What's Your Question?

How to Research Your Symptoms Online

People use the Internet to research a myriad of things from what they should buy to why they have pain. These guidelines will help you learn how to research your symptoms online if you have concerns.

Use a Medical MD Symptom Checker

As soon as you enter the phrase, “how to research health symptoms,” into any search engine, you’ll receive results for at least one or more reputable medical MD symptom checkers. These symptoms checkers ask your age, gender, primary symptoms, if you’re pregnant, the severity of your symptoms, your current medications and past or current conditions. Once you click submit, a list of conditions that match your symptoms will appear. You’ll have the option to edit your symptoms or start over if you wish.

Check Reputable Websites

If you can’t find what you’re looking for using a free medical symptom checker, there are websites with articles or blog posts that list symptoms. Make sure you’re looking at reputable websites that end with .org or .edu because these sites tend to contain scholarly or medical information that can be trusted. The Internet is full of information that’s published and not verified. Therefore, it’s essential that you’re looking up symptoms on a website that presents information that’s been fact-checked.

Go to a Doctor’s Website

Under some circumstances, you’ll find an online symptom checker on a physician’s website. If you can’t find a MD symptom checker, you’ll find a plethora of resources on these websites. Doctors work diligently toward providing information for their patients in the way of medical library research materials, informational articles, blog posts and podcasts. Therefore, if you can find a symptom checker, you should be able to find information about the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Visit Forums

Sometimes it helps to hear what others are experiencing when you’re undergoing symptoms that don’t match up with the search results you’ve found. Therefore, it’s time to check out user forums. These discussion areas contain experiences from users who go into detail about the symptoms they’re having, what’s happening throughout their experience and if they’re having successful or unsuccessful treatment. Be cautious, though, as these forums will not replace medical advice and may lead to more worry than help.

Check Out Question-and-Answer Websites

Much like a discussion forum, these websites are where users post specific questions to other users regarding issues they’re experiencing. Under many circumstances, these questions pertain to symptoms they’re experiencing and where they can find resources. Other users will help them find pertinent information regarding their specific symptoms when they feel they’ve exhausted every other avenue.


what are the main contents of research proposal

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

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

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is IJA-60-631-g001.jpg


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 ]


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.

Data collection

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 ]

Data analysis

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 ]

Ethical considerations

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.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

Logo for British Columbia/Yukon Open Authoring Platform

Want to create or adapt OER like this? Learn how BCcampus supports open education and how you can access Pressbooks . Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices. -->

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:

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:

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:

Literature review

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:

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.

Share This Book

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)
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

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

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.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

what are the main contents of research proposal

See editing example

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.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. & George, T. (2023, January 03). How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, how to write a problem statement | guide & examples, writing strong research questions | criteria & examples, how to write a literature review | guide, examples, & templates, what is your plagiarism score.


Cover Image

(introductory text...)

Rainer Gross, Darwin Karyadi, Soemilah Sastroamidjojo, and Werner Schultink Rainer Gross and Werner Schultink are affiliated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, in Eschborn, Germany. Darwin Karyadi and Soemilah Sastroamidjojo are affiliated with the Regional SEAMEO-TROPMED Center for Community Nutrition in the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mention of the names of firms and commercial products does not imply endorsement by the United Nations University.


1. Set up a causal model; 2. Establish a fact-hypothesis matrix; 3. Develop a variable-indicator-method matrix; 4. Select the study design; 5. Define the sampling procedure and calculate the sample size; 6. Select the statistical methods; 7. Consider the ethical aspects; 8. Set up an operational plan.

Objectives of these guidelines

» improve, standardize, and maintain research quality and performance; » stimulate the orientation and training of scientific personnel; » facilitate comparisons among research projects; » facilitate the development of proposals that can be submitted to agencies for research funding.

Objectives of a research proposal

» to help the researcher to define the contents and to plan and execute his/her research project; » to inform potential collaborators and supporters about the topic and the expected quality of the research.
» justify the chosen research project; » describe the current state of knowledge on the research topic, considering all important relevant literature; » formulate the hypothesis or research question; » define the research strategy and methodology to be used to test the hypothesis or research question; » discuss ethical considerations about the research methodology; » define realistic, feasible, operational planning, based on the research methodology and general conditions; » inform potential collaborating institutions and persons about the research project and enable them to identify the kind of support they can give; » serve as an important tool for monitoring the research.

Contents of a research proposal

1. introduction to the research topic, formulation of the problem, and justification for its selection; 2. development of the causal model; 3. formulation of the hypothesis; 4. definition of all variables and their indicators; 5. selection of the study design; 6. description of the population to be studied; 7. description of the sampling procedure; 8. selection of measurement methods and statistical methods; 9. development of the operational plan, including time schedule, human resources, equipment, material, and budget.
» express the main message of the research topic; » be relevant; » be short; » be clearly and precisely formulated; » be exciting; » be appealing.
» title of the research project; » name of the principal researcher; » date of submission of the research proposal (month and year); » name and address of the institution of the principal researcher; » telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address of the principal researcher.
» name(s) of the scientific collaborator(s) (e.g., supervisors and promoters); » name(s) and address(es) of the institution(s) of the scientific collaborator(s).
» describe the general objective of the study (justification); » define the central hypothesis; » describe the site and population to be studied; » summarize the total time and budget necessary to carry out the research.
» summarize the relevance of the topic; » give an overview of the status of international research in related areas; » finally, lead to the objectives and hypotheses of the proposed research topic.
» select relevant literature for reading; » identify all necessary variables that have to be controlled by the study, including confounding factors; » identify hypothetical relationships between variables.
» A concise statement of the core situation is written down and enclosed in a box. » Each direct (proximate) cause (variable) that could influence the core situation is identified and written down in a box below the box containing the core situation. The box(es) containing the direct cause(s) of the core situation are connected to the box containing the core situation with directional arrows. » Each box should be consecutively numbered for later identification.

what are the main contents of research proposal

Abbreviations: ARI, acute respiratory infection; MUAC, mid upper arm circumference.
» based on a known fact or theory, » testable, » specific, » brief, but clear.
» relate every variable (cause) of the causal model to at least one indicator; » describe the methodology by which each indicator will be surveyed; » cite the literature source of the methodology selected.
» Validity - Does it measure (quantify or describe) what we assume it measures? For example, does the indicator we have chosen to show obesity indeed measure the fatness of a person?
- Is the cost realistic? - Is the equipment available? - Is the methodology appropriate, and can data be obtained?
» Accuracy (getting the correct answer). This includes: - sensitivity - specificity
- instrumental (precision of analytical instrument on same sample on different occasions); - biological (precision of same subject on different occasions); - intra-observer (precision of same tester on different occasions on same subject); - inter-observer (precision of different testers on the same subject at same occasion).
» Observational study - prospective study (prospective cohort study) - retrospective study (case-control study) - historical prospective study (retrospective cohort study) - cross-sectional study
- clinical trial - community trial
» the primary question that the researchers want to investigate; » the way in which it is to be answered.
» Simple random sampling . A fixed percentage of the population is selected using a formal random process, such as a random number generator or random number table. » Systematic random sampling . The n sampling units are selected from the sampling frame at regular intervals (e.g., every fifth house). When systematic methods are used, the starting point in the first interval is selected on a formal random basis. » Stratified random sampling. Before selection, the sampling frame is divided into strata based on factors likely to influence the variable being estimated (e.g., variable: nutritional status; factor: income). Then a simple random or systematic random sample is selected within each stratum. » Cluster sampling . Primary sampling units are defined, which are logical groups or clusters (e.g., classrooms) of secondary sampling units (e.g., individual children). The clusters can be selected by systematic, simple, or stratified random methods, and all individuals within the primary sampling units (or clusters) are selected to participate in the research. » Multistage sampling. This method is similar to cluster sampling, except that sampling takes place at all stages. As an example of two-stage sampling, one would begin as in cluster sampling by selecting a sample of the primary units (e.g., classrooms) listed in the sampling frame. Then within each primary unit, a sample of secondary units (e.g., individual children) is selected. This procedure differs from cluster sampling, in which all of the secondary units within each selected primary unit are taken.
» Judgement sampling . Representative units of the population are selected by the investigator. » Convenience sampling. The sample is selected because it is easy to obtain. Using convenience or judgement sampling often produces biased results, regardless of whether the researcher believes he/she can select representative samples. Therefore, these samples should rarely be used for survey purposes. » Purposeful sampling . The selection of units is based on known exposure or disease status (for example, children with severe diarrhoea admitted to the hospital). Purposeful sampling is often used to select units for analytic observational studies, but it is in- adequate for obtaining data to estimate population parameters.
» Frequency or nominal data. Each value represents a characteristic or group membership (e.g., sex: male = 1, female = 2; place of origin: south = 1, central = 2, north = 3). » Ranking or ordinal data. The values imply a relative rank of the characteristic, but not the magnitude of differences between ranks (e.g., formal education: none =1, can read and write =2, completed primary school =3, completed secondary school =4). » Measurement value or fixed interval data . Values are from a scale with constant intervals and known size (e.g., size, weight, age, haemoglobin level). The choice of statistical test depends on several aspects of the hypothesis being tested:
» maximizing benefit » avoiding harm and minimizing discomfort » confidentiality » conflict of interests.
» after a reconnaissance or pilot study, before the main study is to start, so that the collaborators will have a chance to influence the research design and implementation; » every six months during the research work.
» technicians » consultants » drivers » translators » data entry personnel.
» How many of each type of person will be needed; » Whether they will be needed full-time or part-time; » How much each person will be paid; » How long they will be needed; » When they will be needed.
» paper for reproducing questionnaires » equipment to be used in the field » equipment to be used in the laboratory » transport » computers, fax machine, and copy machine » postage and communication costs
» What is needed; » How much it will cost, including tax and shipping, etc.; » When it will be needed.
» personnel (salaries, wages, fringe benefits) » equipment » materials and supplies » printing and publication » travel » rental or lease of facilities » other (utilities, phone, insurance, advertising) » overhead» contingency
» Enough qualified interviewers can be hired locally; » The population will accept research methods (e.g., blood sampling).
» The political and economic situation will remain stable; » The health system will continue its current immunization schedule; » The schools will continue to serve lunch to the children.
» Implementation - overview of activities carried out during the report period - institutional affiliations, contacts, and collaborations - organizational set-up (e.g., personnel hired, logistics) - collaboration with individuals and population to be studied - evaluation of implementation (if relevant, reasons for changes)
- main results of data analysis - reasons for not achieving the objectives (if relevant)
- budget spent - budget planning for the next report period
» the relevance of the proposed research topic; » the originality of the hypothesis; » the validity, accuracy, and precision of the proposed research methodology.
» The title of the study should appear at the top of the survey form and should be clear and sufficiently detailed to inform collaborators of the general purpose of the survey. » Questions must be clearly worded, straightforward, and necessary. Initially, it is useful to list all of the variables about which information is required; then structure the questions so that the answer(s) to each question provide the appropriate data. » Questions should be grouped according to subject matter or another logical basis, such as the temporal relationship of events, to facilitate communication with the respondent. » It is desirable to record the answers as measurements or continuous variables (e.g., the actual age). Data can be grouped later, if necessary. » The layout of the questionnaire should assist the analysis and/or computer entry of data. Copying data by hand should be avoided, because each time a number is written down the probability of introducing an error increases. » Asking questions correctly is as much an art as it is a science. Nonetheless, certain principles should be followed: - Avoid asking leading questions that suggest a right answer to the respondent. - Make sure that there is an obvious answer to each question. - The terminology used in the question should be tailored to the way the respondents use the words and names.
» surveys of individual data » surveys of household data » surveys of structural data (data on the village, city, suburb, district, etc.)
1. Each survey form should have a header that provides the following information: » title of the study » name of the responsible institution » type of form (e.g., household form, individual form) » household number » individual number (if relevant)
Variable code: ELECTRIC house has electricity. However, since the variable codes are only important for the data analysis and have no further implication for the enumerator, the code need not be stated on the form.
» full name and academic degrees » place and date of birth » office and rank » higher education degrees » work experience » scientific publications » awards
» Often it is possible to draw conclusions about the quality of the content of the proposal from the quality of the form of the research proposal. For instance, an unstructured presentation may be a sign of conceptual problems in the logical framework of a research project. » A well-structured and attractively presented document facilitates reading and understanding the proposal, even if the subject is complex and complicated, as is the case for many research proposals.
» a heading, consisting of a sequence number in arabic numerals (preceded by "Figure") and the subject heading or title; » the figure itself; » where necessary, footnotes or explanatory notes.
Miller et al. (1992) investigated... Other investigators (McColm et al, 1989; Rahmadalan et al., 1992) found... A combination of iron status indices offers better accuracy in detection of iron deficiency than the use of a single assay (Cook et al., 1976b).

Selected readings

Appendix. metaplan technique.

» Write an idea on a card; » Formulate only one idea per card; » Use a thick pen to write on the card; » Write in printed letters as large as possible; » Write no more than three lines on each card. After this session: » All cards are collected; » The written text of the first card is read aloud to all participants; » After it has been read, the card is pinned to a board; » The second card is read and pinned to the board, and so forth.


How to write a Research Proposal: Components of a research proposal

Components of a research proposal.

Research proposals differ in terms of their presentation depending on what each University department requires. In other words, there is no set template  for a research proposal. Please contact your lecturer regarding the format you are expected to use for your research proposal.Thus, the components of a research proposal include, but are not limited to those mentioned in this guide.

1. The title

Try to come up with a title that is unique and at the same time easy to remember. It should also make a lasting impression to the reader and make them want to come back and read your proposal.  The title must also capture the main concepts of the study . As the research process is lengthy, it is   important that you choose a topic that you are   so curious about  that you remain motivated for the duration of the research process.  Select a topic that you will be able to complete within the time frame that you have for your research. 

3. The background

The background to the topic of your intended research must be clear and precise. It must not only include an in-depth explanation of the key points of your subject but also all the developments in the field as well as their timelines . The researcher must also explain the compelling interest in the research issue as well as the personal interest (if any) in the topic. This section must also indicate the specific area within which the topic falls in your particular field of study or subject . Aslo, how will the proposed study contribute to a particular field? In other words, the impact and the significance in a subject area must be clearly outlined. The target audience must also be clearly described.

5. Objectives of the research

It is important that the objectives are in alignment with the research questions. The objectives must indicate what the aim of the research study is.  In fact, objectives give you a clear indication of the steps that you will take to achieve the aim of the research. The objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

7. Literature review

Collect and present relevant literature on your topic of choice. It is important to include all the main authors or experts in a particular field.  Depending on your field of study or topic, ensure that you include recent literature as well as literature that presents counterarguments to the topic. The justification for the study needs to based on existing literature. Click here for more information on how to write a literature review.

8. Limitations and delimitations of the study

The researcher must indicate the limitations of the study which are what the researcher cannot do or factors that are beyond the researcher's control, as well as delimitations that the researcher chooses not to address for the purposes of the study. Delimitations are boundaries that the researcher has set for the study. The r easons  both for limitations and delimitations must be discussed in this section.

10. Work plan

Your schedule for the research must be stated clearly including the projected timelines for the various stages of your study.

11. Bibliography

All the sources that you have used for your proposal must be listed in alphabetical order using a referencing style that your lecturer has prescribed for your subject field.

Click here for more information on the various reference styles.

2. Introduction to the research

This section of the proposal must provide a broad overview of the topic. The jargon and key terms used in the particular topic must also be thoroughly explained in order to avoid confusion. The interest of the researcher in the particular topic must also be clearly outlined while at the same time mentioning, albeit briefly at this point, a critical review of the main literature that covers the topic.  The researcher must also provide the aim of the research by clearly and concisely stating the problem,  as well as the research questions to be dealt with.  This section must also indicate what the research study will not be covering .

4. The research questions

The research questions must state clearly what your proposed study is meant to address or answer. Ensure that you use simple language that is easy to understand, while being cognisant of the level of  your intended audience . 

6. Research methodology / research methods

This section outlines the approach which the researcher will follow in order to address the research problem and to answer all the research questions from the researcher. The research design must be clearly defined, e.g., is the research  Descriptive, Correlational, Causal-Comparative/Quasi-Experimental, Experimental, Diagnostic or Explanatory.

State clearly

Research design

Selecting the approach to use

Research approach

Research design and methodology

Importance of research

Attributes of a good research scholar

Summary of different research methodologies

9. Significance of the research

The researcher must provide justification for the need to conduct the study. What is the gap that the study will fill, and what is its contribution to the  existing body of knowledge? The originality and importance of the research which will be  level appropriate, must be clearly described, for instance, the required level of originality for a fourth year research project is different to that of a doctoral candidate. 

The impact of the study for the subject field must be indicated. In other words, how will the research improve the field, who will it impact, how will it make changes in your industy or field etc.? Lastly, the proposed resaerch must be relatable , interesting and engaging .

Recommended pages

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.

7. References

  Read our top tips for writing a research proposal

Culture and collections

what are the main contents of research proposal

Schools, institutes and departments

College of arts and law.

College of Medical and Dental Sciences

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

College of Social Sciences

See all schools, departments, research and professional services

Services and facilities

Pfeiffer Library

Writing a Research Proposal

Parts of a research proposal, prosana model, introduction, research question, methodology.

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):

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):

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):

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):

Our guide on writing summaries may help you with this step.

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):

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).

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:

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.):

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.

TU Access Only

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.

In a research proposal, you must thoroughly explain how you will conduct your study.  This includes things such as (Al-Riyami, 2008):

For more information on research methodologies, you can view our guide on research methods and methodologies below.


  1. PPT

    what are the main contents of research proposal

  2. Research proposal contents

    what are the main contents of research proposal


    what are the main contents of research proposal

  4. 😂 Contents of a research proposal. Contents of the research proposal. 2019-02-01

    what are the main contents of research proposal

  5. 😂 Contents of a research proposal. Contents of the research proposal. 2019-02-01

    what are the main contents of research proposal

  6. Heartwarming How To Write A Background Of The Study In Quantitative Research Report Mechanical

    what are the main contents of research proposal


  1. Ed 303 Video for Chapter 1 Contents Model 10-11:30

  2. খেলার মাঠে অভিনয় করা সেরা ৫ ফুটবলার

  3. How to write best Research Proposal

  4. Kutaa 6ffaa:Seensa, Part 6: Focus on ‘Introduction, background and Statement of the problem’

  5. Top 10 Best Demi Moore Movies

  6. Ed 302 Video for Chapter 1 Contents 1-2:30


  1. What Are the Main Characteristics of a Research Paper?

    A research paper should contain the title, the abstract, methods and results, in addition to a discussion section, literature review and citation of sources. The basic characteristics of a research paper are the same regardless of academic ...

  2. What Are Examples of Nursing Research Proposals?

    The unifying theme of successful nursing research proposals is that the author(s) observed a problem, did research to make sure the observation was not personal bias, and then wrote to describe not only the problem, but a potential solution...

  3. How to Research Your Symptoms Online

    People use the Internet to research a myriad of things from what they should buy to why they have pain. These guidelines will help you learn how to research your symptoms online if you have concerns.

  4. How to write a research proposal?

    CONTENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL · Introduction · Review of literature · Aims and objectives · Research design and method · Ethical considerations · Budget · Appendices.

  5. Contents of a Good Research Proposal

    3. It should contain at most three chapters. Every chapter of the research proposal should begin with a brief introduction to guide the reader into the main

  6. 14.3 Components of a Research Proposal

    14.3 Components of a Research Proposal · Introduction · Background and significance · Literature review · Research design and methods · Preliminary suppositions and

  7. Outline for Research Proposal

    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

  8. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research schedule · 1. Background research and literature review. Meet with supervisor for initial discussion · 2. Research design planning.

  9. Contents of a Research Proposal

    The scope of the research and the basic parameters being.

  10. Contents of a research proposal

    The presentation of a research proposal follows a logical sequence according to the following steps: 1. introduction to the research topic, formulation of the

  11. Components of a research proposal

    1. The title · 3. The background · 5. Objectives of the research · 7. Literature review · 8. Limitations and delimitations of the study · 10. Work

  12. What to include in a research proposal

    The proposal should present your research methodology, using specific examples to explain how you are going to conduct your research (e.g. techniques, sample

  13. Parts of a Research Proposal

    Parts of a Research Proposal · Title · Abstract · Introduction · Objective(s) · Variables (independent and dependent) · Research Question and/or hypothesis

  14. Contents of a Research Proposal

    Contents of a Research Proposal Research project proposals must contain, but not necessarily be limited to, the following essentials:.