Last Updated on January 29, 2021
The Research Proposal is used to propose a research project by providing a brief on the literature study, research objectives, experimentation methodology and schedule, funding requirement, and possible research outcomes.
The aim of your research proposal by USC.edu must be to justify the need to carry out the specific research study with an organized plan to conduct that research work.
Why is Research Proposal Important?
A research proposal is a brief, well organized summing up of the research project that you propose to undertake. It lays out the central topic that your research project is based upon.
It gives a rough or detailed idea to the reader about the general scope of your field of study. A reference or citations is also made to any recent deliberations on the issue in the research proposal.
The knowledge on the topic in question, as it stands to date, is also discussed. This discussion would be in relation to how your research on the topic is something that hasn’t been done before and how it is likely to expand the body of knowledge on the subject.
In short, a research proposal also identifies the novelty of your proposed research idea.
What is in a Research Proposal?
The research proposal is arguably the most significant document of your application to a postgraduate course, laboratory induction program or to get funding for a scientific study.
Through it, you can showcase your ability to perform research at the graduate level by communicating your ideas with clarity and in a few words.
The research proposal will help in connecting you to a suitable supervisor once your application is approved. The ten tips for writing a well-structured research proposal suggests these following ten sections that one should include in a research proposal:
10 sections of a standard Research Proposal:
- Title of Proposal Research Topic
- Highlights (3-5 Bullet Points)
- Aims & Objectives of a proposed research study
- Experiment methods
- Scheduling the timeline
- Expected research outcomes
- Funding Requirements
- Ethical Approval of Research Study
- References to support your research proposal
What is a Research Plan?
A research plan is basically a list of related research steps, organized sequentially, that you will undertake in order to achieve your ultimate research objective.
Research planning involves organizing your time between attending classes, experimentation, completing assignments and any other tasks that may be required for the successful completion of your research. Research plan can also be called a study plan essay.
Research Proposal VS Research Plan or Study Plan
Most of the times, you may be required to submit a study plan together with a research proposal. This Study plan is a separate document that provides a clear insight about your study schedule whereas the research proposal is a document used to describe the minor to major details of a research project.
What are the Purposes of a Research Proposal?
The main purpose of a research proposal is to explain and justify your selection committee the need to conduct research in your chosen field of study. The research proposal also lists out the most practical ways in which your research could be conducted.
The various procedures and plan essentials for conducting any research would be bound by the standards that govern the main field of study under which the research is proposed to be carried out.
Hence, the principals that govern the composition of research proposals are more demanding and rigorous than those of a project proposal.
As per the University of Webminister, the research proposal must include a wide-ranging convincing analysis of the literature on the research topic which should provide conclusive proof to the selection committee that the research being proposed is novel, valuable and necessary and will provide additional insight into the topic being studied.
Besides providing grounds for conducting research, a research proposal also has to explain in detail the methodology that will be adopted by you for your research that either it will be regarded as explanatory research or descriptive research.
This research design methodology has to be consistent with the provisions laid down for researchers in that particular field of study. A statement detailing the likely outcomes or gains on completion of the research project should also be provided.
Approach to be Adopted While Writing a Research Proposal
- Before beginning the process of writing your research proposal you would need to sharpen your general writing and researching skills.
- Cultivate that innate sense of child-like curiosity that you had probably stifled over the years. That inclination to question is what will help you find your research topic and make you a better researcher.
- Build up your ability to reflect on and conceptualize a broad-based research topic and goals.
- Once you have a research topic in mind, outline a progressive course of action to get to your goals.
- Extensively review the available literature on your research topic to ensure that it is not something that has already been researched on before. Your literature review could also help you determine if the topic that you have chosen has been poorly or ineffectively researched on previously.
- Consider how you would go about collecting and evaluating the research data. Study the various methods available and assess which would be the most feasible.
How do you write a good Research Proposal?
When writing your research proposal you have to include all the 10 elements of a research proposal, formulated from the article on research proposal writing published by Birmingham University.
Each element would have to be sufficiently descriptive so as to provide the selection committee with adequate information to determine how legitimate and beneficial your research would be.
Ideally, your research findings and your analysis would be the only missing element in your research proposal. Focus on writing your research proposal in language that has clarity, consistency, and persuasiveness, as your proposal would also be evaluated on how well you are able to write.
Every research proposal, irrespective of the topic of research and research methodology, should deal with the following three elements:
- Your Research Goals: Clarity in stating your research goals is of utmost importance when writing your research proposal. Explain clearly what the issue is that you are proposing research on. Leave no room for doubt in the reader’s mind about exactly what your research topic is.
- The Importance of Your Research Goals: Besides being clear on your research goals, you also need to study the literature available on your topic in-depth and make a persuasive statement on the need for research on your chosen topic and the importance of the goals that you aim to achieve. You should be able to convincingly answer the question ‘So what if the topic isn’t researched?’
- How to Attain Your Research Goals: Ensure that the goals that you propose to attain are achievable and not out of reach. Be clear in your mind and on paper as to how you intend to reach your goals.
Research Proposal Template – Example
Ensure that the elements mentioned below are a part of your research proposal:
1. A Heading/Title
You have to provide a heading/title for your proposed research. This would only be a provisional heading/title which could be revised once the admission process is completed and your course begins.
2. A Summary or Abstract
Your research proposal should begin with a short summary of your entire research project. The summary should be around 100 words in length. Your summary could be a couple of sentences stating the central topic/issue that you intend to base your research upon.
3. An Overview and Context
You should provide a summarized overview of your research topic in this section along with a bit of background on your specific area of research.
You could provide a short description of the present understanding of your topic as it stands as well as any recent discussions related to it. This would show your selection committee that you are familiar with your topic.
4. Goals and Inquiries
Your research proposal should clearly state your goals in researching the topic as well as the line of inquiry that you are likely to follow over the period of your research.
Hence, think over the issue beforehand and understand for yourself what you wish to attain through your research and then begin writing your research proposal.
If you’re left with not one but a set of issues on your research topic after your brainstorming session, place them in order of preference or priority and then fix your main research topic and any secondary issues that you would like to deal with over the course of your research.
Don’t make your research topic too broad-based otherwise, it will lack focus and depth. Besides making your research too broad-based will lower its chances of being completed within a normal degree period and hence increase the likelihood of its getting rejected by the selection committee.
You could also specify here whether your research approach would be hypothetical, experimental or according to the book.
5. Research Methodology
Your research proposal should have a section dedicated to detailing the methodology that you propose to follow to achieve your research goals.
Your research methodology could involve taking field trips, interviewing personalities or people in general, paying visits to specific archives or libraries, etc.
If the research that you propose to do is likely to be confined to a library you could list out your main sources of information such as periodicals, journals, reports, and so on, and also state which libraries you would find them in.
Similar details would have to be provided in case your primary research methodology involved field trips (such as where and when you intended to carry out these trips and what information you hoped to gain from them) or interviewing subjects (whom you were likely to interview, how many interviews would you need to conduct to gather your data). You would also have to explain here how you would conduct your analysis of the data collected.
6. Importance of Your Research
The uniqueness of your research would be one of the main deciding factors for the selection committee to approve/reject your proposal.
Hence spare no effort in proving its originality in your research proposal. Explain how and why it would make a difference in the field of study and possibly the world at large.
7. A Short Bibliography
Your research proposal should also provide a tentative bibliography stating the significant books/articles/documents that you would be referring to in the course of your research.
Research Proposal Template Word File Download
How long should a research proposal be? (Research Proposal Wordcount limit)
The research proposal should ideally have a word length of approximately 800 – 2,500. However, the word count for writing a research proposal is specified by the institute where you have to submit the research proposal. It could differ for each specific institution being applied to.
7 Errors to be Avoided while a Writing Research Proposal
- Lengthy paragraphs that are not to the point and lack the purpose of the research proposal.
- Unconvincing and confused argument development in support of your research topic.
- Neglecting the drawing up of contextual boundaries when discussing the context in relation to your research topic.
- Providing excessive details on minor topics and inadequate details on your main topic.
- Discussions that digress from the main topic to topics that are not relevant.
- Forgetting to cite significant works when discussing the literature relating to your research topic.
- Using language that shows a lack of refinement and grammatical skills.
What should be included in a research proposal?
Where to Begin a Research Proposal?
You would first need to read the instructions given by the institute very carefully and get clarifications on the format, wordcount limit, and page limit for writing your research proposal.
Your research proposal would be bound by the specific requirements of the particular institution that you are applying to.
How many pages to include in Research Proposal?
Generally, research proposals range from 10 pages to 25 pages in length. However, this would depend upon the specific requirements of a particular institution.
You could begin by a process of introspection and think about the following questions to begin your research proposal:
- Which research topic interests you the most?
- Why is that particular research topic important to you?
- Why is that particular topic important to the broader field of study?
- How will the topic impact the world at large?
- Is that research topic novel enough to convince the scientific community?
- How does it compare to research on similar topics previously performed in the field?
- Does it provide additional insight into the main field of study?
- Can it be successfully researched and completed within the time constraints of the course of study opted for?
Overall, a persuasive research proposal should showcase your knowledge on the topic and your passion to see the project through. It should stimulate and hold the reader’s interest in its main topic as well as generate anticipation for the research outcomes.
Parts of a Research Proposal – Research Proposal Format
1. The Introduction section in Research Proposal
The introduction is where you first present your research topic to your selection committee. So you need to ensure that the introduction briefly provides a clear and unambiguous representation of your research topic, research methodology, and research outcomes anticipated.
The reader should also get a sense of your passion for your research topic. Your introduction should be around two to three paragraphs long and should touch on the following points;
- Your central research subject from which your topic has been drawn
- Your research topic
- Your research and analysis methodology
- The importance of your research topic and the significance of its outcomes
2. Context and Importance section in Research Proposal
Here you have to explain the context of your research topic and its importance to the field of study. Assume that your reader does not know as much as you do about the research issue.
However, don’t go overboard and make this part of your research proposal an essay on everything that you have ever learned about the research issue.
Judiciously decide on what needs to be explained and what doesn’t so that your reader is able to understand your research topic better. A few pointers on what to write about are given below.
- Define important concepts
- Detail out the purpose of conducting this study. This would be particularly essential if the issue being dealt with was complicated and many-sided.
- Explain the motivation behind your choice of research topic and clearly state why it would be worthwhile spending your time researching it. Explaining why anyone should care about your research topic would help.
- Establish and clearly demarcate the boundaries for your research as this will help provide the reader with clarity on your research topic. Explain what you will and will not be conducting research on.
- Explain the main problems that will be dealt with in your research. Point out how your research would build upon research carried out previously.
- Explain the methodology that you would take up to conduct your research. Name your data sources and explain how they would contribute to your research analysis.
3. Literature Evaluation section in Research Proposal
This part of your proposal is related to the ‘Context and Importance’ part of your research proposal, as it deals with more in-depth scrutiny of the work that has already been completed in studying issues related to your research topic.
The purpose of this part of the research proposal is to give the reader a glimpse of the larger picture of your chosen field of study and to help him/her understand where your research topic stands within the studies that have already been completed in the field.
Consequently, you will also prove that the research that you would be attempting is unique and has not been attempted before.
For this part of your research proposal report, you would need to think on the lines of what questions have been asked in the past by researchers in your chosen field of study.
Learn about their methodology, findings and recommendations and how this would impact your research topic. You could also contest the claims made by previous researchers. Since an evaluation of literature makes for heavy reading.
Only include important information and leave out what is irrelevant. Focus on key aspects that help a reader understand the relationship between your proposed research work and the work done by other researchers. Try breaking down the available literature based on themes.
You could adapt these five steps to frame your literature evaluation while writing a research proposal:
- Explain how your own work relates to the literature draws from it, moves away from it, blends with it, or adds a novel point of view to it.
- Make a comparison of the theories, findings, arguments, and methodologies adopted by various researchers.
- Critically assess the arguments presented and find out which of the many methodologies, analyses, and conclusions is most consistent, convincing, or suitable and explain why you think so.
- Differentiate between the various themes, arguments, approaches, methodologies, controversies, and so on, that you come across in the literature review. Identify the main topics of divergence, arguments, or controversy.
- Include citations wherever necessary and maintain the focus on your main research issue.
4. Research Plan and Methodology section in the Research Proposal
You have to be extra careful with this section as although you have not yet begun your research your selection committee must be assured that your proposal is a worthwhile proposal after reading it.
Since your readers will not have research findings based on which they could evaluate your choices in methods and techniques, you have to convincingly convey to them that the choices that you have made are the best.
Make them believe that your research plan and analysis techniques will tackle the research issue appropriately. Prove that your chosen methods will help you accurately interpret the prospective outcomes.
Your research plan and methodology should be unquestionably linked to the specific goals of your research proposal. Explain your research plan in its totality by citing examples and building on instances drawn from your literature evaluation.
Take into consideration techniques of collecting data that have not been used in your field before but that you feel have a possibility of being successfully implemented.
Ensure that you are specific when you write about the methodology that would be used by you for data collection and the techniques that you will use to analyze that data.
Include the following three points when explaining your research methodology while writing a research proposal:
- Your methodology should not be just a list of tasks but should involve making a case out for these specific methods being the most suited to your purpose.
- State exactly what you would be doing when actually putting your methods into operation.
- Show foresight in recognizing and identifying any possible obstacles and drawbacks that you could encounter in the course of putting your research plan into practice. Such an acknowledgment would be preferable to be questioned about these issues by your selection committee later.
5. Preliminary Assumptions and Conclusions section in Research Proposal
You have to discuss the process of analysis and the possible conclusions in your research proposal even though you have not yet begun your research work.
This is because you need to provide arguments on how and in what manner your research is likely to impact the body of knowledge in your field of study.
When discussing the possible impact of your research while writing a research proposal, think about the following 6 issues:
- The practical application of the potential results from your research and what innovations it could lead to,
- The influence that your findings could have on various techniques, programs, etc.,
- The relevance of your findings to the theoretical structures that supports your field of study,
- The future research possibilities that could crop up from the potential findings of your own research,
- The possible contribution of your research conclusions on various social, financial, or socio-economic issues,
- The possible influence that your potential findings could have on policymakers and policy-making,
On a note of caution, do not indulge in idle speculation in this section. Base all your observations on proper evidence and facts.
The main purpose of this part is to underscore the existing theoretical gaps or areas in the literature that have not been researched adequately and how your research would help bridge the divide if carried out as planned.
6. The Conclusion section in Research Proposal
In the conclusion to your research proposal, you would go over the significance of your research topic and give a short summing up of the entire research paper. This part of your research proposal should not be more than a couple of paragraphs long.
It should stress the need for investigating the research topic chosen by you, its uniqueness, and its value in the advancement of knowledge in the field.
The 5 takeaways from your research proposal should be:
- The issues that would be addressed by you,
- The need for research on the topic,
- Where your research would fit in the wider scope of the entire field of study,
- The reasons for the choice of a particular methodology over others,
- The impact that your research is likely to have.
7. References or Bibliography section in Research Proposal
Just like in any other academic research thesis, citations would be required for all the resources that you utilized to compose your research proposal.
This could take the form of either references or a bibliography depending on the requirements of the institution that you are applying to. References list out the texts that you actually referred to or cited in your proposal.
A bibliography, on the other hand, lists out all the material that you used to draw up your proposal, cited or otherwise, and includes any additional sources that would be relevant to the understanding of your research topic.
Whichever you choose, this part of your research proposal should stand testament to the fact that you have put in the hard work necessary to ensure that your research would not be a duplication of previous research but would actually supplement work done by other researchers.
Your references or bibliography should begin on a new page and be formatted in the writing style prescribed by the institution that you are applying to. Generally, this part is not included when calculating the word/page length of your research proposal.