English wRIting Consultant (ERIC)
How to write a research proposal
Last updated: 2021/3/22
What is a research proposal?
- A research proposal aims to accomplish two objectives. Convince readers (usually a thesis committee) that:
- your proposed research project is worthwhile.
- you do possess the skills and work-plan to complete the proposed research project
Therefore, a research proposal should contain important elements of the research process and provide sufficient information that allows evaluation of the proposed project.
Simply put, the research proposal should answer those questions: What you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it.
Depending on where you are submitting your research proposal, there may or may not be a template provided. In the case where a template is provided, make sure to follow it over the contents of this blog.
Try to be concise and descriptive. A good title makes readers curious about your proposal while also giving a good impression from the start.
A brief summary of the research proposal, usually around 300 words. It should provide the context, the problematic, the hypothesis, the methods and the main (expected) findings. The goal here is to provide readers with an overview of the research proposal.
The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the necessary background or context for your research problem. Show readers that there is a major issue that needs to be tackled and that your research will solve it. Clearly, state the objectives of the proposed research and the challenges that need to be overcome.
Literature Review/Related works:
Here you need to show readers that you have knowledge on the topic of your research proposal. You need to research and cite relevant papers. Make sure you are not missing major and/or recent papers. You also need to point out limitations and issues of each of them in relation to your research, i.e. why those methods do not work satisfyingly in this case and therefore your research is needed.
Here is another section where your skills as a researcher need to be demonstrated. Present methods and procedures you plan to use in order to achieve the previously mentioned objectives. Try to be as concrete as you can: some say that a good research proposal should provide enough information so that to allow another researcher to implement the project. It can also be a good idea to provide alternative methods, this shows that you are prepared and you have backup plans. Putting figures such as flowcharts is a good idea in order to avoid submitting a boring wall of text.
Since this is a research proposal, results are not expected. However, you should have some ideas/expectations about what kind of results you will get. Provide readers here elements on how you plan to analyze results and how you will put them in perspective against your initial hypothesis.
It is important to show readers that you have motivation: state here the merits of your research proposal (without going overboard). It is a good idea to mention potential limitations and weaknesses as well in order not to sound too over-confident and unrealistic.
Ensure that the bibliography style is uniform, do not entirely trust automated bibliography generators such as BibTeX or EndNote!