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Chapter 14: The Research Proposal

14.3 Components of a Research Proposal

Krathwohl (2005) suggests and describes a variety of components to include in a research proposal. The following sections – Introductions, Background and significance, Literature Review; Research design and methods, Preliminary suppositions and implications; and Conclusion present these components in a suggested template for you to follow in the preparation of your research proposal.


The introduction sets the tone for what follows in your research proposal – treat it as the initial pitch of your idea. After reading the introduction your reader should:

  • understand what it is you want to do;
  • have a sense of your passion for the topic; and
  • be excited about the study’s possible outcomes.

As you begin writing your research proposal, it is helpful to think of the introduction as a narrative of what it is you want to do, written in one to three paragraphs. Within those one to three paragraphs, it is important to briefly answer the following questions:

  • What is the central research problem?
  • How is the topic of your research proposal related to the problem?
  • What methods will you utilize to analyze the research problem?
  • Why is it important to undertake this research? What is the significance of your proposed research? Why are the outcomes of your proposed research important? Whom are they important?

Note : You may be asked by your instructor to include an abstract with your research proposal. In such cases, an abstract should provide an overview of what it is you plan to study, your main research question, a brief explanation of your methods to answer the research question, and your expected findings. All of this information must be carefully crafted in 150 to 250 words. A word of advice is to save the writing of your abstract until the very end of your research proposal preparation. If you are asked to provide an abstract, you should include 5 to 7 key words that are of most relevance to your study. List these in order of relevance.

Background and significance

The purpose of this section is to explain the context of your proposal and to describe, in detail, why it is important to undertake this research. Assume that the person or people who will read your research proposal know nothing or very little about the research problem. While you do not need to include all knowledge you have learned about your topic in this section, it is important to ensure that you include the most relevant material that will help to explain the goals of your research.

While there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to address some or all of the following key points:

  • State the research problem and provide a more thorough explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction.
  • Present the rationale for the proposed research study. Clearly indicate why this research is worth doing. Answer the “so what?” question.
  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. Do not forget to explain how and in what ways your proposed research builds upon previous related research.
  • Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research.
  • Clearly identify the key or most relevant sources of research you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Set the boundaries of your proposed research, in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you will study, but what will be excluded from your study.
  • Provide clear definitions of key concepts and terms. Since key concepts and terms often have numerous definitions, make sure you state which definition you will be utilizing in your research.

Literature review

This key component of the research proposal is the most time-consuming aspect in the preparation of your research proposal. As described in Chapter 5 , the literature review provides the background to your study and demonstrates the significance of the proposed research. Specifically, it is a review and synthesis of prior research that is related to the problem you are setting forth to investigate. Essentially, your goal in the literature review is to place your research study within the larger whole of what has been studied in the past, while demonstrating to your reader that your work is original, innovative, and adds to the larger whole.

As the literature review is information dense, it is essential that this section be intelligently structured to enable your reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your study. However, this can be easier to state and harder to do, simply due to the fact there is usually a plethora of related research to sift through. Consequently, a good strategy for writing the literature review is to break the literature into conceptual categories or themes, rather than attempting to describe various groups of literature you reviewed. Chapter 5   describes a variety of methods to help you organize the themes.

Here are some suggestions on how to approach the writing of your literature review:

  • Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they used, what they found, and what they recommended based upon their findings.
  • Do not be afraid to challenge previous related research findings and/or conclusions.
  • Assess what you believe to be missing from previous research and explain how your research fills in this gap and/or extends previous research.

It is important to note that a significant challenge related to undertaking a literature review is knowing when to stop. As such, it is important to know when you have uncovered the key conceptual categories underlying your research topic. Generally, when you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations, you can have confidence that you have covered all of the significant conceptual categories in your literature review. However, it is also important to acknowledge that researchers often find themselves returning to the literature as they collect and analyze their data. For example, an unexpected finding may develop as you collect and/or analyze the data; in this case, it is important to take the time to step back and review the literature again, to ensure that no other researchers have found a similar finding. This may include looking to research outside your field.

This situation occurred with one of this textbook’s authors’ research related to community resilience. During the interviews, the researchers heard many participants discuss individual resilience factors and how they believed these individual factors helped make the community more resilient, overall. Sheppard and Williams (2016) had not discovered these individual factors in their original literature review on community and environmental resilience. However, when they returned to the literature to search for individual resilience factors, they discovered a small body of literature in the child and youth psychology field. Consequently, Sheppard and Williams had to go back and add a new section to their literature review on individual resilience factors. Interestingly, their research appeared to be the first research to link individual resilience factors with community resilience factors.

Research design and methods

The objective of this section of the research proposal is to convince the reader that your overall research design and methods of analysis will enable you to solve the research problem you have identified and also enable you to accurately and effectively interpret the results of your research. Consequently, it is critical that the research design and methods section is well-written, clear, and logically organized. This demonstrates to your reader that you know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Overall, you want to leave your reader feeling confident that you have what it takes to get this research study completed in a timely fashion.

Essentially, this section of the research proposal should be clearly tied to the specific objectives of your study; however, it is also important to draw upon and include examples from the literature review that relate to your design and intended methods. In other words, you must clearly demonstrate how your study utilizes and builds upon past studies, as it relates to the research design and intended methods. For example, what methods have been used by other researchers in similar studies?

While it is important to consider the methods that other researchers have employed, it is equally, if not more, important to consider what methods have not been but could be employed. Remember, the methods section is not simply a list of tasks to be undertaken. It is also an argument as to why and how the tasks you have outlined will help you investigate the research problem and answer your research question(s).

Tips for writing the research design and methods section:

Specify the methodological approaches you intend to employ to obtain information and the techniques you will use to analyze the data.

Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of those operations in relation to the research problem.

Go beyond stating what you hope to achieve through the methods you have chosen. State how you will actually implement the methods (i.e., coding interview text, running regression analysis, etc.).

Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers you may encounter when undertaking your research, and describe how you will address these barriers.

Explain where you believe you will find challenges related to data collection, including access to participants and information.

Preliminary suppositions and implications

The purpose of this section is to argue how you anticipate that your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the area of your study. Depending upon the aims and objectives of your study, you should also discuss how your anticipated findings may impact future research. For example, is it possible that your research may lead to a new policy, theoretical understanding, or method for analyzing data? How might your study influence future studies? What might your study mean for future practitioners working in the field? Who or what might benefit from your study? How might your study contribute to social, economic or environmental issues? While it is important to think about and discuss possibilities such as these, it is equally important to be realistic in stating your anticipated findings. In other words, you do not want to delve into idle speculation. Rather, the purpose here is to reflect upon gaps in the current body of literature and to describe how you anticipate your research will begin to fill in some or all of those gaps.

The conclusion reiterates the importance and significance of your research proposal, and provides a brief summary of the entire proposed study. Essentially, this section should only be one or two paragraphs in length. Here is a potential outline for your conclusion:

Discuss why the study should be done. Specifically discuss how you expect your study will advance existing knowledge and how your study is unique.

Explain the specific purpose of the study and the research questions that the study will answer.

Explain why the research design and methods chosen for this study are appropriate, and why other designs and methods were not chosen.

State the potential implications you expect to emerge from your proposed study,

Provide a sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship currently in existence, related to the research problem.

Citations and references

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your research proposal. In a research proposal, this can take two forms: a reference list or a bibliography. A reference list lists the literature you referenced in the body of your research proposal. All references in the reference list must appear in the body of the research proposal. Remember, it is not acceptable to say “as cited in …” As a researcher you must always go to the original source and check it for yourself. Many errors are made in referencing, even by top researchers, and so it is important not to perpetuate an error made by someone else. While this can be time consuming, it is the proper way to undertake a literature review.

In contrast, a bibliography , is a list of everything you used or cited in your research proposal, with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem. In other words, sources cited in your bibliography may not necessarily appear in the body of your research proposal. Make sure you check with your instructor to see which of the two you are expected to produce.

Overall, your list of citations should be a testament to the fact that you have done a sufficient level of preliminary research to ensure that your project will complement, but not duplicate, previous research efforts. For social sciences, the reference list or bibliography should be prepared in American Psychological Association (APA) referencing format. Usually, the reference list (or bibliography) is not included in the word count of the research proposal. Again, make sure you check with your instructor to confirm.

Research Methods for the Social Sciences: An Introduction Copyright © 2020 by Valerie Sheppard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Components of a research proposal.

In general, the proposal components include:

Introduction: Provides reader with a broad overview of problem in context.

Statement of problem: Answers the question, “What research problem are you going to investigate?”

Literature review: Shows how your approach builds on existing research; helps you identify methodological and design issues in studies similar to your own; introduces you to measurement tools others have used effectively; helps you interpret findings; and ties results of your work to those who’ve preceded you.

Research design and methods: Describes how you’ll go about answering your research questions and confirming your hypothesis(es). Lists the hypothesis(es) to be tested, or states research question you’ll ask to seek a solution to your research problem. Include as much detail as possible: measurement instruments and procedures, subjects and sample size.

The research design is what you’ll also need to submit for approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) if your research involves human or animal subjects, respectively.

Timeline: Breaks your project into small, easily doable steps via backwards calendar.


Write a Research Proposal

Structure and content, introduction (to topic and problem), research question (or hypothesis, thesis statement, aim), proposed methodology, anticipated findings, contributions - impact and significance, tables and figures (if applicable).

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The structure and content of a research proposal can vary depending upon the discipline, purpose, and target audience. For example, a graduate thesis proposal and a Tri-Council grant proposal will have different guidelines for length and required sections.

Before you begin writing, be sure to talk with your supervisor to gain a clear understanding of their specific expectations, and continually check in with them throughout the writing process.

  • Organizing your Research Proposal - Template This 6-page fillable pdf handout provides writers with a template to begin outlining sections of their own research proposal.

This template can be used in conjunction with the sections below.

What are some keywords for your research?

  • Should give a clear indication of your proposed research approach or key question
  • Should be concise and descriptive

Writing Tip: When constructing your title, think about the search terms you would use to find this research online.

Important: Write this section last, after you have completed drafting the proposal. Or if you are required to draft a preliminary abstract, then remember to rewrite the abstract after you have completed drafting the entire proposal because some information may need to be revised.

The abstract should provide a brief overview of the entire proposal. Briefly state the research question (or hypothesis, thesis statement, aim), the problem and rationale, the proposed methods, and the proposed analyses or expected results.

The purpose of the introduction is to communicate the information that is essential for the reader to understand the overall area of concern. Be explicit. Outline why this research must be conducted and try to do so without unnecessary jargon or overwhelming detail.

Start with a short statement that establishes the overall area of concern. Avoid too much detail. Get to the point. Communicate only information essential for the reader’s comprehension. Avoid unnecessary technical language and jargon. Answer the question, "What is this study about?"

Questions to consider:

  • What is your topic area, and what is the problem within that topic?
  • What does the relevant literature say about the problem? – Be selective and focused.
  • What are the critical, theoretical, or methodological issues directly related to the problem to be investigated?
  • What are the reasons for undertaking the research? – This is the answer to the "so what?" question.

The following sections - listed as part of the introduction - are intended as a guide for drafting a research proposal. Most introductions include these following components. However, be sure to clarify with your advisor or carefully review the grant guidelines to be sure to comply with the proposal genre expectations of your specific discipline.

Broad topic and focus of study

  • Briefly describe the broad topic of your research area, and then clearly explain the narrowed focus of your specific study.

Importance of topic/field of study

  • Position your project in a current important research area.
  • Address the “So what?” question directly, and as soon as possible.
  • Provide context for the reader to understand the problem you are about to pose or research question you are asking.

Problem within field of study

  • Identify the problem that you are investigating in your study.

Gap(s) in knowledge

  • Identify something missing from the literature.
  • What is unknown in this specific research area? This is what your study will explore and where you will attempt to provide new insights.
  • Is there a reason this gap exists? Where does the current literature agree and where does it disagree? How you fill this gap (at least partially) with your research?
  • Convince your reader that the problem has been appropriately defined and that the study is worth doing. Be explicit and detailed.
  • Develop your argument logically and provide evidence.
  • Explain why you are the person to do this project. Summarize any previous work or studies you may have undertaken in this field or research area.

Research question or hypothesis

  • Foreshadow outcomes of your research. What is the question you are hoping to answer? What are the specific hypotheses to be tested and/or issues to be explored?
  • Use questions when research is exploratory.
  • Use declarative statements when existing knowledge enables predictions.
  • List any secondary or subsidiary questions if applicable.

Purpose statement

  • State the purpose of your research. Be succinct and simple.
  • Why do you want to do this study?
  • What is your research trying to find out?

Goals for proposed research

  • Write a brief, broad statement of what you hope to accomplish and why (e.g., Improve something… Understand something… ). Are there specific measurable outcomes that you will accomplish in your study? 
  • You will have a chance to go into greater detail in the research question and methodology sections.

Background or context (or literature review)

  • What does the existing research on this topic say?
  • Briefly state what you already know and introduce literature most relevant to your research.
  • Indicate main research findings, methodologies, and interpretations from previous related studies.
  • Discuss how your question or hypothesis relates to what is already known.
  • Position your research within the field’s developing body of knowledge.
  • Explain and support your choice of methodology or theoretical framework.

The research question is the question you are hoping to answer in your research project. It is important to know how you should write your research question into your proposal. Some proposals include

  • a research question, written as a question
  • or, a hypothesis as a potential response to the research question
  • or, a thesis statement as an argument that answers the research question
  • or, aims and objects as accomplishment or operational statements

Foreshadow the outcomes of your research. Are you trying to improve something? Understand something? Advocate for a social responsibility?

Research question

What is the question you are hoping to answer?

Subsidiary questions (if applicable)

  • Does your major research question hinge on a few smaller questions? Which will you address first?

Your hypothesis should provide one (of many) possible answers to your research question.

  • What are the specific hypotheses to be tested and/or issues to be explored?
  • What results do you anticipate for this experiment?

Usually a hypothesis is written to show the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Your hypothesis must be

  • An expected relationship between variables
  • Falsifiable
  • Consistent with the existing body of knowledge

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement is a clear, concise statement of what you are arguing and why it is important. For more support on writing thesis statements, check out these following resources:

  • 5 Types of Thesis Statements - Learn about five different types of thesis statements to help you choose the best type for your research.
  • Templates for Writing Thesis Statements - This template provides a two-step guide for writing thesis statements.
  • 5 Questions to Strengthen Your Thesis Statement - Follow these five steps to strengthen your thesis statements.

Aims and objectives

Aims are typically broader statements of what you are trying to accomplish and may or may not be measurable. Objectives are operational statements indicating specifically how you will accomplish the aims of your project.

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How are you going to address the research question?

Be specific and make sure your aims or objectives are realistic. You want to convey that it is feasible to answer this question with the objectives you have proposed.

Make it clear that you know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it will work by relating your methodology to previous research. If there isn’t much literature on the topic, you can relate your methodology to your own preliminary research or point out how your methodology tackles something that may have been overlooked in previous studies.

Explain how you will conduct this research. Specify scope and parameters (e.g., geographic locations, demographics). Limit your inclusion of literature to only essential articles and studies.

  • How will these methods produce an answer to your research question?
  • How do the methods relate to the introduction and literature review?
  • Have you done any previous work (or read any literature) that would inform your choices about methodology?
  • Are your methods feasible and adequate? How do you know?
  • What obstacles might you encounter in conducting the research, and how will you overcome them?

This section should include the following components that are relevant to your study and research methodologies:

Object(s) of study / participants / population

Provide detail about your objects of study (e.g., literary texts, swine, government policies, children, health care systems).

  • Who/what are they?
  • How will you find, select, or collect them?
  • How feasible is it to find/select them?
  • Are there any limitations to sample/data collection?
  • Do you need to travel to collect samples or visit archives, etc.?
  • Do you need to obtain Research Ethics Board (REB) approval to include human participants?

Theoretical frame or critical methodology

  • Explain the theories or disciplinary methodologies that your research draws from or builds upon.

Materials and apparatus

  • What are your survey or interview methods? (You may include a copy of questionnaires, etc.)
  • Do you require any special equipment?
  • How do you plan to purchase or construct or obtain this equipment?

Procedure and design

What exactly will you do? Include variables selected or manipulated, randomization, controls, the definition of coding categories, etc.

  • Is it a questionnaire? Laboratory experiment? Series of interviews? Systematic review? Interpretative analysis?
  • How will subjects be assigned to experimental conditions?
  • What precautions will be used to control possible confounding variables?
  • How long do you expect to spend on each step, and do you have a backup plan?

Data analysis and statistical procedures

  • How do you plan to statistically analyze your data?
  • What analyses will you conduct?
  • How will the analyses contribute to the objectives?

What are the expected outcomes from your methods? Describe your expected results in relation to your hypothesis. Support these results using existing literature.

  • What results would prove or disprove your hypotheses and validate your methodology, and why?
  • What obstacles might you encounter in obtaining your results, and how will you deal with those obstacles?
  • How will you analyze and interpret your results?

This section may be the most important part of your proposal. Make sure to emphasize how this research is significant to the related field, and how it will impact the broader community, now and in the future.

Convince your reader why this project should be funded above the other potential projects. Why is this research useful and relevant? Why is it useful to others? Answer the question “so what?”

Specific contributions

  • How will your anticipated results specifically contribute to fulfilling the aims, objectives, or goals of your research?
  • Will these be direct or indirect contributions? – theoretical or applied?
  • How will your research contribute to the larger topic area or research discipline?

Impact and significance

  • How will your research contribute to the research field of study?
  • How will your research contribute to the larger topic addressed in your introduction?
  • How will this research extend other work that you have done?
  • How will this contribution/significance convince the reader that this research will be useful and relevant?
  • Who else might find your research useful and relevant? (e.g., other research streams, policy makers, professional fields, etc.)

Provide a list of some of the most important sources that you will need to use for the introduction and background sections, plus your literature review and theoretical framework. 

What are some of the most important sources that you will need to use for the intro/background/lit review/theoretical framework? 

  • Find out what style guide you are required to follow (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  • Follow the guidelines in our Cite Your Sources  Libguide to format citations and create a reference list or bibliography.

Attach this list to your proposal as a separate page unless otherwise specified.

This section should include only visuals that help illustrate the preliminary results, methods, or expected results.

  • What visuals will you use to help illustrate the methods or expected results?
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How to write a Research Proposal: Components of a research proposal

Components of a research proposal.

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

1. The title

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

3. The background

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

5. Objectives of the research

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

7. Literature review

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

8. Limitations and delimitations of the study

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

10. Work plan

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

11. Bibliography

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

Click here for more information on the various reference styles.

2. Introduction to the research

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

4. The research questions

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

6. Research methodology / research methods

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

State clearly

  • how the research will be conducted in terms of the theoretical resources that will be used
  • the theoretical framework for conducting the research, which is the theoretical approach drawn from your literature review to support your research study
  • proposed research method(s)
  • a comparison of the advantages, limitations and suitability of the available approaches and methods for conducting your research
  • participants, instruments, procedure, analysis, etc.

Research design

Selecting the approach to use

Research approach

Research design and methodology

Importance of research

Attributes of a good research scholar

Summary of different research methodologies

9. Significance of the research

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

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

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2019, IJRAS

A research proposal is a pre-written document which gives an overview of the research tactics. It gives a general idea of the objectives to be achieved and the ways and means to achieve it. Writing research proposal is however a challenging feat. Due to lack of clear guidance from any source, there are many substandard research proposals which are placed before evaluation committee. The researcher came across various people who had no clear understanding of the process and structure of research proposal or research design. This problem has led the researcher to develop a framework to guide the prospective researchers in framing their research design based on the following research questions.1) what is the procedure of writing the research proposal 2) what are the components of the research proposal.So, to give a clear picture about the problem the paper is divided into two parts I) Procedure of writing the research proposal II) Components of the research proposal. The procedure for writing the research proposal is discussed with regards to: 1) Identifying the problem 2) Deciding on the topic 3) Deciding the locale of study 4) Deciding on the data needs 5) Planning the source of data collection 6) Plotting down ways to collect data 7) Identifying methods for analyzing data collection 8) Establishing a basis for designing the Proposal. While the components of research proposal are discussed with regards to : 1) Cover page 2) Abstract 3) Keywords 4) Introduction 5) Review of literature 6) Statement of problem 7) Objectives of the study 8) Hypothesis of the study 9) Period of study 10) Methodology 11) Data analysis 12) Limitation of the study 13) Chapter framework 14) References 15) Appendices.

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A research proposal is a document written by a researcher which is a concise and coherent summary that provides a detailed description of the proposed program. Researcher has to follow a few basic steps in Research process where development of a research proposal is an important step and rst step. The goal of research proposal development persuades reader to believe the solution are appropriate, reasonable logic, practicable. Purpose of proposal is to to educate and convince the reader. Characteristics include length between ten and forty pages , following specic instructions and criteria for structuring, written in future tense and phrases similar with scientic articles .Research proposal has components that include Front matter comprising title Page, project Summary , Components of Proposal includes introduction , body, project proposal with statement of the Problem, proposed solution , program of Implementation, conclusions / recommendations , Back matter with bibliography , w...

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Writing a research proposal for an early career researcher is one of the toughest part of research work. A research proposal is a blueprint to conduct research work and a well-structured proposal provides smooth functioning for the proposed research. Generally, young researchers face various types of problem in structuring a good research proposal in absence of proper guidelines, steps and strategies. This paper aims to provide a general guideline to the students and researchers to develop a wellstructured research proposal for the purpose of PhD/dissertation/research projects, etc. The concept and significance of a research proposal, how to start research work, the process of producing and appropriate sections for a good research proposal has been discussed in great detail.

A research proposal is a written document specifying what a researcher intends to study and written before beginning the research which communicate research problem and proposed methods of solving it. A research proposal should be built on a concrete plan to conduct academic or scientific research. Types of proposals include internal, external, solicited, unsolicited, preproposals, continuation or non-competing and renewal or competing. Purpose of a Research Proposal is to convince the organization and readers .Characteristics need to be based on attention, interest, desire and action. Qualities of good proposal include specific scope, realistic nature, appropriate credentials, fulfill needs, beneficial, short and simple. Need for good preparation of proposal is vital in formulating proposal, assisting researcher and improving the research quality. Functions of Proposal consists to synthesize critical thinking, clarifies own thinking, refine proposed research, communicate ideas, open thinking and negotiation between researcher and involved parties. Basic composition of Proposal needs a beginning, middle and an end. Typical proposal format includes title, abstract, introduction, background, preliminary studies, research methodology, budget, curriculum vitae for principal investigators, appendix and human subjects. Proposal development strategies and writing tips includes use of outline , listings, visuals, forecasting , internal summaries , significant issues , sequencing components , review , edit , proof read , avoiding overkill point and errors. Proposals are turned down when problems are trivial, complex, nebulous, diffuse without clear aim, lack of sufficient evidence, imagination and originality.

Langley, BC: Trinity Western University. …

Paul T P Wong

A research proposal is a document written by a researcher which is a concise and coherent summary that provides a detailed description of the proposed program. Researcher has to follow a few basic steps in Research process where development of a research proposal is an important step and rst step. The goal of research proposal development persuades reader to believe the solution are appropriate, reasonable logic, practicable. Purpose of proposal is to to educate and convince the reader. Characteristics include length between ten and forty pages , following specic instructions and criteria for structuring, written in future tense and phrases similar with scientic articles .Research proposal has components that include Front matter comprising title Page, project Summary , Components of Proposal includes introduction , body, project proposal with statement of the Problem, proposed solution , program of Implementation, conclusions / recommendations , Back matter with bibliography , works Cited , qualications of writer and project implementers. budget , Appendices comprising format, cover page, title page, Lastly Summary brieng entire proposal. Academic research proposals need to convince the reader for its acceptance , if it is able to convince the reader about the ability of the Researcher and team in an organization to do the proposed work and how well it has been planned.

S M Mukarram Jahan

A research proposal is a serious statement that addresses a researcher’s intent to conduct a study on a phenomenon and a plan about how to perform the research. Students usually undertake research under the guidance of a supervisor from faculty in tandem with assistance and supervision of other faculty members. Thus, the proposal should be a clear statement of intent that aims at elucidating the plan of research to make it feasible and acceptable for all parties concerned. The most essential characteristic of a research proposal is that it should be sufficient to present the researcher’s idea or question and expected outcomes with clarity and definition (the what). It should also make a case for the reason the researcher’s focus of study is significant and the value that it will bring to the discipline under study (the why).

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This article considers the main stages of the research process and explores the complexities involved in carrying out research.


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Pfeiffer Library

Writing a Research Proposal

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

  • Structure of a Research Proposal
  • Common Proposal Writing Mistakes
  • Proposal Writing Resources

A research proposal's purpose is to capture the evaluator's attention, demonstrate the study's potential benefits, and prove that it is a logical and consistent approach (Van Ekelenburg, 2010).  To ensure that your research proposal contains these elements, there are several aspects to include in your proposal (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Objective(s)
  • Variables (independent and dependent)
  • Research Question and/or hypothesis

Details about what to include in each element are included in the boxes below.  Depending on the topic of your study, some parts may not apply to your proposal.  You can also watch the video below for a brief overview about writing a successful research proposal.

Van Ekelenburg (2010) uses the PROSANA Model to guide researchers in developing rationale and justification for their research projects.  It is an acronym that connects the problem, solution, and benefits of a particular research project.  It is an easy way to remember the critical parts of a research proposal and how they relate to one another.  It includes the following letters (Van Ekelenburg, 2010):

  • Problem: Describing the main problem that the researcher is trying to solve.
  • Root causes: Describing what is causing the problem.  Why is the topic an issue?
  • fOcus: Narrowing down one of the underlying causes on which the researcher will focus for their research project.
  • Solutions: Listing potential solutions or approaches to fix to the problem.  There could be more than one.
  • Approach: Selecting the solution that the researcher will want to focus on.
  • Novelty: Describing how the solution will address or solve the problem.
  • Arguments: Explaining how the proposed solution will benefit the problem.

Research proposal titles should be concise and to the point, but informative.  The title of your proposal may be different from the title of your final research project, but that is completely normal!  Your findings may help you come up with a title that is more fitting for the final project.  Characteristics of good proposal titles are (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Catchy: It catches the reader's attention by peaking their interest.
  • Positive: It spins your project in a positive way towards the reader.
  • Transparent: It identifies the independent and dependent variables.

It is also common for proposal titles to be very similar to your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement (Locke et al., 2007).

An abstract is a brief summary (about 300 words) of the study you are proposing.  It includes the following elements (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • Your primary research question(s).
  • Hypothesis or main argument.
  • Method you will use to complete the study.  This may include the design, sample population, or measuring instruments that you plan to use.

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

  • Writing a Summary by Luann Edwards Last Updated May 22, 2023 1119 views this year

The purpose of the introduction is to give readers background information about your topic.  it gives the readers a basic understanding of your topic so that they can further understand the significance of your proposal.  A good introduction will explain (Al-Riyami, 2008):

  • How it relates to other research done on the topic
  • Why your research is significant to the field
  • The relevance of your study

Your research objectives are the desired outcomes that you will achieve from the research project.  Depending on your research design, these may be generic or very specific.  You may also have more than one objective (Al-Riyami, 2008).

  • General objectives are what the research project will accomplish
  • Specific objectives relate to the research questions that the researcher aims to answer through the study.

Be careful not to have too many objectives in your proposal, as having too many can make your project lose focus.  Plus, it may not be possible to achieve several objectives in one study.

This section describes the different types of variables that you plan to have in your study and how you will measure them.  According to Al-Riyami (2008), there are four types of research variables:

  • Independent:  The person, object, or idea that is manipulated by the researcher.
  • Dependent:  The person, object, or idea whose changes are dependent upon the independent variable.  Typically, it is the item that the researcher is measuring for the study.
  • Confounding/Intervening:  Factors that may influence the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.  These include physical and mental barriers.  Not every study will have intervening variables, but they should be studied if applicable.
  • Background:   Factors that are relevant to the study's data and how it can be generalized.  Examples include demographic information such as age, sex, and ethnicity.

Your research proposal should describe each of your variables and how they relate to one another.  Depending on your study, you may not have all four types of variables present.  However, there will always be an independent and dependent variable.

A research question is the main piece of your research project because it explains what your study will discover to the reader.  It is the question that fuels the study, so it is important for it to be precise and unique.  You do not want it to be too broad, and it should identify a relationship between two variables (an independent and a dependent) (Al-Riyami, 2008).  There are six types of research questions (Academic Writer, n.d.):

  • Example: "Do people get nervous before speaking in front of an audience?"
  • Example: "What are the study habits of college freshmen at Tiffin University?"
  • Example: "What primary traits create a successful romantic relationship?"
  • Example: "Is there a relationship between a child's performance in school and their parents' socioeconomic status?"
  • Example: "Are high school seniors more motivated than high school freshmen?"
  • Example: "Do news media outlets impact a person's political opinions?"

For more information on the different types of research questions, you can view the "Research Questions and Hypotheses" tutorial on Academic Writer, located below.  If you are unfamiliar with Academic Writer, we also have a tutorial on using the database located below.

TU Access Only

Compose papers in pre-formatted APA templates. Manage references in forms that help craft APA citations. Learn the rules of APA style through tutorials and practice quizzes.

Academic Writer will continue to use the 6th edition guidelines until August 2020. A preview of the 7th edition is available in the footer of the resource's site. Previously known as APA Style Central.

  • Academic Writer Tutorial by Pfeiffer Library Last Updated May 22, 2023 15600 views this year

If you know enough about your research topic that you believe a particular outcome may occur as a result of the study, you can include a hypothesis (thesis statement) in your proposal.  A hypothesis is a prediction that you believe will be the outcome of your study.  It explains what you think the relationship will be between the independent and dependent variable (Al-Riyami, 2008).  It is ok if the hypothesis in your proposal turns out to be incorrect, because it is only a prediction!  If you are writing a proposal in the humanities, you may be writing a thesis statement instead of a hypothesis.  A thesis presents the main argument of your research project and leads to corresponding evidence to support your argument.

Hypotheses vs. Theories

Hypotheses are different from theories in that theories represent general principles and sets of rules that explain different phenomena.  They typically represent large areas of study because they are applicable to anything in a particular field.  Hypotheses focus on specific areas within a field and are educated guesses, meaning that they have the potential to be proven wrong (Academic Writer, n.d.).  Because of this, hypotheses can also be formed from theories.

For more information on writing effective thesis statements, you can view our guide on writing thesis statements below.

  • Writing Effective Thesis Statements by Luann Edwards Last Updated May 23, 2023 226 views this year

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

  • Research design:  What research approach will your study take?  Will it be quantitative or qualitative?
  • Research subjects/participants:  Who will be participating in your study?  Does your study require human participants?  How will you determine who to study?
  • Sample size:  How many participants will your study require?  If you are not using human participants, how much of the sample will you be studying?
  • Timeline:  A proposed list of the general tasks and events that you plan to complete the study.  This will include a time frame for each task/event and the order in which they will be completed.
  • Interventions:  If you plan on using anything on human participants for the study, you must include information it here.  This is especially important if you plan on using any substances on human subjects.
  • Ethical issues:  Are there any potential ethical issues surrounding this study?
  • Potential limitations:  Are there any limitations that could skew the data and findings from your study?
  • Appendixes:  If you need to present any consent forms, interview questions, surveys, questionnaires, or other items that will be used in your study, you should include samples of each item with an appendix to reference them.  If you are using a copyrighted document, you may need written permission from the original creator to use it in your study.  A copy of the written permission should be included in your proposal.
  • Setting:  Where will you be conducting the study?
  • Study instruments:  What measuring tools or computer software will you be using to collect data?  How will you collect the data?
  • How you will analyze the data:  What strategies or tools will you use to analyze the data you collect?
  • Quality control:  Will you have precautions in place to ensure that the study is conducted consistently and that outside factors will not skew the data?
  • Budget:  What type of funding will you need for your study?  This will include the funds needed to afford measuring tools, software, etc.
  • How you will share the study's findings:  What will you plan to do with the findings?
  • Significance of the study: How will your study expand on existing knowledge of the subject area?

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

  • Research Methodologies by Pfeiffer Library Last Updated Aug 2, 2022 15725 views this year
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  • URL: https://library.tiffin.edu/writingaresearchproposal


  1. How to Write a Successful Research Proposal

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  2. Components of a Research Proposal.pdf

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  3. Research proposal components

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  4. Components Of Research Proposal

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  5. 5 Components

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  6. parts of a research proposal explained

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  3. What is difference between Research proposal and Research paper/ NTA UGC NET

  4. Selecting a Research Topic and Developing Research Proposal

  5. Research Proposal #cbpi #researchproposal

  6. Research Proposal#research #Research Stream


  1. (PDF) Essential Components of Research Proposal

    PDF | On Dec 1, 2021, Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah published Essential Components of Research Proposal | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate

  2. 14.3 Components of a Research Proposal

    Learn how to write a research proposal with a suggested template that includes introductions, background and significance, literature review, research design and methods, preliminary suppositions and implications, and conclusion. The web page provides tips and examples for each component of a research proposal and links to related resources.

  3. PDF Introduction to Writing Research Proposals

    Research Proposals are partially in the present tense and part in the future tense. All of the introductory material (components 1 and 2) are written in the present tense, as they discuss the current state of the scienti c art. The methods, expected results, and broader impact, are all referring to research that may, ...

  4. PDF Research Proposals

    1 of 5. Research Proposals. Writing a research proposal is the first step for a research project. Before you can work on your research, it must be approved, whether that is by a professor, thesis advisor, or supervisor. It is essential to make your proposal as strong as possible; if your proposal is denied, you may not get the funding you need ...

  5. PDF Components of a Successful Research Proposal

    Components of a Successful Research Proposal . Ivan Karp . A successful research proposal is divided into four parts. 1. "What" The description of the project specifies the topic of research independently and without reference to the temporal, spatial, or formal and generic contexts of research. This is customarily

  6. Components of a Research Proposal

    Learn the general structure and content of a research proposal, including the introduction, statement of problem, literature review, research design and methods, and timeline. Find out how to write each component in a clear and concise way that meets the requirements of your funding agency or institution.


    For the Higher Degrees Committee, two copies of the proposal and for the Faculty Academic Ethics Committee three copies of the complete proposal must be handed in to the Faculty Research Administrator, Ms. Helen Selolo, room 7227, Johan Orr Building, Doornfontein Campus, Telephone 406 2660.

  8. PDF Chapter 4: How to Write a Research Proposal

    I. The introduction section of your proposal. The purpose of this section is to introduce your research idea, establish its importance (i.e., you want to "sell" it to your reader), and explain its significance. Flow of the introduction: Start with a general introduction that. defines the research topic. demonstrates its importance.

  9. 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".

  10. PDF Full Proposal Preparation Guide

    The format for the research proposal shall consist of the following major components. The template can be slightly modified based on the nature of the research project. Cover page Title page consists of project title, theme and sub-theme and authors' name and (both telephone and e-mail addresses) of all the investigators. ...

  11. PDF How to Write a Good Postgraduate RESEARCH PROPOSAL

    If you absolutely have to quote an author ad verbatim, then make sure that you use quotation marks and italics to indicate it. Abstract. An abstract is a brief summary written in the same style as the rest of your application. It will provide the reader with the main points and conclusion of your proposal. 6.


    The investigator specifies the maximum discrepancy between the sample and population proportion of ± 5%. To determine the sample size, the investigator would use the formula. n = (z/p)2π(1-π), n = the required sample size. p = the desired maximum discrepancy (i.e. ± 5%) π = the population proportion.

  13. Key Components of a Research Proposal

    Some proposals include. a research question, written as a question. or, a hypothesis as a potential response to the research question. or, a thesis statement as an argument that answers the research question. or, aims and objects as accomplishment or operational statements. Foreshadow the outcomes of your research.

  14. (PDF) How to Write Research Proposal: 13 Elements of Research Proposal

    A research proposal that lacked preparation would undoubtedly appear poorly written and create the impression of a lack of commitment to the project on your part. The research proposal forms an important part of the application for a grant and could arguably be the deciding factor given the number of people competing for it.

  15. Components of a research proposal

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

  16. PDF Writing an Undergraduate Research Proposal

    •Emphasize these areas in the proposal. •Discuss your qualifications. •Most research proposals request information about you or your mentor's background/area of expertise. •Connect to purpose of research proposal. •Example: if applicable, discuss your access to research materials/equipment that the current proposal will


    2019, IJRAS. A research proposal is a pre-written document which gives an overview of the research tactics. It gives a general idea of the objectives to be achieved and the ways and means to achieve it. Writing research proposal is however a challenging feat. Due to lack of clear guidance from any source, there are many substandard research ...

  18. Parts of a Research Proposal

    A research proposal's purpose is to capture the evaluator's attention, demonstrate the study's potential benefits, and prove that it is a logical and consistent approach (Van Ekelenburg, 2010). To ensure that your research proposal contains these elements, there are several aspects to include in your proposal (Al-Riyami, 2008): Title; Abstract

  19. Components of The Research Proposal

    Components_of_the_research_proposal - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. The document outlines 10 key components that should be included in a research proposal: 1) a title page with full particulars, 2) an introduction emphasizing the importance and description of the research topic, 3) motivation for the topic selection, 4) a preliminary review of ...