A research proposal is a document that proposes a research project on a certain topic. A research proposal outlines the research process from beginning to the end. It presents central issues or questions that are to be addressed by your research proposal. A research proposal has to contain all the key elements involved in the research process; introduction, literature review, discussion of research methodology and goals, conclusion and bibliography are the main elements you should include in a research proposal.
Key Areas Covered
What is a Research Proposal
A research proposal is a brief and comprehensible summary of the proposed research study. It is the proposed design of the study and is prepared at the beginning of a research project. A research proposal presents the central issues or questions you intend to address in your research and outlines the general area of study within which your study falls. It also describes the practical methods and ways to conduct the research study and justifies the need for the proposed research study.
A research proposal usually follows the same format as a research paper and includes an introduction, literature review, discussion of research methodology and goals, and a conclusion.
How to Write a Research Proposal
Your research proposal should include the following components:
- Literature Review
- Research Design and Method
- Significance of Research
We’ll look at how to write each of the components in the following sections.
You should select an appropriate title for your planned research study. This should be chosen with great care. The title should be brief, but comprehensive and descriptive, clearly explaining the subject of the investigation. This title can be revised during the course of your research study.
An abstract is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the research question, rationale for the study, hypothesis, methods and main findings.
The introduction provides the necessary context or background for your research problem and explains the importance of your research. You can start the introduction with a general statement of the research area, focusing on a specific research problem. This can be followed by the rational or justification for the proposed study. Include the following elements:
- Indicate the research problem and purpose of the study
- Present the rationale for the proposed study
- Describe the major problems and sub-problems to be addressed by your research
- State your hypothesis or theory
- Explain how you intend to conduct the proposed study
- Set the delimitation or boundaries of the proposed research
- Provide definitions of key concepts, if necessary
Literature review is a precise and comprehensive overview of the current state of research that is connected to your research study. Literature review can also be merged with the introduction. A good literature review is a critical discussion that displays the writer’s knowledge of relevant theories and approaches and awareness of contrasting arguments. It should contain the following elements:
- Comparing and contrasting views of different researchers
- Grouping researchers who have similar conclusions
- Identifying areas where researchers disagree
- Criticizing the methodology of reviewed studies
- Highlighting exemplary studies
- Highlighting gaps in research
- Indicating the connection between your proposed study and previous studies
- Indicating how your project will contribute to the literature in general
- Summarizing what the literature indicates at the conclusion
Research Design and Method
This part is very important because it explains your work plan and describes the activities necessary for the completion of your research study. Research Method section should have sufficient information so that the readers of the research proposal can determine whether your methodology is sound. This section should typically contain the following details:
- Design – describe what type of design you have chosen, i.e., a questionnaire, laboratory experiments, interviews, etc.
- Subjects or participants – explain what kind of sampling procedures you plan to use and/or who will take part in your project
- Instruments – indicate what type of measuring instruments or questionnaires you intend to use and explain how they are reliable and valid
- Procedure – describe how you plan to carry out the study, activities involved and the general time period.
Significance of Research
Even if you have not actually conducted your research study, you have to talk about the potential implications of your study. First, present the originality of proposed study, and explain why your research is important.
In this section, list all literature you have used or cited in your proposal.
The quality of your proposed research project does not depend only on the proposed research; your writing style is also a major factor that contributes to the quality of the research proposal. Your writing should be clear, coherent and compelling.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Given below are some mistakes you should avoid in your research proposal.
- Lack of structure and organization
- Sloppy writing
- Lack of unity and coherence
- Failure to cite influential researchers in the relevant field
- Failure to keep up with recent developments in the field
- Failure to critically evaluate the cited studies
- Dependence on too many secondary sources
Writing the research proposal is only the first stage of a research project. Once your research proposal has been approved, you can start conducting the project.
1. Caulley, D. N. “Writing a critical review of the literature.” La Trobe University: Bundoora(1992).
2. “5 Typical Mistakes in Research Proposal Writing.” MastersThesisWriting.com, Available here.