Are you worried that you might not be able to write a good research proposal? This is a common dilemma and no student can escape it. A research proposal is a document that outlines the scope, objectives, methods, and timeline of your proposed project.
Your research proposal needs to be approved before you can submit the final research paper or apply for funding. This is a very important part of research paper writing and you cannot move forward with your research until your research proposal has been approved.
What is a research proposal?
A research proposal is a concise summary of a research paper. It aims at introducing the general idea of research by highlighting the questions and issues that will be addressed in the final research paper. Writing a good and ‘acceptance worthy’ proposal demonstrates the uniqueness and worthiness of your research proposal. A good research proposal must highlight the benefits and outcomes of the proposed study, supported by persuasive evidence.
A research proposal can also be defined as a document that is written to present and justify your interest and need for researching a particular topic.
Purpose of a research proposal
Sometimes academics have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. Students might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application, or before starting their thesis or dissertation.
Together with 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, education institution, or supervisor. A research proposal aims at:
- Relevance- Show the reader why your project is important, interesting, and original.
- Context- Demonstrates your comfort and familiarity with your field. It shows that you fully understand the current state of research on your topic.
- Approach- Makes a case for your methodology. Shows that you have carefully determined the data, tools, and procedures required for a successful research process.
- Achievability- Conforms to the reader that your project is feasible within the timeline of your program or funding deadline.
What goes into a research proposal?
A good research proposal must cover the “what”, the “why”, and the “how” of the research.
Your proposal must articulate your research topic clearly and unambiguously. Your research topic should clearly state what you plan to research and in what context. For example:
Topic: An investigation into the factors causing late delivery of assignments by students at the university level.
From the above example, you can see that the topic is extremely clear. From the example, we can see:
- What is being investigated- factors leading to late delivery of assignments
- Who it involves- students
- In what context- at the university
Ensure your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic. Don’t start writing your proposal until you have a crystal-clear topic in mind or you will end up waffling away a few thousand words.
Proposing a new topic is not enough as you have to explain and show why your topic is original. In other words, you have to show what makes your topic unique. Show the gap in the current literature that the research is going to fill. In case your topic is simply a rehash of the existing research, most probably the topic will not be approved. Your topic has to be fresh for it to be approved.
Furthermore, originality alone is not enough. Apart from your topic being original, it also has to be important. Show the reader the value that will be added if you find an answer to your research questions. Remember to always come up with a topic that is useful and value-creating. This value must be shown clearly in your proposal.
Having a topic that is important and original is a good thing but you won’t convince anyone to approve it without discussing its practicalities. You have to show:
- How you will undertake your research
- Whether your research design is appropriate for your topic.
- If your plan is manageable given your constraints (time, money, expertise).
Although it is expected that you won’t have a fully fleshed-out research strategy at the proposal stage, you will need to provide a high-level view of your research methodology and some key design decisions. The following are important questions that you can address in your proposal.
- Will you take a qualitative or quantitative approach?
- Will your design be cross-sectional or longitudinal?
- How will you collect your data (interviews, surveys, questionnaires)
- How will you analyze your data (statistical analysis, qualitative data analysis, etc.)
Ensure you provide information on the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic understanding of research methodologies before you start the process of writing your proposal.
How do you create a research proposal outline?
Sometimes students fail to understand the importance of a research proposal and they end up putting all the information together without following the basic outline of a research proposal. You have to write a great proposal if you want a successful research project. Without a well-written research proposal, you cannot communicate the essence of your research properly and this can lead to the rejection of your proposal.
You must stand the basic components of a research proposal before you start writing an outline. A clear outline is important when it comes to presenting a literature review and writing the entire paper.
You can follow the basic format below when writing your proposal.
- Literature review
- Research methodology
For new students, writing a research proposal might seem like a dreadful task as it requires good writing skills as well as research skills.
How do you start your research proposal?
Many students believe that writing a research proposal is similar to creating an outline but this is not true. Knowing how to start your research proposal on the right track is like getting done with half of it. The following are important steps to follow when writing a research proposal.
- Start working on it as soon as possible.
- Conduct though and in-depth research.
- Find the main theme or the problem that you would discuss in your research instead of concentrating on coming up with a title first.
- Collect and save the research information together with the proper and complete citation and reference information.
- Divide the collected data into sections of the proposal and stick to them.
In some cases, writing a research proposal can be tricky but when you start beforehand, you get enough time to understand the different aspects of your main topic. Procrastinating and leaving work for the last few days will always land you in trouble.
How do you write a research proposal?
Now that we have given the basic outline that can be followed, let’s see how you can write your proposal by following the format mentioned above:
- Choose a title carefully.
When writing a title for your proposal, make sure it is concise and clear to indicate your research question. The title of your proposal should show the reader what to expect in your entire proposal. Make the title concise and well-defined by avoiding writing it from a general perspective or using phrases like “An investigation of” or “A review of”.
- Add a concise abstract
An abstract is a short summary that is around 100-250 words. An abstract should include the research question, the hypothesis of your research, the research methodology, and the findings. For a detailed proposal, there should also be a section of the contents after the abstract. Knowing how to write an abstract is an important skill that every college student should have.
- Add a strong introduction
Your proposal should start with a strong introduction. The introduction provides the background or context related to your research problem. Make sure you reframe the research question when writing the proposal to make sure they match as your entire proposal including the introduction is supposed to revolve around this question.
Your proposal might seem insignificant in case your research question is not specific and has a very general literature review. Having a specific research question will make your research more focused. Begin your introduction with a general statement related to the problem area you are focusing on and justify your study. Your introduction should cover the following elements.
- The purpose of your research or study.
- Mention the background information and significance before you introduce your research question.
- Introduce your research question in a way that its importance is highlighted by setting the stage for it.
- Mention the issues that will be highlighted and discussed in your study.
- Identify the independent and dependent variables in the title of your study.
- State any theory or hypothesis that is related to your study in the introduction.
Ensure you have a very clear and concise idea about your research and avoid deviating from the main research question. Having a clear idea will ensure you craft a perfect thesis.
- Clarify the research objectives.
Your research objectives will show the reader what you are trying to achieve. On the other side, ensure your aims and objectives are achievable. Your objectives must be framed according to the following.
- Available time.
- Other important resources.
Before deciding on your objectives, you can read all the developments in the field and find research gaps in that area. This will help you come up with suitable objectives for your projects.
- Add relevant literature review
You should have a separate section for the literature review. This will make it easy for you to conduct extensive background research and support your research question with evidence from credible sources. The following are the main functions of a literature review.
- Gives credits to those who have laid the groundwork for the proposed research
- Demonstrates your knowledge of the research problem
- Demonstrates your understanding of the theoretical and research issues related to your research question.
- Shows your ability to critically evaluate relevant literature information.
- Indicates your ability to integrate and synthesize the existing literature
- Provides new theoretical insights or develop a new model as the conceptual framework for your research
- Convinces your reader that your proposed research will make a significant and substantial contribution to the literature.
- To help you come up with a clear and concise research question.
- To critically evaluate previous literature information that is related to your research.
- To understand research issues that are important to the topic of your research.
Having literature review writing skills will help you compose an engaging and impressive literature review easily. You can keep your literature review organized by adding a subheading to maintain a smooth flow. Make sure to write engaging content that will interest your reader, your instructor, or the committee.
- Mention the significance of your research
The significance of your research will show the importance of your work. This should be stated in your introductory paragraph. Show how your research is beneficial to the respective field of study. You can also state its contribution to the field in both the broader and narrow sense.
- Explain the research methodology
How will you conduct your research? This section explains how you will be conducting your research. After stating the research method you intend to use, explain why this research method is the most suitable for your research and how it will help you attain your research goals. You will get an organized plan for your research from your research methodology.
Include any important information about your research methodology for the readers to understand how the research will be conducted. The information about the study should be clear and enough for another researcher to implement it. Always choose a research methodology that is more suitable for your research. For example:
- Quantitative research is suitable for projects that involve collecting and analyzing statistical data like in social sciences, medicine, and psychology.
- Qualitative research is used in a theoretical type of research like in literature.
- Some research involves both. In case your research topic involves analyzing both statistical data and theory, ensure you use them appropriately.
In a qualitative approach, the method section of your proposal has to be more detailed and elaborate compared to the one in the quantitative approach. The way you collect and analyze your data according to the qualitative approach should be described with great care. If you choose a quantitative approach for your research, the methods section should contain answers to the following questions:
- Design- is it a laboratory experiment or a survey?
- What is the sample size and the subject of your study?
- What is the procedure of your study and will you carry out the activities involved in it?
- Do you have a questionnaire?
- What instruments will you be using in the experiment?
As a great researcher, have detailed knowledge of all the research methodologies to justify your approach toward the research problem.
In case you would like to apply for funding, you must include a detailed budget. The budget shows the estimates of how much each part of your project will cost. Ensure you have checked the types of costs that the funding body is willing to cover. Include the following for each item:
- Cost- State the exact amount of money that is needed.
- Explain that cost is necessary for the completion of the research.
- Source- explain how you calculated the amount.
You should think about the following to determine your budget:
- Travel cost- Do you need to travel to a certain place to collect your data? How will you get there and how much time will you need? What will you do when you get to that place?
- Materials- Do you require 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?
- Present the hypothesis or the expected research results
This section of your research proposal will contain the results of the research but since this is a proposal, there will be no results yet. Thus, you will add the expected results to this section. These results are what you expect to obtain from the research. In some cases, the researcher will get the same kind of results but in some cases, the results could differ from what was expected.
- Mention the ethical considerations
This is one of the most essential parts of your outline. As a researcher, you have to consider ethical values while conducting research work. You must be very careful when it comes to the data-collecting process as you have to respect the rights of the people participating in your research.
Your research should not harm the participants in any way and full consent should be obtained from them before the study. The researcher must promise complete confidentiality to the participants so they can feel comfortable when sharing information.
- Discuss the research limitations
The research limitations show the flaws and shortcomings of your research, they include issues like:
- Unavailability of resources.
- Small sample size.
- Wrong methodology.
Listing the limitations shows the reader that you are honest and that you completely understand your topic.
- Add proper reference and citation
You should never forget this section if you do not want to be blamed for plagiarism. Always give references to the authors and the literature you have used in your research. The following are the two main ways to cite your sources:
- Reference- List the literature that you have used in your proposal.
- List everything that you have studied, cited, or taken notes from while doing your study or while writing.
The citation section should follow a specific format as instructed by your tutor. It can be written in APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard style.
- Edit and proofread
Although most students prefer not to proofread their proposal after completion, this is a grave mistake and it should never happen. You may fail to identify mistakes if you decide to proofread the proposal on your own. Thus, you can decide to use online tools or request a friend to review and edit the proposal for you.
Reasons why your research paper can be rejected
There are mistakes that students make when writing proposals that may contribute to the cancellation of their research proposal. To maximize the chances of your research proposal acceptance, you must avoid the following mistakes.
- Stating a flawed hypothesis in your proposal.
- Having a proposal that does not assure the lecturer the research will bring new results.
- Having a plan in your proposal that lacks details and is unrealistic.
- Submitting a proposal that lacks coherence.
- Submitting a proposal that indicates that the results obtained, or the hypothesis from the chosen method will be inaccurate.
- In case the literature review is not done well.
- If enough time was not devoted to the writing of the proposal.
- In case the student submits a copied proposal or one that has been used by many other students in the past.
Once you have avoided the above mistakes, stick to your instructor’s guidelines and you can be sure that your research proposal will shine. Mistakes in your proposal will only kill the purpose and effort you had invested in writing your proposal and also tarnish your reputation.
Mistakes to avoid when writing a research proposal
When writing a research proposal, avoid the following mistakes.
- Being too wordy
- Failing to cite relevant sources
- Focusing too much on minor issues.
- Failing to make a strong argument for your research
- Having objectives that are too broad or too ambitious.
- Having objectives that do not reflect the title of your research or statement of the problem.
- Lacking a literature review or references.
- Having a proposal with inadequate information on methodology.
- No justification for your budget. For example, asking for too little or too much.
- Being too ambitious and providing inappropriate time-frames and schedules of activities.
The above are only suggestions and they do not guarantee that your proposal will be successfully accepted but they can help you prepare a carefully conceptualized and comprehensive proposal. If you follow everything stated in this blog post, there are higher chances of coming up with a successful proposal.
In case of any problems or difficulties in following the steps given above, feel free to contact us for professional assistance. We have experts who can help with your proposal as well as with your research project once your proposal has been accepted. Contact us immediately.