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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.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

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


Literature review.

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, 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.

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research proposal examples marketing

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

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:

To guide your introduction , include information about:

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:

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:

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:

To determine your budget, think about:

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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Market Research Proposal Template

Used 7,126 times

Reviewed by Olga Asheychik

Title of the research

Prepared for: [Client.Company]

Prepared by: [Sender.FirstName] [Sender.LastName] [Sender.Company]

What is a market research proposal? A market research proposal is a document that sells your services to potential clients by showing them what they can accomplish by hiring you to complete their project or research study. It includes a summary, objectives, existing knowledge, intended outcomes, target demographics, data collection methods, a detailed research methodology, a project timeline, proposed budget, ethical considerations, and further outcomes.

Through this market research project, [research title] , we aim to provide more information for [client] regarding market trends in the area. The following summary will give an overview of the causes, processes, and possible effects of the market research proposal detailed below.

Based on our conversation with [Client First Name] with [Client Company] , we know that your goals for this research include [objective] and [objective] We will use a variety of qualitative and quantitative processes to collect and analyze the latest market data. This process will allow you to assess the potential market for your new product and how best to advertise it.

The primary client objectives for this research involve:

2. Objectives

The overall purpose of this market research study is to develop a marketing strategy for [Client Company] ’s newest product. Specific objectives to be addressed as a result of the study are:

3. Existing knowledge

Based on our initial prospecting call with [Client First Name] at [Client Company Name] , we know that this product will complement an existing product line. This line’s most successful target market is women between the ages of 20 and 40 with an annual household income between $50,000 and $75,000.

Other companies in this industry have successfully launched similar products that are currently selling well with your target demographic. Last year [Client Industry] revenues topped [$dollar amount] .

By researching what features clients most desire in [Client Company] ’s new product, you will have a better understanding of their triggers. You can tailor your marketing strategy to highlight these features and tell the story of how they benefit target customers, capture new customers and build market share.

4. Intended outcomes

Based on our experience, we believe that the study will allow [Client Company] to:

You can use these results to tailor your marketing messages and chosen marketing channels to better target your desired market. By better understanding how your product meets customer needs, you can develop ad strategies to communicate its benefits.

5. Target demographics

Our research process will begin in-house with [Client Company] ’s marketing team. We will evaluate annual reports, sales reports, research and development reports, and other existing data to confirm that our target market is correct.

Based on our initial call and background research, this study will target 200 individuals from households of different sizes within your service area. From our initial research, we have determined that this study will likely target women between the ages of 20 and 40 with an annual income of between $35,000 and $100,000, but specifics will be determined following interviews with [Client Company] . Focused research methodologies will be used to determine what features of the new product they find most beneficial as well as their current level of awareness of [Client Company] and their preferred marketing channels.

6. Data collection

To meet the objectives of the project, we will perform the following data collection methods. Data collection methods will be suited to the project at hand and will include:

Focus groups are a proven method for gathering data from your target sample. We will conduct up to five focus group meetings consisting of no more than 10 participants. In our experience, smaller groups allow us to collect data from more participants, and they are easier to control.

Each focus group will last for about an hour, and participants will receive a $5 gift card for their time. Focus groups will be conducted in our conference rooms.

We will also conduct a randomly distributed mail survey to collect data from a representative sample within your service area. The survey will also be made available online. Customers who receive the mail survey will be given an access code to take the survey online, and their responses will be kept separate from general online responses to maintain a random sample.

To capture additional responses, we will display QR codes in targeted locations to promote the online survey. We suggest offering an incentive to people who take the survey such as an entry to a prize drawing or a coupon from [Client Company] .

Along with focus groups and surveys, we recommend conducting intercept polls of people in the desired target market shopping near retail chains that currently carry [Client Company] ’s products.

7. Approach

This research study will include a blend of qualitative and quantitative research methods, primarily utilizing the data collection methods listed above. Since your objectives include [objective] our research methods have been tailored to reach your desired demographics. In our previous experience, we have found that this demographic responds well to our proposed methodology.

The study will provide beneficial data to your company by focusing on the following key topics:

Potential limitations to the study methods include survey fatigue. Most companies include customer satisfaction surveys at every customer touchpoint, and people are less receptive to taking a survey. This has made it more difficult to capture user opinions using traditional survey methods.

To counteract survey fatigue, we will supplement survey data with a mix of qualitative and quantitative research. We will gather information from industry reports, online interactions, social media metrics, and in-person research to generate accurate and useful data.

To reach younger members of your target demographic, we propose offering digital engagement tools including livestream question-and-answer sessions and a dedicated social media page on which they can submit feedback. We can also set up a project-specific website to conduct user engagement. Our tools allow us to see the IP addresses of each user, so we exclude fake or irrelevant responses.

8. Reporting

Our project manager will keep in touch with [Client Company] regularly throughout the project. We will conduct weekly progress meetings via phone or video conferencing. At these meetings, we will discuss completed tasks, gather any outstanding data, and discuss the next steps in the process.

Written reports will be provided at the end of each task detailing the research methodology and the outcomes of each phase of the project. At the end of the project, a detailed report will be submitted containing a summary of the project and detailed results. We will submit the draft report to your project manager in Google Docs for any edits. Once the project is completed, we can present the report to your internal project team so they can best understand the results.

We will provide a printed copy and a PDF of the final report.

9. Timeline

Based on our call with [First Name] at [Client Company] , we know that you would like this study to be completed by the end of September. Since you plan on using the results to develop your marketing budget for the next fiscal year, we will complete your project within your desired time frame.

The following timeline details data collection times, the specific period of research analysis and the date of final deliverables. ‌‌We have developed this schedule based on our understanding of your needs, but the final timeline will be discussed during project kick off.

Task 1 Task description

Task 2 Task description

Task 3 Task description

10. Proposed budget

Task 1 [Cost] Description

Task 2 [Cost]

Task 3 [Cost]

‌‌Final report [Cost]

Reimbursable expenses [Cost]

Total [Cost]

11. Ethical considerations

[Company name] follows all ethical considerations regarding market research and test subjects. Each participant will be told that their participation in this research is voluntary, and they will be told how we plan on using their data. We will provide them with a form explaining this information and assuring them that their data will remain confidential.

Each participant will sign a form stating that they understand these terms. To protect each participant, we will not collect any personal data other than standard demographic information that can be used to inform the study.

If any additional data is collected, we will not sell this information to a third party or use it in any other research studies. It will be collected solely for the purposes of this market research project.

12. Further outcomes

This market research study will give [Client Company] a better understanding of your target market. It will provide insight into what your clients expect from your new product and how to best market it to members of your target demographic.

The study may also highlight other data including existing brand awareness and brand perceptions you can use to further tailor your ads.

13. About us

Our company was founded by market research experts with [XX] years of experience conducting similar studies. We use proven methodologies to collect data and distill it into easily digestible reports. We encourage our employees to stay up-to-date on the latest research techniques and analysis software.

14. Project team

Team Member

Bio – [Project Manager Name] has [XX] years of experience managing research studies for clients in many industries. She has a Master’s Degree in Market Research from [University] and is a Certified Research Expert.

Her experience includes similar studies in the industry which her client used to boost their market share by %. She is a well-known speaker at industry conferences and is well versed in the latest data analytics software.

Bio – [Team Member Name] is a data analyst with [XX] years of experience. He has worked on [XX] projects in [industry] and is a Certified Research Analyst. He will assist with data collection and analysis and provide technical support for all online components of this research study.

15. Previous successes

[Example Company] used our market research results to improve their understanding of client needs and used the information to develop a new marketing strategy. As a result, they achieved a 25% growth in revenue and reduced inventory backlog by 30%.

[Client Name]


16. Acceptance and terms and conditions

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How to Write a Research Proposal

Lindsay Kramer

Once you’re in college and really getting into  academic writing , you may not recognize all the kinds of assignments you’re asked to complete. You know what an essay is, and you know how to respond to readings—but when you hear your professor mention a research proposal or a literature review, your mind might do a double take. 

Don’t worry; we’ve got you. Boiled down to its core, a research proposal is simply a short piece of  writing that details exactly what you’ll be covering in a larger research project. You’ll likely be required to write one for your  thesis , and if you choose to continue in academia after earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be writing research proposals for your master’s thesis, your dissertation, and all other research you conduct. By then, you’ll be a research proposal pro. But for now, we’ll answer all your questions and help you confidently write your first one. 

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

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What is the goal of a research proposal?

In a research proposal, the goal is to present the author’s plan for the research they intend to conduct. In some cases, part of this goal is to secure funding for said research. In others, it’s to have the research approved by the author’s supervisor or department so they can move forward with it. In some cases, a research proposal is a required part of a graduate school application. In every one of these circumstances, research proposals follow the same structure.

In a research proposal, the author demonstrates how and why their research is relevant to their field. They demonstrate that the work is necessary to the following:

A research proposal also demonstrates that the author is capable of conducting this research and contributing to the current state of their field in a meaningful way. To do this, your research proposal needs to discuss your academic background and credentials as well as demonstrate that your proposed ideas have academic merit. 

But demonstrating your research’s validity and your personal capability to carry it out isn’t enough to get your research proposal approved. Your research proposal also has to cover these things:

If you’ve already read our post on literature reviews , you may be thinking that a research proposal sounds pretty similar. They’re more than just similar, though—a literature review is part of a research proposal. It’s the section that covers which sources you’re using, how you’re using them, and why they’re relevant. Think of a literature review as a mini-research proposal that fits into your larger, main proposal. 

How long should a research proposal be?

Generally, research proposals for bachelor’s and master’s theses are a few pages long. Research proposals for meatier projects, like Ph.D. dissertations and funding requests, are often longer and far more detailed. A research proposal’s goal is to clearly outline exactly what your research will entail and accomplish, so including the proposal’s word count or page count isn’t nearly as important as it is to ensure that all the necessary elements and content are present. 

Research proposal structure

A research proposal follows a fairly straightforward structure. In order to achieve the goals described in the previous section, nearly all research proposals include the following sections:


Your introduction achieves a few goals:

In a research proposal, an introduction can be a few paragraphs long. It should be concise, but don’t feel like you need to cram all of your information into one paragraph. 

In some cases, you need to include an abstract and/or a table of contents in your research proposal. These are included just before the introduction. 

Background significance

This is where you explain why your research is necessary and how it relates to established research in your field. Your work might complement existing research, strengthen it, or even challenge it—no matter how your work will “play with” other researchers’ work, you need to express it in detail in your research proposal.  

This is also the section where you clearly define the existing problems your research will address. By doing this, you’re explaining why your work is necessary—in other words, this is where you answer the reader’s “so what?” 

In your background significance section, you’ll also outline how you’ll conduct your research. If necessary, note which related questions and issues you won’t be covering in your research. 

Literature review

In your  literature review , you introduce all the sources you plan to use in your research. This includes landmark studies and their data, books, and scholarly articles. A literature review isn’t merely a list of sources (that’s what your bibliography is for); a literature review delves into the collection of sources you chose and explains how you’re using them in your research. 

Research design, methods, and schedule

Following your research review, you’ll discuss your research plans. In this section, make sure you cover these aspects:

Beyond a comprehensive look at your research itself, you’ll also need to include:

Suppositions and implications

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

In this section, make sure you cover the following:

In other words, this section isn’t about stating the specific results you expect. Rather, it’s where you state how your findings will be valuable. 

This is where you wrap it all up. Your conclusion section, just like your conclusion paragraph for an essay , briefly summarizes your research proposal and reinforces your research’s stated purpose. 


Yes, you need to write a bibliography in addition to your literature review. Unlike your literature review, where you explained the relevance of the sources you chose and in some cases, challenged them, your bibliography simply lists your sources and their authors.

The way you write a citation depends on the style guide you’re using. The three most common style guides for academics are MLA , APA , and Chicago , and each has its own particular rules and requirements. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .

Sometimes, a full bibliography is not needed. When this is the case, you can include a references list, which is simply a scaled-down list of all the sources you cited in your work. If you’re not sure which to write, ask your supervisor. 

Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s  Citation Generator  ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing journal articles in MLA , APA , and Chicago  styles.

How to write a research proposal

Research proposals, like all other kinds of academic writing, are written in a formal, objective tone. Keep in mind that being concise is a key component of academic writing; formal does not mean flowery. 

Adhere to the structure outlined above. Your reader knows how a research proposal is supposed to read and expects it to fit this template. It’s crucial that you present your research proposal in a clear, logical way. Every question the reader has while reading your proposal should be answered by the final section. 

Editing and proofreading a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, follow the same six-step writing process you follow with every other kind of writing you do. 

After you’ve got a first draft written, take some time to let it “cool off” before you start proofreading . By doing this, you’re making it easier for yourself to catch mistakes and gaps in your writing. 

Common mistakes to avoid when writing a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, avoid these common pitfalls: 

Being too wordy

As we said earlier, formal does not mean flowery. In fact, you should aim to keep your writing as brief and to-the-point as possible. The more economically you can express your purpose and goal, the better.   

Failing to cite relevant sources

When you’re conducting research, you’re adding to the existing body of knowledge on the subject you’re covering. Your research proposal should reference one or more of the landmark research pieces in your field and connect your work to these works in some way. This doesn’t just communicate your work’s relevance—it also demonstrates your familiarity with the field. 

Focusing too much on minor issues

There are probably a lot of great reasons why your research is necessary. These reasons don’t all need to be in your research proposal. In fact, including too many questions and issues in your research proposal can detract from your central purpose, weakening the proposal. Save the minor issues for your research paper itself and cover only the major, key issues you aim to tackle in your proposal. 

Failing to make a strong argument for your research

This is perhaps the easiest way to undermine your proposal because it’s far more subjective than the others. A research proposal is, in essence, a piece of persuasive writing . That means that although you’re presenting your proposal in an objective, academic way, the goal is to get the reader to say “yes” to your work. 

This is true in every case, whether your reader is your supervisor, your department head, a graduate school admissions board, a private or government-backed funding provider, or the editor at a journal in which you’d like to publish your work. 

Polish your writing into a stellar proposal

When you’re asking for approval to conduct research—especially when there’s funding involved—you need to be nothing less than 100 percent confident in your proposal. If your research proposal has spelling or grammatical mistakes, an inconsistent or inappropriate tone, or even just awkward phrasing, those will undermine your credibility. 

Make sure your research proposal shines by using Grammarly to catch all of those issues. Even if you think you caught all of them while you were editing, it’s critical to double-check your work. Your research deserves the best proposal possible, and Grammarly can help you make that happen. 

research proposal examples marketing

Examples of research proposals

How to write your research proposal, with examples of good proposals.

Research proposals

Your research proposal is a key part of your application. It tells us about the question you want to answer through your research. It is a chance for you to show your knowledge of the subject area and tell us about the methods you want to use.

We use your research proposal to match you with a supervisor or team of supervisors.

In your proposal, please tell us if you have an interest in the work of a specific academic at York St John. You can get in touch with this academic to discuss your proposal. You can also speak to one of our Research Leads. There is a list of our Research Leads on the Apply page.

When you write your proposal you need to:

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  1. How to Write a Research Proposal

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    9+ Printable Market Research Proposal Examples – PDF. 1. Company background. This is the most basic information you should include in your market research proposal. Since you are creating a study for your ... 2. Target market. 3. Strategic analysis. 4. Data gathering procedures.

  4. How to Write a Research Proposal

    In a research proposal, the author demonstrates how and why their research is relevant to their field. They demonstrate that the work is necessary to the following: Filling a gap in the existing body of research on their subject. Underscoring existing research on their subject, and/or. Adding new, original knowledge to the academic community ...

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    Explain how it will develop or challenge current knowledge of your subject Identify the importance of your research Show why you are the right person to do this research Examples of research proposals Research Proposal Example 1 (DOC, 49kB) Research Proposal Example 2 (DOC, 0.9MB) Research Proposal Example 3 (DOC, 55.5kB)