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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:

Introduction

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

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.

Methodology

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

 Statistics

  • 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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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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Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

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Table of Contents

The importance of a well-written research proposal cannot be underestimated. Your research really is only as good as your proposal. A poorly written, or poorly conceived research proposal will doom even an otherwise worthy project. On the other hand, a well-written, high-quality proposal will increase your chances for success.

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of writing an effective scientific research proposal, including the differences between research proposals, grants and cover letters. We’ll also touch on common mistakes made when submitting research proposals, as well as a simple example or template that you can follow.

What is a scientific research proposal?

The main purpose of a scientific research proposal is to convince your audience that your project is worthwhile, and that you have the expertise and wherewithal to complete it. The elements of an effective research proposal mirror those of the research process itself, which we’ll outline below. Essentially, the research proposal should include enough information for the reader to determine if your proposed study is worth pursuing.

It is not an uncommon misunderstanding to think that a research proposal and a cover letter are the same things. However, they are different. The main difference between a research proposal vs cover letter content is distinct. Whereas the research proposal summarizes the proposal for future research, the cover letter connects you to the research, and how you are the right person to complete the proposed research.

There is also sometimes confusion around a research proposal vs grant application. Whereas a research proposal is a statement of intent, related to answering a research question, a grant application is a specific request for funding to complete the research proposed. Of course, there are elements of overlap between the two documents; it’s the purpose of the document that defines one or the other.

Scientific Research Proposal Format

Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you’re submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template.

In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal. These include:

  • Title: Make sure the title of your proposal is descriptive and concise. Make it catch and informative at the same time, avoiding dry phrases like, “An investigation…” Your title should pique the interest of the reader.
  • Abstract: This is a brief (300-500 words) summary that includes the research question, your rationale for the study, and any applicable hypothesis. You should also include a brief description of your methodology, including procedures, samples, instruments, etc.
  • Introduction: The opening paragraph of your research proposal is, perhaps, the most important. Here you want to introduce the research problem in a creative way, and demonstrate your understanding of the need for the research. You want the reader to think that your proposed research is current, important and relevant.
  • Background: Include a brief history of the topic and link it to a contemporary context to show its relevance for today. Identify key researchers and institutions also looking at the problem
  • Literature Review: This is the section that may take the longest amount of time to assemble. Here you want to synthesize prior research, and place your proposed research into the larger picture of what’s been studied in the past. You want to show your reader that your work is original, and adds to the current knowledge.
  • Research Design and Methodology: This section should be very clearly and logically written and organized. You are letting your reader know that you know what you are going to do, and how. The reader should feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge needed to get the project done.
  • Preliminary Implications: Here you’ll be outlining how you anticipate your research will extend current knowledge in your field. You might also want to discuss how your findings will impact future research needs.
  • Conclusion: This section reinforces the significance and importance of your proposed research, and summarizes the entire proposal.
  • References/Citations: Of course, you need to include a full and accurate list of any and all sources you used to write your research proposal.

Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Remember, the best research proposal can be rejected if it’s not well written or is ill-conceived. The most common mistakes made include:

  • Not providing the proper context for your research question or the problem
  • Failing to reference landmark/key studies
  • Losing focus of the research question or problem
  • Not accurately presenting contributions by other researchers and institutions
  • Incompletely developing a persuasive argument for the research that is being proposed
  • Misplaced attention on minor points and/or not enough detail on major issues
  • Sloppy, low-quality writing without effective logic and flow
  • Incorrect or lapses in references and citations, and/or references not in proper format
  • The proposal is too long – or too short

Scientific Research Proposal Example

There are countless examples that you can find for successful research proposals. In addition, you can also find examples of unsuccessful research proposals. Search for successful research proposals in your field, and even for your target journal, to get a good idea on what specifically your audience may be looking for.

While there’s no one example that will show you everything you need to know, looking at a few will give you a good idea of what you need to include in your own research proposal. Talk, also, to colleagues in your field, especially if you are a student or a new researcher. We can often learn from the mistakes of others. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are prior to writing your research proposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

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One of the top reasons scientific research proposals are rejected is due to poor logic and flow. Check out our Language Editing Services to ensure a great proposal , that’s clear and concise, and properly referenced. Check our video for more information, and get started today.

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  • Indian J Anaesth
  • v.60(9); 2016 Sep

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.

INTRODUCTION

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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BASIC REQUIREMENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

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 ]

CONTENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

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 ]

Introduction

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

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

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.

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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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What Is a Research Proposal?

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When applying for a research grant or scholarship, or, just before you start a major research project, you may be asked to write a preliminary document that includes basic information about your future research. This is the information that is usually needed in your proposal:

  • The topic and goal of the research project.
  • The kind of result expected from the research.
  • The theory or framework in which the research will be done and presented.
  • What kind of methods will be used (statistical, empirical, etc.).
  • Short reference on the preliminary scholarship and why your research project is needed; how will it continue/justify/disprove the previous scholarship.
  • How much will the research project cost; how will it be budgeted (what for the money will be spent).
  • Why is it you who can do this research and not somebody else.

Most agencies that offer scholarships or grants provide information about the required format of the proposal. It may include filling out templates, types of information they need, suggested/maximum length of the proposal, etc.

Research proposal formats vary depending on the size of the planned research, the number of participants, the discipline, the characteristics of the research, etc. The following outline assumes an individual researcher. This is just a SAMPLE; several other ways are equally good and can be successful. If possible, discuss your research proposal with an expert in writing, a professor, your colleague, another student who already wrote successful proposals, etc.

Author, author's affiliation

Introduction:

  • Explain the topic and why you chose it. If possible explain your goal/outcome of the research . How much time you need to complete the research?

Previous scholarship:

  • Give a brief summary of previous scholarship and explain why your topic and goals are important.
  • Relate your planned research to previous scholarship. What will your research add to our knowledge of the topic.

Specific issues to be investigated:

  • Break down the main topic into smaller research questions. List them one by one and explain why these questions need to be investigated. Relate them to previous scholarship.
  • Include your hypothesis into the descriptions of the detailed research issues if you have one. Explain why it is important to justify your hypothesis.

Methodology:

  • This part depends of the methods conducted in the research process. List the methods; explain how the results will be presented; how they will be assessed.
  • Explain what kind of results will justify or  disprove your hypothesis. 
  • Explain how much money you need.
  • Explain the details of the budget (how much you want to spend for what).

Conclusion:

  • Describe why your research is important.

References:

  • List the sources you have used for writing the research proposal, including a few main citations of the preliminary scholarship.

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Blog Education

How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

By Danesh Ramuthi , Nov 29, 2023

How to Write a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a structured outline for a planned study on a specific topic. It serves as a roadmap, guiding researchers through the process of converting their research idea into a feasible project. 

The aim of a research proposal is multifold: it articulates the research problem, establishes a theoretical framework, outlines the research methodology and highlights the potential significance of the study. Importantly, it’s a critical tool for scholars seeking grant funding or approval for their research projects.

Crafting a good research proposal requires not only understanding your research topic and methodological approaches but also the ability to present your ideas clearly and persuasively. Explore Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates to begin your journey in writing a compelling research proposal.

What to include in a research proposal?

In a research proposal, include a clear statement of your research question or problem, along with an explanation of its significance. This should be followed by a literature review that situates your proposed study within the context of existing research. 

Your proposal should also outline the research methodology, detailing how you plan to conduct your study, including data collection and analysis methods.

Additionally, include a theoretical framework that guides your research approach, a timeline or research schedule, and a budget if applicable. It’s important to also address the anticipated outcomes and potential implications of your study. A well-structured research proposal will clearly communicate your research objectives, methods and significance to the readers.

Light Blue Shape Semiotic Analysis Research Proposal

How to format a research proposal?

Formatting a research proposal involves adhering to a structured outline to ensure clarity and coherence. While specific requirements may vary, a standard research proposal typically includes the following elements:

  • Title Page: Must include the title of your research proposal, your name and affiliations. The title should be concise and descriptive of your proposed research.
  • Abstract: A brief summary of your proposal, usually not exceeding 250 words. It should highlight the research question, methodology and the potential impact of the study.
  • Introduction: Introduces your research question or problem, explains its significance, and states the objectives of your study.
  • Literature review: Here, you contextualize your research within existing scholarship, demonstrating your knowledge of the field and how your research will contribute to it.
  • Methodology: Outline your research methods, including how you will collect and analyze data. This section should be detailed enough to show the feasibility and thoughtfulness of your approach.
  • Timeline: Provide an estimated schedule for your research, breaking down the process into stages with a realistic timeline for each.
  • Budget (if applicable): If your research requires funding, include a detailed budget outlining expected cost.
  • References/Bibliography: List all sources referenced in your proposal in a consistent citation style.

Green And Orange Modern Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal in 11 steps?

Writing a research proposal in structured steps ensures a comprehensive and coherent presentation of your research project. Let’s look at the explanation for each of the steps here:  

Step 1: Title and Abstract Step 2: Introduction Step 3: Research objectives Step 4: Literature review Step 5: Methodology Step 6: Timeline Step 7: Resources Step 8: Ethical considerations Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance Step 10: References Step 11: Appendices

Step 1: title and abstract.

Select a concise, descriptive title and write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology and expected outcomes​​. The abstract should include your research question, the objectives you aim to achieve, the methodology you plan to employ and the anticipated outcomes. 

Step 2: Introduction

In this section, introduce the topic of your research, emphasizing its significance and relevance to the field. Articulate the research problem or question in clear terms and provide background context, which should include an overview of previous research in the field.

Step 3: Research objectives

Here, you’ll need to outline specific, clear and achievable objectives that align with your research problem. These objectives should be well-defined, focused and measurable, serving as the guiding pillars for your study. They help in establishing what you intend to accomplish through your research and provide a clear direction for your investigation.

Step 4: Literature review

In this part, conduct a thorough review of existing literature related to your research topic. This involves a detailed summary of key findings and major contributions from previous research. Identify existing gaps in the literature and articulate how your research aims to fill these gaps. The literature review not only shows your grasp of the subject matter but also how your research will contribute new insights or perspectives to the field.

Step 5: Methodology

Describe the design of your research and the methodologies you will employ. This should include detailed information on data collection methods, instruments to be used and analysis techniques. Justify the appropriateness of these methods for your research​​.

Step 6: Timeline

Construct a detailed timeline that maps out the major milestones and activities of your research project. Break the entire research process into smaller, manageable tasks and assign realistic time frames to each. This timeline should cover everything from the initial research phase to the final submission, including periods for data collection, analysis and report writing. 

It helps in ensuring your project stays on track and demonstrates to reviewers that you have a well-thought-out plan for completing your research efficiently.

Step 7: Resources

Identify all the resources that will be required for your research, such as specific databases, laboratory equipment, software or funding. Provide details on how these resources will be accessed or acquired. 

If your research requires funding, explain how it will be utilized effectively to support various aspects of the project. 

Step 8: Ethical considerations

Address any ethical issues that may arise during your research. This is particularly important for research involving human subjects. Describe the measures you will take to ensure ethical standards are maintained, such as obtaining informed consent, ensuring participant privacy, and adhering to data protection regulations. 

Here, in this section you should reassure reviewers that you are committed to conducting your research responsibly and ethically.

Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance

Articulate the expected outcomes or results of your research. Explain the potential impact and significance of these outcomes, whether in advancing academic knowledge, influencing policy or addressing specific societal or practical issues. 

Step 10: References

Compile a comprehensive list of all the references cited in your proposal. Adhere to a consistent citation style (like APA or MLA) throughout your document. The reference section not only gives credit to the original authors of your sourced information but also strengthens the credibility of your proposal.

Step 11: Appendices

Include additional supporting materials that are pertinent to your research proposal. This can be survey questionnaires, interview guides, detailed data analysis plans or any supplementary information that supports the main text. 

Appendices provide further depth to your proposal, showcasing the thoroughness of your preparation.

Beige And Dark Green Minimalist Research Proposal

Research proposal FAQs

1. how long should a research proposal be.

The length of a research proposal can vary depending on the requirements of the academic institution, funding body or specific guidelines provided. Generally, research proposals range from 500 to 1500 words or about one to a few pages long. It’s important to provide enough detail to clearly convey your research idea, objectives and methodology, while being concise. Always check

2. Why is the research plan pivotal to a research project?

The research plan is pivotal to a research project because it acts as a blueprint, guiding every phase of the study. It outlines the objectives, methodology, timeline and expected outcomes, providing a structured approach and ensuring that the research is systematically conducted. 

A well-crafted plan helps in identifying potential challenges, allocating resources efficiently and maintaining focus on the research goals. It is also essential for communicating the project’s feasibility and importance to stakeholders, such as funding bodies or academic supervisors.

Simple Minimalist White Research Proposal

Mastering how to write a research proposal is an essential skill for any scholar, whether in social and behavioral sciences, academic writing or any field requiring scholarly research. From this article, you have learned key components, from the literature review to the research design, helping you develop a persuasive and well-structured proposal.

Remember, a good research proposal not only highlights your proposed research and methodology but also demonstrates its relevance and potential impact.

For additional support, consider utilizing Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates , valuable tools in crafting a compelling proposal that stands out.

Whether it’s for grant funding, a research paper or a dissertation proposal, these resources can assist in transforming your research idea into a successful submission.

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Writing Your Research Proposal

5 Essentials You Need To Keep In Mind

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewer: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | June 2023

Writing a high-quality research proposal that “sells” your study and wins the favour (and approval) of your university is no small task. In this post, we’ll share five critical dos and don’ts to help you navigate the proposal writing process.

This post is based on an extract from our online course , Research Proposal Bootcamp . In the course, we walk you through the process of developing an A-grade proposal, step by step, with plain-language explanations and loads of examples. If it’s your first time writing a research proposal, you definitely want to check that out. 

Overview: 5 Proposal Writing Essentials

  • Understand your university’s requirements and restrictions
  • Have a clearly articulated research problem
  • Clearly communicate the feasibility of your research
  • Pay very close attention to ethics policies
  • Focus on writing critically and concisely

1. Understand the rules of the game

All too often, we see students going through all the effort of finding a unique and valuable topic and drafting a meaty proposal, only to realise that they’ve missed some critical information regarding their university’s requirements. 

Every university is different, but they all have some sort of requirements or expectations regarding what students can and can’t research. For example:

  • Restrictions regarding the topic area that can be research
  • Restrictions regarding data sources – for example, primary or secondary
  • Requirements regarding methodology – for example, qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods-based research
  • And most notably, there can be varying expectations regarding topic originality – does your topic need to be super original or not?

The key takeaway here is that you need to thoroughly read through any briefing documents provided by your university. Also, take a look at past dissertations or theses from your program to get a feel for what the norms are . Long story short, make sure you understand the rules of the game before you start playing.

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2. Have a clearly articulated research problem

As we’ve explained many times on this blog, all good research starts with a strong research problem – without a problem, you don’t have a clear justification for your research. Therefore, it’s essential that you have clarity regarding the research problem you’re going to address before you start drafting your proposal. From the research problem , the research gap emerges and from the research gap, your research aims , objectives and research questions emerge. These then guide your entire dissertation from start to end. 

Needless to say, all of this starts with the literature – in other words, you have to spend time reading the existing literature to understand the current state of knowledge. You can’t skip this all-important step. All too often, we see students make the mistake of trying to write up a proposal without having a clear understanding of the current state of the literature, which is just a recipe for disaster. You’ve got to take the time to understand what’s already been done before you can propose doing something new.

Positivism is rooted in the belief that knowledge can be obtained through objective observations and measurements of an external reality.

3. Demonstrate the feasibility of your research

One of the key concerns that reviewers or assessors have when deciding to approve or reject a research proposal is the practicality/feasibility of the proposed research , given the student’s resources (which are usually pretty limited). You can have a brilliant research topic that’s super original and valuable, but if there is any question about whether the project is something that you can realistically pull off, you’re going to run into issues when it comes to getting your proposal accepted.

So, what does this mean for you?

First, you need to make sure that the research topic you’ve chosen and the methodology you’re planning to use is 100% safe in terms of feasibility . In other words, you need to be super certain that you can actually pull off this study. Of greatest importance here is the data collection and analysis aspect – in other words, will you be able to get access to the data you need, and will you be able to analyse it?

Second, assuming you’re 100% confident that you can pull the research off, you need to clearly communicate that in your research proposal. To do this, you need to proactively think about all the concerns the reviewer or supervisor might have and ensure that you clearly address these in your proposal. Remember, the proposal is a one-way communication – you get one shot (per submission) to make your case, and there’s generally no Q&A opportunity . So, make it clear what you’ll be doing, what the potential risks are and how you’ll manage those risks to ensure that your study goes according to plan.

If you have the word count available, it’s a good idea to present a project plan , ideally using something like a Gantt chart. You can also consider presenting a risk register , where you detail the potential risks, their likelihood and impact, and your mitigation and response actions – this will show the assessor that you’ve really thought through the practicalities of your proposed project. If you want to learn more about project plans and risk registers, we cover these in detail in our proposal writing course, Research Proposal Bootcamp , and we also provide templates that you can use. 

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4. Pay close attention to ethics policies

This one’s a biggy – and it can often be a dream crusher for students with lofty research ideas. If there’s one thing that will sink your research proposal faster than anything else, it’s non-compliance with your university’s research ethics policy . This is simply a non-negotiable, so don’t waste your time thinking you can convince your institution otherwise. If your proposed research runs against any aspect of your institution’s ethics policies, it’s a no-go.

The ethics requirements for dissertations can vary depending on the field of study, institution, and country, so we can’t give you a list of things you need to do, but some common requirements that you should be aware of include things like:

  • Informed consent – in other words, getting permission/consent from your study’s participants and allowing them to opt out at any point
  • Privacy and confidentiality – in other words, ensuring that you manage the data securely and respect people’s privacy
  • If your research involves animals (as opposed to people), you’ll need to explain how you’ll ensure ethical treatment, how you’ll reduce harm or distress, etc.

One more thing to keep in mind is that certain types of research may be acceptable from an ethics perspective, but will require additional levels of approval . For example, if you’re planning to study any sort of vulnerable population (e.g., children, the elderly, people with mental health conditions, etc.), this may be allowed in principle but requires additional ethical scrutiny. This often involves some sort of review board or committee, which slows things down quite a bit. Situations like this aren’t proposal killers, but they can create a much more rigid environment , so you need to consider whether that works for you, given your timeline.

Pragmatism takes a more flexible approach, focusing on the potential usefulness and applicability of the research findings.

5. Write critically and concisely

The final item on the list is more generic but just as important to the success of your research proposal – that is, writing critically and concisely . 

All too often, students fall short in terms of critical writing and end up writing in a very descriptive manner instead. We’ve got a detailed blog post and video explaining the difference between these two types of writing, so we won’t go into detail here. However, the simplest way to distinguish between the two types of writing is that descriptive writing focuses on the what , while analytical writing draws out the “so what” – in other words, what’s the impact and relevance of each point that you’re making to the bigger issue at hand.

In the case of a research proposal, the core task at hand is to convince the reader that your planned research deserves a chance . To do this, you need to show the reviewer that your research will (amongst other things) be original , valuable and practical . So, when you’re writing, you need to keep this core objective front of mind and write with purpose, taking every opportunity to link what you’re writing about to that core purpose of the proposal.

The second aspect in relation to writing is to write concisely . All too often, students ramble on and use far more word count than is necessary. Part of the problem here is that their writing is just too descriptive (the previous point) and part of the issue is just a lack of editing .

The keyword here is editing – in other words, you don’t need to write the most concise version possible on your first try – if anything, we encourage you to just thought vomit as much as you can in the initial stages of writing. Once you’ve got everything down on paper, then you can get down to editing and trimming down your writing . You need to get comfortable with this process of iteration and revision with everything you write – don’t try to write the perfect first draft. First, get the thoughts out of your head and onto the paper , then edit. This is a habit that will serve you well beyond your proposal, into your actual dissertation or thesis.

Pragmatism takes a more flexible approach, focusing on the potential usefulness and applicability of the research findings.

Wrapping Up

To recap, the five essentials to keep in mind when writing up your research proposal include:

If you want to learn more about how to craft a top-notch research proposal, be sure to check out our online course for a comprehensive, step-by-step guide. Alternatively, if you’d like to get hands-on help developing your proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the research journey, step by step. 

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the steps in developing a research proposal.
  • Choose a topic and formulate a research question and working thesis.
  • Develop a research proposal.

Writing a good research paper takes time, thought, and effort. Although this assignment is challenging, it is manageable. Focusing on one step at a time will help you develop a thoughtful, informative, well-supported research paper.

Your first step is to choose a topic and then to develop research questions, a working thesis, and a written research proposal. Set aside adequate time for this part of the process. Fully exploring ideas will help you build a solid foundation for your paper.

Choosing a Topic

When you choose a topic for a research paper, you are making a major commitment. Your choice will help determine whether you enjoy the lengthy process of research and writing—and whether your final paper fulfills the assignment requirements. If you choose your topic hastily, you may later find it difficult to work with your topic. By taking your time and choosing carefully, you can ensure that this assignment is not only challenging but also rewarding.

Writers understand the importance of choosing a topic that fulfills the assignment requirements and fits the assignment’s purpose and audience. (For more information about purpose and audience, see Chapter 6 “Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content” .) Choosing a topic that interests you is also crucial. You instructor may provide a list of suggested topics or ask that you develop a topic on your own. In either case, try to identify topics that genuinely interest you.

After identifying potential topic ideas, you will need to evaluate your ideas and choose one topic to pursue. Will you be able to find enough information about the topic? Can you develop a paper about this topic that presents and supports your original ideas? Is the topic too broad or too narrow for the scope of the assignment? If so, can you modify it so it is more manageable? You will ask these questions during this preliminary phase of the research process.

Identifying Potential Topics

Sometimes, your instructor may provide a list of suggested topics. If so, you may benefit from identifying several possibilities before committing to one idea. It is important to know how to narrow down your ideas into a concise, manageable thesis. You may also use the list as a starting point to help you identify additional, related topics. Discussing your ideas with your instructor will help ensure that you choose a manageable topic that fits the requirements of the assignment.

In this chapter, you will follow a writer named Jorge, who is studying health care administration, as he prepares a research paper. You will also plan, research, and draft your own research paper.

Jorge was assigned to write a research paper on health and the media for an introductory course in health care. Although a general topic was selected for the students, Jorge had to decide which specific issues interested him. He brainstormed a list of possibilities.

If you are writing a research paper for a specialized course, look back through your notes and course activities. Identify reading assignments and class discussions that especially engaged you. Doing so can help you identify topics to pursue.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in the news
  • Sexual education programs
  • Hollywood and eating disorders
  • Americans’ access to public health information
  • Media portrayal of health care reform bill
  • Depictions of drugs on television
  • The effect of the Internet on mental health
  • Popularized diets (such as low-carbohydrate diets)
  • Fear of pandemics (bird flu, HINI, SARS)
  • Electronic entertainment and obesity
  • Advertisements for prescription drugs
  • Public education and disease prevention

Set a timer for five minutes. Use brainstorming or idea mapping to create a list of topics you would be interested in researching for a paper about the influence of the Internet on social networking. Do you closely follow the media coverage of a particular website, such as Twitter? Would you like to learn more about a certain industry, such as online dating? Which social networking sites do you and your friends use? List as many ideas related to this topic as you can.

Narrowing Your Topic

Once you have a list of potential topics, you will need to choose one as the focus of your essay. You will also need to narrow your topic. Most writers find that the topics they listed during brainstorming or idea mapping are broad—too broad for the scope of the assignment. Working with an overly broad topic, such as sexual education programs or popularized diets, can be frustrating and overwhelming. Each topic has so many facets that it would be impossible to cover them all in a college research paper. However, more specific choices, such as the pros and cons of sexual education in kids’ television programs or the physical effects of the South Beach diet, are specific enough to write about without being too narrow to sustain an entire research paper.

A good research paper provides focused, in-depth information and analysis. If your topic is too broad, you will find it difficult to do more than skim the surface when you research it and write about it. Narrowing your focus is essential to making your topic manageable. To narrow your focus, explore your topic in writing, conduct preliminary research, and discuss both the topic and the research with others.

Exploring Your Topic in Writing

“How am I supposed to narrow my topic when I haven’t even begun researching yet?” In fact, you may already know more than you realize. Review your list and identify your top two or three topics. Set aside some time to explore each one through freewriting. (For more information about freewriting, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .) Simply taking the time to focus on your topic may yield fresh angles.

Jorge knew that he was especially interested in the topic of diet fads, but he also knew that it was much too broad for his assignment. He used freewriting to explore his thoughts so he could narrow his topic. Read Jorge’s ideas.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Another way writers may focus a topic is to conduct preliminary research . Like freewriting, exploratory reading can help you identify interesting angles. Surfing the web and browsing through newspaper and magazine articles are good ways to start. Find out what people are saying about your topic on blogs and online discussion groups. Discussing your topic with others can also inspire you. Talk about your ideas with your classmates, your friends, or your instructor.

Jorge’s freewriting exercise helped him realize that the assigned topic of health and the media intersected with a few of his interests—diet, nutrition, and obesity. Preliminary online research and discussions with his classmates strengthened his impression that many people are confused or misled by media coverage of these subjects.

Jorge decided to focus his paper on a topic that had garnered a great deal of media attention—low-carbohydrate diets. He wanted to find out whether low-carbohydrate diets were as effective as their proponents claimed.

Writing at Work

At work, you may need to research a topic quickly to find general information. This information can be useful in understanding trends in a given industry or generating competition. For example, a company may research a competitor’s prices and use the information when pricing their own product. You may find it useful to skim a variety of reliable sources and take notes on your findings.

The reliability of online sources varies greatly. In this exploratory phase of your research, you do not need to evaluate sources as closely as you will later. However, use common sense as you refine your paper topic. If you read a fascinating blog comment that gives you a new idea for your paper, be sure to check out other, more reliable sources as well to make sure the idea is worth pursuing.

Review the list of topics you created in Note 11.18 “Exercise 1” and identify two or three topics you would like to explore further. For each of these topics, spend five to ten minutes writing about the topic without stopping. Then review your writing to identify possible areas of focus.

Set aside time to conduct preliminary research about your potential topics. Then choose a topic to pursue for your research paper.

Collaboration

Please share your topic list with a classmate. Select one or two topics on his or her list that you would like to learn more about and return it to him or her. Discuss why you found the topics interesting, and learn which of your topics your classmate selected and why.

A Plan for Research

Your freewriting and preliminary research have helped you choose a focused, manageable topic for your research paper. To work with your topic successfully, you will need to determine what exactly you want to learn about it—and later, what you want to say about it. Before you begin conducting in-depth research, you will further define your focus by developing a research question , a working thesis, and a research proposal.

Formulating a Research Question

In forming a research question, you are setting a goal for your research. Your main research question should be substantial enough to form the guiding principle of your paper—but focused enough to guide your research. A strong research question requires you not only to find information but also to put together different pieces of information, interpret and analyze them, and figure out what you think. As you consider potential research questions, ask yourself whether they would be too hard or too easy to answer.

To determine your research question, review the freewriting you completed earlier. Skim through books, articles, and websites and list the questions you have. (You may wish to use the 5WH strategy to help you formulate questions. See Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” for more information about 5WH questions.) Include simple, factual questions and more complex questions that would require analysis and interpretation. Determine your main question—the primary focus of your paper—and several subquestions that you will need to research to answer your main question.

Here are the research questions Jorge will use to focus his research. Notice that his main research question has no obvious, straightforward answer. Jorge will need to research his subquestions, which address narrower topics, to answer his main question.

Using the topic you selected in Note 11.24 “Exercise 2” , write your main research question and at least four to five subquestions. Check that your main research question is appropriately complex for your assignment.

Constructing a Working ThesIs

A working thesis concisely states a writer’s initial answer to the main research question. It does not merely state a fact or present a subjective opinion. Instead, it expresses a debatable idea or claim that you hope to prove through additional research. Your working thesis is called a working thesis for a reason—it is subject to change. As you learn more about your topic, you may change your thinking in light of your research findings. Let your working thesis serve as a guide to your research, but do not be afraid to modify it based on what you learn.

Jorge began his research with a strong point of view based on his preliminary writing and research. Read his working thesis statement, which presents the point he will argue. Notice how it states Jorge’s tentative answer to his research question.

One way to determine your working thesis is to consider how you would complete sentences such as I believe or My opinion is . However, keep in mind that academic writing generally does not use first-person pronouns. These statements are useful starting points, but formal research papers use an objective voice.

Write a working thesis statement that presents your preliminary answer to the research question you wrote in Note 11.27 “Exercise 3” . Check that your working thesis statement presents an idea or claim that could be supported or refuted by evidence from research.

Creating a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a brief document—no more than one typed page—that summarizes the preliminary work you have completed. Your purpose in writing it is to formalize your plan for research and present it to your instructor for feedback. In your research proposal, you will present your main research question, related subquestions, and working thesis. You will also briefly discuss the value of researching this topic and indicate how you plan to gather information.

When Jorge began drafting his research proposal, he realized that he had already created most of the pieces he needed. However, he knew he also had to explain how his research would be relevant to other future health care professionals. In addition, he wanted to form a general plan for doing the research and identifying potentially useful sources. Read Jorge’s research proposal.

Read Jorge's research proposal

Before you begin a new project at work, you may have to develop a project summary document that states the purpose of the project, explains why it would be a wise use of company resources, and briefly outlines the steps involved in completing the project. This type of document is similar to a research proposal. Both documents define and limit a project, explain its value, discuss how to proceed, and identify what resources you will use.

Writing Your Own Research Proposal

Now you may write your own research proposal, if you have not done so already. Follow the guidelines provided in this lesson.

Key Takeaways

  • Developing a research proposal involves the following preliminary steps: identifying potential ideas, choosing ideas to explore further, choosing and narrowing a topic, formulating a research question, and developing a working thesis.
  • A good topic for a research paper interests the writer and fulfills the requirements of the assignment.
  • Defining and narrowing a topic helps writers conduct focused, in-depth research.
  • Writers conduct preliminary research to identify possible topics and research questions and to develop a working thesis.
  • A good research question interests readers, is neither too broad nor too narrow, and has no obvious answer.
  • A good working thesis expresses a debatable idea or claim that can be supported with evidence from research.
  • Writers create a research proposal to present their topic, main research question, subquestions, and working thesis to an instructor for approval or feedback.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Sacred Heart University Library

Organizing Academic Research Papers: Writing a Research Proposal

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

The goal of a research proposal is to present and justify a research idea you have and to present the practical ways in which you think this research should be conducted. The forms and procedures for such research are defined by the field of study, so guidelines for research proposals are generally more exacting and less formal than a project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews and must provide persuasive evidence that there is a need for the research study being proposed. In addition to providing rationale for the proposed research, 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/or benefits derived from the study.

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.
  • Help learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to ensure a research problem has not already been answered [or you may determine the problem has been answered ineffectively] and, in so doing, become familiar with scholarship related to your topic.
  • Improve your general research and writing skills.
  • Practice identifying what logical steps must be taken to accomplish one's research goals.
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of doing scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a complete 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 results of the study and your analysis of those results. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing. It is, therefore, important that your writing 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 succient in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to research.
  • Why do you want to do it? 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 study. Be sure to answer the "So what? question.
  • How are you going to do it? Be sure that what you propose is doable.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise; being "all over the map" without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual boundaries of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.].
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research.
  • Failure to stay focused on the research question; going off on unrelated tangents.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing. Poor grammar.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues.

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 a traditional research paper, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout the social sciences. Most proposals are between ten and fifteen pages in length. 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, and why?
  • 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 my topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In the end, your research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and highlight 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!"

In general your proposal 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 your doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea. 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 sense your passion for the topic and be excited about its possible outcomes.

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

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Why is this important research, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes from the study?

II.  Background and Significance

This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and flow of your proposal. This is where you explain the context of your project and outline why it's important. 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 research problem; instead, you must choose what is relevant to help explain your goals for the study.

To that end, while there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to deal with 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.
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing. Answer the "So what? question [i.e., why should anyone care].
  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research.
  • Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to the analysis of your topic.
  • Set the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus.
  • Provide definitions of key concepts or terms, if necessary.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is 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 demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they've used, and what is your understanding of their findings. Assess what you believe is still missing, and state how previous research has failed to examine the issue that your study addresses.

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 study in relation to that of other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically describing materials one at a time.

To help frame your proposal's literature review, here are the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite : 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: what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, 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, etc.] .
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, or synthesize 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 . As a consequence, the reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. The objective here is to ensure that the reader is convinced that your overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the research problem. Your design and methods should be absolutely and 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. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to collect information, about the techniques you will use to analyze it, and about 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 or times].

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

  • Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of these operations in relation to your 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 doing it.
  • Keep in mind that a methodology is not just a list of research tasks; it is an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to perform does not demonstrate that they add up to the best feasible approach.
  • Be sure to anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to get around them.

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, it doesn't mean that you can skip talking about the 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 of your study will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy. 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 the theoretical framework that frames 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 "real world"?
  • 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?
  • 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 will come about?

VI.  Conclusion

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

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

  • Why the study was done,
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempted to answer,
  • The research design and methods used,
  • 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 composing your proposal. In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so speak with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- lists only the literature that you actually used or cited in your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- lists everything you used or cited in your proposal with additional citations of 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 make sure the project will complement and not duplicate the efforts of other researchers. Start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" 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 [i.e., education=APA; history=Chicago, etc]. This section normally does not count towards the total length of your proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal . Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; 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; 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.

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Research Method

Home » How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

Table of Contents

How To Write A Proposal

How To Write A Proposal

Writing a Proposal involves several key steps to effectively communicate your ideas and intentions to a target audience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each step:

Identify the Purpose and Audience

  • Clearly define the purpose of your proposal: What problem are you addressing, what solution are you proposing, or what goal are you aiming to achieve?
  • Identify your target audience: Who will be reading your proposal? Consider their background, interests, and any specific requirements they may have.

Conduct Research

  • Gather relevant information: Conduct thorough research to support your proposal. This may involve studying existing literature, analyzing data, or conducting surveys/interviews to gather necessary facts and evidence.
  • Understand the context: Familiarize yourself with the current situation or problem you’re addressing. Identify any relevant trends, challenges, or opportunities that may impact your proposal.

Develop an Outline

  • Create a clear and logical structure: Divide your proposal into sections or headings that will guide your readers through the content.
  • Introduction: Provide a concise overview of the problem, its significance, and the proposed solution.
  • Background/Context: Offer relevant background information and context to help the readers understand the situation.
  • Objectives/Goals: Clearly state the objectives or goals of your proposal.
  • Methodology/Approach: Describe the approach or methodology you will use to address the problem.
  • Timeline/Schedule: Present a detailed timeline or schedule outlining the key milestones or activities.
  • Budget/Resources: Specify the financial and other resources required to implement your proposal.
  • Evaluation/Success Metrics: Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and restate the benefits of your proposal.

Write the Proposal

  • Grab attention: Start with a compelling opening statement or a brief story that hooks the reader.
  • Clearly state the problem: Clearly define the problem or issue you are addressing and explain its significance.
  • Present your proposal: Introduce your proposed solution, project, or idea and explain why it is the best approach.
  • State the objectives/goals: Clearly articulate the specific objectives or goals your proposal aims to achieve.
  • Provide supporting information: Present evidence, data, or examples to support your claims and justify your proposal.
  • Explain the methodology: Describe in detail the approach, methods, or strategies you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Address potential concerns: Anticipate and address any potential objections or challenges the readers may have and provide counterarguments or mitigation strategies.
  • Recap the main points: Summarize the key points you’ve discussed in the proposal.
  • Reinforce the benefits: Emphasize the positive outcomes, benefits, or impact your proposal will have.
  • Call to action: Clearly state what action you want the readers to take, such as approving the proposal, providing funding, or collaborating with you.

Review and Revise

  • Proofread for clarity and coherence: Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Ensure a logical flow: Read through your proposal to ensure the ideas are presented in a logical order and are easy to follow.
  • Revise and refine: Fine-tune your proposal to make it concise, persuasive, and compelling.

Add Supplementary Materials

  • Attach relevant documents: Include any supporting materials that strengthen your proposal, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  • Appendices: Add any additional information that might be useful but not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Formatting and Presentation

  • Follow the guidelines: Adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.
  • Use a professional tone and language: Ensure that your proposal is written in a clear, concise, and professional manner.
  • Use headings and subheadings: Organize your proposal with clear headings and subheadings to improve readability.
  • Pay attention to design: Use appropriate fonts, font sizes, and formatting styles to make your proposal visually appealing.
  • Include a cover page: Create a cover page that includes the title of your proposal, your name or organization, the date, and any other required information.

Seek Feedback

  • Share your proposal with trusted colleagues or mentors and ask for their feedback. Consider their suggestions for improvement and incorporate them into your proposal if necessary.

Finalize and Submit

  • Make any final revisions based on the feedback received.
  • Ensure that all required sections, attachments, and documentation are included.
  • Double-check for any formatting, grammar, or spelling errors.
  • Submit your proposal within the designated deadline and according to the submission guidelines provided.

Proposal Format

The format of a proposal can vary depending on the specific requirements of the organization or institution you are submitting it to. However, here is a general proposal format that you can follow:

1. Title Page:

  • Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization’s name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines.

2. Executive Summary:

  •  Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.
  • Summarize the problem, proposed solution, and anticipated benefits.
  • Keep it brief and engaging, as this section is often read first and should capture the reader’s attention.

3. Introduction:

  • State the problem or issue you are addressing and its significance.
  • Provide background information to help the reader understand the context and importance of the problem.
  • Clearly state the purpose and objectives of your proposal.

4. Problem Statement:

  • Describe the problem in detail, highlighting its impact and consequences.
  • Use data, statistics, or examples to support your claims and demonstrate the need for a solution.

5. Proposed Solution or Project Description:

  • Explain your proposed solution or project in a clear and detailed manner.
  • Describe how your solution addresses the problem and why it is the most effective approach.
  • Include information on the methods, strategies, or activities you will undertake to implement your solution.
  • Highlight any unique features, innovations, or advantages of your proposal.

6. Methodology:

  • Provide a step-by-step explanation of the methodology or approach you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Include a timeline or schedule that outlines the key milestones, tasks, and deliverables.
  • Clearly describe the resources, personnel, or expertise required for each phase of the project.

7. Evaluation and Success Metrics:

  • Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Identify specific metrics, indicators, or evaluation methods that will be used.
  • Describe how you will track progress, gather feedback, and make adjustments as needed.
  • Present a detailed budget that outlines the financial resources required for your proposal.
  • Include all relevant costs, such as personnel, materials, equipment, and any other expenses.
  • Provide a justification for each item in the budget.

9. Conclusion:

  •  Summarize the main points of your proposal.
  •  Reiterate the benefits and positive outcomes of implementing your proposal.
  • Emphasize the value and impact it will have on the organization or community.

10. Appendices:

  • Include any additional supporting materials, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  •  Attach any relevant documents that provide further information but are not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Proposal Template

Here’s a basic proposal template that you can use as a starting point for creating your own proposal:

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing to submit a proposal for [briefly state the purpose of the proposal and its significance]. This proposal outlines a comprehensive solution to address [describe the problem or issue] and presents an actionable plan to achieve the desired objectives.

Thank you for considering this proposal. I believe that implementing this solution will significantly contribute to [organization’s or community’s goals]. I am available to discuss the proposal in more detail at your convenience. Please feel free to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

Yours sincerely,

Note: This template is a starting point and should be customized to meet the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.

Proposal Sample

Here’s a sample proposal to give you an idea of how it could be structured and written:

Subject : Proposal for Implementation of Environmental Education Program

I am pleased to submit this proposal for your consideration, outlining a comprehensive plan for the implementation of an Environmental Education Program. This program aims to address the critical need for environmental awareness and education among the community, with the objective of fostering a sense of responsibility and sustainability.

Executive Summary: Our proposed Environmental Education Program is designed to provide engaging and interactive educational opportunities for individuals of all ages. By combining classroom learning, hands-on activities, and community engagement, we aim to create a long-lasting impact on environmental conservation practices and attitudes.

Introduction: The state of our environment is facing significant challenges, including climate change, habitat loss, and pollution. It is essential to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to understand these issues and take action. This proposal seeks to bridge the gap in environmental education and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship among the community.

Problem Statement: The lack of environmental education programs has resulted in limited awareness and understanding of environmental issues. As a result, individuals are less likely to adopt sustainable practices or actively contribute to conservation efforts. Our program aims to address this gap and empower individuals to become environmentally conscious and responsible citizens.

Proposed Solution or Project Description: Our Environmental Education Program will comprise a range of activities, including workshops, field trips, and community initiatives. We will collaborate with local schools, community centers, and environmental organizations to ensure broad participation and maximum impact. By incorporating interactive learning experiences, such as nature walks, recycling drives, and eco-craft sessions, we aim to make environmental education engaging and enjoyable.

Methodology: Our program will be structured into modules that cover key environmental themes, such as biodiversity, climate change, waste management, and sustainable living. Each module will include a mix of classroom sessions, hands-on activities, and practical field experiences. We will also leverage technology, such as educational apps and online resources, to enhance learning outcomes.

Evaluation and Success Metrics: We will employ a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Pre- and post-assessments will gauge knowledge gain, while surveys and feedback forms will assess participant satisfaction and behavior change. We will also track the number of community engagement activities and the adoption of sustainable practices as indicators of success.

Budget: Please find attached a detailed budget breakdown for the implementation of the Environmental Education Program. The budget covers personnel costs, materials and supplies, transportation, and outreach expenses. We have ensured cost-effectiveness while maintaining the quality and impact of the program.

Conclusion: By implementing this Environmental Education Program, we have the opportunity to make a significant difference in our community’s environmental consciousness and practices. We are confident that this program will foster a generation of individuals who are passionate about protecting our environment and taking sustainable actions. We look forward to discussing the proposal further and working together to make a positive impact.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Should you have any questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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  • RIT Libraries
  • Social/Behavioral Sciences Research Guide
  • Writing a Research Proposal

This InfoGuide assists students starting their research proposal and literature review.

  • Introduction
  • Research Process
  • Types of Research Methodology
  • Data Collection Methods
  • Anatomy of a Scholarly Article
  • Finding a topic
  • Identifying a Research Problem
  • Problem Statement
  • Research Question
  • Research Design
  • Search Strategies
  • Psychology Database Limiters
  • Literature Review Search
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Writing a Literature Review

Writing a Rsearch Proposal

A  research proposal  describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.  Your paper should include the topic, research question and hypothesis, methods, predictions, and results (if not actual, then projected).

Research Proposal Aims

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.

Proposal Format

The proposal will usually have a  title page  that includes:

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

Introduction 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 will your research contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

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 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

Research design and methods

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your 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. Write up your projected, if not actual, results.

Contribution to knowledge

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

Lastly, 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 free APA citation generators like BibGuru. Databases have a citation button you can click on to see your citation. Sometimes you have to re-format it as the citations may have mistakes. 

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How to Write a Research Proposal

As part of the application for admission onto our MJur, MPhil and PhD programmes, you must prepare a research proposal outlining your proposed area of study.

Student enjoying a seminar

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. It sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It outlines the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic. It also demonstrates the originality of your proposed research.

The proposal is the most important document that you submit as part of the application process. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the aptitude for graduate level research, for example, by demonstrating that you have the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly, concisely and critically. The proposal also helps us to match your research interest with an appropriate supervisor.

What should you include in the proposal?

Regardless of whether you are applying for the MJur, MPhil or PhD programmes, your research proposal should normally include the following information:

This is just a tentative title for your intended research. You will be able to revise your title during the course of your research if you are accepted for admission.

Examples of the thesis titles of some of our current and recent research students can be seen on our Current Projects page .

2. Abstract

The proposal should include a concise statement of your intended research of no more than 100 words. This may be a couple of sentences setting out the problem that you want to examine or the central question that you wish to address.

3. Research Context

You should explain the broad background against which you will conduct your research. You should include a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic. This will allow you to demonstrate a familiarity with the relevant field as well as the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

4. Research Questions

The proposal should set out the central aims and questions that will guide your research. Before writing your proposal, you should take time to reflect on the key questions that you are seeking to answer. Many research proposals are too broad, so reflecting on your key research questions is a good way to make sure that your project is sufficiently narrow and feasible (i.e. one that is likely to be completed with the normal period for a MJur, MPhil or PhD degree).

You might find it helpful to prioritize one or two main questions, from which you can then derive a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also explain your intended approach to answering the questions: will your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical etc?

5. Research Methods

The proposal should outline your research methods, explaining how you are going to conduct your research. Your methods may include visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews.

Most research is library-based. If your proposed research is library-based, you should explain where your key resources (e.g. law reports, journal articles) are located (in the Law School’s library, Westlaw etc). If you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data, you should provide details about this (e.g. if you plan interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews will you conduct? Will there be problems of access?). This section should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.

6. Significance of Research

The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic).

7. Bibliography

The proposal should include a short bibliography identifying the most relevant works for your topic.

How long should the proposal be?

The proposal should usually be around 2,500 words. It is important to bear in mind that specific funding bodies might have different word limits.

Can the School comment on my draft proposal?

We recognise that you are likely still developing your research topic. We therefore recommend that you contact a member of our staff with appropriate expertise to discuss your proposed research. If there is a good fit between your proposed research and our research strengths, we will give you advice on a draft of your research proposal before you make a formal application. For details of our staff and there areas of expertise please visit our staff pages . 

Read a sample proposal from a successful application  

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How to Write a Research Proposal? – Guide with Examples

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It’s easy to think that research is the most important part of a Ph.D. But before you can start that research, first you need to write a research proposal and obtain support for your work.  In fact, writing a compelling research proposal is critical to succeeding in the world of research and academia.

If you become an academic or a researcher, you’ll be writing research proposals often! But what is a research proposal, and how can you make sure that yours is successful? What are the elements of a research proposal, and how long should it be? Let’s read on to find out.

Table of Content:

Why write a research proposal.

  • What should be included in the research proposal?

How do I Write a Research Proposal?

  • Editing/Proofreading Your Research Proposal
  • Common Mistakes When Writing a Research Proposal
  • Examples of Research Proposals

The goal of a research proposal is to persuade potential funders that your research is important and worth spending money and resources to support. Because competition for funding is fierce, institutions and funders use research proposals to identify projects that have the potential to be of importance to the field and are well-planned and clearly based on a strong understanding of existing research.

Your successful research proposal will make a convincing case for the significance of your research, lay out a reasonable timeline and budget, and locate your study in the current literature.

What’s in a Research Proposal?

Research proposals are usually between 1,500 and 3,000 words long (about 4 to 7 pages), and contain all of the elements of an actual research paper with some extra information. These generally include some or all of the following:

  • Introduction
  • Background of the study (significance)
  • Literature review
  • Research design and methods
  • Supposition and implications
  • Bibliography

In addition, you will need to include a budget and timetable outlining your schedule for completing your research and your anticipated costs. Research proposals that involve human or animal subjects will also require a compliance plan demonstrating awareness of and planning to deal with any potential ethical issues.

Like any paper, you’ll want to begin writing your research proposal by selecting a good research topic . Once you’ve done that, the next step is to craft a good research question.

Your research question will refine what you hope to discover through your research and also guide the design of your study. Make sure your research question is feasible, specific, focused, measurable, and clear.

Once you’ve defined your research question, it’s time to make a list of relevant sources for your bibliography and literature review. Since this is just a proposal, your literature review does not have to be comprehensive, but you should mention the most prominent research in the related field and include the rest in your bibliography.

Now you can plan out your study design and create a timeline and budget. Finally, address the suggestions and implications that your research will have for the field and finish up by writing your introduction, background, and conclusion. Of course you can write your actual research proposal in any order that you like, but it’s often easier to finish by writing the introduction once you have the rest of your proposal laid out for you.

Editing Your Proposal

Once you’ve drafted your research proposal, it can be tempting to send it off and call it a day. But you should never skip the crucial steps of editing, proofreading, and polishing your proposal! No matter how brilliant your first draft might seem when you are writing it, there is always room for improvement when it comes to writing.

It’s easy to miss small but glaring errors the first time around. Even a poorly placed typo could endanger the success of your research proposal, as it can make you seem like you don’t pay sufficient attention to detail.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to edit your own work, you can always use an academic editing service , which will polish your writing and ensure it meets all of the proposal requirements. Alternatively, if you just want some extra help, an AI grammar checker like Trinka , which is specifically tailored towards academic writing, can be the best option.

What are Some Common Mistakes when Writing a Research Proposal?

To ensure the success of your research proposal, you’ll want to avoid making some common mistakes. The most essential mistake to avoid is failing to make a strong argument for your research. Your research proposal exists to demonstrate the importance of and need for your research to drive the field forward.

What question do you hope to make progress on, and how will it help others who follow you? You must establish the basis and significance of your proposed study in order to win over the reviewing committee or institution.

Other common mistakes research proposal writers make include being too wordy and focusing too much on minor issues. While you want your proposal to meet the minimum length requirement, you don’t need to waste anyone’s time writing meaningless sentences just to take up space.

The same goes for focusing on minor issues. You can delve into the details when you write your actual paper, but there’s no need to spend time on them in your proposal.

Finally, make sure the sources you cite in your proposal and bibliography are relevant. You don’t need to read through every study just for your proposal. But you should at least read the abstracts and make sure the studies relate to your proposed project.

One good strategy to find sources is to find one very relevant paper and then check out their cited sources. Remember, you need to demonstrate you understand your proposed research area well, and citing relevant sources is a key aspect of that.

Can you Show me Some Example Proposals?

If you’d like some examples of successful research proposals, check out the following links:

  • Clinical Research Project Proposal Example
  • Department of Social Policy and Criminology Proposal Examples
  • Politics PhD Proposal Examples
  • Civil Engineering Proposal Example

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Scientific Writing in Graduate School: An Interview with UGA Alumna, De’Yana Hines

De'Yana Hines

De’Yana Hines is a second-year doctoral student in biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech. She took BIOL 4300W/6300W: Scientific Research Writing during her undergraduate career at UGA, and she credits the course with helping her develop writing and communication skills she uses in graduate school. As part of her recent writing activities, she’s presented posters at two conferences, including one in which her poster got a third-place finish. De’Yana is also involved in graduate student recruitment as a CEED (Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity) ambassador. 

In this interview with Dr. Holly Gallagher, who teaches BIOL 4300W/6300W, De’Yana considers the importance of developing writing skills as an undergraduate and a graduate student, and she considers the importance of broader communication skills to represent STEM research to diverse populations.

What have you been doing since you graduated from UGA?

I am currently a PhD student at Virginia Tech in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics (BEAM), which is focused on the biological side of the medical field in engineering and engineering mechanics. I’m in a program for biomedical engineers at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES), which is a joint program between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University. We do clinical rotations at Wake Forest School of Medicine our first year and then we finish out our program at our home institution. It’s a relatively new program. 

I work in two labs now. I work with Dr. VandeVord in the Traumatic Nerve Technologies (TNT) lab, which is focused on the impact of blasts on the brain. And I also work in the Costa lab at Virginia College of Medicine, which is focused on neuropharmacology. Somehow I got an Alzheimer’s project out of it! My current research is finding non-pharmaceutical ways to increase fluid circulation, which could theoretically help minimize the symptoms and effects of neurological disorders, like Alzheimer's disease. 

How did your background at UGA prepare you for your graduate work?

I enrolled at UGA because they offered a Biological Engineering undergraduate program, which is broad and includes biological and chemical foundations. I started with a number of rigorous biology and chemistry classes, such as microbiology and biochemistry, along with a variety of engineering and math classes. 

How did BIOL 4300W: Scientific Research Writing fit into your undergraduate career?

When I investigated what skills a researcher needs, one thing that kept appearing is strong writing skills to be able to write research papers and grants. I wanted to improve my scientific writing, so I took BIOL 4300W: Scientific Research Writing. In the course, I branched into a related area of research, neuroscience, when I wrote a review paper on using virtual reality in rehabilitation. Some things I took away from the course are how to fully flesh out a story about data and how to communicate that to different audiences. These have helped me to be a better researcher.

The review paper I wrote in BIOL 4300W helped me to secure an internship with the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Neuroscience (NSURE), which is an NIH-funded training program providing research experience for underrepresented students in biomedical sciences. After a successful internship, I continued working in Dr. Jing Xu’s lab my senior year. My first presentation in the lab was actually my findings from the review paper I wrote in BIOL 4300W. And I also used the review paper as a talking point in my interviews with graduate schools. That manuscript was very helpful to have on hand!

What kinds of writing have you been doing in graduate school?

Well, the most important thing that I've written is my qualifying exam, which I passed! The exam is essentially a grant proposal on a random research topic whether we knew anything about it or not. The topic for my cohort was bone cancer, which is very hard to work with because it’s difficult for engineers to develop preventative measures on a disease that has a high mortality rate. 

In addition, I’m working on a grant re-application with my PIs, and I’ll be working on an academic paper this spring and summer. I’m also taking classes, and we’re expected to write detailed articles and proposals. 

How much writing do you do in graduate school?

The writing load in graduate school is way heavier than undergrad. I know a lot of engineers try to run away from reading and writing, and that's why they hopped on the engineering path. If you do choose to continue your education, there's way more writing. Writing is 60- 70% of my time, and it's not just a short five pages that you had in undergrad. You’re writing 20 to 50 pages. 

What are some differences between scientific writing in undergrad and grad school?

In Undergrad, you are presenting your results in lab reports, but in Grad school you have to develop the introduction and background section more which requires a different style of writing. I’ve learned that you need to give a story. Readers need to be intrigued, and they need to understand why this research is important. If you don't get that across in the introduction or the abstract, it may not get published. Or you might be asked to rewrite to better convey the research story.

Also, there's so much research being done, so you have to think about how to help your research stand out and be something that somebody wants to read. Of course, it's dependent on content, but it's also dependent on the way it's presented. Some really good research gets lost when it’s not written in the most interesting way possible.  

Are you involved in science communication to broader populations? 

I want to communicate with the general public about research because I do feel like there is a disconnect. We need more communication between groups of different economic status. People in research and medical professions have limited time, but if they could reach out to some smaller groups or where they came from, it would open up a resource for people, and there would be some progress.

Typically my goal for biomedical engineering is to be a representative for underrepresented kids interested in STEM fields because they don't always get to see people that look like me get to graduate school or even attend college. I try to show the importance of engineering and research in general. 

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Undergraduate Research in Biology

Undergraduates majoring in biology have the opportunity to enhance their learning through direct participation in research and scholarship. At UGA, these opportunities enable undergraduates to participate in ground-breaking research, often as part of a team of graduate students and faculty. In fact, many students can earn academic credit while working under an experienced faculty mentor by taking BIOL 4960R or working directly with the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO). The Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship (BSURF) has been established to support undergraduate research opportunities in the Division of Biological Sciences within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The Fellowship provides financial assistance to a student who has not had an opportunity to participate in a mentored research experience (paid, volunteer, or for credit) since matriculating to The University of Georgia.

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The Dissertation Proposal Writing Process and Conference Preparation

The past few months of my PhD journey have been an absolute whirlwind! Aside from my typical class and GTA responsiblities, I was juggling my dissertation proposal, an ASEE conference paper, and preparing for the KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network) National Conference! It was a lot of work at times and a little daunting, but whenever I took a step back from it all, I realized how cool all the work is that I’m doing and how amazing it is to be doing it as a PhD student. Along the way, I learned several important lessons that will inform how move through Engineering Education moving forward.

A long term goal of mine was to finish my dissertation proposal, send it to my committee, and formally start my candidacy exam on February 1st which happened! I blocked of time weekly to work on my proposal and flesh out my research design since the Summer of 2023, and seeing the kind of progress and growth I was making was incredible. For some time, I had learned about all the different elements of research design, what kinds of things I need to consider, and what decisions need to be justified, and finally putting all this knowledge into practice helped to make all this conceptual knowledge more tangible. This process also showed me the power of setting aside dedicated work time for specific projects. With each passing week, I could see the progress I was making and always ended each week a few steps ahead than where I started.

While finishing up my proposal and sending that to my committee, I was able to work on an ASEE paper with fellow RIME members, Amanda Singer and Carter Huber, along with Drs. Kajfez and Kecskemety! This paper focused on the application of some indirect assessments our KEEN Research & Assessment Team developed in the honors track of our first-year program. We had some interesting findings in our data analysis and it’s exciting to put this out into the world for other practitioners to reference as they help their students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. It was also very cool to begin collaborating with my peers on research! I think we all brought something valuable to our work and that helped to make our findings shine.

The submission of both my proposal and this ASEE paper culminated with a trip to the KEEN National Conference (KNC) which was held in Austin, Texas this year! It was refreshing to be with a group of educators who are also invested in how we teach students and making sure it’s done in a way that benefits their growth. The conferenced largely focused on different kinds of workshops and helping educators see how they could bring new ideas and practices into their classrooms to enhance student learning. But, the best parts of the conference were attending with Dr. Kajfez and meeting up with fellow RIME member, Meg West, and RIME alumn, Abby Clark (see photo below).

Looking forward, I will soon begin working on the written portion of my candidacy exam. While it can be a little intimidating, it will encourage me to think deeply about different pieces and parts of my study design and make sure I’m ready to think through any curveballs that come my way post-candidacy. I’m excited to begin this part of my PhD journey and see what my study design will look like by the end of the spring semester!

writing of a research proposal uses

Assignment #1 Proposal Writing- Literature Review & Research Questions

IMAGES

  1. How to Write a Successful Research Proposal

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  2. Research Proposal Templates- 21+ Free Samples, Examples, Format Download

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  3. 👍 Research proposal. Research Proposal Example. 2019-02-23

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  4. Writing a Research Proposal

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  5. Understanding What a Thesis Proposal is and How to Write it

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  6. Writing A Research Proposal

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VIDEO

  1. Writing Research Proposal/Synopsis in Urdu Hindi

  2. Proposal 101: What Is A Research Topic?

  3. How to Write Research Proposal? Essential Guide to Writing a Research Proposal/Synopsis

  4. Writing Research Proposal for Getting Admission in PhD

  5. Writing a Research Proposal/Researchers1stChoiceDrKanhaiyaKumarSingh

  6. How To Write A Great Research Proposal

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Research Proposal

    How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023. A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it's important, and how you will conduct your research.

  2. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Write with Grammarly What is the goal of a research proposal? In a research proposal, the goal is to present the author's plan for the research they intend to conduct. In some cases, part of this goal is to secure funding for said research.

  3. What Is A Research Proposal? Examples + Template

    Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it's worth researching (your justification), and how you plan to investigate it (your methodology).

  4. 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;

  5. Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

    Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you're submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template. In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal.

  6. How to write a research proposal?

    BASIC REQUIREMENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL 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]

  7. Writing Research Proposals

    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 ...

  8. PDF Introduction to Writing Research Proposals

    Content and Organization The Project Summary has ve major components (the rst three components are, traditionally, heavily cited): Introduce Topic: The proposal should start by introducing the topic of the research project and discussing the general project goals.

  9. Writing a Research Proposal

    Explain what kind of results will justify or disprove your hypothesis. Budget: Explain how much money you need. Explain the details of the budget (how much you want to spend for what). Conclusion: Describe why your research is important. References: List the sources you have used for writing the research proposal, including a few main citations ...

  10. How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

    Step 1: Title and Abstract. Select a concise, descriptive title and write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology and expected outcomes . The abstract should include your research question, the objectives you aim to achieve, the methodology you plan to employ and the anticipated outcomes.

  11. How To Write A Research Proposal (With Examples)

    The research proposal is literally that: a written document that communicates what you propose to research, in a concise format. It's where you put all that stuff that's spinning around in your head down on to paper, in a logical, convincing fashion.

  12. Writing A Research Proposal: 5 Critical Dos & Don'ts

    Overview: 5 Proposal Writing Essentials. Understand your university's requirements and restrictions. Have a clearly articulated research problem. Clearly communicate the feasibility of your research. Pay very close attention to ethics policies. Focus on writing critically and concisely. 1. Understand the rules of the game.

  13. 11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

    Your first step is to choose a topic and then to develop research questions, a working thesis, and a written research proposal. Set aside adequate time for this part of the process. Fully exploring ideas will help you build a solid foundation for your paper. Choosing a Topic

  14. How To Write A Research Proposal

    1. Title and Abstract Choose a concise and descriptive title that reflects the essence of your research. Write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. It should provide a brief overview of your proposal. 2. Introduction:

  15. Proposal

    Definition: Proposal is a formal document or presentation that outlines a plan, idea, or project and seeks to persuade others to support or adopt it. Proposals are commonly used in business, academia, and various other fields to propose new initiatives, solutions to problems, research studies, or business ventures. Proposal Layout

  16. How to Write a Research Proposal

    How to Write a Research Proposal: A Guide for Students - QuillBot AI Hannah Skaggs Along with Paige Pfeifer Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content. Recommended for you Academic Writing

  17. How to Write a Research Proposal in 2024: Structure, Examples & Common

    JAN 2, 2024 How to Write a Research Proposal in 2024: Structure, Examples & Common Mistakes Share by Imed Bouchrika, Phd Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist Whether you are a student whose goal is to complete course requirements or a researcher looking for funding, knowing how to write a research proposal is an important skill.

  18. Writing a Research Proposal

    As with writing a traditional research paper, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout the social sciences. Most proposals are between ten and fifteen pages in length. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements ...

  19. How To Write A Proposal

    1. Title Page: Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization's name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines. 2. Executive Summary: Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.

  20. What Is a Research Proposal? (Plus How To Write One)

    You may write research proposals for several reasons, including: Applying for a position at a research institute or company Convincing a research supervisor or university that your research can satisfy the requirements of a degree program Showing the importance of your research to organizations that may financially sponsor your endeavors

  21. Writing a Research Proposal

    Writing a Research Proposal; Last Updated: Jan 24, 2024 10:24 AM. Writing a Rsearch Proposal. A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it's important, and how you will conduct your research. Your paper should include the topic, research question and hypothesis, methods, predictions, and results (if not actual, then ...

  22. PDF Guidelines for Writing Research Proposals and Dissertations

    Dr. Mark A. Baron Division of Educational Administration University of South Dakota Guidelines for Writing Research Proposals and Dissertations. The following information presents guidelines for preparing and writing research papers and reports, including theses and dissertations. While these guidelines are generally applicable, specific format ...

  23. How to Write a Research Proposal

    6. Significance of Research . The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed ...

  24. How to Write a Research Proposal?

    Research proposals are usually between 1,500 and 3,000 words long (about 4 to 7 pages), and contain all of the elements of an actual research paper with some extra information. These generally include some or all of the following: Introduction. Background of the study (significance) Literature review. Research design and methods.

  25. Scientific Writing in Graduate School: An Interview with UGA Alumna, De

    De'Yana Hines is a second-year doctoral student in biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech. She took BIOL 4300W/6300W: Scientific Research Writing during her undergraduate career at UGA, and she credits the course with helping her develop writing and communication skills she uses in graduate school. As part of her recent writing activities, she's presented posters at two conferences ...

  26. The Dissertation Proposal Writing Process and Conference Preparation

    A long term goal of mine was to finish my dissertation proposal, send it to my committee, and formally start my candidacy exam on February 1st which happened! I blocked of time weekly to work on my proposal and flesh out my research design since the Summer of 2023, and seeing the kind of progress and growth I was making was incredible.

  27. Assignment #1 Proposal Writing- Literature Review & Research Questions

    RSMT 2500 Assignment # 1: Introduction and Literature Review Total Score: 17.5% Your first major assignment for this course is to write the first two Sections I and II (see the proposal outline posted on BB) of the final Proposal (Course Learning Outcome 5 and 6). This assignment will be submitted electronically via "Assignments" on Blackboard and automatically screened for academic integrity ...