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Research Proposal Guideline
Definition of a research proposal
The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research
problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted.
Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence
that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal
describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the
professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and/or benefits derived
from the study’s completion.
The length of the research proposal is expected to be about 7 – 10 pages in length (Including the
title page and references)
1) Title page: It’s important that the Title you create for your research should reflect the essence
of your research question. Others need to know what it’s about just by reading the Title. If you
can, include the dependent and independent variables in the title. It should be descriptive and
focused without being overly wordy.
In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars
seeking grant funding for a research project or it’s the first step in getting approval to write a
doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial
pitch of an idea or a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After
reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want
to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited
about the study’s possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract
[summary] before the introduction.
Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly
answers the following three questions:
1)What is the central research problem?
2)What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
3)Why is this important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the
proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?
3) Background and Significance (Can be separate or part of introduction OR Beginning of Lit.
This is where you explain the context of your proposal and describe in detail why it’s important.
It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the
organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought
that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do.
Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic;
instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.
To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed
study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:
State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study
than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex
Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to
answer the “So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care].
Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. This can be in the form
of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous
assumptions about the research problem.
Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where
appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will
be excluded from the study.
If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts or terms.
4) Literature Review:
Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal
devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem
The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being
explored, while demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think
about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they have used, and what is
your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations.
Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently
structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in
relation to that of other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into “conceptual
categories” [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials
one at a time.
5) Research Design and Methods
This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the
research, yet, your reader must have confidence that it is worth pursuing. The reader will never
have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the
correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design
and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will
provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should
be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.
Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review
of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used but methods of data
gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological
approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze
the data, and the tests of external/internal validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the
trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events,
and/or periods of time].
When describing the methods, you will use, be sure to cover the following:
Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results
obtained in relation to the research problem. Don’t just describe what you intend to achieve from
applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these
methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school
curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign
advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe].
Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is an argument as to why these
tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point
because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they
effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
• Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research
design and explain how you plan to address them. No method is perfect so you need to describe
where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information.
6) Preliminary Suppositions and Implications (Results/Proposed Data Analysis):
Just because you don’t have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn’t mean
you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications. The purpose of this
section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend
existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. You will also propose several ways
on how you will analyze your data.
Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will
impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policymaking.
The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief
summary of the entire study. This section should be only one or two paragraphs long,
emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is
unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.
8) References Page:
This page essentially lists the literature that you actually used or cited in your proposal