Grad Coach

How To Write A Research Proposal

A Straightforward How-To Guide (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | August 2019 (Updated April 2023)

Writing up a strong research proposal for a dissertation or thesis is much like a marriage proposal. It’s a task that calls on you to win somebody over and persuade them that what you’re planning is a great idea. An idea they’re happy to say ‘yes’ to. This means that your dissertation proposal needs to be   persuasive ,   attractive   and well-planned. In this post, I’ll show you how to write a winning dissertation proposal, from scratch.

Before you start:

– Understand exactly what a research proposal is – Ask yourself these 4 questions

The 5 essential ingredients:

  • The title/topic
  • The introduction chapter
  • The scope/delimitations
  • Preliminary literature review
  • Design/ methodology
  • Practical considerations and risks 

What Is A Research Proposal?

The research proposal is literally that: a written document that communicates what you propose to research, in a concise format. It’s where you put all that stuff that’s spinning around in your head down on to paper, in a logical, convincing fashion.

Convincing   is the keyword here, as your research proposal needs to convince the assessor that your research is   clearly articulated   (i.e., a clear research question) ,   worth doing   (i.e., is unique and valuable enough to justify the effort), and   doable   within the restrictions you’ll face (time limits, budget, skill limits, etc.). If your proposal does not address these three criteria, your research won’t be approved, no matter how “exciting” the research idea might be.

PS – if you’re completely new to proposal writing, we’ve got a detailed walkthrough video covering two successful research proposals here . 

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

How do I know I’m ready?

Before starting the writing process, you need to   ask yourself 4 important questions .  If you can’t answer them succinctly and confidently, you’re not ready – you need to go back and think more deeply about your dissertation topic .

You should be able to answer the following 4 questions before starting your dissertation or thesis research proposal:

  • WHAT is my main research question? (the topic)
  • WHO cares and why is this important? (the justification)
  • WHAT data would I need to answer this question, and how will I analyse it? (the research design)
  • HOW will I manage the completion of this research, within the given timelines? (project and risk management)

If you can’t answer these questions clearly and concisely,   you’re not yet ready   to write your research proposal – revisit our   post on choosing a topic .

If you can, that’s great – it’s time to start writing up your dissertation proposal. Next, I’ll discuss what needs to go into your research proposal, and how to structure it all into an intuitive, convincing document with a linear narrative.

The 5 Essential Ingredients

Research proposals can vary in style between institutions and disciplines, but here I’ll share with you a   handy 5-section structure   you can use. These 5 sections directly address the core questions we spoke about earlier, ensuring that you present a convincing proposal. If your institution already provides a proposal template, there will likely be substantial overlap with this, so you’ll still get value from reading on.

For each section discussed below, make sure you use headers and sub-headers (ideally, numbered headers) to help the reader navigate through your document, and to support them when they need to revisit a previous section. Don’t just present an endless wall of text, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph…

Top Tip:   Use MS Word Styles to format headings. This will allow you to be clear about whether a sub-heading is level 2, 3, or 4. Additionally, you can view your document in ‘outline view’ which will show you only your headings. This makes it much easier to check your structure, shift things around and make decisions about where a section needs to sit. You can also generate a 100% accurate table of contents using Word’s automatic functionality.

write research proposal on any topic

Ingredient #1 – Topic/Title Header

Your research proposal’s title should be your main research question in its simplest form, possibly with a sub-heading providing basic details on the specifics of the study. For example:

“Compliance with equality legislation in the charity sector: a study of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ made in three London care homes”

As you can see, this title provides a clear indication of what the research is about, in broad terms. It paints a high-level picture for the first-time reader, which gives them a taste of what to expect.   Always aim for a clear, concise title . Don’t feel the need to capture every detail of your research in your title – your proposal will fill in the gaps.

Need a helping hand?

write research proposal on any topic

Ingredient #2 – Introduction

In this section of your research proposal, you’ll expand on what you’ve communicated in the title, by providing a few paragraphs which offer more detail about your research topic. Importantly, the focus here is the   topic   – what will you research and why is that worth researching? This is not the place to discuss methodology, practicalities, etc. – you’ll do that later.

You should cover the following:

  • An overview of the   broad area   you’ll be researching – introduce the reader to key concepts and language
  • An explanation of the   specific (narrower) area   you’ll be focusing, and why you’ll be focusing there
  • Your research   aims   and   objectives
  • Your   research question (s) and sub-questions (if applicable)

Importantly, you should aim to use short sentences and plain language – don’t babble on with extensive jargon, acronyms and complex language. Assume that the reader is an intelligent layman – not a subject area specialist (even if they are). Remember that the   best writing is writing that can be easily understood   and digested. Keep it simple.

The introduction section serves to expand on the  research topic – what will you study and why is that worth dedicating time and effort to?

Note that some universities may want some extra bits and pieces in your introduction section. For example, personal development objectives, a structural outline, etc. Check your brief to see if there are any other details they expect in your proposal, and make sure you find a place for these.

Ingredient #3 – Scope

Next, you’ll need to specify what the scope of your research will be – this is also known as the delimitations . In other words, you need to make it clear what you will be covering and, more importantly, what you won’t be covering in your research. Simply put, this is about ring fencing your research topic so that you have a laser-sharp focus.

All too often, students feel the need to go broad and try to address as many issues as possible, in the interest of producing comprehensive research. Whilst this is admirable, it’s a mistake. By tightly refining your scope, you’ll enable yourself to   go deep   with your research, which is what you need to earn good marks. If your scope is too broad, you’re likely going to land up with superficial research (which won’t earn marks), so don’t be afraid to narrow things down.

Ingredient #4 – Literature Review

In this section of your research proposal, you need to provide a (relatively) brief discussion of the existing literature. Naturally, this will not be as comprehensive as the literature review in your actual dissertation, but it will lay the foundation for that. In fact, if you put in the effort at this stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when it’s time to write your actual literature review chapter.

There are a few things you need to achieve in this section:

  • Demonstrate that you’ve done your reading and are   familiar with the current state of the research   in your topic area.
  • Show that   there’s a clear gap   for your specific research – i.e., show that your topic is sufficiently unique and will add value to the existing research.
  • Show how the existing research has shaped your thinking regarding   research design . For example, you might use scales or questionnaires from previous studies.

When you write up your literature review, keep these three objectives front of mind, especially number two (revealing the gap in the literature), so that your literature review has a   clear purpose and direction . Everything you write should be contributing towards one (or more) of these objectives in some way. If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself whether it’s truly needed.

Top Tip:  Don’t fall into the trap of just describing the main pieces of literature, for example, “A says this, B says that, C also says that…” and so on. Merely describing the literature provides no value. Instead, you need to   synthesise   it, and use it to address the three objectives above.

 If you put in the effort at the proposal stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when its time to write your actual literature review chapter.

Ingredient #5 – Research Methodology

Now that you’ve clearly explained both your intended research topic (in the introduction) and the existing research it will draw on (in the literature review section), it’s time to get practical and explain exactly how you’ll be carrying out your own research. In other words, your research methodology.

In this section, you’ll need to   answer two critical questions :

  • How   will you design your research? I.e., what research methodology will you adopt, what will your sample be, how will you collect data, etc.
  • Why   have you chosen this design? I.e., why does this approach suit your specific research aims, objectives and questions?

In other words, this is not just about explaining WHAT you’ll be doing, it’s also about explaining WHY. In fact, the   justification is the most important part , because that justification is how you demonstrate a good understanding of research design (which is what assessors want to see).

Some essential design choices you need to cover in your research proposal include:

  • Your intended research philosophy (e.g., positivism, interpretivism or pragmatism )
  • What methodological approach you’ll be taking (e.g., qualitative , quantitative or mixed )
  • The details of your sample (e.g., sample size, who they are, who they represent, etc.)
  • What data you plan to collect (i.e. data about what, in what form?)
  • How you plan to collect it (e.g., surveys , interviews , focus groups, etc.)
  • How you plan to analyse it (e.g., regression analysis, thematic analysis , etc.)
  • Ethical adherence (i.e., does this research satisfy all ethical requirements of your institution, or does it need further approval?)

This list is not exhaustive – these are just some core attributes of research design. Check with your institution what level of detail they expect. The “ research onion ” by Saunders et al (2009) provides a good summary of the various design choices you ultimately need to make – you can   read more about that here .

Don’t forget the practicalities…

In addition to the technical aspects, you will need to address the   practical   side of the project. In other words, you need to explain   what resources you’ll need   (e.g., time, money, access to equipment or software, etc.) and how you intend to secure these resources. You need to show that your project is feasible, so any “make or break” type resources need to already be secured. The success or failure of your project cannot depend on some resource which you’re not yet sure you have access to.

Another part of the practicalities discussion is   project and risk management . In other words, you need to show that you have a clear project plan to tackle your research with. Some key questions to address:

  • What are the timelines for each phase of your project?
  • Are the time allocations reasonable?
  • What happens if something takes longer than anticipated (risk management)?
  • What happens if you don’t get the response rate you expect?

A good way to demonstrate that you’ve thought this through is to include a Gantt chart and a risk register (in the appendix if word count is a problem). With these two tools, you can show that you’ve got a clear, feasible plan, and you’ve thought about and accounted for the potential risks.

Gantt chart

Tip – Be honest about the potential difficulties – but show that you are anticipating solutions and workarounds. This is much more impressive to an assessor than an unrealistically optimistic proposal which does not anticipate any challenges whatsoever.

Final Touches: Read And Simplify

The final step is to edit and proofread your proposal – very carefully. It sounds obvious, but all too often poor editing and proofreading ruin a good proposal. Nothing is more off-putting for an assessor than a poorly edited, typo-strewn document. It sends the message that you either do not pay attention to detail, or just don’t care. Neither of these are good messages. Put the effort into editing and proofreading your proposal (or pay someone to do it for you) – it will pay dividends.

When you’re editing, watch out for ‘academese’. Many students can speak simply, passionately and clearly about their dissertation topic – but become incomprehensible the moment they turn the laptop on. You are not required to write in any kind of special, formal, complex language when you write academic work. Sure, there may be technical terms, jargon specific to your discipline, shorthand terms and so on. But, apart from those,   keep your written language very close to natural spoken language   – just as you would speak in the classroom. Imagine that you are explaining your project plans to your classmates or a family member. Remember, write for the intelligent layman, not the subject matter experts. Plain-language, concise writing is what wins hearts and minds – and marks!

Let’s Recap: Research Proposal 101

And there you have it – how to write your dissertation or thesis research proposal, from the title page to the final proof. Here’s a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • The purpose of the research proposal is to   convince   – therefore, you need to make a clear, concise argument of why your research is both worth doing and doable.
  • Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research   before   you put pen to paper.
  • Title – provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms
  • Introduction – explains what you’ll be researching in more detail
  • Scope – explains the boundaries of your research
  • Literature review – explains how your research fits into the existing research and why it’s unique and valuable
  • Research methodology – explains and justifies how you will carry out your own research

Hopefully, this post has helped you better understand how to write up a winning research proposal. If you enjoyed it, be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach Blog . If your university doesn’t provide any template for your proposal, you might want to try out our free research proposal template .

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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30 Comments

Mazwakhe Mkhulisi

Thank you so much for the valuable insight that you have given, especially on the research proposal. That is what I have managed to cover. I still need to go back to the other parts as I got disturbed while still listening to Derek’s audio on you-tube. I am inspired. I will definitely continue with Grad-coach guidance on You-tube.

Derek Jansen

Thanks for the kind words :). All the best with your proposal.

NAVEEN ANANTHARAMAN

First of all, thanks a lot for making such a wonderful presentation. The video was really useful and gave me a very clear insight of how a research proposal has to be written. I shall try implementing these ideas in my RP.

Once again, I thank you for this content.

Bonginkosi Mshengu

I found reading your outline on writing research proposal very beneficial. I wish there was a way of submitting my draft proposal to you guys for critiquing before I submit to the institution.

Hi Bonginkosi

Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we do provide a review service. The best starting point is to have a chat with one of our coaches here: https://gradcoach.com/book/new/ .

Erick Omondi

Hello team GRADCOACH, may God bless you so much. I was totally green in research. Am so happy for your free superb tutorials and resources. Once again thank you so much Derek and his team.

You’re welcome, Erick. Good luck with your research proposal 🙂

ivy

thank you for the information. its precise and on point.

Nighat Nighat Ahsan

Really a remarkable piece of writing and great source of guidance for the researchers. GOD BLESS YOU for your guidance. Regards

Delfina Celeste Danca Rangel

Thanks so much for your guidance. It is easy and comprehensive the way you explain the steps for a winning research proposal.

Desiré Forku

Thank you guys so much for the rich post. I enjoyed and learn from every word in it. My problem now is how to get into your platform wherein I can always seek help on things related to my research work ? Secondly, I wish to find out if there is a way I can send my tentative proposal to you guys for examination before I take to my supervisor Once again thanks very much for the insights

Thanks for your kind words, Desire.

If you are based in a country where Grad Coach’s paid services are available, you can book a consultation by clicking the “Book” button in the top right.

Best of luck with your studies.

Adolph

May God bless you team for the wonderful work you are doing,

If I have a topic, Can I submit it to you so that you can draft a proposal for me?? As I am expecting to go for masters degree in the near future.

Thanks for your comment. We definitely cannot draft a proposal for you, as that would constitute academic misconduct. The proposal needs to be your own work. We can coach you through the process, but it needs to be your own work and your own writing.

Best of luck with your research!

kenate Akuma

I found a lot of many essential concepts from your material. it is real a road map to write a research proposal. so thanks a lot. If there is any update material on your hand on MBA please forward to me.

Ahmed Khalil

GradCoach is a professional website that presents support and helps for MBA student like me through the useful online information on the page and with my 1-on-1 online coaching with the amazing and professional PhD Kerryen.

Thank you Kerryen so much for the support and help 🙂

I really recommend dealing with such a reliable services provider like Gradcoah and a coach like Kerryen.

PINTON OFOSU

Hi, Am happy for your service and effort to help students and researchers, Please, i have been given an assignment on research for strategic development, the task one is to formulate a research proposal to support the strategic development of a business area, my issue here is how to go about it, especially the topic or title and introduction. Please, i would like to know if you could help me and how much is the charge.

Marcos A. López Figueroa

This content is practical, valuable, and just great!

Thank you very much!

Eric Rwigamba

Hi Derek, Thank you for the valuable presentation. It is very helpful especially for beginners like me. I am just starting my PhD.

Hussein EGIELEMAI

This is quite instructive and research proposal made simple. Can I have a research proposal template?

Mathew Yokie Musa

Great! Thanks for rescuing me, because I had no former knowledge in this topic. But with this piece of information, I am now secured. Thank you once more.

Chulekazi Bula

I enjoyed listening to your video on how to write a proposal. I think I will be able to write a winning proposal with your advice. I wish you were to be my supervisor.

Mohammad Ajmal Shirzad

Dear Derek Jansen,

Thank you for your great content. I couldn’t learn these topics in MBA, but now I learned from GradCoach. Really appreciate your efforts….

From Afghanistan!

Mulugeta Yilma

I have got very essential inputs for startup of my dissertation proposal. Well organized properly communicated with video presentation. Thank you for the presentation.

Siphesihle Macu

Wow, this is absolutely amazing guys. Thank you so much for the fruitful presentation, you’ve made my research much easier.

HAWANATU JULLIANA JOSEPH

this helps me a lot. thank you all so much for impacting in us. may god richly bless you all

June Pretzer

How I wish I’d learn about Grad Coach earlier. I’ve been stumbling around writing and rewriting! Now I have concise clear directions on how to put this thing together. Thank you!

Jas

Fantastic!! Thank You for this very concise yet comprehensive guidance.

Fikiru Bekele

Even if I am poor in English I would like to thank you very much.

Rachel Offeibea Nyarko

Thank you very much, this is very insightful.

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How to write a research proposal

write research proposal on any topic

What is a research proposal?

What is the purpose of a research proposal , how long should a research proposal be, what should be included in a research proposal, 1. the title page, 2. introduction, 3. literature review, 4. research design, 5. implications, 6. reference list, frequently asked questions about writing a research proposal, related articles.

If you’re in higher education, the term “research proposal” is something you’re likely to be familiar with. But what is it, exactly? You’ll normally come across the need to prepare a research proposal when you’re looking to secure Ph.D. funding.

When you’re trying to find someone to fund your Ph.D. research, a research proposal is essentially your “pitch.”

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research.

You’ll need to set out the issues that are central to the topic area and how you intend to address them with your research. To do this, you’ll need to give the following:

  • an outline of the general area of study within which your research falls
  • an overview of how much is currently known about the topic
  • a literature review that covers the recent scholarly debate or conversation around the topic

➡️  What is a literature review? Learn more in our guide.

Essentially, you are trying to persuade your institution that you and your project are worth investing their time and money into.

It is the opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have the aptitude for this level of research by showing that you can articulate complex ideas:

It also helps you to find the right supervisor to oversee your research. When you’re writing your research proposal, you should always have this in the back of your mind.

This is the document that potential supervisors will use in determining the legitimacy of your research and, consequently, whether they will invest in you or not. It is therefore incredibly important that you spend some time on getting it right.

Tip: While there may not always be length requirements for research proposals, you should strive to cover everything you need to in a concise way.

If your research proposal is for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, it may only be a few pages long. For a Ph.D., a proposal could be a pretty long document that spans a few dozen pages.

➡️ Research proposals are similar to grant proposals. Learn how to write a grant proposal in our guide.

When you’re writing your proposal, keep in mind its purpose and why you’re writing it. It, therefore, needs to clearly explain the relevance of your research and its context with other discussions on the topic. You need to then explain what approach you will take and why it is feasible.

Generally, your structure should look something like this:

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Research Design
  • Implications

If you follow this structure, you’ll have a comprehensive and coherent proposal that looks and feels professional, without missing out on anything important. We’ll take a deep dive into each of these areas one by one next.

The title page might vary slightly per your area of study but, as a general point, your title page should contain the following:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • The name of your institution and your particular department

Tip: Keep in mind any departmental or institutional guidelines for a research proposal title page. Also, your supervisor may ask for specific details to be added to the page.

The introduction is crucial   to your research proposal as it is your first opportunity to hook the reader in. A good introduction section will introduce your project and its relevance to the field of study.

You’ll want to use this space to demonstrate that you have carefully thought about how to present your project as interesting, original, and important research. A good place to start is by introducing the context of your research problem.

Think about answering these questions:

  • What is it you want to research and why?
  • How does this research relate to the respective field?
  • How much is already known about this area?
  • Who might find this research interesting?
  • What are the key questions you aim to answer with your research?
  • What will the findings of this project add to the topic area?

Your introduction aims to set yourself off on a great footing and illustrate to the reader that you are an expert in your field and that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge and theory.

The literature review section answers the question who else is talking about your proposed research topic.

You want to demonstrate that your research will contribute to conversations around the topic and that it will sit happily amongst experts in the field.

➡️ Read more about how to write a literature review .

There are lots of ways you can find relevant information for your literature review, including:

  • Research relevant academic sources such as books and journals to find similar conversations around the topic.
  • Read through abstracts and bibliographies of your academic sources to look for relevance and further additional resources without delving too deep into articles that are possibly not relevant to you.
  • Watch out for heavily-cited works . This should help you to identify authoritative work that you need to read and document.
  • Look for any research gaps , trends and patterns, common themes, debates, and contradictions.
  • Consider any seminal studies on the topic area as it is likely anticipated that you will address these in your research proposal.

This is where you get down to the real meat of your research proposal. It should be a discussion about the overall approach you plan on taking, and the practical steps you’ll follow in answering the research questions you’ve posed.

So what should you discuss here? Some of the key things you will need to discuss at this point are:

  • What form will your research take? Is it qualitative/quantitative/mixed? Will your research be primary or secondary?
  • What sources will you use? Who or what will you be studying as part of your research.
  • Document your research method. How are you practically going to carry out your research? What tools will you need? What procedures will you use?
  • Any practicality issues you foresee. Do you think there will be any obstacles to your anticipated timescale? What resources will you require in carrying out your research?

Your research design should also discuss the potential implications of your research. For example, are you looking to confirm an existing theory or develop a new one?

If you intend to create a basis for further research, you should describe this here.

It is important to explain fully what you want the outcome of your research to look like and what you want to achieve by it. This will help those reading your research proposal to decide if it’s something the field  needs  and  wants,  and ultimately whether they will support you with it.

When you reach the end of your research proposal, you’ll have to compile a list of references for everything you’ve cited above. Ideally, you should keep track of everything from the beginning. Otherwise, this could be a mammoth and pretty laborious task to do.

Consider using a reference manager like Paperpile to format and organize your citations. Paperpile allows you to organize and save your citations for later use and cite them in thousands of citation styles directly in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or LaTeX.

Paperpile reference manager

Your project may also require you to have a timeline, depending on the budget you are requesting. If you need one, you should include it here and explain both the timeline and the budget you need, documenting what should be done at each stage of the research and how much of the budget this will use.

This is the final step, but not one to be missed. You should make sure that you edit and proofread your document so that you can be sure there are no mistakes.

A good idea is to have another person proofread the document for you so that you get a fresh pair of eyes on it. You can even have a professional proofreader do this for you.

This is an important document and you don’t want spelling or grammatical mistakes to get in the way of you and your reader.

➡️ Working on a research proposal for a thesis? Take a look at our guide on how to come up with a topic for your thesis .

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. Generally, your research proposal will have a title page, introduction, literature review section, a section about research design and explaining the implications of your research, and a reference list.

A good research proposal is concise and coherent. It has a clear purpose, clearly explains the relevance of your research and its context with other discussions on the topic. A good research proposal explains what approach you will take and why it is feasible.

You need a research proposal to persuade your institution that you and your project are worth investing their time and money into. It is your opportunity to demonstrate your aptitude for this level or research by showing that you can articulate complex ideas clearly, concisely, and critically.

A research proposal is essentially your "pitch" when you're trying to find someone to fund your PhD. It is a clear and concise summary of your proposed research. It gives an outline of the general area of study within which your research falls, it elaborates how much is currently known about the topic, and it highlights any recent debate or conversation around the topic by other academics.

The general answer is: as long as it needs to be to cover everything. The length of your research proposal depends on the requirements from the institution that you are applying to. Make sure to carefully read all the instructions given, and if this specific information is not provided, you can always ask.

How to give a good scientific presentation

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Blog Business How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

Written by: Danesh Ramuthi Nov 29, 2023

How to Write a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a structured outline for a planned study on a specific topic. It serves as a roadmap, guiding researchers through the process of converting their research idea into a feasible project. 

The aim of a research proposal is multifold: it articulates the research problem, establishes a theoretical framework, outlines the research methodology and highlights the potential significance of the study. Importantly, it’s a critical tool for scholars seeking grant funding or approval for their research projects.

Crafting a good research proposal requires not only understanding your research topic and methodological approaches but also the ability to present your ideas clearly and persuasively. Explore Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates to begin your journey in writing a compelling research proposal.

What to include in a research proposal?

In a research proposal, include a clear statement of your research question or problem, along with an explanation of its significance. This should be followed by a literature review that situates your proposed study within the context of existing research. 

Your proposal should also outline the research methodology, detailing how you plan to conduct your study, including data collection and analysis methods.

Additionally, include a theoretical framework that guides your research approach, a timeline or research schedule, and a budget if applicable. It’s important to also address the anticipated outcomes and potential implications of your study. A well-structured research proposal will clearly communicate your research objectives, methods and significance to the readers.

Light Blue Shape Semiotic Analysis Research Proposal

How to format a research proposal?

Formatting a research proposal involves adhering to a structured outline to ensure clarity and coherence. While specific requirements may vary, a standard research proposal typically includes the following elements:

  • Title Page: Must include the title of your research proposal, your name and affiliations. The title should be concise and descriptive of your proposed research.
  • Abstract: A brief summary of your proposal, usually not exceeding 250 words. It should highlight the research question, methodology and the potential impact of the study.
  • Introduction: Introduces your research question or problem, explains its significance, and states the objectives of your study.
  • Literature review: Here, you contextualize your research within existing scholarship, demonstrating your knowledge of the field and how your research will contribute to it.
  • Methodology: Outline your research methods, including how you will collect and analyze data. This section should be detailed enough to show the feasibility and thoughtfulness of your approach.
  • Timeline: Provide an estimated schedule for your research, breaking down the process into stages with a realistic timeline for each.
  • Budget (if applicable): If your research requires funding, include a detailed budget outlining expected cost.
  • References/Bibliography: List all sources referenced in your proposal in a consistent citation style.

Green And Orange Modern Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal in 11 steps?

Writing a research proposal template in structured steps ensures a comprehensive and coherent presentation of your research project. Let’s look at the explanation for each of the steps here:  

Step 1: Title and Abstract Step 2: Introduction Step 3: Research objectives Step 4: Literature review Step 5: Methodology Step 6: Timeline Step 7: Resources Step 8: Ethical considerations Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance Step 10: References Step 11: Appendices

Step 1: title and abstract.

Select a concise, descriptive title and write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology and expected outcomes​​. The abstract should include your research question, the objectives you aim to achieve, the methodology you plan to employ and the anticipated outcomes. 

Step 2: Introduction

In this section, introduce the topic of your research, emphasizing its significance and relevance to the field. Articulate the research problem or question in clear terms and provide background context, which should include an overview of previous research in the field.

Step 3: Research objectives

Here, you’ll need to outline specific, clear and achievable objectives that align with your research problem. These objectives should be well-defined, focused and measurable, serving as the guiding pillars for your study. They help in establishing what you intend to accomplish through your research and provide a clear direction for your investigation.

Step 4: Literature review

In this part, conduct a thorough review of existing literature related to your research topic. This involves a detailed summary of key findings and major contributions from previous research. Identify existing gaps in the literature and articulate how your research aims to fill these gaps. The literature review not only shows your grasp of the subject matter but also how your research will contribute new insights or perspectives to the field.

Step 5: Methodology

Describe the design of your research and the methodologies you will employ. This should include detailed information on data collection methods, instruments to be used and analysis techniques. Justify the appropriateness of these methods for your research​​.

Step 6: Timeline

Construct a detailed timeline that maps out the major milestones and activities of your research project. Break the entire research process into smaller, manageable tasks and assign realistic time frames to each. This timeline should cover everything from the initial research phase to the final submission, including periods for data collection, analysis and report writing. 

It helps in ensuring your project stays on track and demonstrates to reviewers that you have a well-thought-out plan for completing your research efficiently.

Step 7: Resources

Identify all the resources that will be required for your research, such as specific databases, laboratory equipment, software or funding. Provide details on how these resources will be accessed or acquired. 

If your research requires funding, explain how it will be utilized effectively to support various aspects of the project. 

Step 8: Ethical considerations

Address any ethical issues that may arise during your research. This is particularly important for research involving human subjects. Describe the measures you will take to ensure ethical standards are maintained, such as obtaining informed consent, ensuring participant privacy, and adhering to data protection regulations. 

Here, in this section you should reassure reviewers that you are committed to conducting your research responsibly and ethically.

Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance

Articulate the expected outcomes or results of your research. Explain the potential impact and significance of these outcomes, whether in advancing academic knowledge, influencing policy or addressing specific societal or practical issues. 

Step 10: References

Compile a comprehensive list of all the references cited in your proposal. Adhere to a consistent citation style (like APA or MLA) throughout your document. The reference section not only gives credit to the original authors of your sourced information but also strengthens the credibility of your proposal.

Step 11: Appendices

Include additional supporting materials that are pertinent to your research proposal. This can be survey questionnaires, interview guides, detailed data analysis plans or any supplementary information that supports the main text. 

Appendices provide further depth to your proposal, showcasing the thoroughness of your preparation.

Beige And Dark Green Minimalist Research Proposal

Research proposal FAQs

1. how long should a research proposal be.

The length of a research proposal can vary depending on the requirements of the academic institution, funding body or specific guidelines provided. Generally, research proposals range from 500 to 1500 words or about one to a few pages long. It’s important to provide enough detail to clearly convey your research idea, objectives and methodology, while being concise. Always check

2. Why is the research plan pivotal to a research project?

The research plan is pivotal to a research project because it acts as a blueprint, guiding every phase of the study. It outlines the objectives, methodology, timeline and expected outcomes, providing a structured approach and ensuring that the research is systematically conducted. 

A well-crafted plan helps in identifying potential challenges, allocating resources efficiently and maintaining focus on the research goals. It is also essential for communicating the project’s feasibility and importance to stakeholders, such as funding bodies or academic supervisors.

Simple Minimalist White Research Proposal

Mastering how to write a research proposal is an essential skill for any scholar, whether in social and behavioral sciences, academic writing or any field requiring scholarly research. From this article, you have learned key components, from the literature review to the research design, helping you develop a persuasive and well-structured proposal.

Remember, a good research proposal not only highlights your proposed research and methodology but also demonstrates its relevance and potential impact.

For additional support, consider utilizing Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates , valuable tools in crafting a compelling proposal that stands out.

Whether it’s for grant funding, a research paper or a dissertation proposal, these resources can assist in transforming your research idea into a successful submission.

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How to write a good research proposal (in 9 steps)

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A good research proposal is one of the keys to academic success. For bachelor’s and master’s students, the quality of a research proposal often determines whether the master’s program= can be completed or not. For PhD students, a research proposal is often the first step to securing a university position. This step-by-step manual guides you through the main stages of proposal writing.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using the links below at no additional cost to you . I only recommend products or services that I truly believe can benefit my audience. As always, my opinions are my own.

1. Find a topic for your research proposal

2. develop your research idea, 3. conduct a literature review for your research proposal, 4. define a research gap and research question, 5. establish a theoretical framework for your research proposal, 6. specify an empirical focus for your research proposal, 7. emphasise the scientific and societal relevance of your research proposal, 8. develop a methodology in your research proposal, 9. illustrate your research timeline in your research proposal.

Finding a topic for your research is a crucial first step. This decision should not be treated lightly.

Writing a master’s thesis takes a minimum of several weeks. In the case of PhD dissertations, it takes years. That is a long time! You don’t want to be stuck with a topic that you don’t care about.

How to find a research topic? Start broadly: Which courses did you enjoy? What issues discussed during seminars or lectures did you like? What inspired you during your education? And which readings did you appreciate?

Take a blank piece of paper. Write down everything that comes to your mind. It will help you to reflect on your interests.

Then, think more strategically. Maybe you have a rough idea of where you would like to work after graduation. Maybe a specific sector. Or even a particular company. If so, you could strategically alight your thesis topic with an issue that matters to your dream employer. Or even ask for a thesis internship.

Once you pinpoint your general topic of interest, you need to develop your idea.

Your idea should be simultaneously original, make a scientific contribution, prepare you for the (academic) job market, and be academically sound.

Freaking out yet?! Take a deep breath.

First, keep in mind that your idea should be very focused. Master and PhD students are often too ambitious. Your time is limited. So you need to be pragmatic. It is better to make a valuable contribution to a very specific question than to aim high and fail to meet your objectives.

Second, writing a research proposal is not a linear process. Start slowly by reading literature about your topic of interest. You have an interest. You read. You rethink your idea. You look for a theoretical framework. You go back to your idea and refine it. It is a process.

Remember that a good research proposal is not written in a day.

And third, don’t forget: a good proposal aims to establish a convincing framework that will guide your future research. Not to provide all the answers already. You need to show that you have a feasible idea.

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If you are looking to elevate your writing and editing skills, I highly recommend enrolling in the course “ Good with Words: Writing and Editing Specialization “, which is a 4 course series offered by the University of Michigan. This comprehensive program is conveniently available as an online course on Coursera, allowing you to learn at your own pace. Plus, upon successful completion, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a valuable certificate to showcase your newfound expertise!

Academic publications (journal articles and books) are the foundation of any research. Thus, academic literature is a good place to start. Especially when you still feel kind of lost regarding a focused research topic.

Type keywords reflecting your interests, or your preliminary research idea, into an academic search engine. It can be your university’s library, Google Scholar , Web of Science , or Scopus . etcetera.

Look at what has been published in the last 5 years, not before. You don’t want to be outdated.

Download interesting-sounding articles and read them. Repeat but be cautious: You will never be able to read EVERYTHING. So set yourself a limit, in hours, days or number of articles (20 articles, for instance).

Now, write down your findings. What is known about your topic of interest? What do scholars focus on? Start early by writing down your findings and impressions.

Once you read academic publications on your topic of interest, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is there one specific aspect of your topic of interest that is neglected in the existing literature?
  • What do scholars write about the existing gaps on the topic? What are their suggestions for future research?
  • Is there anything that YOU believe warrants more attention?
  • Do scholars maybe analyze a phenomenon only in a specific type of setting?

Asking yourself these questions helps you to formulate your research question. In your research question, be as specific as possible.

And keep in mind that you need to research something that already exists. You cannot research how something develops 20 years into the future.

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A theoretical framework is different from a literature review. You need to establish a framework of theories as a lens to look at your research topic, and answer your research question.

A theory is a general principle to explain certain phenomena. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

It is not only accepted but often encouraged to make use of existing theories. Or maybe you can combine two different theories to establish your framework.

It also helps to go back to the literature. Which theories did the authors of your favourite publications use?

There are only very few master’s and PhD theses that are entirely theoretical. Most theses, similar to most academic journal publications, have an empirical section.

You need to think about your empirical focus. Where can you find answers to your research question in real life? This could be, for instance, an experiment, a case study, or repeated observations of certain interactions.

Maybe your empirical investigation will have geographic boundaries (like focusing on one city, or one country). Or maybe it focuses on one group of people (such as the elderly, CEOs, doctors, you name it).

It is also possible to start the whole research proposal idea with empirical observation. Maybe you’ve come across something in your environment that you would like to investigate further.

Pinpoint what fascinates you about your observation. Write down keywords reflecting your interest. And then conduct a literature review to understand how others have approached this topic academically.

Both master’s and PhD students are expected to make a scientific contribution. A concrete gap or shortcoming in the existing literature on your topic is the easiest way to justify the scientific relevance of your proposed research.

Societal relevance is increasingly important in academia, too.

Do the grandparent test: Explain what you want to do to your grandparents (or any other person for that matter). Explain why it matters. Do your grandparents understand what you say? If so, well done. If not, try again.

Always remember. There is no need for fancy jargon. The best proposals are the ones that use clear, straightforward language.

The methodology is a system of methods that you will use to implement your research. A methodology explains how you plan to answer your research question.

A methodology involves for example methods of data collection. For example, interviews and questionnaires to gather ‘raw’ data.

Methods of data analysis are used to make sense of this data. This can be done, for instance, by coding, discourse analysis, mapping or statistical analysis.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good timeline. Inevitably throughout your thesis process, you will feel lost at some point. A good timeline will bring you back on track.

Make sure to include a timeline in your research proposal. If possible, not only describe your timeline but add a visual illustration, for instance in the form of a Gantt chart.

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Research Proposal: A step-by-step guide with template

Making sure your proposal is perfect will drastically improve your chances of landing a successful research position. Follow these steps.

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There’s no doubt you have the most cutting-edge research idea to date, backed up by a solid methodology and a credible explanation proving its relevance! There are thousands of research ideas that could change the world with many new ideologies.

The truth is, none of this would matter without support. It can be daunting, challenging, and uncertain to secure funding for a research project. Even more so when it isn’t well-thought-out, outlined, and includes every detail.

An effective solution for presenting your project, or requesting funding, is to provide a research proposal to potential investors or financiers on your behalf.

It’s crucial to understand that making sure your proposal is perfect will drastically improve your chances of landing a successful research position. Your research proposal could result in the failure to study the research problem entirely if it is inadequately constructed or incomplete.

It is for this reason that we have created an excellent guide that covers everything you need to know about writing a research proposal, and includes helpful tips for presenting your proposal professionally and improving its likelihood of acceptance!

What Is a Research Proposal?

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Generally, a research proposal is a well-crafted, formal document that provides a thorough explanation of what you plan to investigate. This includes a rationale for why it is worth investigating, as well as a method for investigating it.

Research proposal writing in the contemporary academic environment is a challenging undertaking given the constant shift in research methodology and a commitment to incorporating scientific breakthroughs.

An outline of the plan or roadmap for the study is the proposal, and once the proposal is complete, everything should be smooth sailing. It is still common for post-graduate evaluation panels and funding applications to submit substandard proposals.

By its very nature, the research proposal serves as a tool for convincing the supervisor, committee, or university that the proposed research fits within the scope of the program and is feasible when considering the time and resources available.

A research proposal should convince the person who is going to sanction your research, or put another way, you need to persuade them that your research idea is the best.

Obviously, if it does not convince them that it is reasonable and adequate, you will need to revise and submit it again. As a result, you will lose significant time, causing your research to be delayed or cut short, which is not good.

A good research proposal should have the following structure

A dissertation or thesis research proposal may take on a variety of forms depending on the university, but  most generally a research proposal will include the following elements:

  • Titles or title pages that give a description of the research
  • Detailed explanation of the proposed research and its background
  • Outline of the research project
  • An overview of key research studies in the field
  • Description the proposed research design (approach)

So, if you include all these elements, you will have a general outline. Let’s take a closer look at how to write them and what to include in each element so that the research proposal is as robust as the idea itself.

A step-by-step guide to writing a research proposal

#1 introduction.

Researchers who wish to obtain grant funding for a project often write a proposal when seeking funding for a research-based postgraduate degree program, or in order to obtain approval for completing a thesis or PhD. Even though this is only a brief introduction, we should be considering it the beginning of an insightful discussion about the significance of a topic that deserves attention.

Your readers should understand what you are trying to accomplish after they read your introduction. Additionally, they should be able to perceive your zeal for the subject matter and a genuine interest in the possible outcome of the research.

As your introduction, consider answering these questions in three to four paragraphs:

  • In what way does the study address its primary issue?
  • Does that subject matter fall under the domain of that field of study?
  • In order to investigate that problem, what method should be used?
  • What is the importance of this study?
  • How does it impact academia and society overall?
  • What are the potential implications of the proposed research for someone reviewing the proposal?

It is not necessary to include an abstract or summary for the introduction to most academic departments and funding sources. Nevertheless, you should confirm your institution’s requirements.

#2 Background and importance

An explanation of the rationale for a research proposal and its significance is provided in this section. It is preferable to separate this part from the introduction so that the narrative flows seamlessly.

This section should be approached by presuming readers are time-pressed but want a general overview of the whole study and the research question.

Please keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive essay that contains every detail of your proposed research, rather a concise document that will spark interest in your proposal.

While you should try to take into account the following factors when framing the significance of your proposed study, there are no rigid rules.

  • Provide a detailed explanation of the purpose and problem of the study. Multidimensional or interdisciplinary research problems often require this.
  • Outline the purpose of your proposed research and describe the advantages of carrying out the study.
  • Outline the major issues or problems to be discussed. These might come in the form of questions or comments.
  • Be sure to highlight how your research contributes to existing theories that relate to the problem of the study.
  • Describe how your study will be conducted, including the source of data and the method of analysis.
  • To provide a sense of direction for your study, define the scope of your proposal.
  • Defining key concepts or terms, if necessary, is recommended.

The steps to a perfect research proposal all get more specific as we move forward to enhance the concept of the research. In this case, it will become important to make sure that your supervisor or your funder has a clear understanding of every aspect of your research study.

#3 Reviewing prior literature and studies

The aim of this paragraph is to establish the context and significance of your study, including a review of the current literature pertinent to it.

This part aims to properly situate your proposed study within the bigger scheme of things of what is being investigated, while, at the same time, showing the innovation and originality of your proposed work.

When writing a literature review, it is imperative that your format is effective because it often contains extensive information that allows you to demonstrate your main research claims compared to other scholars.

Separating the literature according to major categories or conceptual frameworks is an excellent way to do this. This is a more effective method than listing each study one by one in chronological order.

In order to arrange the review of existing relevant studies in an efficient manner, a literature review is often written using the following five criteria:

  • Be sure to cite your previous studies to ensure the focus remains on the research question. For more information, please refer to our guide on how to write a research paper .
  • Study the literature’s methods, results, hypotheses, and conclusions. Recognize the authors’ differing perspectives.
  • Compare and contrast the various themes, arguments, methodologies, and perspectives discussed in the literature. Explain the most prominent points of disagreement.
  • Evaluate the literature. Identify persuasive arguments offered by scholars. Choose the most reliable, valid, and suitable methodologies.
  • Consider how the literature relates to your area of research and your topic. Examine whether your proposal for investigation reflects existing literature, deviates from existing literature, synthesizes or adds to it in some way.

#4 Research questions and objectives

The next step is to develop your research objectives once you have determined your research focus.

When your readers read your proposal, what do you want them to learn? Try to write your objectives in one sentence, if you can. Put time and thought into framing them properly.

By setting an objective for your research, you’ll stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked.

Any study proposal should address the following questions irrespective of the topic or problem:

  • What are you hoping to accomplish from the study? When describing the study topic and your research question, be concise and to the point.
  • What is the purpose of the research? A compelling argument must also be offered to support your choice of topic.
  • What research methods will you use? It is essential to outline a clear, logical strategy for completing your study and make sure that it is doable.

Some authors include this section in the introduction, where it is generally placed at the end of the section.

#5 Research Design and Methods

It is important to write this part correctly and organize logically even though you are not starting the research yet.  This must leave readers with a sense of assurance that the topic is worthwhile.

To achieve this, you must convince your reader that your research design and procedures will adequately address the study’s problems. Additionally, it seeks to ensure that the employed methods are capable of interpreting the likely study results efficiently.

You should design your research in a way that is directly related to your objectives.

Exemplifying your study design using examples from your literature review, you are setting up your study design effectively. You should follow other researchers’ good practices.

Pay attention to the methods you will use to collect data, the analyses you will perform, as well as your methods of measuring the validity of your results.

If you describe the methods you will use, make sure you include the following points:

  • Develop a plan for conducting your research, as well as how you intend to interpret the findings based on the study’s objectives.
  • When describing your objectives with the selected techniques, it is important to also elaborate on your plans.
  • This section does not only present a list of events. Once you have chosen the strategy, make sure to explain why it is a good way to analyse your study question. Provide clear explanations.
  • Last but not least, plan ahead to overcome any challenges you might encounter during the implementation of your research design.

In the event that you closely follow the best practices outlined in relevant studies as well as justify your selection, you will be prepared to address any questions or concerns you may encounter.

We have an amazing article that will give you everything you need to know about research design .

#6 Knowledge Contribution and Relevance

In this section, you describe your theory about how your study will contribute to, expand, or alter knowledge about the topic of your study.

You should discuss the implications of your research on future studies, applications, concepts, decisions, and procedures. It is common to address the study findings from a conceptual, analytical, or scientific perspective.

If you are framing your proposal of research, these guide questions may help you:

  • How could the results be interpreted in the context of contesting the premises of the study?
  • Could the expected study results lead to proposals for further research?
  • Is your proposed research going to benefit people in any way?
  • Is the outcome going to affect individuals in their work setting?
  • In what ways will the suggested study impact or enhance the quality of life?
  • Are the study’s results going to have an impact on intervention forms, techniques, or policies?
  • What potential commercial, societal, or other benefits could be derived from the outcomes?
  • Policy decisions will be influenced by the outcomes?
  • Upon implementation, could they bring about new insights or breakthroughs?

Throughout this section, you will identify unsolved questions or research gaps in the existing literature. If the study is conducted as proposed, it is important to indicate how the research will be instrumental in understanding the nature of the research problem.

#7 Adherence to the Ethical Principles

In terms of scientific writing style, no particular style is generally acknowledged as more or less effective. The purpose is simply to provide relevant content that is formatted in a standardized way to enhance communication.

There are a variety of publication styles among different scholarly disciplines. It is therefore essential to follow the protocol according to the institution or organization that you are targeting.

All scholarly research and writing is, however, guided by codes of ethical conduct. The purpose of ethical guidelines, if they are followed, is to accomplish three things:

1) Preserve intellectual property right;

2) Ensure the rights and welfare of research participants;

3) Maintain the accuracy of scientific knowledge.

Scholars and writers who follow these ideals adhere to long-standing standards within their professional groups.

An additional ethical principle of the APA stresses the importance of maintaining scientific validity. An observation is at the heart of the standard scientific method, and it is verifiable and repeatable by others.

It is expected that scholars will not falsify or fabricate data in research writing. Researchers must also refrain from altering their studies’ outcomes to support a particular theory or to exclude inconclusive data from their report in an effort to create a convincing one.

#8 The budget

The need for detailed budgetary planning is not required by all universities when studying historical material or academic literature, though some do require it. In the case of a research grant application, you will likely have to include a comprehensive budget that breaks down the costs of each major component.

Ensure that the funding program or organization will cover the required costs, and include only the necessary items. For each of the items, you should include the following.

  • To complete the study in its entirety, how much money would you require?
  • Discuss the rationale for such a budget item for the purpose of completing research.
  • The source of the amount – describe how it was determined.

When doing a study, you cannot buy ingredients the way you normally would. With so many items not having a price tag, how can you make a budget? Take the following into consideration:

  • Does your project require access to any software programs or solutions? Do you need to install or train a technology tool?
  • How much time will you be spending on your research study? Are you required to take time off from work to do your research?
  • Are you going to need to travel to certain locations to meet with respondents or to collect data? At what cost?
  • Will you be seeking research assistants for the study you propose? In what capacity and for what compensation? What other aspects are you planning to outsource?

It is possible to calculate a budget while also being able to estimate how much more money you will need in the event of an emergency.

#9 Timeline

A realistic and concise research schedule is also important to keep in mind. You should be able to finish your plan of study within the allotted time period, such as your degree program or the academic calendar.

You should include a timeline that includes a series of objectives you must complete to meet all the requirements for your scholarly research. The process starts with preliminary research and ends with final editing. A completion date for every step is required.

In addition, one should state the development that has been made. It is also recommended to include other relevant research events, for instance paper or poster presentations . In addition, a researcher must update the timeline regularly, as necessary, since this is not a static document.

#10 A Concluding Statement

Presenting a few of the anticipated results of your research proposal is an effective way to conclude your proposal.

The final stage of the process requires you to reveal the conclusion and rationale you anticipate reaching. Considering the research you have done so far, your reader knows that these are anticipated results, which are likely to evolve once the whole study is completed.

In any case, you must let the supervisors or sponsors know what implications may be drawn. It will be easier for them to assess the reliability and relevance of your research.

It will also demonstrate your meticulousness since you will have anticipated and taken into consideration the potential consequences of your research.

The Appendix section is required by some funding sources and academic institutions. This is extra information that is not in the main argument of the proposal, but appears to enhance the points made.

For example, data in the form of tables, consent forms, clinical/research guidelines, and procedures for data collection may be included in this document.

Research Proposal Template

Now that you know all about each element that composes an ideal research proposal, here is an extra help: a ready to use research proposal example. Just hit the button below, make a copy of the document and start working!

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Avoid these common mistakes

In an era when rejection rates for prestigious journals can reach as high as 90 percent, you must avoid the following common mistakes when submitting a proposal:

  • Proposals that are too long. Stay to the point when you write research proposals. Make your document concise and specific. Be sure not to diverge into off-topic discussions.
  • Taking up too much research time. Many students struggle to delineate the context of their studies, regardless of the topic, time, or location. In order to explain the methodology of the study clearly to the reader, the proposal must clearly state what the study will focus on.
  • Leaving out significant works from a literature review. Though everything in the proposal should be kept at a minimum, key research studies must need to be included. To understand the scope and growth of the issue, proposals should be based on significant studies.
  • Major topics are too rarely discussed, and too much attention is paid to minor details. To persuasively argue for a study, a proposal should focus on just a few key research questions. Minor details should be noted, but should not overshadow the thesis.
  • The proposal does not have a compelling and well-supported argument. To prove that a study should be approved or funded, the research proposal must outline its purpose.
  • A typographical error, bad grammar or sloppy writing style. Even though a research proposal outlines a part of a larger project, it must conform to academic writing standards and guidelines.

A final note

We have come to the end of our research proposal guide. We really hope that you have found all the information you need. Wishing you success with the research study.

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on 30 October 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on 13 June 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:

Introduction

Literature review.

  • Research design

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 organised 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.

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

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: ‘A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management’
  • Example research proposal #2: ‘ Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use’

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

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesise prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasise again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement.

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

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11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the steps in developing a research proposal.
  • Choose a topic and formulate a research question and working thesis.
  • Develop a research proposal.

Writing a good research paper takes time, thought, and effort. Although this assignment is challenging, it is manageable. Focusing on one step at a time will help you develop a thoughtful, informative, well-supported research paper.

Your first step is to choose a topic and then to develop research questions, a working thesis, and a written research proposal. Set aside adequate time for this part of the process. Fully exploring ideas will help you build a solid foundation for your paper.

Choosing a Topic

When you choose a topic for a research paper, you are making a major commitment. Your choice will help determine whether you enjoy the lengthy process of research and writing—and whether your final paper fulfills the assignment requirements. If you choose your topic hastily, you may later find it difficult to work with your topic. By taking your time and choosing carefully, you can ensure that this assignment is not only challenging but also rewarding.

Writers understand the importance of choosing a topic that fulfills the assignment requirements and fits the assignment’s purpose and audience. (For more information about purpose and audience, see Chapter 6 “Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content” .) Choosing a topic that interests you is also crucial. You instructor may provide a list of suggested topics or ask that you develop a topic on your own. In either case, try to identify topics that genuinely interest you.

After identifying potential topic ideas, you will need to evaluate your ideas and choose one topic to pursue. Will you be able to find enough information about the topic? Can you develop a paper about this topic that presents and supports your original ideas? Is the topic too broad or too narrow for the scope of the assignment? If so, can you modify it so it is more manageable? You will ask these questions during this preliminary phase of the research process.

Identifying Potential Topics

Sometimes, your instructor may provide a list of suggested topics. If so, you may benefit from identifying several possibilities before committing to one idea. It is important to know how to narrow down your ideas into a concise, manageable thesis. You may also use the list as a starting point to help you identify additional, related topics. Discussing your ideas with your instructor will help ensure that you choose a manageable topic that fits the requirements of the assignment.

In this chapter, you will follow a writer named Jorge, who is studying health care administration, as he prepares a research paper. You will also plan, research, and draft your own research paper.

Jorge was assigned to write a research paper on health and the media for an introductory course in health care. Although a general topic was selected for the students, Jorge had to decide which specific issues interested him. He brainstormed a list of possibilities.

If you are writing a research paper for a specialized course, look back through your notes and course activities. Identify reading assignments and class discussions that especially engaged you. Doing so can help you identify topics to pursue.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in the news
  • Sexual education programs
  • Hollywood and eating disorders
  • Americans’ access to public health information
  • Media portrayal of health care reform bill
  • Depictions of drugs on television
  • The effect of the Internet on mental health
  • Popularized diets (such as low-carbohydrate diets)
  • Fear of pandemics (bird flu, HINI, SARS)
  • Electronic entertainment and obesity
  • Advertisements for prescription drugs
  • Public education and disease prevention

Set a timer for five minutes. Use brainstorming or idea mapping to create a list of topics you would be interested in researching for a paper about the influence of the Internet on social networking. Do you closely follow the media coverage of a particular website, such as Twitter? Would you like to learn more about a certain industry, such as online dating? Which social networking sites do you and your friends use? List as many ideas related to this topic as you can.

Narrowing Your Topic

Once you have a list of potential topics, you will need to choose one as the focus of your essay. You will also need to narrow your topic. Most writers find that the topics they listed during brainstorming or idea mapping are broad—too broad for the scope of the assignment. Working with an overly broad topic, such as sexual education programs or popularized diets, can be frustrating and overwhelming. Each topic has so many facets that it would be impossible to cover them all in a college research paper. However, more specific choices, such as the pros and cons of sexual education in kids’ television programs or the physical effects of the South Beach diet, are specific enough to write about without being too narrow to sustain an entire research paper.

A good research paper provides focused, in-depth information and analysis. If your topic is too broad, you will find it difficult to do more than skim the surface when you research it and write about it. Narrowing your focus is essential to making your topic manageable. To narrow your focus, explore your topic in writing, conduct preliminary research, and discuss both the topic and the research with others.

Exploring Your Topic in Writing

“How am I supposed to narrow my topic when I haven’t even begun researching yet?” In fact, you may already know more than you realize. Review your list and identify your top two or three topics. Set aside some time to explore each one through freewriting. (For more information about freewriting, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .) Simply taking the time to focus on your topic may yield fresh angles.

Jorge knew that he was especially interested in the topic of diet fads, but he also knew that it was much too broad for his assignment. He used freewriting to explore his thoughts so he could narrow his topic. Read Jorge’s ideas.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Another way writers may focus a topic is to conduct preliminary research . Like freewriting, exploratory reading can help you identify interesting angles. Surfing the web and browsing through newspaper and magazine articles are good ways to start. Find out what people are saying about your topic on blogs and online discussion groups. Discussing your topic with others can also inspire you. Talk about your ideas with your classmates, your friends, or your instructor.

Jorge’s freewriting exercise helped him realize that the assigned topic of health and the media intersected with a few of his interests—diet, nutrition, and obesity. Preliminary online research and discussions with his classmates strengthened his impression that many people are confused or misled by media coverage of these subjects.

Jorge decided to focus his paper on a topic that had garnered a great deal of media attention—low-carbohydrate diets. He wanted to find out whether low-carbohydrate diets were as effective as their proponents claimed.

Writing at Work

At work, you may need to research a topic quickly to find general information. This information can be useful in understanding trends in a given industry or generating competition. For example, a company may research a competitor’s prices and use the information when pricing their own product. You may find it useful to skim a variety of reliable sources and take notes on your findings.

The reliability of online sources varies greatly. In this exploratory phase of your research, you do not need to evaluate sources as closely as you will later. However, use common sense as you refine your paper topic. If you read a fascinating blog comment that gives you a new idea for your paper, be sure to check out other, more reliable sources as well to make sure the idea is worth pursuing.

Review the list of topics you created in Note 11.18 “Exercise 1” and identify two or three topics you would like to explore further. For each of these topics, spend five to ten minutes writing about the topic without stopping. Then review your writing to identify possible areas of focus.

Set aside time to conduct preliminary research about your potential topics. Then choose a topic to pursue for your research paper.

Collaboration

Please share your topic list with a classmate. Select one or two topics on his or her list that you would like to learn more about and return it to him or her. Discuss why you found the topics interesting, and learn which of your topics your classmate selected and why.

A Plan for Research

Your freewriting and preliminary research have helped you choose a focused, manageable topic for your research paper. To work with your topic successfully, you will need to determine what exactly you want to learn about it—and later, what you want to say about it. Before you begin conducting in-depth research, you will further define your focus by developing a research question , a working thesis, and a research proposal.

Formulating a Research Question

In forming a research question, you are setting a goal for your research. Your main research question should be substantial enough to form the guiding principle of your paper—but focused enough to guide your research. A strong research question requires you not only to find information but also to put together different pieces of information, interpret and analyze them, and figure out what you think. As you consider potential research questions, ask yourself whether they would be too hard or too easy to answer.

To determine your research question, review the freewriting you completed earlier. Skim through books, articles, and websites and list the questions you have. (You may wish to use the 5WH strategy to help you formulate questions. See Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” for more information about 5WH questions.) Include simple, factual questions and more complex questions that would require analysis and interpretation. Determine your main question—the primary focus of your paper—and several subquestions that you will need to research to answer your main question.

Here are the research questions Jorge will use to focus his research. Notice that his main research question has no obvious, straightforward answer. Jorge will need to research his subquestions, which address narrower topics, to answer his main question.

Using the topic you selected in Note 11.24 “Exercise 2” , write your main research question and at least four to five subquestions. Check that your main research question is appropriately complex for your assignment.

Constructing a Working ThesIs

A working thesis concisely states a writer’s initial answer to the main research question. It does not merely state a fact or present a subjective opinion. Instead, it expresses a debatable idea or claim that you hope to prove through additional research. Your working thesis is called a working thesis for a reason—it is subject to change. As you learn more about your topic, you may change your thinking in light of your research findings. Let your working thesis serve as a guide to your research, but do not be afraid to modify it based on what you learn.

Jorge began his research with a strong point of view based on his preliminary writing and research. Read his working thesis statement, which presents the point he will argue. Notice how it states Jorge’s tentative answer to his research question.

One way to determine your working thesis is to consider how you would complete sentences such as I believe or My opinion is . However, keep in mind that academic writing generally does not use first-person pronouns. These statements are useful starting points, but formal research papers use an objective voice.

Write a working thesis statement that presents your preliminary answer to the research question you wrote in Note 11.27 “Exercise 3” . Check that your working thesis statement presents an idea or claim that could be supported or refuted by evidence from research.

Creating a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a brief document—no more than one typed page—that summarizes the preliminary work you have completed. Your purpose in writing it is to formalize your plan for research and present it to your instructor for feedback. In your research proposal, you will present your main research question, related subquestions, and working thesis. You will also briefly discuss the value of researching this topic and indicate how you plan to gather information.

When Jorge began drafting his research proposal, he realized that he had already created most of the pieces he needed. However, he knew he also had to explain how his research would be relevant to other future health care professionals. In addition, he wanted to form a general plan for doing the research and identifying potentially useful sources. Read Jorge’s research proposal.

Read Jorge's research proposal

Before you begin a new project at work, you may have to develop a project summary document that states the purpose of the project, explains why it would be a wise use of company resources, and briefly outlines the steps involved in completing the project. This type of document is similar to a research proposal. Both documents define and limit a project, explain its value, discuss how to proceed, and identify what resources you will use.

Writing Your Own Research Proposal

Now you may write your own research proposal, if you have not done so already. Follow the guidelines provided in this lesson.

Key Takeaways

  • Developing a research proposal involves the following preliminary steps: identifying potential ideas, choosing ideas to explore further, choosing and narrowing a topic, formulating a research question, and developing a working thesis.
  • A good topic for a research paper interests the writer and fulfills the requirements of the assignment.
  • Defining and narrowing a topic helps writers conduct focused, in-depth research.
  • Writers conduct preliminary research to identify possible topics and research questions and to develop a working thesis.
  • A good research question interests readers, is neither too broad nor too narrow, and has no obvious answer.
  • A good working thesis expresses a debatable idea or claim that can be supported with evidence from research.
  • Writers create a research proposal to present their topic, main research question, subquestions, and working thesis to an instructor for approval or feedback.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Research Process

Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

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The importance of a well-written research proposal cannot be underestimated. Your research really is only as good as your proposal. A poorly written, or poorly conceived research proposal will doom even an otherwise worthy project. On the other hand, a well-written, high-quality proposal will increase your chances for success.

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of writing an effective scientific research proposal, including the differences between research proposals, grants and cover letters. We’ll also touch on common mistakes made when submitting research proposals, as well as a simple example or template that you can follow.

What is a scientific research proposal?

The main purpose of a scientific research proposal is to convince your audience that your project is worthwhile, and that you have the expertise and wherewithal to complete it. The elements of an effective research proposal mirror those of the research process itself, which we’ll outline below. Essentially, the research proposal should include enough information for the reader to determine if your proposed study is worth pursuing.

It is not an uncommon misunderstanding to think that a research proposal and a cover letter are the same things. However, they are different. The main difference between a research proposal vs cover letter content is distinct. Whereas the research proposal summarizes the proposal for future research, the cover letter connects you to the research, and how you are the right person to complete the proposed research.

There is also sometimes confusion around a research proposal vs grant application. Whereas a research proposal is a statement of intent, related to answering a research question, a grant application is a specific request for funding to complete the research proposed. Of course, there are elements of overlap between the two documents; it’s the purpose of the document that defines one or the other.

Scientific Research Proposal Format

Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you’re submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template.

In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal. These include:

  • Title: Make sure the title of your proposal is descriptive and concise. Make it catch and informative at the same time, avoiding dry phrases like, “An investigation…” Your title should pique the interest of the reader.
  • Abstract: This is a brief (300-500 words) summary that includes the research question, your rationale for the study, and any applicable hypothesis. You should also include a brief description of your methodology, including procedures, samples, instruments, etc.
  • Introduction: The opening paragraph of your research proposal is, perhaps, the most important. Here you want to introduce the research problem in a creative way, and demonstrate your understanding of the need for the research. You want the reader to think that your proposed research is current, important and relevant.
  • Background: Include a brief history of the topic and link it to a contemporary context to show its relevance for today. Identify key researchers and institutions also looking at the problem
  • Literature Review: This is the section that may take the longest amount of time to assemble. Here you want to synthesize prior research, and place your proposed research into the larger picture of what’s been studied in the past. You want to show your reader that your work is original, and adds to the current knowledge.
  • Research Design and Methodology: This section should be very clearly and logically written and organized. You are letting your reader know that you know what you are going to do, and how. The reader should feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge needed to get the project done.
  • Preliminary Implications: Here you’ll be outlining how you anticipate your research will extend current knowledge in your field. You might also want to discuss how your findings will impact future research needs.
  • Conclusion: This section reinforces the significance and importance of your proposed research, and summarizes the entire proposal.
  • References/Citations: Of course, you need to include a full and accurate list of any and all sources you used to write your research proposal.

Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Remember, the best research proposal can be rejected if it’s not well written or is ill-conceived. The most common mistakes made include:

  • Not providing the proper context for your research question or the problem
  • Failing to reference landmark/key studies
  • Losing focus of the research question or problem
  • Not accurately presenting contributions by other researchers and institutions
  • Incompletely developing a persuasive argument for the research that is being proposed
  • Misplaced attention on minor points and/or not enough detail on major issues
  • Sloppy, low-quality writing without effective logic and flow
  • Incorrect or lapses in references and citations, and/or references not in proper format
  • The proposal is too long – or too short

Scientific Research Proposal Example

There are countless examples that you can find for successful research proposals. In addition, you can also find examples of unsuccessful research proposals. Search for successful research proposals in your field, and even for your target journal, to get a good idea on what specifically your audience may be looking for.

While there’s no one example that will show you everything you need to know, looking at a few will give you a good idea of what you need to include in your own research proposal. Talk, also, to colleagues in your field, especially if you are a student or a new researcher. We can often learn from the mistakes of others. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are prior to writing your research proposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

Language Editing Services

One of the top reasons scientific research proposals are rejected is due to poor logic and flow. Check out our Language Editing Services to ensure a great proposal , that’s clear and concise, and properly referenced. Check our video for more information, and get started today.

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Home » Proposal – Types, Examples, and Writing Guide

Proposal – Types, Examples, and Writing Guide

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Proposal

Definition:

Proposal is a formal document or presentation that outlines a plan, idea, or project and seeks to persuade others to support or adopt it. Proposals are commonly used in business, academia, and various other fields to propose new initiatives, solutions to problems, research studies, or business ventures.

Proposal Layout

While the specific layout of a proposal may vary depending on the requirements or guidelines provided by the recipient, there are some common sections that are typically included in a standard proposal. Here’s a typical layout for a proposal:

  • The title of the proposal.
  • Your name or the name of your organization.
  • Date of submission.
  • A list of sections or headings with corresponding page numbers for easy navigation.
  • An overview of the proposal, highlighting its key points and benefits.
  • Summarize the problem or opportunity.
  • Outline the proposed solution or project.
  • Mention the expected outcomes or deliverables.
  • Keep it concise and compelling.
  • Provide background information about the issue or context.
  • Explain the purpose and objectives of the proposal.
  • Clarify the problem statement or opportunity that the proposal aims to address.
  • Describe in detail the methodology , approach , or plan to achieve the objectives.
  • Outline the steps or tasks involved in implementing the proposal.
  • Explain how the proposed solution or project will be executed.
  • Include a timeline or schedule to demonstrate the project’s timeline.
  • Define the specific activities, tasks, or services to be provided.
  • Clarify the deliverables and expected outcomes.
  • Mention any limitations or exclusions, if applicable.
  • Provide a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the proposal.
  • Include itemized expenses such as personnel, materials, equipment, and any other relevant costs.
  • If applicable, include a justification for each cost.
  • Introduce the individuals or team members involved in the proposal.
  • Highlight their qualifications, expertise, and experience relevant to the project.
  • Include their roles and responsibilities.
  • Specify how the success of the proposal will be measured.
  • Define evaluation criteria and metrics to assess the outcomes.
  • Explain how progress will be tracked and reported.
  • Recap the main points of the proposal.
  • Reiterate the benefits and advantages of the proposed solution.
  • Emphasize the value and importance of supporting or adopting the proposal.
  • Include any additional documents, references, charts, graphs, or data that support your proposal.
  • These can include resumes, letters of support, financial projections, or relevant research materials.

Types of Types of Proposals

When it comes to proposals, there are various types depending on the context and purpose. Here are some common types of proposals:

Business Proposal

This type of proposal is used in the business world to present a plan, idea, or project to potential clients, investors, or partners. It typically includes an executive summary, problem statement, proposed solution, timeline, budget, and anticipated outcomes.

Project Proposal

A project proposal is a detailed document that outlines the objectives, scope, methodology, deliverables, and budget of a specific project. It is used to seek approval and funding from stakeholders or clients.

Research Proposal

Research proposals are commonly used in academic or scientific settings. They outline the research objectives, methodology, timeline, expected outcomes, and potential significance of a research study. These proposals are submitted to funding agencies, universities, or research institutions.

Grant Proposal

Non-profit organizations, researchers, or individuals seeking funding for a project or program often write grant proposals. These proposals provide a detailed plan of the project, including goals, methods, budget, and expected outcomes, to convince grant-making bodies to provide financial support.

Sales Proposal

Sales proposals are used by businesses to pitch their products or services to potential customers. They typically include information about the product/service, pricing, features, benefits, and a persuasive argument to encourage the recipient to make a purchase.

Sponsorship Proposal

When seeking sponsorship for an event, sports team, or individual, a sponsorship proposal is created. It outlines the benefits for the sponsor, the exposure they will receive, and the financial or in-kind support required.

Marketing Proposal

A marketing proposal is developed by marketing agencies or professionals to present their strategies and tactics to potential clients. It includes an analysis of the target market, proposed marketing activities, budget, and expected results.

Policy Proposal

In the realm of government or public policy, individuals or organizations may create policy proposals to suggest new laws, regulations, or changes to existing policies. These proposals typically provide an overview of the issue, the proposed solution, supporting evidence, and potential impacts.

Training Proposal

Organizations often create training proposals to propose a training program for their employees. These proposals outline the training objectives, topics to be covered, training methods, resources required, and anticipated outcomes.

Partnership Proposal

When two or more organizations or individuals wish to collaborate or form a partnership, a partnership proposal is used to present the benefits, shared goals, responsibilities, and terms of the proposed partnership.

Event Proposal

Event planners or individuals organizing an event, such as a conference, concert, or wedding, may create an event proposal. It includes details about the event concept, venue, logistics, budget, marketing plan, and anticipated attendee experience.

Technology Proposal

Technology proposals are used to present new technological solutions, system upgrades, or IT projects to stakeholders or decision-makers. These proposals outline the technology requirements, implementation plan, costs, and anticipated benefits.

Construction Proposal

Contractors or construction companies create construction proposals to bid on construction projects. These proposals include project specifications, cost estimates, timelines, materials, and construction methodologies.

Book Proposal

Authors or aspiring authors create book proposals to pitch their book ideas to literary agents or publishers. These proposals include a synopsis of the book, target audience, marketing plan, author’s credentials, and sample chapters.

Social Media Proposal

Social media professionals or agencies create social media proposals to present their strategies for managing social media accounts, creating content, and growing online presence. These proposals include an analysis of the current social media presence, proposed tactics, metrics for success, and pricing.

Training and Development Proposal

Similar to training proposals, these proposals focus on the overall development and growth of employees within an organization. They may include plans for leadership development, skill enhancement, or professional certification programs.

Consulting Proposal

Consultants create consulting proposals to present their services and expertise to potential clients. These proposals outline the problem statement, proposed approach, scope of work, timeline, deliverables, and fees.

Policy Advocacy Proposal

Organizations or individuals seeking to influence public policy or advocate for a particular cause create policy advocacy proposals. These proposals present research, evidence, and arguments to support a specific policy change or reform.

Website Design Proposal

Web designers or agencies create website design proposals to pitch their services to clients. These proposals outline the project scope, design concepts, development process, timeline, and pricing.

Environmental Proposal

Environmental proposals are created to address environmental issues or propose conservation initiatives. These proposals may include strategies for renewable energy, waste management, biodiversity preservation, or sustainable practices.

Health and Wellness Proposal

Proposals related to health and wellness can cover a range of topics, such as wellness programs, community health initiatives, healthcare system improvements, or health education campaigns.

Human Resources (HR) Proposal

HR professionals may create HR proposals to introduce new policies, employee benefits programs, performance evaluation systems, or employee training initiatives within an organization.

Nonprofit Program Proposal

Nonprofit organizations seeking funding or support for a specific program or project create nonprofit program proposals. These proposals outline the program’s objectives, activities, target beneficiaries, budget, and expected outcomes.

Government Contract Proposal

When bidding for government contracts, businesses or contractors create government contract proposals. These proposals include details about the project, compliance with regulations, cost estimates, and qualifications.

Product Development Proposal

Businesses or individuals seeking to develop and launch a new product present product development proposals. These proposals outline the product concept, market analysis, development process, production costs, and marketing strategies.

Feasibility Study Proposal

Feasibility study proposals are used to assess the viability and potential success of a project or business idea. These proposals include market research, financial analysis, risk assessment, and recommendations for implementation.

Educational Program Proposal

Educational institutions or organizations create educational program proposals to introduce new courses, curricula, or educational initiatives. These proposals outline the program objectives, learning outcomes, curriculum design, and resource requirements.

Social Service Proposal

Organizations involved in social services, such as healthcare, community development, or social welfare, create social service proposals to seek funding, support, or partnerships. These proposals outline the social issue, proposed interventions, anticipated impacts, and sustainability plans.

Proposal Writing Guide

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with proposal writing:

  • Understand the Requirements: Before you begin writing your proposal, carefully review any guidelines, instructions, or requirements provided by the recipient or organization. This will ensure that you meet their expectations and include all necessary information.
  • Research and Gather Information: Conduct thorough research on the topic or project you are proposing. Collect relevant data, statistics, case studies, and any supporting evidence that strengthens your proposal. This will demonstrate your knowledge and credibility.
  • Define the Problem or Opportunity: Clearly identify and articulate the problem or opportunity that your proposal aims to address. Provide a concise and compelling explanation of why it is important and relevant.
  • State Your Objectives: Outline the specific objectives or goals of your proposal. What do you hope to achieve? Make sure your objectives are clear, measurable, and aligned with the needs of the recipient.
  • Present Your Solution: Propose your solution or approach to the problem. Describe how your solution is unique, innovative, and effective. Provide a step-by-step plan or methodology, highlighting key activities, deliverables, and timelines.
  • Demonstrate Benefits and Impact: Clearly outline the benefits and impact of your proposal. Explain how it will add value, solve the problem, or create positive change. Use evidence and examples to support your claims.
  • Develop a Budget: If applicable, include a detailed budget that outlines the costs associated with implementing your proposal. Be transparent and realistic about expenses, and clearly explain how the funding will be allocated.
  • Address Potential Risks and Mitigation Strategies: Identify any potential risks, challenges, or obstacles that may arise during the implementation of your proposal. Offer strategies or contingency plans to mitigate these risks and ensure the success of your project.
  • Provide Supporting Documentation: Include any supporting documents that add credibility to your proposal. This may include resumes or bios of key team members, letters of support or partnership, relevant certifications, or past success stories.
  • Write Clearly and Concisely: Use clear and concise language to communicate your ideas effectively. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may confuse or alienate the reader. Structure your proposal with headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance readability.
  • Proofread and Edit: Carefully review your proposal for grammar, spelling, and formatting errors. Ensure that it is well-organized, coherent, and flows logically. Consider asking someone else to review it for feedback and suggestions.
  • Include a Professional Cover Letter: If appropriate, attach a cover letter introducing your proposal. This letter should summarize the key points, express your enthusiasm, and provide contact information for further discussion.
  • Follow Submission Instructions: Follow the specific instructions for submitting your proposal. This may include submitting it electronically, mailing it, or delivering it in person. Pay attention to submission deadlines and any additional requirements.
  • Follow Up: After submitting your proposal, consider following up with the recipient to ensure they received it and address any questions or concerns they may have. This shows your commitment and professionalism.

Purpose of Proposal

The purpose of a proposal is to present a plan, idea, project, or solution to a specific audience in a persuasive and compelling manner. Proposals are typically written documents that aim to:

  • Convince and Persuade: The primary purpose of a proposal is to convince the recipient or decision-makers to accept and support the proposed plan or idea. It is important to present a strong case, providing evidence, logical reasoning, and clear benefits to demonstrate why the proposal should be approved.
  • Seek Approval or Funding: Proposals often seek approval or funding for a project, program, research study, business venture, or initiative. The purpose is to secure the necessary resources, whether financial, human, or technical, to implement the proposed endeavor.
  • Solve Problems or Address Opportunities: Proposals are often developed in response to a problem, challenge, or opportunity. The purpose is to provide a well-thought-out solution or approach that effectively addresses the issue or leverages the opportunity for positive outcomes.
  • Present a Comprehensive Plan : Proposals outline a comprehensive plan, including objectives, strategies, methodologies, timelines, budgets, and anticipated outcomes. The purpose is to demonstrate the feasibility, practicality, and potential success of the proposed plan.
  • Inform and Educate: Proposals provide detailed information and analysis to educate the audience about the subject matter. They offer a thorough understanding of the problem or opportunity, the proposed solution, and the potential impact.
  • Establish Credibility: Proposals aim to establish the credibility and expertise of the individual or organization presenting the proposal. They demonstrate the knowledge, experience, qualifications, and track record that make the proposer capable of successfully executing the proposed plan.
  • I nitiate Collaboration or Partnerships: Proposals may serve as a means to initiate collaboration, partnerships, or contractual agreements. They present an opportunity for individuals, organizations, or entities to work together towards a common goal or project.
  • Provide a Basis for Decision-Making: Proposals offer the information and analysis necessary for decision-makers to evaluate the merits and feasibility of the proposed plan. They provide a framework for informed decision-making, allowing stakeholders to assess the risks, benefits, and potential outcomes.

When to write a Proposal

Proposals are typically written in various situations when you need to present a plan, idea, or project to a specific audience. Here are some common scenarios when you may need to write a proposal:

  • Business Opportunities: When you identify a business opportunity, such as a potential client or partnership, you may write a proposal to pitch your products, services, or collaboration ideas.
  • Funding or Grants: If you require financial support for a project, research study, non-profit program, or any initiative, you may need to write a proposal to seek funding from government agencies, foundations, or philanthropic organizations.
  • Project Planning: When you plan to undertake a project, whether it’s a construction project, software development, event organization, or any other endeavor, writing a project proposal helps outline the objectives, deliverables, timelines, and resource requirements.
  • Research Studies: In academic or scientific settings, researchers write research proposals to present their study objectives, research questions, methodology, anticipated outcomes, and potential significance to funding bodies, universities, or research institutions.
  • Business Development: If you’re expanding your business, launching a new product or service, or entering a new market, writing a business proposal helps outline your plans, strategies, market analysis, and financial projections to potential investors or partners.
  • Partnerships and Collaborations: When seeking partnerships, collaborations, or joint ventures with other organizations or individuals, writing a partnership proposal helps communicate the benefits, shared goals, responsibilities, and terms of the proposed partnership.
  • Policy or Advocacy Initiatives: When advocating for a particular cause, addressing public policy issues, or proposing policy changes, writing a policy proposal helps outline the problem, proposed solutions, supporting evidence, and potential impacts.
  • Contract Bidding: If you’re bidding for contracts, whether in government or private sectors, writing a proposal is necessary to present your capabilities, expertise, resources, and pricing to potential clients or procurement departments.
  • Consulting or Service Contracts: If you offer consulting services, professional expertise, or specialized services, writing a proposal helps outline your approach, deliverables, fees, and timeline to potential clients.

Importance of Proposal

Proposals play a significant role in numerous areas and have several important benefits. Here are some key reasons why proposals are important:

  • Communication and Clarity: Proposals serve as a formal means of communication, allowing you to clearly articulate your plan, idea, or project to others. By presenting your proposal in a structured format, you ensure that your message is conveyed effectively, minimizing misunderstandings and confusion.
  • Decision-Making Tool: Proposals provide decision-makers with the necessary information and analysis to make informed choices. They offer a comprehensive overview of the proposal, including objectives, strategies, timelines, budgets, and anticipated outcomes. This enables stakeholders to evaluate the proposal’s feasibility, alignment with goals, and potential return on investment.
  • Accountability and Documentation: Proposals serve as a written record of commitments, responsibilities, and expectations. Once a proposal is approved, it becomes a reference point for all parties involved, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their roles and obligations.
  • Planning and Organization: Writing a proposal requires thorough planning and organization. It compels you to define objectives, outline strategies, consider potential risks, and create a timeline. This process helps you think critically about the proposal, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas that require further refinement.
  • Persuasion and Influence: Proposals are persuasive documents that aim to convince others to support or approve your plan. By presenting a well-constructed proposal, supported by evidence, logical reasoning, and benefits, you enhance your ability to influence decision-makers and stakeholders.
  • Resource Allocation and Funding: Many proposals are written to secure resources, whether financial, human, or technical. A compelling proposal can increase the likelihood of obtaining funding, grants, or other resources needed to execute a project or initiative successfully.
  • Partnership and Collaboration Opportunities: Proposals enable you to seek partnerships, collaborations, or joint ventures with other organizations or individuals. By presenting a clear proposal that outlines the benefits, shared goals, responsibilities, and terms, you increase the likelihood of forming mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Professionalism and Credibility: A well-written proposal demonstrates professionalism, expertise, and credibility. It showcases your ability to analyze complex issues, develop effective strategies, and present ideas in a concise and persuasive manner. This can enhance your reputation and increase trust among stakeholders.
  • Continual Improvement: The process of writing proposals encourages you to refine your ideas, explore alternatives, and seek feedback. It provides an opportunity for reflection and refinement, ultimately leading to continuous improvement in your plans and approaches.

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Research Proposal (With Examples)

    Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research before you put pen to paper. Your research proposal should include (at least) 5 essential components : Title - provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms. Introduction - explains what you'll be researching in more detail.

  2. 8 Research Proposal Examples & Template to Use

    A well-structured research proposal includes a title page, abstract and table of contents, introduction, literature review, research design and methodology, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, timeline and budget. Visme's research proposal examples and templates offer a great starting point for creating engaging and well-structured ...

  3. How to write a research proposal

    Look for any research gaps, trends and patterns, common themes, debates, and contradictions. Consider any seminal studies on the topic area as it is likely anticipated that you will address these in your research proposal. 4. Research Design. This is where you get down to the real meat of your research proposal.

  4. How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

    Writing a research proposal template in structured steps ensures a comprehensive and coherent presentation of your research project. Let's look at the explanation for each of the steps here: Step 1: Title and Abstract. Step 2: Introduction. Step 3: Research objectives. Step 4: Literature review.

  5. How to write a good research proposal (in 9 steps)

    Conduct a literature review for your research proposal. 4. Define a research gap and research question. 5. Establish a theoretical framework for your research proposal. 6. Specify an empirical focus for your research proposal. 7. Emphasise the scientific and societal relevance of your research proposal.

  6. Research Proposal: A step-by-step guide with template

    A dissertation or thesis research proposal may take on a variety of forms depending on the university, but most generally a research proposal will include the following elements: Titles or title pages that give a description of the research. Detailed explanation of the proposed research and its background. Outline of the research project.

  7. How to Write a Successful Research Proposal

    Are you writing a research proposal to get funding or approval for your project? In this video, you'll learn the four aims of a research proposal, and how to...

  8. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: 'A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management'.

  9. Research Proposal

    Write the proposal sections: A. Introduction: Provide background information on the research problem, highlight its significance, and introduce your research objectives and questions. B. Literature review: Summarize relevant literature, identify gaps, and justify the need for your proposed research.

  10. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Hannah Skaggs. Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content. Write a research proposal with purpose and accuracy. Learn about the objective, parts, and key elements of a research proposal in ...

  11. 11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

    Key Takeaways. Developing a research proposal involves the following preliminary steps: identifying potential ideas, choosing ideas to explore further, choosing and narrowing a topic, formulating a research question, and developing a working thesis. A good topic for a research paper interests the writer and fulfills the requirements of the ...

  12. How To Write A Proposal

    1. Title Page: Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization's name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines. 2. Executive Summary: Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.

  13. Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

    Abstract: This is a brief (300-500 words) summary that includes the research question, your rationale for the study, and any applicable hypothesis. You should also include a brief description of your methodology, including procedures, samples, instruments, etc. Introduction: The opening paragraph of your research proposal is, perhaps, the most ...

  14. PDF Research Proposal Format Example

    1. Research Proposal Format Example. Following is a general outline of the material that should be included in your project proposal. I. Title Page II. Introduction and Literature Review (Chapters 2 and 3) A. Identification of specific problem area (e.g., what is it, why it is important). B. Prevalence, scope of problem.

  15. PDF Introduction to Writing Research Proposals

    students applying for summer fellowships and research internships might be asked to write. Project Summary In many ways, the Project Summary is the most important part of any research proposal. The Project Summary has the longest shelf-life of any submitted report/proposal; in fact, the funding agencies will

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    Research and Gather Information: Conduct thorough research on the topic or project you are proposing. Collect relevant data, statistics, case studies, and any supporting evidence that strengthens your proposal. ... Research Studies: In academic or scientific settings, researchers write research proposals to present their study objectives ...

  18. A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

    Step 1: Choose your topic. First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you're interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you've taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose.

  19. 50 Best Ideas For Research Proposal Topics in Education

    Educational Technology. Virtual Reality in Education: Prospects and Limitations. The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Personalized Learning. Gamification in Education: Engagement and Learning Outcomes. Mobile Learning Apps and Student Performance. The Impact of Social Media on Learning and Socialization.

  20. AI Research Proposal Generator

    A research proposal is a systematic and concise synopsis of proposed research. Encompassing the key information, it serves as a roadmap to the principal components of the study. ... Easy to Use: Regardless of your experience or familiarity with proposal writing, a generator is intuitive and easy to use, thereby making it accessible to a broad ...

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