How to Write a Research Proposal

How to Write a Research Proposal

Not sure how to write a research proposal? If you are a researcher who wants to secure funding for your projects, you must understand the components of a research proposal. Furthermore, graduate students are required to write a research proposal as part of their thesis/dissertation paper.

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The purpose of a research proposal is to convince a funding organization, academic department committee, or dissertation supervisor that your proposed research is worthy of going forward. As you go about writing the proposal, you will want to discuss the relevance of your project, provide context so that you can demonstrate knowledge about the topic, explain your approach, and make the case that the project is feasible.

Parts of a Research Proposal

Although there are several parts of a research proposal, you must keep it brief. A lot of supervisors require a one-page research proposal while others recommend around 3 pages. The format and requirements for your proposal paper depend on the field of study as well as your university’s preferences. Since your project is going to be a lengthy one, you must get started on your proposal early. Here are the different components of your proposal:

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  • The title page or cover letter

    It should be formatted according to your instructor’s requirements. If the format is up to you, we recommend using the APA style. Use a running head on the upper left corner of every page, including the title page. Also, include page numbers on the upper right corner of each page. Place the title of the paper first with your name below it and then the name of your academic institution below your name.
  • Research proposal abstract

    The abstract for a research proposal summarizes the content of the proposal itself. It should consist of your research objectives as well as your proposed solutions. Keep it around 100 to 200 words and center it at the top of the page. If you are not sure how to write an abstract for a research proposal, it is easy to find examples online.
  • Table of contents

    For short proposals, this is not necessary. However, if you are required to write a lengthy research proposal that contains significant details, you should list all of the major sections, including their page numbers.
  • Research proposal introduction

    The function of the introduction is to achieve three things: to state the problem, explain the purpose, and discuss the relevance and importance of the research.
  • Primary research background

    You should provide the reader with some context and background about the topic, taking into account that they might not know much about that particular issue.
  • Research methods that you plan to use

    This part should be divided into three sections: the choice of research design, details about the methods used, and discussions about the procedures and how you will analyze the data. Ultimately, you will explain to the reader how you plan to go about your research in terms of tools used to collect data. Among other things, this demonstrates that you have given your project a lot of thought and are being deliberate about the methods to ensure the reliability of the study. You should also knowledge the potential weaknesses of your methods (i.e., perhaps it is difficult to apply the research more broadly since sampling a more diverse population might be prohibitively expensive).
  • The significance of the research

    For this part, you will want to persuade the reader that your research will make an important contribution to the area of study by addressing issues for which a research gap exists. Furthermore, you should discuss the implications of your research in terms of its impact on future research, theories, and practices. There is no need to exaggerate the impact of your research, but you want to show that you help to develop the goals and objectives of academia.
  • The conclusion

    In this part, you will summarize the details regarding your proposed study and reiterate how important it is to be given a chance to carry it out. You will want to highlight the uniqueness of your approach, the feasibility of your study, and the logic of choosing your particular methodology.
  • Citations

    Anytime you use sources in a paper, they need to have proper attribution. As you scour through different scholarly journals, books, and articles related to your topic, you will begin to build your case for why your research project deserves the red light. Ultimately, you will not necessarily end up using all of the works in your actual dissertation, but the fact that you have found a lot of relevant information shows that you are treating the project with due diligence. The citations should be listed on a separate page with a subheading (“Work Cited” if it is MLA, “References” if it is APA) at the top center of the page. There are also a few additional details that you might be asked to include in your research proposal:
  • Research timeline

    While this is not always a requirement, you should be prepared for the possibility that a dissertation supervisor or funding organization will ask you to explain what you plan to do at each stage of the process along with estimates for when you will complete each part. Even if you do not ultimately incorporate this into the research proposal, creating a timeline is a good way to ensure that you are staying on track.
  • Budget

    If you are applying for research funding, you will certainly be asked to provide a detailed budget indicating how much each part of the project will cost. Keep in mind that in many cases organizations will only cover certain costs. For instance, they might help pay for costs associated with equipment use, supplies, and travel but will not necessarily pay for things like meals. As you think about funding, do the following:
  • Estimate the cost for the total project
  • Justify each type of expense
  • Explain how you came up with the figures

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To calculate your budget, you should factor in the following:

  1. Travel costs

    How necessary is it to physically go to a location to collect data? Where do you plan to go, what will you do while there, and how long do you expect that you will need to be there?
  2. Materials

    Does your project require sophisticated software or equipment? Are there costs associated with training sessions or installing computer programs?
  3. Research assistants

    Does your project require you to hire additional researchers to help you out? What roles will they play and how much do you intend to pay them? What other duties do you plan on outsourcing?

Before you submit your research paper, there is one final step that you definitely would not want to skip: proofreading and revising. You might have come up with a truly brilliant idea, but if the paper is riddled with obvious spelling mistakes and grammar issues, it will not be taken seriously. With so much at stake (funding and even graduation), you need to produce something that looks polished and professional. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not simply check for typos or grammar mistakes. You should also make sure the paper is well organized and flows well.
  • Double-check and make sure you used proper formatting
  • Verify that the information you cite in the text matches up with the source you cited. Also, look through your reference list to make sure you did not accidentally skip over a source or include a source that you did not use in the paper.
  • Ask somebody to look over your paper to make sure it makes sense to them.

Research Proposal Cover Page

Formatting your research proposal cover page properly might sound like a minor detail, but given that it is the first thing the reader will see, you want it to look perfect. It should include the following?

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

Depending on the preferences of your supervisor, you might include additional details such as the date and your student ID number.

When in Doubt, Read Through a Research Proposal Example

If you have never written a research proposal, the process can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, your department will be able to provide you with access to research proposal examples that help you figure out how to start. For the best results, look for an approved research proposal that was recently written by a student in your department. Here are some ways in which the example will assist:

  • You will have a better idea of the proper formatting requirements.
  • You will understand step-by-step what needs to be included in your research proposal based on your department’s policies.
  • You will learn more about the process of writing a research proposal, which will make the experience so much easier!