Contents of a Research Proposal
Contents of a Research Proposal Research project proposals must contain, but not necessarily be limited to, the following essentials:
- Introduction / Problem Statement - A clear, concise statement of the problem to be solved by the proposed research, usually in one to three sentences. Justifications and explanations belong in the "background" section.
- Objectives - A concise statement identifying the purpose or products of the research. The objective(s) should be phrased in positive terms (e.g.,to determine, to analyze, to measure, rather than broad generalities, such as, to investigate, to study).
- Include the findings of the literature search. These findings should demonstrate either that there has been no other research on the problem with the same approach or that the proposed research project will extend, modify or refine prior research. Relate the proposed research to past research accomplishments either by the ODOT or others, and as appropriate show how it builds upon rather than duplicates any previous research. A complete literature search that includes TRID is required for all project proposals.
- A statement indicating the researcher's understanding of the underlying principles involved and supporting the approach being taken.
- This section should be written so that a person with a technical background, not necessarily in the subject being researched, can understand it. It should define key terms, such as, processes, equipment, so the reader quickly grasps the picture. Images are often very helpful in this process. This section should explain the options for approaching and solving the problem, then explain which approach will be taken in the project and why. The scope of the research and the basic parameters being investigated should also be included.
The plan or approach intended to be used should be fully described and specify in detail how the research project will be structured and performed to meet each research objective. The work plan must identify major operational phases and relate these phases to manpower requirements, time schedule and cost estimates and provide the following information as applicable:
- Principles or theories to be used in the solution.
- Possible solutions of the problem.
- Critical experiments to test the applicability of the theory.
- The kind and range of variables to be tested.
- Criteria to be used for acceptance or rejection of possible solutions.
- Experimental facilities available.
- Data analysis and statistical procedures.
- The basic approach to the development of the theory.
- Specific hypothesis derived from the theory.
- Criteria for acceptance or rejection of hypothesis.
- Theoretical framework (experimental design) for study.
- Significant variables to be tested.
- The device, process, or system to be developed.
- The applied research upon which the development is to be based.
- Method(s) to solve the problem.
- The kind and range of variables considered in the development.
- Facilities available for the development.
- Data analysis procedures, including adequate statistical methods.
- Criteria to be used for acceptance or rejection.
- Item to be evaluated or measured.
- The extent of the development of the item.
- Testing procedures for the item.
- Conditions under which evaluation will be made.
- Control to be used.
- Data analysis procedures, including adequate explanation of statistical methods.
Tasks to be Performed Describe the proposed tasks that will be followed to complete the project.
Anticipated Benefits Enumerate the benefits anticipated from the research, such as better service to the public, savings of time or money, increased safety, improved aesthetic quality, or preservation of the environment. Cost-benefit ratios, net-present value, and cost effectiveness measures should be considered. All assumptions, data, and calculations must be shown.
Implementation A statement identifying specific areas of potential application of the research findings such as: changes in specifications, standards, policy, training, practice, procedure, software and instructions for computer application, and how the findings will ultimately resolve / reduce the problems. If the research findings cannot be applied immediately, this portion of the research proposal should identify the additional steps necessary to complete in order for application to begin (additional research, field testing).
Expected Deliverables Describe the proposed deliverables, such as software, databases, specification changes, etc. as a result of the project, including the reports to be prepared such as monthly, annual, and final reports. Research project reports should document the research performed and indicate what project objectives have been met.
Beginning October 1, 2021, Oklahoma Transportation will be using a new contractual requirement regarding the ADA/Section 508 Compliance. The research institution must CERTIFY that each final report (.pdf format) has been made fully accessible by the time that all technical and formatting revisions have been addressed and is ready for posting online.
For now, this requirement will apply to research and implementation project final reports but not task order final reports.
Oklahoma Transportation will perform random checks of ADA accessible final reports.
Time Schedule Include a bar chart to illustrate the interrelationship and scheduling of the operational phases and tasks of the research project. If properly prepared, this chart can also be used as a progress chart in semi-annual reporting where required.
Literature Cited / References Include a list of all literature cited within the proposal. Additionally, include a list of all references suggested in the proposal.
Budget and Justification Include the proposed budget for the project, listing the budget sheet for each year separately, followed by a cumulative budget sheet combining the total number of years. Facilities and Administrative Costs of 26% are allowed. Include a budget justification describing each proposed budget line item.
Personnel Qualifications Include a statement of the qualifications of the principal investigator and other key personnel including their experience, capability, and past performance of research work in relation to the contracted organization. The Principal Investigator (PI) or any substitutes to the PI shall preferably be a Professional Engineer registered in the State of Oklahoma. In addition, any substitute shall have equivalent or higher qualifications than the PI selected in the original contract.
The research personnel who will be conducting the research shall have been deemed qualified by the PI prior to the start of the research. Include a statement on the availability of skilled personnel for the research project, and an availability time frame.
Lab Qualifications / Quality Management System (QMS) The PI performing the work shall have a documented Quality Management System (QMS) acceptable to ODOT. The intent of the QMS is to document to ODOT that the lab has the necessary calibrated and/or verified equipment, competent technicians, and quality system in place to properly conduct testing on highway construction materials used in the research. The QMS is a project specific document, and each PI is required to submit a QMS describing the laboratory equipment that will be utilized for their research project prior to the award of a contract to proceed with work activities. As a means of achieving this goal, it is recommended that the PI and his/her staff refer to AASHTO R-18 for guidance in developing the QMS for conformance with this policy.
Describe the facilities to be used to conduct the research project. Periodic lab inspections by ODOT representatives may be conducted during the performance of the contract. Any infractions noted at the time of such inspections will be brought to the attention of the PI, who is responsible for taking the corrective actions. In some cases, data from testing may require certification.
- Specialized nonexpendable equipment, or instruments to be constructed, purchased, or rented, including computer charges and software licenses are subject to DEPARTMENT review and approval.
- Provide a detailed list identifying each piece of equipment, and/or instrument; however, the components of each piece need not be listed. As previously mentioned, subject to DEPARTMENT review and approval.
By clicking on the link below, you confirm your agreement and compliance with the above instructions.
Request For Proposals
The deadline for the submission of FFY23 proposals has passed. Please consider submitting topic statements for FFY24 using the Research / Implementation Topic Statement Submission Forms on our Interactive Forms page.
- SPR Item 2293: “Automated, Connected, Electric, and Shared Vehicle Considerations into Travel Demand Analysis”
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- SPR Item 2317: “Effectiveness of Magnesium-Alumino-Liquid-Phosphate-Based Concrete as a Repair Material”
Project Proposal Form Word
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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.
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
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 ]
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.
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 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 refers to the degree to which the findings can be applied to different contexts and groups.[ 13 ]
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 ]
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.
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Chapter 14: The Research Proposal
14.3 Components of a Research Proposal
Krathwohl (2005) suggests and describes a variety of components to include in a research proposal. The following sections – Introductions, Background and significance, Literature Review; Research design and methods, Preliminary suppositions and implications; and Conclusion present these components in a suggested template for you to follow in the preparation of your research proposal.
The introduction sets the tone for what follows in your research proposal – treat it as the initial pitch of your idea. After reading the introduction your reader should:
- understand what it is you want to do;
- have a sense of your passion for the topic; and
- be excited about the study’s possible outcomes.
As you begin writing your research proposal, it is helpful to think of the introduction as a narrative of what it is you want to do, written in one to three paragraphs. Within those one to three paragraphs, it is important to briefly answer the following questions:
- What is the central research problem?
- How is the topic of your research proposal related to the problem?
- What methods will you utilize to analyze the research problem?
- Why is it important to undertake this research? What is the significance of your proposed research? Why are the outcomes of your proposed research important? Whom are they important?
Note : You may be asked by your instructor to include an abstract with your research proposal. In such cases, an abstract should provide an overview of what it is you plan to study, your main research question, a brief explanation of your methods to answer the research question, and your expected findings. All of this information must be carefully crafted in 150 to 250 words. A word of advice is to save the writing of your abstract until the very end of your research proposal preparation. If you are asked to provide an abstract, you should include 5 to 7 key words that are of most relevance to your study. List these in order of relevance.
Background and significance
The purpose of this section is to explain the context of your proposal and to describe, in detail, why it is important to undertake this research. Assume that the person or people who will read your research proposal know nothing or very little about the research problem. While you do not need to include all knowledge you have learned about your topic in this section, it is important to ensure that you include the most relevant material that will help to explain the goals of your research.
While there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to address some or all of the following key points:
- State the research problem and provide a more thorough explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction.
- Present the rationale for the proposed research study. Clearly indicate why this research is worth doing. Answer the “so what?” question.
- Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. Do not forget to explain how and in what ways your proposed research builds upon previous related research.
- Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research.
- Clearly identify the key or most relevant sources of research you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
- Set the boundaries of your proposed research, in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you will study, but what will be excluded from your study.
- Provide clear definitions of key concepts and terms. Since key concepts and terms often have numerous definitions, make sure you state which definition you will be utilizing in your research.
This key component of the research proposal is the most time-consuming aspect in the preparation of your research proposal. As described in Chapter 5 , the literature review provides the background to your study and demonstrates the significance of the proposed research. Specifically, it is a review and synthesis of prior research that is related to the problem you are setting forth to investigate. Essentially, your goal in the literature review is to place your research study within the larger whole of what has been studied in the past, while demonstrating to your reader that your work is original, innovative, and adds to the larger whole.
As the literature review is information dense, it is essential that this section be intelligently structured to enable your reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your study. However, this can be easier to state and harder to do, simply due to the fact there is usually a plethora of related research to sift through. Consequently, a good strategy for writing the literature review is to break the literature into conceptual categories or themes, rather than attempting to describe various groups of literature you reviewed. Chapter 5 describes a variety of methods to help you organize the themes.
Here are some suggestions on how to approach the writing of your literature review:
- Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they used, what they found, and what they recommended based upon their findings.
- Do not be afraid to challenge previous related research findings and/or conclusions.
- Assess what you believe to be missing from previous research and explain how your research fills in this gap and/or extends previous research.
It is important to note that a significant challenge related to undertaking a literature review is knowing when to stop. As such, it is important to know when you have uncovered the key conceptual categories underlying your research topic. Generally, when you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations, you can have confidence that you have covered all of the significant conceptual categories in your literature review. However, it is also important to acknowledge that researchers often find themselves returning to the literature as they collect and analyze their data. For example, an unexpected finding may develop as you collect and/or analyze the data; in this case, it is important to take the time to step back and review the literature again, to ensure that no other researchers have found a similar finding. This may include looking to research outside your field.
This situation occurred with one of this textbook’s authors’ research related to community resilience. During the interviews, the researchers heard many participants discuss individual resilience factors and how they believed these individual factors helped make the community more resilient, overall. Sheppard and Williams (2016) had not discovered these individual factors in their original literature review on community and environmental resilience. However, when they returned to the literature to search for individual resilience factors, they discovered a small body of literature in the child and youth psychology field. Consequently, Sheppard and Williams had to go back and add a new section to their literature review on individual resilience factors. Interestingly, their research appeared to be the first research to link individual resilience factors with community resilience factors.
Research design and methods
The objective of this section of the research proposal is to convince the reader that your overall research design and methods of analysis will enable you to solve the research problem you have identified and also enable you to accurately and effectively interpret the results of your research. Consequently, it is critical that the research design and methods section is well-written, clear, and logically organized. This demonstrates to your reader that you know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Overall, you want to leave your reader feeling confident that you have what it takes to get this research study completed in a timely fashion.
Essentially, this section of the research proposal should be clearly tied to the specific objectives of your study; however, it is also important to draw upon and include examples from the literature review that relate to your design and intended methods. In other words, you must clearly demonstrate how your study utilizes and builds upon past studies, as it relates to the research design and intended methods. For example, what methods have been used by other researchers in similar studies?
While it is important to consider the methods that other researchers have employed, it is equally, if not more, important to consider what methods have not been but could be employed. Remember, the methods section is not simply a list of tasks to be undertaken. It is also an argument as to why and how the tasks you have outlined will help you investigate the research problem and answer your research question(s).
Tips for writing the research design and methods section:
Specify the methodological approaches you intend to employ to obtain information and the techniques you will use to analyze the data.
Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of those operations in relation to the research problem.
Go beyond stating what you hope to achieve through the methods you have chosen. State how you will actually implement the methods (i.e., coding interview text, running regression analysis, etc.).
Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers you may encounter when undertaking your research, and describe how you will address these barriers.
Explain where you believe you will find challenges related to data collection, including access to participants and information.
Preliminary suppositions and implications
The purpose of this section is to argue how you anticipate that your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the area of your study. Depending upon the aims and objectives of your study, you should also discuss how your anticipated findings may impact future research. For example, is it possible that your research may lead to a new policy, theoretical understanding, or method for analyzing data? How might your study influence future studies? What might your study mean for future practitioners working in the field? Who or what might benefit from your study? How might your study contribute to social, economic or environmental issues? While it is important to think about and discuss possibilities such as these, it is equally important to be realistic in stating your anticipated findings. In other words, you do not want to delve into idle speculation. Rather, the purpose here is to reflect upon gaps in the current body of literature and to describe how you anticipate your research will begin to fill in some or all of those gaps.
The conclusion reiterates the importance and significance of your research proposal, and provides a brief summary of the entire proposed study. Essentially, this section should only be one or two paragraphs in length. Here is a potential outline for your conclusion:
Discuss why the study should be done. Specifically discuss how you expect your study will advance existing knowledge and how your study is unique.
Explain the specific purpose of the study and the research questions that the study will answer.
Explain why the research design and methods chosen for this study are appropriate, and why other designs and methods were not chosen.
State the potential implications you expect to emerge from your proposed study,
Provide a sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship currently in existence, related to the research problem.
Citations and references
As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your research proposal. In a research proposal, this can take two forms: a reference list or a bibliography. A reference list lists the literature you referenced in the body of your research proposal. All references in the reference list must appear in the body of the research proposal. Remember, it is not acceptable to say “as cited in …” As a researcher you must always go to the original source and check it for yourself. Many errors are made in referencing, even by top researchers, and so it is important not to perpetuate an error made by someone else. While this can be time consuming, it is the proper way to undertake a literature review.
In contrast, a bibliography , is a list of everything you used or cited in your research proposal, with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem. In other words, sources cited in your bibliography may not necessarily appear in the body of your research proposal. Make sure you check with your instructor to see which of the two you are expected to produce.
Overall, your list of citations should be a testament to the fact that you have done a sufficient level of preliminary research to ensure that your project will complement, but not duplicate, previous research efforts. For social sciences, the reference list or bibliography should be prepared in American Psychological Association (APA) referencing format. Usually, the reference list (or bibliography) is not included in the word count of the research proposal. Again, make sure you check with your instructor to confirm.
Research Methods for the Social Sciences: An Introduction by Valerie Sheppard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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LYNN SANTELMANN Assistant Professor, Applied Linguistics Portland State University [email protected] Outline for Research Project Proposal (adapted from Course Materials for Psycholinguistics) When writing, please use section headings to indicate where the information can be found. Subheadings need not be used, though in long sections they may facilitate organization. 1. Introduction Explain the issue you are examining and why it is significant. Describe the general area to be studied Explain why this area is important to the general area under study (e.g., psychology of language, second language acquisition, teaching methods )
Summarize what is already known about the field. Include a summary of the basic background information on the topic gleaned from your literature review (you can include information from the book and class, but the bulk should be outside sources) Discuss several critical studies that have already been done in this area(cite according to APA style). Point out why these background studies are insufficient. In other words, what question(s) do they leave unresolved that you would like to study? Choose (at least) one of these questions you might like to pursue yourself. (Make sure you do not choose too many questions)
- List the specific question(s) that you are exploring.
- Explain how these research questions are related to the larger issues raised in the introduction.
- Describe what specific claim, hypothesis, and/or model of psycholinguistics you will evaluate with these questions.
- Explain what it will show about the psychology of language if your hypothesis is confirmed.
- Explain what it will suggest about the psychology of language if your hypothesis is disconfirmed.
Describe the general methodology you choose for your study, in order to test your hypothesis(es). Explain why this method is the best for your purposes. Participants: Who would you test and why? Describe the sample you would test and explain why you have chosen this sample. Include age, and language background and socio-economic information, if relevant to the design. Are there any participants you would exclude? Why, why not?
Describe what kinds of manipulations/variations you would make or test for in order to test your hypothesis(es). Describe the factors you would vary if you were presenting a person with stimulus sentences. Explain how varying these factors would allow you to confirm or disconfirm your hypotheses. Explain what significant differences you would need to find to confirm or disconfirm your hypothesis(es). In particular, how could your hypothesis(es) be disconfirmed by your data? Controls: What kinds of factors would you need to control for in your study? Describe what types of effects would be likely to occur which would make your results appear to confirm, or to disconfirm your hypothesis(es). Describe how you can by your design rule out or control for apparent effects.
How are you going to present the stimuli? What is the participant in the experiment going to do?
How will you analyze the results? What kind of results would confirm your hypothesis? What kind of results would disconfirm your hypothesis
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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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What to include in a research proposal
You should check with each department to find out whether they provide a specific template for submission.
The word count for research proposals is typically 1,000-1,500 words for Arts programmes and around 2,500 words for Birmingham Law School programmes. Each subject area or department will have slightly different requirements for your research proposal, such as word length and the volume of literature review required. It is a good idea to contact the department before you apply.
Typically, your research proposal should include the following information:
2. Research overview
3. research context.
A well-written introduction is an efficient way of getting your reader’s attention early on. This is your opportunity to answer the questions you considered when preparing your proposal: why is your research important? How does it fit into the existing strengths of the department? How will it add something new to the existing body of literature?
It is unlikely that you will be able to review all relevant literature at this stage, so you should explain the broad contextual background against which you will conduct your research. You should include a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic. This will allow you to demonstrate a familiarity with key texts in the relevant field as well as the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.
4. Research questions
The proposal should set out the central aims and key questions that will guide your research. Many research proposals are too broad, so make sure that your project is sufficiently narrow and feasible (i.e. something that is likely to be completed within the normal time frame for a PhD programme).
You might find it helpful to prioritise one or two main questions, from which you can then derive a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also explain your intended approach to answering the questions: will your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical, etc.?
5. Research methods
How will you achieve your research objectives? The proposal should present your research methodology, using specific examples to explain how you are going to conduct your research (e.g. techniques, sample size, target populations, equipment, data analysis, etc.).
Your methods may include visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews. If your proposed research is library-based, you should explain where your key resources are located. If you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data, you should provide details about this (e.g. if you plan interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews will you conduct? Will there be problems of access?). This section should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.
A discussion of the timescale for completing your research would also beneficial. You should provide a realistic time plan for completing your research degree study, showing a realistic appreciation of the need to plan your research and how long it is likely to take. It is important that you are not over-optimistic with time frames.
6. Significance of research
The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic) and providing details of any immediate applications, including further research that might be done to build on your findings.
Please refer to our top tips page for further details about originality.
Read our top tips for writing a research proposal
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Writing a Research Proposal
Parts of a research proposal, prosana model, introduction, research question, methodology.
- Structure of a Research Proposal
- Common Proposal Writing Mistakes
- Proposal Writing Resources
A research proposal's purpose is to capture the evaluator's attention, demonstrate the study's potential benefits, and prove that it is a logical and consistent approach (Van Ekelenburg, 2010). To ensure that your research proposal contains these elements, there are several aspects to include in your proposal (Al-Riyami, 2008):
- Variables (independent and dependent)
- Research Question and/or hypothesis
Details about what to include in each element are included in the boxes below. Depending on the topic of your study, some parts may not apply to your proposal. You can also watch the video below for a brief overview about writing a successful research proposal.
Van Ekelenburg (2010) uses the PROSANA Model to guide researchers in developing rationale and justification for their research projects. It is an acronym that connects the problem, solution, and benefits of a particular research project. It is an easy way to remember the critical parts of a research proposal and how they relate to one another. It includes the following letters (Van Ekelenburg, 2010):
- Problem: Describing the main problem that the researcher is trying to solve.
- Root causes: Describing what is causing the problem. Why is the topic an issue?
- fOcus: Narrowing down one of the underlying causes on which the researcher will focus for their research project.
- Solutions: Listing potential solutions or approaches to fix to the problem. There could be more than one.
- Approach: Selecting the solution that the researcher will want to focus on.
- Novelty: Describing how the solution will address or solve the problem.
- Arguments: Explaining how the proposed solution will benefit the problem.
Research proposal titles should be concise and to the point, but informative. The title of your proposal may be different from the title of your final research project, but that is completely normal! Your findings may help you come up with a title that is more fitting for the final project. Characteristics of good proposal titles are (Al-Riyami, 2008):
- Catchy: It catches the reader's attention by peaking their interest.
- Positive: It spins your project in a positive way towards the reader.
- Transparent: It identifies the independent and dependent variables.
It is also common for proposal titles to be very similar to your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement (Locke et al., 2007).
An abstract is a brief summary (about 300 words) of the study you are proposing. It includes the following elements (Al-Riyami, 2008):
- Your primary research question(s).
- Hypothesis or main argument.
- Method you will use to complete the study. This may include the design, sample population, or measuring instruments that you plan to use.
Our guide on writing summaries may help you with this step.
- Writing a Summary by Luann Edwards Last Updated Aug 2, 2022 50 views this year
The purpose of the introduction is to give readers background information about your topic. it gives the readers a basic understanding of your topic so that they can further understand the significance of your proposal. A good introduction will explain (Al-Riyami, 2008):
- How it relates to other research done on the topic
- Why your research is significant to the field
- The relevance of your study
Your research objectives are the desired outcomes that you will achieve from the research project. Depending on your research design, these may be generic or very specific. You may also have more than one objective (Al-Riyami, 2008).
- General objectives are what the research project will accomplish
- Specific objectives relate to the research questions that the researcher aims to answer through the study.
Be careful not to have too many objectives in your proposal, as having too many can make your project lose focus. Plus, it may not be possible to achieve several objectives in one study.
This section describes the different types of variables that you plan to have in your study and how you will measure them. According to Al-Riyami (2008), there are four types of research variables:
- Independent: The person, object, or idea that is manipulated by the researcher.
- Dependent: The person, object, or idea whose changes are dependent upon the independent variable. Typically, it is the item that the researcher is measuring for the study.
- Confounding/Intervening: Factors that may influence the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable. These include physical and mental barriers. Not every study will have intervening variables, but they should be studied if applicable.
- Background: Factors that are relevant to the study's data and how it can be generalized. Examples include demographic information such as age, sex, and ethnicity.
Your research proposal should describe each of your variables and how they relate to one another. Depending on your study, you may not have all four types of variables present. However, there will always be an independent and dependent variable.
A research question is the main piece of your research project because it explains what your study will discover to the reader. It is the question that fuels the study, so it is important for it to be precise and unique. You do not want it to be too broad, and it should identify a relationship between two variables (an independent and a dependent) (Al-Riyami, 2008). There are six types of research questions (Academic Writer, n.d.):
- Example: "Do people get nervous before speaking in front of an audience?"
- Example: "What are the study habits of college freshmen at Tiffin University?"
- Example: "What primary traits create a successful romantic relationship?"
- Example: "Is there a relationship between a child's performance in school and their parents' socioeconomic status?"
- Example: "Are high school seniors more motivated than high school freshmen?"
- Example: "Do news media outlets impact a person's political opinions?"
For more information on the different types of research questions, you can view the "Research Questions and Hypotheses" tutorial on Academic Writer, located below. If you are unfamiliar with Academic Writer, we also have a tutorial on using the database located below.
- Academic Writer Tutorial by Pfeiffer Library Last Updated Aug 2, 2022 3166 views this year
If you know enough about your research topic that you believe a particular outcome may occur as a result of the study, you can include a hypothesis (thesis statement) in your proposal. A hypothesis is a prediction that you believe will be the outcome of your study. It explains what you think the relationship will be between the independent and dependent variable (Al-Riyami, 2008). It is ok if the hypothesis in your proposal turns out to be incorrect, because it is only a prediction! If you are writing a proposal in the humanities, you may be writing a thesis statement instead of a hypothesis. A thesis presents the main argument of your research project and leads to corresponding evidence to support your argument.
Hypotheses vs. Theories
Hypotheses are different from theories in that theories represent general principles and sets of rules that explain different phenomena. They typically represent large areas of study because they are applicable to anything in a particular field. Hypotheses focus on specific areas within a field and are educated guesses, meaning that they have the potential to be proven wrong (Academic Writer, n.d.). Because of this, hypotheses can also be formed from theories.
For more information on writing effective thesis statements, you can view our guide on writing thesis statements below.
- Writing Effective Thesis Statements by Luann Edwards Last Updated Aug 2, 2022 2 views this year
In a research proposal, you must thoroughly explain how you will conduct your study. This includes things such as (Al-Riyami, 2008):
- Research design: What research approach will your study take? Will it be quantitative or qualitative?
- Research subjects/participants: Who will be participating in your study? Does your study require human participants? How will you determine who to study?
- Sample size: How many participants will your study require? If you are not using human participants, how much of the sample will you be studying?
- Timeline: A proposed list of the general tasks and events that you plan to complete the study. This will include a time frame for each task/event and the order in which they will be completed.
- Interventions: If you plan on using anything on human participants for the study, you must include information it here. This is especially important if you plan on using any substances on human subjects.
- Ethical issues: Are there any potential ethical issues surrounding this study?
- Potential limitations: Are there any limitations that could skew the data and findings from your study?
- Appendixes: If you need to present any consent forms, interview questions, surveys, questionnaires, or other items that will be used in your study, you should include samples of each item with an appendix to reference them. If you are using a copyrighted document, you may need written permission from the original creator to use it in your study. A copy of the written permission should be included in your proposal.
- Setting: Where will you be conducting the study?
- Study instruments: What measuring tools or computer software will you be using to collect data? How will you collect the data?
- How you will analyze the data: What strategies or tools will you use to analyze the data you collect?
- Quality control: Will you have precautions in place to ensure that the study is conducted consistently and that outside factors will not skew the data?
- Budget: What type of funding will you need for your study? This will include the funds needed to afford measuring tools, software, etc.
- How you will share the study's findings: What will you plan to do with the findings?
- Significance of the study: How will your study expand on existing knowledge of the subject area?
For more information on research methodologies, you can view our guide on research methods and methodologies below.
- Research Methodologies by Pfeiffer Library Last Updated Aug 2, 2022 552 views this year
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Contents of a Research Proposal · The basic approach to the development of the theory. · Specific hypothesis derived from the theory. · Criteria
CONTENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL · Introduction · Review of literature · Aims and objectives · Research design and method · Ethical considerations · Budget · Appendices.
Every chapter of the research proposal should begin with a brief introduction to guide the reader into the main contents of that chapter. Similarly, every
The presentation of a research proposal follows a logical sequence according to the following steps: 1. introduction to the research topic, formulation of the
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Outline for Research Project Proposal · 1. Introduction Explain the issue you are examining and why it is significant. · 2. Background/Review of the Literature · 3
Contents of a Research Proposal. Research project proposals must contain, but not necessarily be limited to, the following essentials: Identification.
Research proposal purpose ; Relevance, Show your reader why your project is interesting, original, and important. ; Context, Demonstrate your
The proposal should present your research methodology, using specific examples to explain how you are going to conduct your research (e.g. techniques, sample
Parts of a Research Proposal · Title · Abstract · Introduction · Objective(s) · Variables (independent and dependent) · Research Question and/or hypothesis