals include

  • a research question, written as a question
  • or, a hypothesis as a potential response to the research question
  • or, a thesis statement as an argument that answers the research question
  • or, aims and objects as accomplishment or operational statements

Foreshadow the outcomes of your research. Are you trying to improve something? Understand something? Advocate for a social responsibility?

Research question

What is the question you are hoping to answer?

Subsidiary questions (if applicable)

  • Does your major research question hinge on a few smaller questions? Which will you address first?

Your hypothesis should provide one (of many) possible answers to your research question.

  • What are the specific hypotheses to be tested and/or issues to be explored?
  • What results do you anticipate for this experiment?

Usually a hypothesis is written to show the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Your hypothesis must be

  • An expected relationship between variables
  • Falsifiable
  • Consistent with the existing body of knowledge

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement is a clear, concise statement of what you are arguing and why it is important. For more support on writing thesis statements, check out these following resources:

  • 5 Types of Thesis Statements - Learn about five different types of thesis statements to help you choose the best type for your research.
  • Templates for Writing Thesis Statements - This template provides a two-step guide for writing thesis statements.
  • 5 Questions to Strengthen Your Thesis Statement - Follow these five steps to strengthen your thesis statements.

Aims and objectives

Aims are typically broader statements of what you are trying to accomplish and may or may not be measurable. Objectives are operational statements indicating specifically how you will accomplish the aims of your project.

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How are you going to address the research question?

Be specific and make sure your aims or objectives are realistic. You want to convey that it is feasible to answer this question with the objectives you have proposed.

Make it clear that you know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it will work by relating your methodology to previous research. If there isn’t much literature on the topic, you can relate your methodology to your own preliminary research or point out how your methodology tackles something that may have been overlooked in previous studies.

Explain how you will conduct this research. Specify scope and parameters (e.g., geographic locations, demographics). Limit your inclusion of literature to only essential articles and studies.

  • How will these methods produce an answer to your research question?
  • How do the methods relate to the introduction and literature review?
  • Have you done any previous work (or read any literature) that would inform your choices about methodology?
  • Are your methods feasible and adequate? How do you know?
  • What obstacles might you encounter in conducting the research, and how will you overcome them?

This section should include the following components that are relevant to your study and research methodologies:

Object(s) of study / participants / population

Provide detail about your objects of study (e.g., literary texts, swine, government policies, children, health care systems).

  • Who/what are they?
  • How will you find, select, or collect them?
  • How feasible is it to find/select them?
  • Are there any limitations to sample/data collection?
  • Do you need to travel to collect samples or visit archives, etc.?
  • Do you need to obtain Research Ethics Board (REB) approval to include human participants?

Theoretical frame or critical methodology

  • Explain the theories or disciplinary methodologies that your research draws from or builds upon.

Materials and apparatus

  • What are your survey or interview methods? (You may include a copy of questionnaires, etc.)
  • Do you require any special equipment?
  • How do you plan to purchase or construct or obtain this equipment?

Procedure and design

What exactly will you do? Include variables selected or manipulated, randomization, controls, the definition of coding categories, etc.

  • Is it a questionnaire? Laboratory experiment? Series of interviews? Systematic review? Interpretative analysis?
  • How will subjects be assigned to experimental conditions?
  • What precautions will be used to control possible confounding variables?
  • How long do you expect to spend on each step, and do you have a backup plan?

Data analysis and statistical procedures

  • How do you plan to statistically analyze your data?
  • What analyses will you conduct?
  • How will the analyses contribute to the objectives?

What are the expected outcomes from your methods? Describe your expected results in relation to your hypothesis. Support these results using existing literature.

  • What results would prove or disprove your hypotheses and validate your methodology, and why?
  • What obstacles might you encounter in obtaining your results, and how will you deal with those obstacles?
  • How will you analyze and interpret your results?

This section may be the most important part of your proposal. Make sure to emphasize how this research is significant to the related field, and how it will impact the broader community, now and in the future.

Convince your reader why this project should be funded above the other potential projects. Why is this research useful and relevant? Why is it useful to others? Answer the question “so what?”

Specific contributions

  • How will your anticipated results specifically contribute to fulfilling the aims, objectives, or goals of your research?
  • Will these be direct or indirect contributions? – theoretical or applied?
  • How will your research contribute to the larger topic area or research discipline?

Impact and significance

  • How will your research contribute to the research field of study?
  • How will your research contribute to the larger topic addressed in your introduction?
  • How will this research extend other work that you have done?
  • How will this contribution/significance convince the reader that this research will be useful and relevant?
  • Who else might find your research useful and relevant? (e.g., other research streams, policy makers, professional fields, etc.)

Provide a list of some of the most important sources that you will need to use for the introduction and background sections, plus your literature review and theoretical framework. 

What are some of the most important sources that you will need to use for the intro/background/lit review/theoretical framework? 

  • Find out what style guide you are required to follow (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  • Follow the guidelines in our Cite Your Sources  Libguide to format citations and create a reference list or bibliography.

Attach this list to your proposal as a separate page unless otherwise specified.

This section should include only visuals that help illustrate the preliminary results, methods, or expected results.

  • What visuals will you use to help illustrate the methods or expected results?
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Writing Research Proposals

The research proposal is your opportunity to show that you—and only you!—are the perfect person to take on your specific project. After reading your research proposal, readers should be confident that…

  • You have thoughtfully crafted and designed this project;
  • You have the necessary background to complete this project;
  • You have the proper support system in place;
  • You know exactly what you need to complete this project and how to do so; and
  • With this funding in hand, you can be on your way to a meaningful research experience and a significant contribution to your field.

Research proposals typically include the following components:

  • Why is your project important? How does it contribute to the field or to society? What do you hope to prove?
  • This section includes the project design, specific methodology, your specific role and responsibilities, steps you will take to execute the project, etc. Here you will show the committee the way that you think by explaining both how you have conceived the project and how you intend to carry it out.
  • Please be specific in the project dates/how much time you need to carry out the proposed project. The scope of the project should clearly match the timeframe in which you propose to complete it!
  • Funding agencies like to know how their funding will be used. Including this information will demonstrate that you have thoughtfully designed the project and know of all of the anticipated expenses required to see it through to completion.
  • It is important that you have a support system on hand when conducting research, especially as an undergraduate. There are often surprises and challenges when working on a long-term research project and the selection committee wants to be sure that you have the support system you need to both be successful in your project and also have a meaningful research experience. 
  • Some questions to consider are: How often do you intend to meet with your advisor(s)? (This may vary from project to project based on the needs of the student and the nature of the research.) What will your mode of communication be? Will you be attending (or even presenting at) lab meetings? 

Don’t be afraid to also include relevant information about your background and advocate for yourself! Do you have skills developed in a different research experience (or leadership position, job, coursework, etc.) that you could apply to the project in question? Have you already learned about and experimented with a specific method of analysis in class and are now ready to apply it to a different situation? If you already have experience with this professor/lab, please be sure to include those details in your proposal! That will show the selection committee that you are ready to hit the ground running!

Lastly, be sure to know who your readers are so that you can tailor the field-specific language of your proposal accordingly. If the selection committee are specialists in your field, you can feel free to use the jargon of that field; but if your proposal will be evaluated by an interdisciplinary committee (this is common), you might take a bit longer explaining the state of the field, specific concepts, and certainly spelling out any acronyms.

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9 Components of a Research Proposal

A research proposal can be divided into many different steps but all of these configurations serve to demonstrate two qualities to your reader: that (1) there is an important question which needs answering; and (2) you have the capacity to answer that question. All the steps of a proposal must serve either or both of these goals (Wong, n.d.).

Before we delve into the substantive details of the research proposal, we want to briefly discuss two often overlooked components: title page and abstract. The first component of presenting a topic is developing a title page that accurately reflects your topic. Make sure that your title highlights the focus of your study and the expected outcomes (e.g., do you expect to discover lessons, insights, implementation strategies, improved understandings etc.). It is best to keep your title short (usually no more than two lines) and specific to your research concerns. For more tips on writing effective titles, see Hartley (2017). Apart from the actual words in your title, you should ensure that your title page aligns with the referencing style used in the rest of the proposal (e.g., check out APA convention on title pages). Regardless of the referencing style used, a good title page usually has the following information: title of the proposal, author’s name, institution and/department, program/course and the date. Including a running header and page number are optional.

Hartley, J. (2007). There‘s more to the title than meets the eye: Exploring the possibilities. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication , 37(1), 95-101. https://doi.org/10.2190/BJ16-8385-7Q73-1162

Wong, Paul T. P. (n.d.). How to Write a Research Proposal . Meaning.ca. http://www.meaning.ca/archives/archive/art_how_to_write_P_Wong.htm

Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What Are The Elements Of A Good Research Proposal?

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by  Antony W

March 10, 2023

elements of a good research proposal

The key to writing a great research proposal for your upcoming research project is to make sure the document has the right structure.

Your paper must include all the components that your professor expects to see. So in this guide, we’ll outline all the elements of a good research proposal and explain why they’re important.

The elements of a good research proposal are the title, the introduction, literature review, aims and objectives, methodology, scope of the research, outline and timetable, and bibliography.

It’s important to include these elements in your research proposal exactly in the order in which they appear in the list above.

Why The Key Elements Of A Research Proposal Matter

The basic elements of a research proposal are important because they communicate your thought process, present the originality of your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re passionate about the subject in question.

If you structure and write your research proposal well, your paper can convince your professor that your project is feasible and you have what it takes to take   your research project to the next level.

Have no time to read this guide and would rather get quick writing help? Let us write your research proposal for you! 

7 Key Elements of a Research Proposal 

While developing a detailed and comprehensive research proposal requires a lot of planning, attention to details, and academic writing skills , understanding the core elements of the paper is the first step to getting your proposal accepted.

So here are the elements that you should include in your research proposal.

It sounds somewhat obvious when we say that your research proposal with a title. To say the least, you already know you should.

But perhaps the most common mistake that many students make is to write general titles that lack focus.

Instead of writing a long title that’s hard to read or a short title that fails to highlight the theme of your research, write a clear and concise headline that tells your reader what your research proposal is about at a first glance.

2. Introduction

The starting paragraph to a research project is one of the elements of a good research proposal because it introduces the subject you wish to address or a research problem you wish to analyze.

Because the introduction of a research proposal is what sets the tone for the rest of the paper, it’s important to start with a hook and then organize your thoughts in a logical and organized manner.

The introduction to your research proposal should give background information and explain why you believe a research question is worth exploring. While not mandatory, you can briefly describe your methodologies in the introduction and then expand them later on.

Your introduction should be clear and concise. Make sure you include only the most relevant information in this section so you don’t make it unnecessarily too long.

3. Literature Review

Although a research proposal doesn’t include a full literature review , it’s important to include an overview of the most significant studies in your field.

The section should feature evidence and statistical data to demonstrate the significance of your research.

Through the literature review, you can easily draw your reader’s attention to existing research, identify gaps in existing studies, and make your reader understand how your proposal will contribute to the already existing research.

4. Aims and Objectives

Aims and objectives are what you wish your research proposal to accomplish. Your aims will be your overall outcome or what you want the research to achieve.

Objectives tend to be narrower and more focused. More often than not, you need to provide an explanation for each of your objectives to show how they will help to meet the aims of your study.

Unless required, you don’t really have to include a hypothesis that your research proposal looks forward to test.

5. Research Methodology

Methodologies are simply the research methods you will use to conduct your study and they must appear in your research proposal whether or not you’re conducting an experimental research.

The methodologies include analysis and sampling techniques equipment, research approaches, and ethical concerns.

Make sure your explanation for each methodology is clear and precise. It helps to justify why you’ve chosen to use a certain methodology over an alternative. This will go a long way to show that you took your time to think about your methodologies before picking them.

It’s important to explain how you will collect data, the sample size you plan to consider for your research investigation, and the techniques you consider the most appropriate to analyze the data.

6. Scope of the Research

Because you’ll be working with limited time and resource, it’s reasonable to include a section on the scope of the research in your proposal. In other words, you have to show your reader that you can start and complete your research within the constraints of these two resources.

Remember, your research will more than likely have limits, and addressing them in this section not only shows that you have given them a thought but also makes your research proposal strong and authentic.

Don’t just focus on the challenges that you’re likely to come across during your studies. You should also propose alternative solutions that you can use and why they might help.

7. Outline and Timetable

Your professor expects to see an outline and a timetable in your research proposal so it’s important that you include them in your research proposal.

The purpose of the outline is to show how you plan to structure your dissertation . Briefly note what each section will cover and explain how it all fits into the argument of your research project.

The purpose of the timetable is to show how much time you’ll need to complete your research. In particular, you need to make sure you mention exactly how long you expect each stage of your study to take.

Don’t just mention how long the research process will take. Make sure you also indicate how long you’ll take to compile your research.

Get Help with Research Proposal Writing

Knowing the elements of a good research proposal is one thing. Writing the proposal is where there’s a lot of work. If you don’t have the time to complete the work yourself, feel free to take advantage of our research proposal writing and get the paper done on time.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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Writing a Research Proposal

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One of the earliest documents that doctoral scholars have to write is a research proposal in which they provide a rationale and motivation for the research study they plan to undertake. This chapter discusses the form and function of a typical research proposal and provides a range of tools and techniques that can assist doctoral or graduate students in conceptualising and writing this high-stakes document.

  • Research proposal
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In the North American context, PhD submissions are known as dissertations , while in countries with British higher education traditions, they are referred to as theses. In this chapter, I use them interchangeably to refer to the written submission of a doctoral candidate for examination.

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Tracy, S. J. (2013). Qualitative research methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, & communicating impact . Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Starfield, S. (2018). Writing a Research Proposal. In: Phakiti, A., De Costa, P., Plonsky, L., Starfield, S. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Linguistics Research Methodology. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-59900-1_9

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The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to determine that the research problem has not been adequately addressed or has been answered ineffectively and, in so doing, become better at locating pertinent scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of conducting scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those findings. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your proposal is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to investigate.
  • Why do you want to do the research? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of in-depth study. A successful research proposal must answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to conduct the research? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having difficulty formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here for strategies in developing a problem to study.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise . A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review . Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem.
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research . This is critical. In many workplace settings, the research proposal is a formal document intended to argue for why a study should be funded.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar . Although a research proposal does not represent a completed research study, there is still an expectation that it is well-written and follows the style and rules of good academic writing.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues . Your proposal should focus on only a few key research questions in order to support the argument that the research needs to be conducted. Minor issues, even if valid, can be mentioned but they should not dominate the overall narrative.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal.  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing most college-level academic papers, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. The text of proposals generally vary in length between ten and thirty-five pages, followed by the list of references. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like, "Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Most proposals should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea based on a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Answer the "So What?" question by explaining why this is important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This is where you explain the scope and context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.

To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care?].
  • Describe the major issues or problems examined by your research. This can be in the form of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain the methods you plan to use for conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will be excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts, theories, or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while at the same time, demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations. Also pay attention to any suggestions for further research.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in relation to the arguments put forth by other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you review more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

NOTE: Do not shy away from challenging the conclusions made in prior research as a basis for supporting the need for your proposal. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. Highlighting the problematic conclusions strengthens your proposal. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

To help frame your proposal's review of prior research, consider the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: describe what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate among scholars?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, and methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that you have a plan worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used, but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results obtained in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is a deliberate argument as to why techniques for gathering information add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method applied to research in the social and behavioral sciences is perfect, so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your professor!

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications . The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy making. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.   When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to challenging the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions that support the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace, organization, or community?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented and what innovations or transformative insights could emerge from the process of implementation?

NOTE:   This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence . The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.

ANOTHER NOTE : This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations because the study has yet to be conducted, you still must tell the reader where and in what form impediments may arise and how you plan to address them.

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study . This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done;
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer;
  • The decision for why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options;
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem; and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used . In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- a list of only the sources you actually used in creating your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- a list of everything you used in creating your proposal, along with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to ensure the project will complement and not just duplicate the efforts of other researchers. It demonstrates to the reader that you have a thorough understanding of prior research on the topic.

Most proposal formats have you start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences , Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Pfeiffer Library

Writing a Research Proposal

Parts of a research proposal, prosana model, introduction, research question, methodology.

  • Structure of a Research Proposal
  • Common Proposal Writing Mistakes
  • Proposal Writing Resources

A research proposal's purpose is to capture the evaluator's attention, demonstrate the study's potential benefits, and prove that it is a logical and consistent approach (Van Ekelenburg, 2010).  To ensure that your research proposal contains these elements, there are several aspects to include in your proposal (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Objective(s)
  • Variables (independent and dependent)
  • Research Question and/or hypothesis

Details about what to include in each element are included in the boxes below.  Depending on the topic of your study, some parts may not apply to your proposal.  You can also watch the video below for a brief overview about writing a successful research proposal.

Van Ekelenburg (2010) uses the PROSANA Model to guide researchers in developing rationale and justification for their research projects.  It is an acronym that connects the problem, solution, and benefits of a particular research project.  It is an easy way to remember the critical parts of a research proposal and how they relate to one another.  It includes the following letters (Van Ekelenburg, 2010):

  • Problem: Describing the main problem that the researcher is trying to solve.
  • Root causes: Describing what is causing the problem.  Why is the topic an issue?
  • fOcus: Narrowing down one of the underlying causes on which the researcher will focus for their research project.
  • Solutions: Listing potential solutions or approaches to fix to the problem.  There could be more than one.
  • Approach: Selecting the solution that the researcher will want to focus on.
  • Novelty: Describing how the solution will address or solve the problem.
  • Arguments: Explaining how the proposed solution will benefit the problem.

Research proposal titles should be concise and to the point, but informative.  The title of your proposal may be different from the title of your final research project, but that is completely normal!  Your findings may help you come up with a title that is more fitting for the final project.  Characteristics of good proposal titles are (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Catchy: It catches the reader's attention by peaking their interest.
  • Positive: It spins your project in a positive way towards the reader.
  • Transparent: It identifies the independent and dependent variables.

It is also common for proposal titles to be very similar to your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement (Locke et al., 2007).

An abstract is a brief summary (about 300 words) of the study you are proposing.  It includes the following elements (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Your primary research question(s).
  • Hypothesis or main argument.
  • Method you will use to complete the study.  This may include the design, sample population, or measuring instruments that you plan to use.

Our guide on writing summaries may help you with this step.

  • Writing a Summary by Luann Edwards Last Updated May 22, 2023 1119 views this year

The purpose of the introduction is to give readers background information about your topic.  it gives the readers a basic understanding of your topic so that they can further understand the significance of your proposal.  A good introduction will explain (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • How it relates to other research done on the topic
  • Why your research is significant to the field
  • The relevance of your study

Your research objectives are the desired outcomes that you will achieve from the research project.  Depending on your research design, these may be generic or very specific.  You may also have more than one objective (Al-Riyami, 2008).

  • General objectives are what the research project will accomplish
  • Specific objectives relate to the research questions that the researcher aims to answer through the study.

Be careful not to have too many objectives in your proposal, as having too many can make your project lose focus.  Plus, it may not be possible to achieve several objectives in one study.

This section describes the different types of variables that you plan to have in your study and how you will measure them.  According to Al-Riyami (2008), there are four types of research variables:

  • Independent:  The person, object, or idea that is manipulated by the researcher.
  • Dependent:  The person, object, or idea whose changes are dependent upon the independent variable.  Typically, it is the item that the researcher is measuring for the study.
  • Confounding/Intervening:  Factors that may influence the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.  These include physical and mental barriers.  Not every study will have intervening variables, but they should be studied if applicable.
  • Background:   Factors that are relevant to the study's data and how it can be generalized.  Examples include demographic information such as age, sex, and ethnicity.

Your research proposal should describe each of your variables and how they relate to one another.  Depending on your study, you may not have all four types of variables present.  However, there will always be an independent and dependent variable.

A research question is the main piece of your research project because it explains what your study will discover to the reader.  It is the question that fuels the study, so it is important for it to be precise and unique.  You do not want it to be too broad, and it should identify a relationship between two variables (an independent and a dependent) (Al-Riyami, 2008).  There are six types of research questions (Academic Writer, n.d.):

  • Example: "Do people get nervous before speaking in front of an audience?"
  • Example: "What are the study habits of college freshmen at Tiffin University?"
  • Example: "What primary traits create a successful romantic relationship?"
  • Example: "Is there a relationship between a child's performance in school and their parents' socioeconomic status?"
  • Example: "Are high school seniors more motivated than high school freshmen?"
  • Example: "Do news media outlets impact a person's political opinions?"

For more information on the different types of research questions, you can view the "Research Questions and Hypotheses" tutorial on Academic Writer, located below.  If you are unfamiliar with Academic Writer, we also have a tutorial on using the database located below.

TU Access Only

Compose papers in pre-formatted APA templates. Manage references in forms that help craft APA citations. Learn the rules of APA style through tutorials and practice quizzes.

Academic Writer will continue to use the 6th edition guidelines until August 2020. A preview of the 7th edition is available in the footer of the resource's site. Previously known as APA Style Central.

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If you know enough about your research topic that you believe a particular outcome may occur as a result of the study, you can include a hypothesis (thesis statement) in your proposal.  A hypothesis is a prediction that you believe will be the outcome of your study.  It explains what you think the relationship will be between the independent and dependent variable (Al-Riyami, 2008).  It is ok if the hypothesis in your proposal turns out to be incorrect, because it is only a prediction!  If you are writing a proposal in the humanities, you may be writing a thesis statement instead of a hypothesis.  A thesis presents the main argument of your research project and leads to corresponding evidence to support your argument.

Hypotheses vs. Theories

Hypotheses are different from theories in that theories represent general principles and sets of rules that explain different phenomena.  They typically represent large areas of study because they are applicable to anything in a particular field.  Hypotheses focus on specific areas within a field and are educated guesses, meaning that they have the potential to be proven wrong (Academic Writer, n.d.).  Because of this, hypotheses can also be formed from theories.

For more information on writing effective thesis statements, you can view our guide on writing thesis statements below.

  • Writing Effective Thesis Statements by Luann Edwards Last Updated May 23, 2023 226 views this year

In a research proposal, you must thoroughly explain how you will conduct your study.  This includes things such as (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Research design:  What research approach will your study take?  Will it be quantitative or qualitative?
  • Research subjects/participants:  Who will be participating in your study?  Does your study require human participants?  How will you determine who to study?
  • Sample size:  How many participants will your study require?  If you are not using human participants, how much of the sample will you be studying?
  • Timeline:  A proposed list of the general tasks and events that you plan to complete the study.  This will include a time frame for each task/event and the order in which they will be completed.
  • Interventions:  If you plan on using anything on human participants for the study, you must include information it here.  This is especially important if you plan on using any substances on human subjects.
  • Ethical issues:  Are there any potential ethical issues surrounding this study?
  • Potential limitations:  Are there any limitations that could skew the data and findings from your study?
  • Appendixes:  If you need to present any consent forms, interview questions, surveys, questionnaires, or other items that will be used in your study, you should include samples of each item with an appendix to reference them.  If you are using a copyrighted document, you may need written permission from the original creator to use it in your study.  A copy of the written permission should be included in your proposal.
  • Setting:  Where will you be conducting the study?
  • Study instruments:  What measuring tools or computer software will you be using to collect data?  How will you collect the data?
  • How you will analyze the data:  What strategies or tools will you use to analyze the data you collect?
  • Quality control:  Will you have precautions in place to ensure that the study is conducted consistently and that outside factors will not skew the data?
  • Budget:  What type of funding will you need for your study?  This will include the funds needed to afford measuring tools, software, etc.
  • How you will share the study's findings:  What will you plan to do with the findings?
  • Significance of the study: How will your study expand on existing knowledge of the subject area?

For more information on research methodologies, you can view our guide on research methods and methodologies below.

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Research Methods and Design

Module 6: data sources and proposal, how to write a research proposal.

At the end of this subject, the main product you should have to show for it is a research proposal. A research proposal helps your colleagues and supervisors evaluate you proposed research, assess the appropriateness of you methods, and identify problems ahead of time, sot hey can be fixed.

This pathway will provide you with the understanding needed for writing up your research proposal. It will explain the components of a research proposal, and provide you with a template for writing it up.

  • Understand the components of a research proposal
  • Understand the process of writing up a research proposal
  • Become familiar with the format and template of a UOW research proposal

Research proposal template

At the university of Wollongong, in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, there are some expectations with regards to research proposals. Prospective Honours/Masters by Research/PhD students are required to complete a research proposal and submit this with the formal application form and relevant documents. The proposal should be no more than 3,000 words in length (excluding references). The numbers in parentheses indicate an estimate of the portion that should be devoted to each section. This does not suggest that all sections should be this portion exactly, but it should provide guidance as to the relative priorities of the proposal. The proposal should contain the following elements.

  • Suggested research title
  • Introduction (15%) – The introduction should situate the question(s) you are addressing. Why is the question important? How will answering it advance knowledge in international studies? What is the broader social/political/geopolitical context that frames your question? What are the broader issues that the research is trying to explain? (Be sure your research question(s) are clearly stated in this section)
  • Literature review (25%) – The literature review should demonstrate that your research question is anchored in and contributes to a body of literature(s). You should demonstrate awareness of key research in the relevant fields and provide an analytical summary of current knowledge. This section should also describe and justify the general theoretical approach/framework applied in your proposed research.
  • Research design (10%) – This section should describe your approach to researching the proposed problem. The research design (descriptive, comparative, case study, narrative, etc.) should be described and justified as appropriate to address the research problem you have identified.
  • Methods and Data (20%) – This section should indicate the data sources needed to answer the research question and the general methodological approach taken. Items to address include: key propositions or hypotheses; concepts; independent and dependent variable(s); indicators; cross-section or longitudinal approach; unit of analysis; sampling; validity and reliability; etc. (Please note: not all of these topics apply for all projects so please address what is relevant to your work.) For students doing theory based projects please indicate what data sources you will utilise and your general method.
  • Proposed analyses (20%) – This section should describe how you intend to analyse the data to address your research question(s). Is the project qualitative, quantitative or a mixed methods approach? Please identify the techniques you will use to analyse the data. Note: qualitative methods typically require coding AND analysis of data. Both stages should be described in this section
  • Proposed timeframe for the study (10%) – Outline a timetable for completion of the project (6 months for honours, 2 years for full-time Masters students, 3 years for PhD).

Components of a research proposal

A research proposal begins with a title page. The title is centered in the upper half of the page, with each important word capitalized. The title should clearly and concisely (in about 12 words or fewer) communicate the primary variables and research questions. This sometimes requires a main title followed by a subtitle that elaborates on the main title, in which case the main title and subtitle are separated by a colon. Here are some titles from recent issues of professional international studies journals:

  • Benefits of global partnerships to facilitate access to medicines in developing countries: a multi-country analysis of patients and patient outcomes in GIPAP
  • Grounding the European public sphere: looking beyond the mass media to digitally mediated issue publics
  • “Smartness” without vision: the Moroccan regime in the face of acquiescent elites and weak social mobilization


The introduction begins on the second page of the proposal. The heading at the top of this page is the full title of the manuscript, with each important word capitalized as on the title page. The introduction usually includes three distinct subsections, although these are typically not identified by separate headings. The opening introduces the research question and explains why it is interesting, the literature review discusses relevant previous research, and the closing restates the research question and comments on the method used to answer it.

Tip: write the introduction last. It makes sense to start writing the introduction first, but in fact, after your proposal is written, you will often find that the introduction is easier to write. You will then have a better understanding of what background is relevant to the reader, and what needs to be emphasised.

The opening , which is usually a paragraph or two in length, introduces the research question and explains what is interesting about it, and who it is interesting/important to. To capture the reader’s attention, researcher Daryl Bem [1] recommends starting with general observations about the topic under study, expressed in ordinary language (not technical jargon)—observations that are about people and their behaviour (not about researchers or their research). After capturing the reader’s attention, the opening should go on to introduce the research question and explain why it is interesting. Will the answer fill a gap in the literature? Will it provide a test of an important theory? Does it have practical implications? Giving readers a clear sense of what the research is about and why they should care about it will motivate them to continue reading the literature review—and will help them make sense of it.

A condensed literature review : Immediately after the opening comes a condensed literature review, which describes relevant previous research on the topic in a condensed way. It should NOT be simply a list of past studies. Instead, it constitutes a kind of argument for why the research question is worth addressing. By the end of the literature review, readers should be convinced that the research question makes sense and that the present study is a logical next step in the ongoing research process. It is not your full literature review at this stage, but just a sample of the main tenants of your argument, which lead to the way you plan to address your research questions. The closing of the introduction — typically the final paragraph or two — usually includes two important elements. The first is a clear statement of the main research question or hypothesis. This statement tends to be more formal and precise than in the opening and is often expressed in terms of operational definitions of the key variables. The second is a brief overview of the method and some comment on its appropriateness.

Literature review

The purpose of the literature review is to develop an argument for the method you chose to use in our research, and why this method is suitable for addressing your research question. The argument has to be based on scholarly academic sources. The literature review is also meant to give the reader a summary of the current knowledge on your topic: how can you group the various authors under consideration? What assumptions do they share? Do they agree about the implications of their work? Do they prioritize things the same and/or correctly? what gaps are there in those views? Like any effective argument, the literature review must have some kind of structure. For example, it might begin by describing a phenomenon in a general way along with several studies that demonstrate it, then describing two or more competing theories of the phenomenon, and finally presenting a hypothesis to test one or more of the theories. Or it might describe one phenomenon, then describe another phenomenon that seems inconsistent with the first one, then propose a theory that resolves the inconsistency, and finally present a hypothesis to test that theory. In applied research, it might describe a phenomenon or theory, then describe how that phenomenon or theory applies to some important real-world situation, and finally suggest a way to test whether it does, in fact, apply to that situation. Looking at the literature review in this way emphasizes a few things:

  • It is extremely important to start with an outline of the main points that you want to make, organised in the order that you want to make them. The basic structure of your argument, then, should be apparent from the outline itself.
  • It is important to emphasise the structure of your argument in your writing. One way to do this is to begin the literature review by summarising your argument even before you begin to make it. “This proposal describes two apparently contradictory phenomena, present a new theory that has the potential to resolve the apparent contradiction, and finally present a novel hypothesis to test the theory.” Another way is to open each paragraph with a sentence that summarises the main point of the paragraph and links it to the preceding points. These opening sentences provide the “transitions” that many beginning researchers have difficulty with. Instead of beginning a paragraph by jumping into a description of a previous study, such as “Williams (2004) found that…,” it is better to start by indicating something about why you are describing this particular study. Here are some simple examples:

Another example of this phenomenon comes from the work of Williams (2004). Williams (2004) offers one explanation of this phenomenon. An alternative perspective has been provided by Williams (2004). We used a method based on the one used by Williams (2004).

  • Remember that your goal is to construct an argument for why your research question is interesting and worth addressing—not necessarily why your favourite answer to it is correct. In other words, your literature review must be balanced. If you want to emphasise the generality of a phenomenon, then of course you should discuss various studies that have demonstrated it. However, if there are other studies that have failed to demonstrate it, you should discuss them too. Or if you are proposing a new theory, then of course you should discuss findings that are consistent with that theory. However, if there are other findings that are inconsistent with it, again, you should discuss them too. It is acceptable to argue that the balance of the research supports the existence of a phenomenon or is consistent with a theory (and that is usually the best that researchers in psychology can hope for), but it is not acceptable to ignore contradictory evidence. Besides, a large part of what makes a research question interesting is uncertainty about its answer.

Research design

In this section, you need to not only describe your research design, but also explain how that design is beneficial for answering your research questions. Does it provide breadth? depth? objectivity? The research design can usually be justified with previous research which has used a similar design, or, in contrast, by showing that there is little research in the area using such design, and a need for it.

Methods and data

The methods and data section is where you describe how you conducted your data collection. An important principle for writing a method section is that it should be clear and detailed enough that other researchers could replicate the study by following your “recipe.” This means that it must describe all the important elements of the study—basic demographic characteristics of the participants, how they were recruited, whether they were randomly assigned, how the variables were manipulated or measured, how counterbalancing was accomplished, and so on. At the same time, it should avoid irrelevant details such as the fact that the study was conducted in Classroom 37B of the Industrial Technology Building or that the questionnaire was double-sided and completed using pencils. The method section begins immediately after the introduction ends with the heading “Methods”. Immediately after this is the subheading “Participants,” which indicates how many participants you intend to involve (if any), and how they will be recruited.


Reflection activity: research proposal

Share the answers to the following questions with the group in the discussion forum.

  • What aspect of the research proposal task do you currently find the most challenging and why?
  • ↑ Bem, D. J. (2003). Writing the empirical journal article. In J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, & H. R. Roediger III (Eds.), The compleat academic: A practical guide for the beginning social scientist (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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How to write a Research Proposal: Components of a research proposal

Components of a research proposal.

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Research proposals differ in terms of their presentation depending on what each University department requires. In other words, there is no set template  for a research proposal. Please contact your lecturer regarding the format you are expected to use for your research proposal.Thus, the components of a research proposal include, but are not limited to those mentioned in this guide.

1. The title

Try to come up with a title that is unique and at the same time easy to remember. It should also make a lasting impression to the reader and make them want to come back and read your proposal.  The title must also capture the main concepts of the study . As the research process is lengthy, it is   important that you choose a topic that you are   so curious about  that you remain motivated for the duration of the research process.  Select a topic that you will be able to complete within the time frame that you have for your research. 

3. The background

The background to the topic of your intended research must be clear and precise. It must not only include an in-depth explanation of the key points of your subject but also all the developments in the field as well as their timelines . The researcher must also explain the compelling interest in the research issue as well as the personal interest (if any) in the topic. This section must also indicate the specific area within which the topic falls in your particular field of study or subject . Aslo, how will the proposed study contribute to a particular field? In other words, the impact and the significance in a subject area must be clearly outlined. The target audience must also be clearly described.

5. Objectives of the research

It is important that the objectives are in alignment with the research questions. The objectives must indicate what the aim of the research study is.  In fact, objectives give you a clear indication of the steps that you will take to achieve the aim of the research. The objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

7. Literature review

Collect and present relevant literature on your topic of choice. It is important to include all the main authors or experts in a particular field.  Depending on your field of study or topic, ensure that you include recent literature as well as literature that presents counterarguments to the topic. The justification for the study needs to based on existing literature. Click here for more information on how to write a literature review.

8. Limitations and delimitations of the study

The researcher must indicate the limitations of the study which are what the researcher cannot do or factors that are beyond the researcher's control, as well as delimitations that the researcher chooses not to address for the purposes of the study. Delimitations are boundaries that the researcher has set for the study. The r easons  both for limitations and delimitations must be discussed in this section.

10. Work plan

Your schedule for the research must be stated clearly including the projected timelines for the various stages of your study.

11. Bibliography

All the sources that you have used for your proposal must be listed in alphabetical order using a referencing style that your lecturer has prescribed for your subject field.

Click here for more information on the various reference styles.

2. Introduction to the research

This section of the proposal must provide a broad overview of the topic. The jargon and key terms used in the particular topic must also be thoroughly explained in order to avoid confusion. The interest of the researcher in the particular topic must also be clearly outlined while at the same time mentioning, albeit briefly at this point, a critical review of the main literature that covers the topic.  The researcher must also provide the aim of the research by clearly and concisely stating the problem,  as well as the research questions to be dealt with.  This section must also indicate what the research study will not be covering .

4. The research questions

The research questions must state clearly what your proposed study is meant to address or answer. Ensure that you use simple language that is easy to understand, while being cognisant of the level of  your intended audience . 

6. Research methodology / research methods

This section outlines the approach which the researcher will follow in order to address the research problem and to answer all the research questions from the researcher. The research design must be clearly defined, e.g., is the research  Descriptive, Correlational, Causal-Comparative/Quasi-Experimental, Experimental, Diagnostic or Explanatory.

State clearly

  • how the research will be conducted in terms of the theoretical resources that will be used
  • the theoretical framework for conducting the research, which is the theoretical approach drawn from your literature review to support your research study
  • proposed research method(s)
  • a comparison of the advantages, limitations and suitability of the available approaches and methods for conducting your research
  • participants, instruments, procedure, analysis, etc.

Research design

Selecting the approach to use

Research approach

Research design and methodology

Importance of research

Attributes of a good research scholar

Summary of different research methodologies

9. Significance of the research

The researcher must provide justification for the need to conduct the study. What is the gap that the study will fill, and what is its contribution to the  existing body of knowledge? The originality and importance of the research which will be  level appropriate, must be clearly described, for instance, the required level of originality for a fourth year research project is different to that of a doctoral candidate. 

The impact of the study for the subject field must be indicated. In other words, how will the research improve the field, who will it impact, how will it make changes in your industy or field etc.? Lastly, the proposed resaerch must be relatable , interesting and engaging .

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  • Components of a Proposal

Proposal preparation checklists  can help you put together a proposal. Most proposals contain the following:

  • Cover or Title Page : Contains specific information about the proposal and the Institute and requires specific authorizations/signatures. See  MIT Facts and Profile Information   
  • Abstract or Project Summary : Outlines the proposed research, including the objectives, methodology, and significance of the research. 
  • Statement of Work (SOW) : Provides a full and detailed explanation of the proposed research, and typically includes a project timetable. The SOW describes  how  the work will be done,  where  the work will be done, and  who  will do the work. 
  • Budget : Must include an estimate of the resources necessary to conduct the project. Most sponsors require a detailed breakdown of the budget into defined categories and a detailed  budget justification , explaining what costs will be paid for and how the expense was calculated.
  • Curriculum Vitae or Biographical Sketch : Include for all key project personnel. 
  • Bibliography : Lists all references cited in proposal. 

Always check  Sponsor Specific Guidelines  as well as the proposal solicitation. Additional elements can include: 

  • Financial conflict of interest (COI) disclosures from PIs and senior/key personnel
  • Current and pending support: Lists the PI’s (and sometimes key personnel’s) current awards and pending proposals. 
  • Letters of support from non-Institute investigators 
  • Subaward documentation: If the proposal involves collaboration with investigators at other entities, detailed information about the subrecipient should be included in the proposal.  See MIT  Subawards Process  
  • Compliance certifications and representations  
  • Description of available equipment and facilities 
  • Uniform Guidance Fixed Rate Requirements
  • F&A Methodology
  • F&A Components
  • MIT Use of a de minimis Rate
  • Fund Account Overhead Rates
  • Allocation Rates
  • Determination of On-Campus and Off-Campus Rates
  • Employee Benefits (EB) Rates
  • Vacation Accrual Rates
  • Graduate Research Assistant Tuition Subsidy
  • Historical RA Salary Levels
  • MIT Facts and Profile Information
  • Classification of Sponsored Projects
  • Types of Sponsored Awards
  • How Are Sponsored Projects Generated?
  • Cost Principles and Unallowable Costs
  • Direct and Indirect Costs
  • EHS Role in MIT Grant Writing Process
  • Pre-Proposals / Letters of Intent
  • MIT Investigator Status
  • Special Reviews
  • Applying Through Workspace
  • Proposal Preparation Checklist
  • Proposals and Confidential Information
  • Personnel Costs
  • Subcontracts and Consultants
  • Annotated Budget Justification - Federal Research
  • Annotated Budget Justification - Non-Federal Research
  • Annotated Budget Justification - Federal Non-Research
  • Annotated Budget Justification - Non-Federal Non-Research
  • Kuali Coeus Approval Mapping
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Submission of Revised Budgets
  • Standard Contract Terms and Conditions
  • Contractual Obligations and Problematic Terms and Conditions
  • Review and Negotiation of Federal Contract and Grant Terms and Conditions
  • Industrial Collaboration
  • International Activities
  • MIT Export Control - Export Policies
  • Nondisclosure and Confidentiality Agreements
  • Negative Confirmation On Award Notices
  • Routing and Acceptance of the Award Notice
  • COI and Special Review Hold Notice Definitions
  • Limiting Long-Term WBS Account Structures
  • SAP Project WBS Element Conditions
  • Kuali Coeus Electronic Document Storage (EDS)
  • Billing Agreements
  • PI Absence from Project
  • Cost Transfers
  • Equipment Threshold
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Foundation Relations

Basic components of a proposal.

Private foundation proposals differ greatly from most federal proposals. While foundations often outline the general format that they prefer, there is more latitude regarding the structure of the narrative. Always frame your proposal to align as closely as possible to the funders programs' stated mission, without going so far that you are compromising your research interests.

Further, if there is a published  list of judges/reviewers available, as is usually the case for scientific applications, try to compose your proposal so that it piques the interest of one or more of the judges' expertise.

1.  Abstract/Summary

  • The abstract is the most important component of the proposal. Spend time developing the best possible title. If the length is not mandated, it should be no longer than one half to one page maximum. 
  • Use bolded subheadings. Include highlights in the topic sentence in each section of the proposal. 
  • What will be done, by whom, how, over what period of time? What is the problem/need? Who will the outcomes benefit? 

2. Statement of Need

  • What is the issue that you are addressing and why does it matter?
  • Why is what you propose necessary? What is the void in Knowledge? 
  • Who benefits? Indicate the public good, not just the effect on campus. 
  • Why hasn't this issue been addressed sufficiently in the past? Who else is working in this field, what have they done, and why isn't that enough? Demonstrate your knowledge of the field.
  • Provide convincing evidence that what you are proposing does not duplicate other work. Replication of someone else's work in a new environment or larger scale may be fundable.

3. Project Activity, Methodology and Outcomes

  • Why did you choose to address the issue in the manner that you have? Are there other approaches? If so, why aren't they appropriate to the situation?
  • What are the specific activities involved? Who will do them? 
  • Present a timeline of activities. Tables and charts work best here. They crystallize data, break up pages of narrative, and convey extensive information well in a limited space.
  • What specific outcomes will be achieved? What will change? 
  • Why are you/your organization the best one to do what you propose to do? Is it an extension of successful, innovative work or a pilot project you already completed?

4. Evaluation

  • Essential piece that should be both quantitative and qualitative, if feasible. 
  • Outline clearly the methodology that you will use to assess the projects success.

5. Dissemination

  • Dissemination should be linked to your project goals and objectives. If you are trying to affect policy, your dissemination plan should target policy-makers, media, and affected populations.
  • Describe your communication strategy.
  • Be creative. Sending an article to a professional journal is only one of many options. Consider submitting op-ed pieces to newspapers and articles to more popular periodicals; work with University Relations to obtain newspaper coverage and interviews on local radio stations; engage in conference presentations, community outreach activities, presentations to policy-makers and community groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce; launch a web site or blog; convene work groups of your peers; create briefing papers, press releases, videos; and, list yourself on speakers bureaus.

6. Budget and Continuation Funding

  • Show your budget in table form and use a budget narrative to explain each item.
  • Only Include other sources of funding if the funder mandates it's inclusion. UMass policy does not allow including in-kind or outside contributions unless it is required, as it adds administrative burden and costs.
  • Indicate how the project will be funded or be sustainable after the grant funds have run out.
  • The Office of Grants and Contract Administration (OGCA) makes available all university policies covering all legal, fiscal, human resources and intellectual property issues. 

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