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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 January 3, 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:
- Research design
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, 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
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: “Making Healthy Connections: Mentoring, Monitoring and Measurement”
- Example research proposal #3: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”
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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?
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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Sample Academic Proposals
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Master of Education (M.Ed.) Research Proposal - Exploring the potential of implementing E-Learning practices at the University of Guyana
Distance learning and …
Open Learning for an …
Open Learning for an Open World: Reflections on …
Laura E Sujo-Montes
Distance learning and university effectiveness: …
The nature of learning and teaching in higher education has changed significantly in recent years. The emergence of social media and technologies has had a profound impact upon learner engagement and tutors have had to adapt their learning and teaching strategies accordingly. The thesis discusses the author's published body of research and presents a pedagogical framework for engaging the networked learner. The framework is based upon three perspectives that have emerged from the author's research.
Kerwin A. Livingstone
Online learning and teaching is pervading higher education (HE) and many Universities are faced with the challenge of incorporating technology in education to meet the needs of students. The objective of this paper is to examine the implications of introducing a hybrid learning approach at the University of Guyana. A rationale has been established as to why this need is so germane. Literature has been reviewed and discussed, concerning face to face (F2F), online and blended instruction and the pertinence of these in current HE pedagogies. Special emphasis is paid to the transformative potential of blended learning to confront HE challenges and produce lasting learning experiences. A mandatory rethinking and restructuring of students’ experiences has also been highlighted. Administrative and leadership issues are dealt with and an action plan outline to introduce and employ a blended learning approach is offered. Conclusions are drawn from the information presented, with a view to establishing that hybrid learning sustains the values of conventional HE establishments and, irrefutably, possess the power to engender significant educational experiences. Keywords: online learning, face to face (F2F) instruction; hybrid learning; blended learning; traditional approach, higher education."
Prof Avgoustos Tsinakos
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Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management” Example research proposal #2: “Making Healthy Connections: Mentoring, Monitoring and Measurement” Example research proposal #3: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”
students should discuss their research interests with CM faculty members, identify a research topic, conduct preliminary literature review and develop a project proposal. The proposal should discuss problem statement, objectives, research methodology, research activities, and a time schedule in about 3-5 pages. A sample proposal is attached ...
Research proposal : a guideline for master and doctorate candidates Authors: Achille E Assogbadjo University of Abomey-Calavi Sewanou Hermann Honfo University of Abomey-Calavi F.J. Chadare...
This resource is enhanced by an Acrobat PDF file. Download the free Acrobat Reader Select the Sample Academic Proposals PDF in the Media box above to download this file and read examples of proposals for conferences, journals, and book chapters.
• Find the gaps in the research Literature Review • Decide the type of research you are doing Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods • Plan out your proposal Create writing plan • Meet with your advisor Every department has different guidelines for proposals
WRITING A THESIS PROPOSAL: INDEPENDENT LEARNING RESOURCES © Learning Centre, The University of Sydney 3 Objectives After you have worked through these materials, you should be able to: Focus your thesis topic Understand the purpose of the thesis proposal Understand the general structure of a thesis proposal
Download Free PDF Master of Education (M.Ed.) Research Proposal - Exploring the potential of implementing E-Learning practices at the University of Guyana Kerwin A. Livingstone Download Free PDF Distance learning and … Online course design principles 2004 • Kim Dooley Download Free PDF View PDF Open Learning for an …
A research proposal is a document written by a researcher which is a concise and coherent summary that provides a detailed description of the proposed program.
A RESEARCH PROPOSAL Submitted to the Graduate School of Business Leadership University of South Africa In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master’s Degree in Business Leadership by Tesfaye Misganaw (Student #: 72180196)