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

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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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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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.

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How to write a research proposal

Advice and guidance on writing a proposal for a student research project.

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Purpose of a Research Proposal

A research proposal should describe what you will investigate, why it is important to the discipline and how you will conduct your research.

Simply put, it is your plan for the research you intend to conduct. All research proposals are designed to persuade someone about how and why your intended project is worthwhile. 

In your proposal you will need to explain and defend your choices. Always think about the exact reasons why you are making specific choices and why they are the best options available to you and your project. 

Your research proposal aims should be centred on: 

  • Relevance - You want to convince the reader how and why your research is relevant and significant to your field and how it is original. This is typically done in parts of the introduction and the literature review.
  • Context - You should demonstrate that you are familiar with the field, you understand the current state of research on the topic and your ideas have a strong academic basis (i.e., not simply based on your instincts or personal views). This will be the focus of your introduction and literature review. 
  • Approach - You need to make a case for your methodology, showing that you have carefully thought about the data, tools and procedures you will need to conduct the research. You need to explicitly defend all of your choices. This will be presented in the research design section. 
  • Feasibility - You need to demonstrate clearly that your project is both reasonable and feasible within the practical constraints of the course, timescales, institution or funding. You need to make sure you have the time and access to resources to complete the project in a reasonable period. 

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Our Research Writing workshop will look at some of the main writing challenges associated with writing a large-scale research project and look at strategies to manage your writing on a day-to-day basis. It will identify ways to plan, organise and map out the structure of your writing to allow you to develop an effective writing schedule and make continuous progress on your dissertation project.

Proposal format

The format of a research proposal varies between fields and levels of study but most proposals should contain at least these elements: introduction, literature review, research design and reference list.

Generally, research proposals can range from 500-1500 words or one to a few pages long. Typically, proposals for larger projects such as a PhD dissertation or funding requests, are longer and much more detailed.

Remember, the goal of your research proposal is to outline clearly and concisely exactly what your research will entail and accomplish, how it will do so and why it is important. If you are writing to a strictly enforced word count, a research proposal can be a great test of your ability to express yourself concisely!

Introduction

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project, so make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why. In other words, this is where you answer the reader’s “so what?” It should typically include: introducing the topic , outlining your problem statement and research question(s) and giving background and context. Some important questions to shape your introduction include: 

  • Who has an interest in the topic (e.g. scientists, practitioners, policymakers, particular members of society)?
  • How much is already known about the problem and why is it important?
  • What is missing from current knowledge and why?
  • What new insights will your research contribute?
  • Why is this research worth doing?

If your proposal is very long, you might include separate sections with more detailed information on the background and context, problem statement, aims and objectives, and importance of the research.

Literature Review 

It’s important to show that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review convinces the reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory (i.e. how it relates to established research in the field).

Your literature review will also show that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said. This is also where you explain why your research is necessary. You might want to consider some of the following prompts:

  • Comparing and contrasting: what are the main theories, methods, debates and controversies?
  • Being critical: what are the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches?
  • Showing how your research fits in: how will you build on, challenge or synthesise the work of others? 
  • Filling a gap in the existing body of research: why is your idea innovative? 

Research design and methods

Following the literature review, it is a good idea to restate your main objectives, bringing the focus back to your own project. The research design/ methodology section should describe the overall approach and practical steps you will take to answer your research questions. You also need to demonstrate the feasibility of the project keeping in mind time and other constraints. 

You should definitely include:

  • Qualitative vs quantitative research? Combination? 
  • Will you collect original data or work with primary/secondary sources? 
  • Is your research design descriptive, correlational or experimental? Something completely different?
  • If you are undertaking your own study, when and where will you collect the data? How will you select subjects or sources? Ethics review? Exactly what or who will you study?
  • What tools and procedures will you use (e.g. systematic reviews, surveys, interviews, observation, experiments, bibliographic data) to collect your data? 
  • What tools/methods will you use to analyse your data? 
  • Why are these the best methods to answer your research question(s)? This is where you should justify your choices. 
  • How much time will you need to collect the data? 
  • How will you gain access to participants and sources?
  • Do you foresee any potential obstacles and if so, how will you address them?

Make sure you are not simply compiling a list of methods. Instead, aim to make an argument for why this is the most appropriate, valid and reliable way to approach answering your question. Remember you should always be defending your choices! 

Implications and Contributions to Knowledge

To ensure you finish your proposal on a strong note, it is a good idea to explore and/or emphasise the potential implications of the research. This means: what do you intend to contribute to existing knowledge on the topic?

Although you cannot know the results of your research until you have actually done the work, you should be going into the project with a clear idea of how your work will contribute to your field. This section might even be considered the most critical to your research proposal’s argument because it expresses exactly why your research is necessary. 

You should consider covering at least some of the following topics:

  • Ways in which your work can challenge existing theories and assumptions in your field. 
  • How your work will create the foundation for future research and theory. 
  • The practical value your findings will provide to practitioners, educators and other academics in your field. 
  • The problems or issues your work can potentially help to resolve. 
  • Policies that could be impacted by your findings. 
  • How your findings can be implemented in academia or other settings and how this will improve or otherwise transform these settings. 

This part is not about stating the specific results that you expect to obtain but rather, this is the section where you explicitly state how your findings will be valuable. 

This section is where you want to wrap it all up in a nice pretty bow. It is just like the concluding paragraph that you would structure and craft for a typical essay. You should briefly summarise your research proposal and reinforce your research purpose. 

Reference List or Bibliography

Your research proposal MUST include proper citations for every source you have used and full references. Please consult your departmental referencing styles to ensure you are citing and referencing in an appropriate way. 

Common mistakes to avoid 

Try and avoid these common pitfalls when you are writing your research proposal: 

  • Being too wordy: Remember formal does not mean flowery or pretentious. In fact, you should really aim to keep your writing as concise and accessible as possible. The more economically you can express your goals and ideas, the better. 
  • Failing to cite relevant information/sources: You are adding to the existing body of knowledge on the subject you are covering. Therefore, your research proposal should reference the main research pieces in your field (while referencing them correctly!) and connect your proposal to these works in some way. This does not mean just communicating the relevance of your work, it should explicitly demonstrate your familiarity with the field. 
  • Focusing too much on minor issues: Your research is most likely important for so many great reasons. However, they do not all need to be listed in your research proposal. Generally, including too many questions and issues in your research proposal can serve as a red flag and detract from your main purpose(s). This will in turn weaken your proposal. Only involve the main/key issues you plan to address. 
  • Failing to make a strong argument for your research: This is the simplest way to undermine your proposal. Your proposal is a piece of persuasive and critical writing . This means that, although you are presenting your proposal in an academic and hopefully objective manner, the goal is to get the reader to say ‘yes’ to your work. 
  • Not polishing your writing : If your proposal has spelling or grammatical errors, an inconsistent or inappropriate tone or even just awkward phrasing it can undermine your credibility. Check out some of these resources to help guide you in the right direction: Manchester Academic Phrasebank , Proofreading Guide , Essay Checklist and Grammar Guide . Remember to double and triple check your work. 

Links and Resources

You might also need to include a schedule and/or a budget depending on your requirements. Some tools to help include: 

  • Manchester University Academic Phrasebank
  • Leeds Beckett Assignment Calculator
  • Calendarpedia

Related information

Dissertation planning

Writing a literature review

Research methods

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  • Research Process

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.

Language Editing Services

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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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].

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How to write a good research proposal (in 9 steps)

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A good research proposal is one of the keys to academic success. For bachelor’s and master’s students, the quality of a research proposal often determines whether the master’s program= can be completed or not. For PhD students, a research proposal is often the first step to securing a university position. This step-by-step manual guides you through the main stages of proposal writing.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using the links below at no additional cost to you . I only recommend products or services that I truly believe can benefit my audience. As always, my opinions are my own.

1. Find a topic for your research proposal

2. develop your research idea, 3. conduct a literature review for your research proposal, 4. define a research gap and research question, 5. establish a theoretical framework for your research proposal, 6. specify an empirical focus for your research proposal, 7. emphasise the scientific and societal relevance of your research proposal, 8. develop a methodology in your research proposal, 9. illustrate your research timeline in your research proposal.

Finding a topic for your research is a crucial first step. This decision should not be treated lightly.

Writing a master’s thesis takes a minimum of several weeks. In the case of PhD dissertations, it takes years. That is a long time! You don’t want to be stuck with a topic that you don’t care about.

How to find a research topic? Start broadly: Which courses did you enjoy? What issues discussed during seminars or lectures did you like? What inspired you during your education? And which readings did you appreciate?

Take a blank piece of paper. Write down everything that comes to your mind. It will help you to reflect on your interests.

Then, think more strategically. Maybe you have a rough idea of where you would like to work after graduation. Maybe a specific sector. Or even a particular company. If so, you could strategically alight your thesis topic with an issue that matters to your dream employer. Or even ask for a thesis internship.

Once you pinpoint your general topic of interest, you need to develop your idea.

Your idea should be simultaneously original, make a scientific contribution, prepare you for the (academic) job market, and be academically sound.

Freaking out yet?! Take a deep breath.

First, keep in mind that your idea should be very focused. Master and PhD students are often too ambitious. Your time is limited. So you need to be pragmatic. It is better to make a valuable contribution to a very specific question than to aim high and fail to meet your objectives.

Second, writing a research proposal is not a linear process. Start slowly by reading literature about your topic of interest. You have an interest. You read. You rethink your idea. You look for a theoretical framework. You go back to your idea and refine it. It is a process.

Remember that a good research proposal is not written in a day.

And third, don’t forget: a good proposal aims to establish a convincing framework that will guide your future research. Not to provide all the answers already. You need to show that you have a feasible idea.

good research proposal writing

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Academic publications (journal articles and books) are the foundation of any research. Thus, academic literature is a good place to start. Especially when you still feel kind of lost regarding a focused research topic.

Type keywords reflecting your interests, or your preliminary research idea, into an academic search engine. It can be your university’s library, Google Scholar , Web of Science , or Scopus . etcetera.

Look at what has been published in the last 5 years, not before. You don’t want to be outdated.

Download interesting-sounding articles and read them. Repeat but be cautious: You will never be able to read EVERYTHING. So set yourself a limit, in hours, days or number of articles (20 articles, for instance).

Now, write down your findings. What is known about your topic of interest? What do scholars focus on? Start early by writing down your findings and impressions.

Once you read academic publications on your topic of interest, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is there one specific aspect of your topic of interest that is neglected in the existing literature?
  • What do scholars write about the existing gaps on the topic? What are their suggestions for future research?
  • Is there anything that YOU believe warrants more attention?
  • Do scholars maybe analyze a phenomenon only in a specific type of setting?

Asking yourself these questions helps you to formulate your research question. In your research question, be as specific as possible.

And keep in mind that you need to research something that already exists. You cannot research how something develops 20 years into the future.

good research proposal writing

A theoretical framework is different from a literature review. You need to establish a framework of theories as a lens to look at your research topic, and answer your research question.

A theory is a general principle to explain certain phenomena. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

It is not only accepted but often encouraged to make use of existing theories. Or maybe you can combine two different theories to establish your framework.

It also helps to go back to the literature. Which theories did the authors of your favourite publications use?

There are only very few master’s and PhD theses that are entirely theoretical. Most theses, similar to most academic journal publications, have an empirical section.

You need to think about your empirical focus. Where can you find answers to your research question in real life? This could be, for instance, an experiment, a case study, or repeated observations of certain interactions.

Maybe your empirical investigation will have geographic boundaries (like focusing on one city, or one country). Or maybe it focuses on one group of people (such as the elderly, CEOs, doctors, you name it).

It is also possible to start the whole research proposal idea with empirical observation. Maybe you’ve come across something in your environment that you would like to investigate further.

Pinpoint what fascinates you about your observation. Write down keywords reflecting your interest. And then conduct a literature review to understand how others have approached this topic academically.

Both master’s and PhD students are expected to make a scientific contribution. A concrete gap or shortcoming in the existing literature on your topic is the easiest way to justify the scientific relevance of your proposed research.

Societal relevance is increasingly important in academia, too.

Do the grandparent test: Explain what you want to do to your grandparents (or any other person for that matter). Explain why it matters. Do your grandparents understand what you say? If so, well done. If not, try again.

Always remember. There is no need for fancy jargon. The best proposals are the ones that use clear, straightforward language.

The methodology is a system of methods that you will use to implement your research. A methodology explains how you plan to answer your research question.

A methodology involves for example methods of data collection. For example, interviews and questionnaires to gather ‘raw’ data.

Methods of data analysis are used to make sense of this data. This can be done, for instance, by coding, discourse analysis, mapping or statistical analysis.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good timeline. Inevitably throughout your thesis process, you will feel lost at some point. A good timeline will bring you back on track.

Make sure to include a timeline in your research proposal. If possible, not only describe your timeline but add a visual illustration, for instance in the form of a Gantt chart.

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on 30 October 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on 13 June 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 organised 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, frequently asked questions.

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

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

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 synthesise 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. Emphasise 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?

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.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

McCombes, S. & George, T. (2023, June 13). How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved 15 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/the-research-process/research-proposal-explained/

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Research Proposal Example/Sample

Detailed Walkthrough + Free Proposal Template

If you’re getting started crafting your research proposal and are looking for a few examples of research proposals , you’ve come to the right place.

In this video, we walk you through two successful (approved) research proposals , one for a Master’s-level project, and one for a PhD-level dissertation. We also start off by unpacking our free research proposal template and discussing the four core sections of a research proposal, so that you have a clear understanding of the basics before diving into the actual proposals.

  • Research proposal example/sample – Master’s-level (PDF/Word)
  • Research proposal example/sample – PhD-level (PDF/Word)
  • Proposal template (Fully editable) 

If you’re working on a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis, you may also find the following useful:

  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : Learn how to write a research proposal as efficiently and effectively as possible
  • 1:1 Proposal Coaching : Get hands-on help with your research proposal

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

FAQ: Research Proposal Example

Research proposal example: frequently asked questions, are the sample proposals real.

Yes. The proposals are real and were approved by the respective universities.

Can I copy one of these proposals for my own research?

As we discuss in the video, every research proposal will be slightly different, depending on the university’s unique requirements, as well as the nature of the research itself. Therefore, you’ll need to tailor your research proposal to suit your specific context.

You can learn more about the basics of writing a research proposal here .

How do I get the research proposal template?

You can access our free proposal template here .

Is the proposal template really free?

Yes. There is no cost for the proposal template and you are free to use it as a foundation for your research proposal.

Where can I learn more about proposal writing?

For self-directed learners, our Research Proposal Bootcamp is a great starting point.

For students that want hands-on guidance, our private coaching service is recommended.

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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Example of a literature review

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17 Research Proposal Examples

research proposal example sections definition and purpose, explained below

A research proposal systematically and transparently outlines a proposed research project.

The purpose of a research proposal is to demonstrate a project’s viability and the researcher’s preparedness to conduct an academic study. It serves as a roadmap for the researcher.

The process holds value both externally (for accountability purposes and often as a requirement for a grant application) and intrinsic value (for helping the researcher to clarify the mechanics, purpose, and potential signficance of the study).

Key sections of a research proposal include: the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, research design and methods, timeline, budget, outcomes and implications, references, and appendix. Each is briefly explained below.

Watch my Guide: How to Write a Research Proposal

Get your Template for Writing your Research Proposal Here (With AI Prompts!)

Research Proposal Sample Structure

Title: The title should present a concise and descriptive statement that clearly conveys the core idea of the research projects. Make it as specific as possible. The reader should immediately be able to grasp the core idea of the intended research project. Often, the title is left too vague and does not help give an understanding of what exactly the study looks at.

Abstract: Abstracts are usually around 250-300 words and provide an overview of what is to follow – including the research problem , objectives, methods, expected outcomes, and significance of the study. Use it as a roadmap and ensure that, if the abstract is the only thing someone reads, they’ll get a good fly-by of what will be discussed in the peice.

Introduction: Introductions are all about contextualization. They often set the background information with a statement of the problem. At the end of the introduction, the reader should understand what the rationale for the study truly is. I like to see the research questions or hypotheses included in the introduction and I like to get a good understanding of what the significance of the research will be. It’s often easiest to write the introduction last

Literature Review: The literature review dives deep into the existing literature on the topic, demosntrating your thorough understanding of the existing literature including themes, strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the literature. It serves both to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and, to demonstrate how the proposed study will fit alongside the literature on the topic. A good literature review concludes by clearly demonstrating how your research will contribute something new and innovative to the conversation in the literature.

Research Design and Methods: This section needs to clearly demonstrate how the data will be gathered and analyzed in a systematic and academically sound manner. Here, you need to demonstrate that the conclusions of your research will be both valid and reliable. Common points discussed in the research design and methods section include highlighting the research paradigm, methodologies, intended population or sample to be studied, data collection techniques, and data analysis procedures . Toward the end of this section, you are encouraged to also address ethical considerations and limitations of the research process , but also to explain why you chose your research design and how you are mitigating the identified risks and limitations.

Timeline: Provide an outline of the anticipated timeline for the study. Break it down into its various stages (including data collection, data analysis, and report writing). The goal of this section is firstly to establish a reasonable breakdown of steps for you to follow and secondly to demonstrate to the assessors that your project is practicable and feasible.

Budget: Estimate the costs associated with the research project and include evidence for your estimations. Typical costs include staffing costs, equipment, travel, and data collection tools. When applying for a scholarship, the budget should demonstrate that you are being responsible with your expensive and that your funding application is reasonable.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: A discussion of the anticipated findings or results of the research, as well as the potential contributions to the existing knowledge, theory, or practice in the field. This section should also address the potential impact of the research on relevant stakeholders and any broader implications for policy or practice.

References: A complete list of all the sources cited in the research proposal, formatted according to the required citation style. This demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the relevant literature and ensures proper attribution of ideas and information.

Appendices (if applicable): Any additional materials, such as questionnaires, interview guides, or consent forms, that provide further information or support for the research proposal. These materials should be included as appendices at the end of the document.

Research Proposal Examples

Research proposals often extend anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 words in length. The following snippets are samples designed to briefly demonstrate what might be discussed in each section.

1. Education Studies Research Proposals

See some real sample pieces:

  • Assessment of the perceptions of teachers towards a new grading system
  • Does ICT use in secondary classrooms help or hinder student learning?
  • Digital technologies in focus project
  • Urban Middle School Teachers’ Experiences of the Implementation of
  • Restorative Justice Practices
  • Experiences of students of color in service learning

Consider this hypothetical education research proposal:

The Impact of Game-Based Learning on Student Engagement and Academic Performance in Middle School Mathematics

Abstract: The proposed study will explore multiplayer game-based learning techniques in middle school mathematics curricula and their effects on student engagement. The study aims to contribute to the current literature on game-based learning by examining the effects of multiplayer gaming in learning.

Introduction: Digital game-based learning has long been shunned within mathematics education for fears that it may distract students or lower the academic integrity of the classrooms. However, there is emerging evidence that digital games in math have emerging benefits not only for engagement but also academic skill development. Contributing to this discourse, this study seeks to explore the potential benefits of multiplayer digital game-based learning by examining its impact on middle school students’ engagement and academic performance in a mathematics class.

Literature Review: The literature review has identified gaps in the current knowledge, namely, while game-based learning has been extensively explored, the role of multiplayer games in supporting learning has not been studied.

Research Design and Methods: This study will employ a mixed-methods research design based upon action research in the classroom. A quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test control group design will first be used to compare the academic performance and engagement of middle school students exposed to game-based learning techniques with those in a control group receiving instruction without the aid of technology. Students will also be observed and interviewed in regard to the effect of communication and collaboration during gameplay on their learning.

Timeline: The study will take place across the second term of the school year with a pre-test taking place on the first day of the term and the post-test taking place on Wednesday in Week 10.

Budget: The key budgetary requirements will be the technologies required, including the subscription cost for the identified games and computers.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: It is expected that the findings will contribute to the current literature on game-based learning and inform educational practices, providing educators and policymakers with insights into how to better support student achievement in mathematics.

2. Psychology Research Proposals

See some real examples:

  • A situational analysis of shared leadership in a self-managing team
  • The effect of musical preference on running performance
  • Relationship between self-esteem and disordered eating amongst adolescent females

Consider this hypothetical psychology research proposal:

The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Stress Reduction in College Students

Abstract: This research proposal examines the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on stress reduction among college students, using a pre-test/post-test experimental design with both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods .

Introduction: College students face heightened stress levels during exam weeks. This can affect both mental health and test performance. This study explores the potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions such as meditation as a way to mediate stress levels in the weeks leading up to exam time.

Literature Review: Existing research on mindfulness-based meditation has shown the ability for mindfulness to increase metacognition, decrease anxiety levels, and decrease stress. Existing literature has looked at workplace, high school and general college-level applications. This study will contribute to the corpus of literature by exploring the effects of mindfulness directly in the context of exam weeks.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n= 234 ) will be randomly assigned to either an experimental group, receiving 5 days per week of 10-minute mindfulness-based interventions, or a control group, receiving no intervention. Data will be collected through self-report questionnaires, measuring stress levels, semi-structured interviews exploring participants’ experiences, and students’ test scores.

Timeline: The study will begin three weeks before the students’ exam week and conclude after each student’s final exam. Data collection will occur at the beginning (pre-test of self-reported stress levels) and end (post-test) of the three weeks.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: The study aims to provide evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in reducing stress among college students in the lead up to exams, with potential implications for mental health support and stress management programs on college campuses.

3. Sociology Research Proposals

  • Understanding emerging social movements: A case study of ‘Jersey in Transition’
  • The interaction of health, education and employment in Western China
  • Can we preserve lower-income affordable neighbourhoods in the face of rising costs?

Consider this hypothetical sociology research proposal:

The Impact of Social Media Usage on Interpersonal Relationships among Young Adults

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effects of social media usage on interpersonal relationships among young adults, using a longitudinal mixed-methods approach with ongoing semi-structured interviews to collect qualitative data.

Introduction: Social media platforms have become a key medium for the development of interpersonal relationships, particularly for young adults. This study examines the potential positive and negative effects of social media usage on young adults’ relationships and development over time.

Literature Review: A preliminary review of relevant literature has demonstrated that social media usage is central to development of a personal identity and relationships with others with similar subcultural interests. However, it has also been accompanied by data on mental health deline and deteriorating off-screen relationships. The literature is to-date lacking important longitudinal data on these topics.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n = 454 ) will be young adults aged 18-24. Ongoing self-report surveys will assess participants’ social media usage, relationship satisfaction, and communication patterns. A subset of participants will be selected for longitudinal in-depth interviews starting at age 18 and continuing for 5 years.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of five years, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide insights into the complex relationship between social media usage and interpersonal relationships among young adults, potentially informing social policies and mental health support related to social media use.

4. Nursing Research Proposals

  • Does Orthopaedic Pre-assessment clinic prepare the patient for admission to hospital?
  • Nurses’ perceptions and experiences of providing psychological care to burns patients
  • Registered psychiatric nurse’s practice with mentally ill parents and their children

Consider this hypothetical nursing research proposal:

The Influence of Nurse-Patient Communication on Patient Satisfaction and Health Outcomes following Emergency Cesarians

Abstract: This research will examines the impact of effective nurse-patient communication on patient satisfaction and health outcomes for women following c-sections, utilizing a mixed-methods approach with patient surveys and semi-structured interviews.

Introduction: It has long been known that effective communication between nurses and patients is crucial for quality care. However, additional complications arise following emergency c-sections due to the interaction between new mother’s changing roles and recovery from surgery.

Literature Review: A review of the literature demonstrates the importance of nurse-patient communication, its impact on patient satisfaction, and potential links to health outcomes. However, communication between nurses and new mothers is less examined, and the specific experiences of those who have given birth via emergency c-section are to date unexamined.

Research Design and Methods: Participants will be patients in a hospital setting who have recently had an emergency c-section. A self-report survey will assess their satisfaction with nurse-patient communication and perceived health outcomes. A subset of participants will be selected for in-depth interviews to explore their experiences and perceptions of the communication with their nurses.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including rolling recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing within the hospital.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the significance of nurse-patient communication in supporting new mothers who have had an emergency c-section. Recommendations will be presented for supporting nurses and midwives in improving outcomes for new mothers who had complications during birth.

5. Social Work Research Proposals

  • Experiences of negotiating employment and caring responsibilities of fathers post-divorce
  • Exploring kinship care in the north region of British Columbia

Consider this hypothetical social work research proposal:

The Role of a Family-Centered Intervention in Preventing Homelessness Among At-Risk Youthin a working-class town in Northern England

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effectiveness of a family-centered intervention provided by a local council area in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth. This case study will use a mixed-methods approach with program evaluation data and semi-structured interviews to collect quantitative and qualitative data .

Introduction: Homelessness among youth remains a significant social issue. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in addressing this problem and identify factors that contribute to successful prevention strategies.

Literature Review: A review of the literature has demonstrated several key factors contributing to youth homelessness including lack of parental support, lack of social support, and low levels of family involvement. It also demonstrates the important role of family-centered interventions in addressing this issue. Drawing on current evidence, this study explores the effectiveness of one such intervention in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth in a working-class town in Northern England.

Research Design and Methods: The study will evaluate a new family-centered intervention program targeting at-risk youth and their families. Quantitative data on program outcomes, including housing stability and family functioning, will be collected through program records and evaluation reports. Semi-structured interviews with program staff, participants, and relevant stakeholders will provide qualitative insights into the factors contributing to program success or failure.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Budget: Expenses include access to program evaluation data, interview materials, data analysis software, and any related travel costs for in-person interviews.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in preventing youth homelessness, potentially informing the expansion of or necessary changes to social work practices in Northern England.

Research Proposal Template

Get your Detailed Template for Writing your Research Proposal Here (With AI Prompts!)

This is a template for a 2500-word research proposal. You may find it difficult to squeeze everything into this wordcount, but it’s a common wordcount for Honors and MA-level dissertations.

Your research proposal is where you really get going with your study. I’d strongly recommend working closely with your teacher in developing a research proposal that’s consistent with the requirements and culture of your institution, as in my experience it varies considerably. The above template is from my own courses that walk students through research proposals in a British School of Education.

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Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 50 Durable Goods Examples
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8 thoughts on “17 Research Proposal Examples”

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Very excellent research proposals

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very helpful

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Very helpful

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Dear Sir, I need some help to write an educational research proposal. Thank you.

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Hi Levi, use the site search bar to ask a question and I’ll likely have a guide already written for your specific question. Thanks for reading!

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very good research proposal

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Thank you so much sir! ❤️

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Very helpful 👌

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  • Writing Research Proposals: Tips, Examples & Mistakes

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After identifying a problem you’d like to address in your study, the next step is to write a research proposal. In your research proposal, you can provide critical insights into your systematic investigation, including your methodology and the significance of the study. 

In educational assessment , your supervisor would always ask you to present a proposal before commencing the study. If you need research funding, you’d also have to submit a proposal in many cases. So how do you write an effective research proposal? 

First, you need to understand your research problem clearly and show why there’s a need to solve this problem. In this article, we’ll discover several tips for writing an effective research proposal and common pitfalls you should look out for.   

What is a Research Proposal?  

A research proposal spells out the critical issues your research is about and how you plan to go about your investigation. This is where you lay out a solid background of your proposed field of study, outline existing arguments and demonstrate the originality of your systematic research. 

Writing a research proposal is one of the most important aspects of any systematic investigation as it allows you to justify your efforts. After reading your document, people should understand why your topic is essential and why your solution is a feasible approach to solving the issue. 

Sometimes, you might be asked to submit a chapter breakdown with your proposal to give your supervisor a step-by-step insight into how you would conduct the study. 

Learn About: Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]

What is the Purpose of a Research Proposal?

Why should you bother about writing research proposals? A research proposal serves two significant purposes: justification of your study and justification of your method. 

First, it is an opportunity to justify the need to study an existing problem. In other words, this is where you show people the far-reaching impact or effects of the research problem. For example, suppose you’re researching the use of drugs amongst teenagers. In that case, you must communicate the impact of this behavior and why it’s necessary to address this problem. 

Next, a research proposal is an opportunity to present the practical ways the proposed study should be conducted. At this point, you should also convince your supervisor and show why your research method or theory is most suitable for this particular investigation. 

Some other reasons why you should write a good research proposal include: 

  • If you’re seeking funding for your research, then a proposal is your chance to explain the significance of your project to organizations who might wish to fund or otherwise support it. 
  • It demonstrates the quality and importance of your work. 
  • It allows you to communicate your competence and ability to conduct the proposed research. 

What are the Qualities of a Good Research Proposal?  

  • A good research proposal must be brief and concise without fillers or fluff. 
  • It should be written in simple language that is easy to understand. 
  • It should describe the relevance of your systematic investigation.
  • A good proposal emphasizes the significance of your study. 
  • It should follow the prescribed guidelines from your professor or supervisor. 

Types of Research Proposals and When to Use Them  

Depending on your type of research, you may submit an approval proposal or a funding proposa l. In some cases, you’d have to turn in both; that is if your supervisor doubles as the project’s proposed financier. 

1. Approval Proposals 

An approval proposal is common in final undergraduate dissertations where a professor is assigned as your project supervisor. Typically, your supervisor would ask you to draw up a road map that justifies your study and shows that the research problem is worth investigating. You’d need to submit this document for the professor’s approval before going ahead with your research. 

When writing an approval proposal, you need to present information such as the purpose of the research, its importance, previous research in the same area, how your research will be conducted, a timeframe, and the resources that will be needed. 

2. Funding Proposal 

A funding proposal is submitted to an external organization to seek funding for your research. Funding proposals are like business pitches because you’re trying to convince someone or a team to invest in your idea. So, you need to use persuasive language that sells the validity and relevance of your research. 

Funding proposals also require that you emphasize your expertise in the field of study. Have you conducted similar research in the past? Great! Now’s the time to mention that. Do you have academic qualifications in a particular field of study? Mention that too. 

To recap, your funding proposal must communicate the following:

  • The validity of your research design
  • The relevance of your study
  • Research budget and how you plan to utilize it
  • The significance of your systematic investigation
  • The suitability of your research facilities, if any

In educational research, we can also identify five(5) categories of research proposals which are:

  • Renewal or Competing Proposals
  • Continuation or Non-competing Proposals
  • Prepropoals
  • Unsolicited Proposals
  • Solicited Proposals 
Explore: 33 Fundraising Ideas for Clubs & Non-Profit

1. Renewal Proposals 

A renewal proposal requests additional support for a study that’s already in progress and about to come to an end. Here, you need to show the outcomes you’ve already achieved and why additional support is necessary to the investigation. 

2. Continuation or Non-competing Proposals

This type of proposal applies to research that spans multiple years. Typically, the sponsor has already provided funding for an initial period (typically one year), and you’re presenting the proposal to request the release of additional funds for the following year. Here, the proposal approval depends on the availability of funds and if the sponsor is satisfied with the work you’ve done so far. 

Free to use: 21 Sponsorship Form Templates

3. Pre Proposal  

Sometimes, a sponsor would ask you to submit a pre-proposal in the form of an abstract or letter of intent for your study. After the pre-proposal is reviewed, the sponsor notifies the investigator if a full proposal is required.

4. Unsolicited Proposals

As the name suggests, an unsolicited proposal is submitted when there’s no express call for it. Researchers submit unsolicited proposals to sponsors who might have some interest in their field of study. 

5. Solicited Proposals

Any proposal submitted in response to a formal call or request is known as a solicited proposal. Such solicitations, typically called Request for Proposals (RFP), or Request for Quotations (RFQ), usually have a specific format and technical content requirements and may specify certain award terms and conditions. 

What Should Be Included in a Research Proposal? (Content and structure)

In most cases, your supervisor would let you in on the guidelines for writing a research proposal. In the case of research that requires funding, the sponsors will specify the different information that you should include in your proposal. 

Nevertheless, it pays to have some idea of the content and structure of a proposal. Typically, your research proposal should include the following information:

  • Research Overview
  • Research Context
  • Research Questions
  • Significance
  • References 

Your proposal should clearly state the working title of your research paper, and this title should include relevant keywords. Your title should capture the intention of your research and draw attention to the specific issue your study will address. 

This section should highlight the critical issue(s) that you want to investigate and why these are important. At this point, you can refer to previous research efforts and any gaps your study will address. 

This is where you create a well-defined frame for your study, and it’s an intelligent way to grab your reader’s attention. Here, you have the chance to answer critical questions relating to your research, such as, “why is this study important?” How does it fit into the existing strengths of the department? How will it add something new to the current body of literature? 

You don’t have to go into details here, but it pays to highlight key ideas that will build readers’ interest in your work. 

Read: What is Educational Research? + [Types, Scope & Importance]
  • Research Questions  

Prioritize one or two research questions here and use them to narrow the aims and objectives of your study. While you might not answer these questions in your proposal, you should explain how you intend to answer them—are you adopting a qualitative research method ? Would your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical, etc.? 

This ties to responding to specific research questions. Once you’ve narrowed it down to particular aims and objectives, you should show the reader how you intend to achieve them. Depending on how deep you want to go, you can state the primary and secondary data sources , details about fieldwork, sampling technique, and data analysis methods for your study. This section should also contain a realistic timeline for completing your research. 

Why should anyone fund or approve your research? This section is where you convince them that your study is significant and relevant to your field and even related fields. In this section, you should show how your systematic investigation adds to the existing body of knowledge. You should also set out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic. 

Unlike an abstract, a proposal requires a list of initial references and sources for your study. You should mention critical articles and texts discussed within your research proposal, as well as a selection of sources that may be relevant to your project. 

Examples of Research Proposals 

Now, let’s look at some practical examples of research proposals. You can use these samples as templates when drafting your proposal for the first time. 

Example 1: Research Proposals From York St John University  

Example 2: Sample Research Proposal From The Open University  

Example 3: Sample Research Proposal From The University of Houston  

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Research Proposals

If you want your research proposal to be accepted at the first go, you should avoid these common mistakes: 

1. The research topic is too broad.  

If your research topic doesn’t speak to a single, specific problem, it gives the impression that your study lacks a central focus. For example, a research topic that aims to “investigate the behaviors of children” will leave lots of questions like:

  • What type of behaviors?
  • How old are these children?
  • What’s their background? Are they white or black? 

2. The aims and objectives of your research are poorly-aligned 

If there are discrepancies between your aims and objectives, and your specific research questions , your proposal might be rejected. When this happens, your investigation will appear to pull in several directions, making it difficult for anyone to follow through with the core ideas of your study. 

3. There’s no justification for your study 

One of the most important reasons for a research proposal is the justification of your study. In other words, you need to convince all parties that your research is relevant and worth investing in. Poor justification of the research topic is a common reason for proposals to be rejected. 

Other things that can ruin your chances of proposal approval include:

4. When your research has a weak theoretical background and fails to fill a clear gap in the existing literature

5. Failing to acknowledge and discuss landmark studies and critical literature in the topic area

6. Relying heavily on outdated sources and not incorporating more recent research that builds on the “classics.”

7. When your research design is impractical or not well-articulated

8. Poor writing and sloppy presentation of your ideas

How Long Should My Research Proposal Be? 

Different universities and faculties have prescribed word counts for research proposals. For example, the University of Westminster states that a research proposal should be 2,000–3,500 words (4-7 pages) long. In cases where there’s no prescribed word count, you can go with 1,000-1,500 words for your paper. 

Top Tips For Writing Your Research Proposal

  • Take time to write a good proposal. Well-presented and written proposals are more likely to stick in the reviewer’s mind.
  • Allow for flexibility as research proposals do not have to be set in stone. 
  • Avoid plagiarism. You should acknowledge the authors of all publications you reference. 
  • Make sure that your research ideas and questions are clearly stated. Your questions are as important as your results at this stage of the research.
  • Spell out the scope of your research and make sure it is reasonable and realistic. 
  • Make sure that your proposal does not contain any errors. Proofread and edit your work several times before you submit it.

Conclusion  

Your research proposal determines whether you’d go further in your systematic investigation, so you want to get it right. If you cannot present your ideas in a way that appeals to your supervisor or prospective financier, you will miss the chance to pursue this area of interest. 

Fortunately, writing a research proposal doesn’t have to look or feel overwhelming. We’ve shared a simple guide for writing an effective proposal and several examples to help out in this article. By leveraging all of this information, you should get through writing your proposal in no time.  

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 great research paper topics.

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General Education

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One of the hardest parts of writing a research paper can be just finding a good topic to write about. Fortunately we've done the hard work for you and have compiled a list of 113 interesting research paper topics. They've been organized into ten categories and cover a wide range of subjects so you can easily find the best topic for you.

In addition to the list of good research topics, we've included advice on what makes a good research paper topic and how you can use your topic to start writing a great paper.

What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic?

Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics.

#1: It's Something You're Interested In

A paper is always easier to write if you're interested in the topic, and you'll be more motivated to do in-depth research and write a paper that really covers the entire subject. Even if a certain research paper topic is getting a lot of buzz right now or other people seem interested in writing about it, don't feel tempted to make it your topic unless you genuinely have some sort of interest in it as well.

#2: There's Enough Information to Write a Paper

Even if you come up with the absolute best research paper topic and you're so excited to write about it, you won't be able to produce a good paper if there isn't enough research about the topic. This can happen for very specific or specialized topics, as well as topics that are too new to have enough research done on them at the moment. Easy research paper topics will always be topics with enough information to write a full-length paper.

Trying to write a research paper on a topic that doesn't have much research on it is incredibly hard, so before you decide on a topic, do a bit of preliminary searching and make sure you'll have all the information you need to write your paper.

#3: It Fits Your Teacher's Guidelines

Don't get so carried away looking at lists of research paper topics that you forget any requirements or restrictions your teacher may have put on research topic ideas. If you're writing a research paper on a health-related topic, deciding to write about the impact of rap on the music scene probably won't be allowed, but there may be some sort of leeway. For example, if you're really interested in current events but your teacher wants you to write a research paper on a history topic, you may be able to choose a topic that fits both categories, like exploring the relationship between the US and North Korea. No matter what, always get your research paper topic approved by your teacher first before you begin writing.

113 Good Research Paper Topics

Below are 113 good research topics to help you get you started on your paper. We've organized them into ten categories to make it easier to find the type of research paper topics you're looking for.

Arts/Culture

  • Discuss the main differences in art from the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance .
  • Analyze the impact a famous artist had on the world.
  • How is sexism portrayed in different types of media (music, film, video games, etc.)? Has the amount/type of sexism changed over the years?
  • How has the music of slaves brought over from Africa shaped modern American music?
  • How has rap music evolved in the past decade?
  • How has the portrayal of minorities in the media changed?

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Current Events

  • What have been the impacts of China's one child policy?
  • How have the goals of feminists changed over the decades?
  • How has the Trump presidency changed international relations?
  • Analyze the history of the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
  • What factors contributed to the current decline in the rate of unemployment?
  • What have been the impacts of states which have increased their minimum wage?
  • How do US immigration laws compare to immigration laws of other countries?
  • How have the US's immigration laws changed in the past few years/decades?
  • How has the Black Lives Matter movement affected discussions and view about racism in the US?
  • What impact has the Affordable Care Act had on healthcare in the US?
  • What factors contributed to the UK deciding to leave the EU (Brexit)?
  • What factors contributed to China becoming an economic power?
  • Discuss the history of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies  (some of which tokenize the S&P 500 Index on the blockchain) .
  • Do students in schools that eliminate grades do better in college and their careers?
  • Do students from wealthier backgrounds score higher on standardized tests?
  • Do students who receive free meals at school get higher grades compared to when they weren't receiving a free meal?
  • Do students who attend charter schools score higher on standardized tests than students in public schools?
  • Do students learn better in same-sex classrooms?
  • How does giving each student access to an iPad or laptop affect their studies?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Montessori Method ?
  • Do children who attend preschool do better in school later on?
  • What was the impact of the No Child Left Behind act?
  • How does the US education system compare to education systems in other countries?
  • What impact does mandatory physical education classes have on students' health?
  • Which methods are most effective at reducing bullying in schools?
  • Do homeschoolers who attend college do as well as students who attended traditional schools?
  • Does offering tenure increase or decrease quality of teaching?
  • How does college debt affect future life choices of students?
  • Should graduate students be able to form unions?

body_highschoolsc

  • What are different ways to lower gun-related deaths in the US?
  • How and why have divorce rates changed over time?
  • Is affirmative action still necessary in education and/or the workplace?
  • Should physician-assisted suicide be legal?
  • How has stem cell research impacted the medical field?
  • How can human trafficking be reduced in the United States/world?
  • Should people be able to donate organs in exchange for money?
  • Which types of juvenile punishment have proven most effective at preventing future crimes?
  • Has the increase in US airport security made passengers safer?
  • Analyze the immigration policies of certain countries and how they are similar and different from one another.
  • Several states have legalized recreational marijuana. What positive and negative impacts have they experienced as a result?
  • Do tariffs increase the number of domestic jobs?
  • Which prison reforms have proven most effective?
  • Should governments be able to censor certain information on the internet?
  • Which methods/programs have been most effective at reducing teen pregnancy?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Keto diet?
  • How effective are different exercise regimes for losing weight and maintaining weight loss?
  • How do the healthcare plans of various countries differ from each other?
  • What are the most effective ways to treat depression ?
  • What are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?
  • Which methods are most effective for improving memory?
  • What can be done to lower healthcare costs in the US?
  • What factors contributed to the current opioid crisis?
  • Analyze the history and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic .
  • Are low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets more effective for weight loss?
  • How much exercise should the average adult be getting each week?
  • Which methods are most effective to get parents to vaccinate their children?
  • What are the pros and cons of clean needle programs?
  • How does stress affect the body?
  • Discuss the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • What were the causes and effects of the Salem Witch Trials?
  • Who was responsible for the Iran-Contra situation?
  • How has New Orleans and the government's response to natural disasters changed since Hurricane Katrina?
  • What events led to the fall of the Roman Empire?
  • What were the impacts of British rule in India ?
  • Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary?
  • What were the successes and failures of the women's suffrage movement in the United States?
  • What were the causes of the Civil War?
  • How did Abraham Lincoln's assassination impact the country and reconstruction after the Civil War?
  • Which factors contributed to the colonies winning the American Revolution?
  • What caused Hitler's rise to power?
  • Discuss how a specific invention impacted history.
  • What led to Cleopatra's fall as ruler of Egypt?
  • How has Japan changed and evolved over the centuries?
  • What were the causes of the Rwandan genocide ?

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  • Why did Martin Luther decide to split with the Catholic Church?
  • Analyze the history and impact of a well-known cult (Jonestown, Manson family, etc.)
  • How did the sexual abuse scandal impact how people view the Catholic Church?
  • How has the Catholic church's power changed over the past decades/centuries?
  • What are the causes behind the rise in atheism/ agnosticism in the United States?
  • What were the influences in Siddhartha's life resulted in him becoming the Buddha?
  • How has media portrayal of Islam/Muslims changed since September 11th?

Science/Environment

  • How has the earth's climate changed in the past few decades?
  • How has the use and elimination of DDT affected bird populations in the US?
  • Analyze how the number and severity of natural disasters have increased in the past few decades.
  • Analyze deforestation rates in a certain area or globally over a period of time.
  • How have past oil spills changed regulations and cleanup methods?
  • How has the Flint water crisis changed water regulation safety?
  • What are the pros and cons of fracking?
  • What impact has the Paris Climate Agreement had so far?
  • What have NASA's biggest successes and failures been?
  • How can we improve access to clean water around the world?
  • Does ecotourism actually have a positive impact on the environment?
  • Should the US rely on nuclear energy more?
  • What can be done to save amphibian species currently at risk of extinction?
  • What impact has climate change had on coral reefs?
  • How are black holes created?
  • Are teens who spend more time on social media more likely to suffer anxiety and/or depression?
  • How will the loss of net neutrality affect internet users?
  • Analyze the history and progress of self-driving vehicles.
  • How has the use of drones changed surveillance and warfare methods?
  • Has social media made people more or less connected?
  • What progress has currently been made with artificial intelligence ?
  • Do smartphones increase or decrease workplace productivity?
  • What are the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom?
  • How is Google search affecting our intelligence?
  • When is the best age for a child to begin owning a smartphone?
  • Has frequent texting reduced teen literacy rates?

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How to Write a Great Research Paper

Even great research paper topics won't give you a great research paper if you don't hone your topic before and during the writing process. Follow these three tips to turn good research paper topics into great papers.

#1: Figure Out Your Thesis Early

Before you start writing a single word of your paper, you first need to know what your thesis will be. Your thesis is a statement that explains what you intend to prove/show in your paper. Every sentence in your research paper will relate back to your thesis, so you don't want to start writing without it!

As some examples, if you're writing a research paper on if students learn better in same-sex classrooms, your thesis might be "Research has shown that elementary-age students in same-sex classrooms score higher on standardized tests and report feeling more comfortable in the classroom."

If you're writing a paper on the causes of the Civil War, your thesis might be "While the dispute between the North and South over slavery is the most well-known cause of the Civil War, other key causes include differences in the economies of the North and South, states' rights, and territorial expansion."

#2: Back Every Statement Up With Research

Remember, this is a research paper you're writing, so you'll need to use lots of research to make your points. Every statement you give must be backed up with research, properly cited the way your teacher requested. You're allowed to include opinions of your own, but they must also be supported by the research you give.

#3: Do Your Research Before You Begin Writing

You don't want to start writing your research paper and then learn that there isn't enough research to back up the points you're making, or, even worse, that the research contradicts the points you're trying to make!

Get most of your research on your good research topics done before you begin writing. Then use the research you've collected to create a rough outline of what your paper will cover and the key points you're going to make. This will help keep your paper clear and organized, and it'll ensure you have enough research to produce a strong paper.

What's Next?

Are you also learning about dynamic equilibrium in your science class? We break this sometimes tricky concept down so it's easy to understand in our complete guide to dynamic equilibrium .

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

maria-diaz

Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed how we work and play  in recent months, giving almost anyone the ability to write code , create art , and even make investments . 

Special Feature

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The Rise of Generative AI

A new wave of AI tools has taken the world by storm and given us a vision for a new way of working and finding the information that can streamline our work and our lives. We show you the ways tools like ChatGPT and other generational AI software are making impacts on the world, how to harness their power, as well as potential risks.

For professional and hobbyist users alike, generative AI tools, such as  ChatGPT , offer advanced capabilities to create decent-quality content from a simple prompt given by the user. 

Keeping up with all the latest AI tools can get confusing, especially as Microsoft added  GPT-4 to Bing  and renamed it to Copilot,  OpenAI added new capabilities to ChatGPT , and Bard got plugged into the Google ecosystem  and rebranded to Gemini.

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

Knowing which of the three most popular AI chatbots is best to write code , generate text , or help build resumes is challenging, so we'll break down the biggest differences so you can choose one that fits your needs. 

Testing ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini

To help determine which AI chatbot gives more accurate answers, I'm going to use a simple prompt to compare the three: 

"I have 5 oranges today, I ate 3 oranges last week. How many oranges do I have left?"

The answer should be five, as the number of oranges I ate last week doesn't affect the number of oranges I have today, which is what we're asking the three bots. First up, ChatGPT.

You should use ChatGPT if...

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1. You want to try the most popular AI chatbot

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI and released for a widespread preview in November 2022. Since then, the AI chatbot quickly gained over 100 million users, with the website alone seeing 1.8 billion visitors a month. It's been at the center of controversies , especially as people uncover its potential to do schoolwork and replace some workers.

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The free version of ChatGPT, which runs on the default GPT-3.5 model, gave the wrong answer to our question.

I've been testing ChatGPT almost daily since its release. Its user interface has remained simple, but minor changes have improved it greatly, like the addition of a copy button, an edit option, Custom Instructions , and easy access to your account. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT

Though ChatGPT has proven itself as a valuable AI tool, it can be prone to misinformation . Like other large language models (LLMs), GPT-3.5 is imperfect, as it is trained on human-created data up to January 2022. It also often fails to comprehend nuances, like it did with our math question example, which it answered incorrectly by saying we have two oranges left when it should be five. 

2. You're willing to pay extra for an upgrade

OpenAI lets users access ChatGPT -- powered by the GPT-3.5 model -- for free with a registered account. But if you're willing to pay for the Plus version, you can access GPT-4 and many more features for $20 per month.

Also: How to write better ChatGPT prompts for the best generative AI results

GPT-4 is the largest LLM available for use when compared to all other AI chatbots and is trained with data up to April 2023 and can also access the internet, powered by Microsoft Bing. GPT-4 is said to have over 100 trillion parameters; GPT-3.5 has 175 billion parameters. More parameters essentially mean that the model is trained on more data, which makes it more likely to answer questions accurately and less prone to hallucinations.

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ChatGPT Plus, which runs using the GPT-4 model, did answer the question correctly. 

As an example, you can see the GPT-4 model, available through a ChatGPT Plus subscription , answered the math question correctly, as it understood the full context of the problem from beginning to end.

Also: I tried Microsoft Copilot's new AI image-generating feature, and it solves a real problem

Next up, let's consider Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing chat) , which is a great way to access GPT-4 for free, as it's integrated into its new Bing format. 

You should use Microsoft Copilot if...

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1. You want more up-to-date information

In contrast to the free version of ChatGPT, which is limited to being an AI tool that generates text in a conversational style with information leading up to early 2022, Copilot can access the internet to deliver more current information, complete with links for sources. 

Also: How to use Copilot (formerly called Bing Chat)

There are other benefits, too. Copilot is powered by GPT-4, OpenAI's LLM, and it's completely free to use. Unfortunately, you are limited to five responses on a single conversation, and can only enter up to 2,000 characters in each prompt. 

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Copilot's Precise conversation style answered the question accurately, though other styles fumbled.

Copilot's user interface isn't as straightforward as that of ChatGPT, but it's easy to navigate. Though Bing Chat can access the internet to give you more up-to-date results compared to ChatGPT, I've found it is more prone to stall at replying and altogether miss prompts than its competitor. 

2. You prefer more visual features

Through a series of upgrades to its platform, Microsoft added visual features to Copilot, formerly Bing Chat. At this point, you can ask Copilot questions like, 'What is a Tasmanian devil?' and get an information card in response, complete with photos, lifespan, diet, and more for a more scannable result that is easier to digest than a wall of text. 

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All about the Tasmanian devil on Microsoft Copilot.

When you use Copilot, you can also ask it to create an image for you. Give Copilot the description of what you want the image to look like, and have the chatbot generate four images for you to choose from. 

Also: How to use Image Creator from Microsoft Designer (formerly Bing Image Creator)

Microsoft Copilot also features different conversational styles when you interact with the chatbot, including Creative, Balanced, and Precise, which alter how light or straightforward the interactions are. 

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Both the Balanced and Creative conversation styles in Microsoft Copilot answered my question inaccurately.

Finally, let's turn to Google's Gemini, formerly known as Bard, which uses a different LLM and has received some considerable upgrades in the past few months.

You should use Gemini if...

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1. You want a fast, almost unlimited experience

In my time testing different AI chatbots, I saw  Google Bard catch a lot of flack for different shortcomings . While I'm not going to say they're unjustified, I will say that Google's AI chatbot, now named Gemini, has improved greatly, inside and out.

Also: How to use Gemini (formerly Google Bard): Everything you should know

Gemini is speedy with its answers, which have gotten more accurate over time. It's not faster than ChatGPT Plus, but it can be faster at giving responses than Copilot at times and faster than the free GPT-3.5 version of ChatGPT, though your mileage may vary. 

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Gemini answered accurately, like GPT-4 and Copilot's Precise conversation style.

The previous Bard used to make the same mistake as other bots on my example math problem, by incorrectly using the 5 - 3 = 2 formula, but Gemini, powered by Google's new Gemini Pro, the company's largest and latest LLM. Now, Gemini answers the question accurately.

Also: Apple's new AI model edits photos according to text prompts from users

Gemini is also not limited to a set amount of responses like Microsoft Copilot is. You can have long conversations with Google's Gemini, but Bing is limited to 30 replies in one conversation. Even ChatGPT Plus limits users to 40 messages every three hours. 

2. You want the full Google experience

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Google also incorporated more visual elements into its Gemini platform than those currently available on Copilot. Users can also use Gemini to generate images, can upload photos through an integration with Google Lens , and enjoy Kayak, OpenTable, Instacart, and Wolfram Alpha plugins.

Also: 6 AI tools to supercharge your work and everyday life

But Gemini is slowly becoming a full Google experience thanks to Extensions folding the wide range of Google applications into Gemini. Gemini users can add extensions for Google Workspace, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Flights, and Google Hotels, giving them a more personalized and extensive experience.

Artificial Intelligence

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ChatGPT vs. Copilot: Which AI chatbot is better for you?

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Google reportedly rebranding Bard to Gemini, adding 'Advanced' subscription service

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How ChatGPT (and other AI chatbots) can help you write an essay

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Research Proposal

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

  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. How To Write A Research Proposal

    Writing a Research proposal involves several steps to ensure a well-structured and comprehensive document. Here is an explanation of each step: 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.

  4. How to write a 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.

  5. Writing a Research Proposal

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. What Is A Research Proposal? Examples + Template

    A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the "what", "why" and"how" of the proposed study. Let's look at each of these attributes in a little more detail: The WHAT Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic. This needs to be specific and unambiguous.

  9. How to Write a Successful Research Proposal

    Are you writing a research proposal to get funding or approval for your project? In this video, you'll learn the four aims of a research proposal, and how to demonstrate them in each...

  10. How to write a research proposal

    Proposal format. The format of a research proposal varies between fields and levels of study but most proposals should contain at least these elements: introduction, literature review, research design and reference list. Generally, research proposals can range from 500-1500 words or one to a few pages long.

  11. Writing a Scientific Research Project 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.

  12. 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.

  13. How to write a good research proposal (in 9 steps)

    1. Find a topic for your research proposal 2. Develop your research idea 3. Conduct a literature review for your research proposal 4. Define a research gap and research question 5. Establish a theoretical framework for your research proposal 6. Specify an empirical focus for your research proposal 7.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. How to write a research proposal

    Contact details. Include all contact details, not just an email address, along with an address in case an organization wants to send you mail. You may also want to add a table of contents, a chapter outline of your thesis, and your signature at the bottom of the document. There's also another important point worth noting.

  17. How to Write a Research Proposal

    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' Title page

  18. How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

    Written by Mark Bennett Applications Advice You'll need to write a research proposal if you're submitting your own project plan as part of a PhD application. A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it.

  19. Research Proposal Example (PDF + Template)

    Claim Your Access (50% Off) We walk you through two successful research proposals (Master's PhD-level), as well as our free research proposal. Download PDF or Word.

  20. PDF How to Write a Good Postgraduate RESEARCH PROPOSAL

    research aspirations and why the chosen academic unit will help you fulfill them. Writing your proposal Whether you are limited to one page (as part of a University application form or an enquiry form) or are required to produce something more substantial for an external funder, the rules about writing a good research proposal are the same.

  21. 17 Research Proposal Examples (2024)

    It's often easiest to write the introduction last Literature Review: The literature review dives deep into the existing literature on the topic, demosntrating your thorough understanding of the existing literature including themes, strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the literature.

  22. Writing Research Proposals: Tips, Examples & Mistakes

    Top Tips For Writing Your Research Proposal. Take time to write a good proposal. Well-presented and written proposals are more likely to stick in the reviewer's mind. Allow for flexibility as research proposals do not have to be set in stone. Avoid plagiarism. You should acknowledge the authors of all publications you reference.

  23. (Pdf) How to Write a Research Proposal

    How to write a research proposal? The Family Physician 2005;13 (3):30-32 A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the...

  24. 113 Great Research Paper Topics

    What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic? Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics. #1: It's Something You're Interested In

  25. ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI ...

    The Rise of Generative AI. A new wave of AI tools has taken the world by storm and given us a vision for a new way of working and finding the information that can streamline our work and our lives.