How to Write a Superior Research Proposal

A research proposal is an overview or summary of a study you plan to conduct. In a research proposal, you will outline the problem you plan to solve and justify its importance. You will have to specify the area or discipline, highlight the latest findings in this field, identify knowledge gaps, and demonstrate how your research will contribute to the development of this field.

Your research proposal will become your entry ticket to the world of research. You will use it to apply for funding or seek ethical approval before you launch the research process. Professors ask their students to write research proposals, because they often become a test of students' writing and analytical skills. You will also be able to explore your discipline or field or study and see what interests you and what you want to explore.

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Structure of a Research Proposal

No matter if you are in an MA or PhD program, your research proposal will need to include the following components:

1. Title

Do not just write "research proposal". Your title must be creative and engaging for your readers. Otherwise, the ethics and research committee will not approve your project. Use our current research ideas page to see the sample research proposal titles.

2. Abstract

Your proposal must always begin with an abstract. It is a brief summary of your research idea. A typical abstract does not exceed 120 words. You may simply write two-three sentences specifying your idea for the research proposal and its importance.

3. Background and Context

Now your task is to provide some background information as a foundation for your research. For example, you will need to provide a broad overview of the practice and research area, refer to the latest findings in the field, tell your readers what is known and what is unknown, and how your research idea fits in this context.

4. Research Questions

Do not forget to outline the goal, purpose, aims, and objectives of your proposed study. Even if you have a broad topic of interest you wish to explore, you will still need to be more specific and design a few questions you plan to answer in your study. These questions will actually lay the groundwork for carrying out your research procedures. You will define the method and design of your study based on the questions you plan to answer. If you have three, four or five research questions, it would be wise to prioritize among them. You may want to propose one principal research question and a few supplementary ones. You will use your questions to justify the selection of your methods and designs.

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5. Methods

In your proposal, you will have to describe the methods and designs you plan to use to accomplish your research goals. You will need to explore various method and design options. You will also need to use research and theoretical literature to develop a clear rationale for your chosen methods. In fact, anything you say or write in your research proposal must be evidence-based and justified. If you say that qualitative research methods best suit your research context and purpose, you will need to refer to other studies which used qualitative methods to achieve trustworthy results. Or you may want to show that your area of research lacks a qualitative insight, which is why the use of qualitative methods will add to the existing body of literature and close the current gaps in knowledge.

6. Research Significance

You must be ready to prove that your research is original and has significance for the development of your practice field. Provide evidence that your research contributes to the study of your chosen problem. You can try to prove that the results of your study will improve certain practices, e.g. the provision of healthcare services to minority patients.

7. References

Include a brief list of references. All references you have used in your proposal must be appropriately cited and referenced at the end of the proposal. The whole proposal must be around 2,400 words. However, you will need to check with your institution for the exact research proposal requirements.

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