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Research Proposal - A Complete Format Guide and Template

By Nova A.

10 mins read

Reviewed By Chris H.

Writing Research Proposal

A research proposal is the first and integral step in writing a research paper. It is considered a complex task because it requires multiple skills and a critical approach.

It is an essential part of any degree program and as a student, you will need to write one when you are nearing the end of your graduate or post-graduate degree. If you are planning to apply for a doctorate program, you will need to write a convincing and good research proposal.

If you are reading this, you are probably looking for help.

This guide offers a comprehensive outlook of the steps required to write a winning research project proposal.

Overview - Basics of a Research Proposal

  1. What is a research paper?
  2. Things that go into a research proposal
  3. Steps involved in writing a convincing research proposal
  4. Free examples to get help from

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What is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal is essentially a formal, structured document that states the aim of your study (i.e. the subject matter), why it's worth studying (i.e. the rationale), and how you intend to pursue it (i.e. the practical approach).

The goal of the research proposal (it's kind of work) is to persuade your study supervisor, committee, or institution that your study is relevant and manageable (given the time and resource restrictions you will face).

The most significant term is "convince," which means your study proposal must persuade the reader that it is worth reading (to whomever will give it approval). If it doesn't persuade them (of its suitability and manageability), you'll have to rewrite and resend it.

This will cost you much time, either delaying the start of your study or depleting your research time limit (which is not good news).

Keep in mind, an engaging proposal is a reflection of the writer’s subjectivity. Here you will also explain the nature and significance of the research study to persuade the audience.

How Long is a Research Proposal?

The length of a proposal varies in different course programs. It consists of only a few pages for writing a bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal. But the proposals for PhD dissertations are long and detailed due to their complexity when developing research strategies.

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What Goes into the Research Proposal?

A writer must answer the following questions to write a research proposal.

  • What are you planning to accomplish?

    Specify what you will contribute to a specific research field. Be clear and brief while defining the research problem. When adding the research question, make sure that the topic is clear and it provides a clear picture and explanation of the topic. Do not start writing your proposal without having a clear picture and idea of your research question.

  • Why do you want to conduct the research work?

    Before you begin, ask yourself, why are you doing it? This is a question that matters the most in research proposals.

    It will direct you to conduct a thorough review of the literature. Also, offer convincing evidence to explain the contribution of the topic to the existing field.

  • How will you accomplish it?

    Describe what methods and techniques you will use to conduct the research work. Similarly, discuss why you are the correct person to carry out this research. But never make the mistake of proposing a solution that is not feasible.

    Here are some questions that you must answer in your research proposal;

    • How will you conduct your research?
    • Is your chosen research design suitable for your research?
    • Will you be able to manage everything in the given time?
    • What research approach would you use?
    • Will it be cross-sectional or longitudinal?
    • What will be the data collection method?
    • What will be the data analysis methods?
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Research Proposal Format

steps for a research proposal

The research proposal steps included in the format are discussed below in detail.

Title Page

A title page is the first section of a research proposal that includes:

  • The main title of the research work.
  • Student’s name.
  • Supervisor’s name.
  • The institution and department.

Abstract and Table of Contents

A research proposal abstract provides a concise summary of your paper. It should be no more than 250 words. On the other hand, an organized table of contents will help the readers to navigate the document. Both these sections are required if the proposal is too long.

Outline

A well-structured research proposal outline is a way to organize your ideas before writing a research paper. It will decide what headings and subheadings the research paper will have.

Research Paper Introduction

The introduction should be brief and catchy to grab the reader’s attention. It must include the below-given elements.

  • Introduction of the topic.
  • Discussion of the main research problem.
  • Background of the issue.
  • The methodology used to analyze the research problem.
  • Significance and importance of the research.
  • Future plan for the research.

Background and Significance

The background and significance section explains the detailed context of your research work. You can merge this section with the introduction. However, create a separate section with extensive information if the proposal is lengthy.

Highlight the following key points while writing a background and significance section.

  • State the problem and offer a detailed explanation.
  • Mention the rationale of the study and indicate why it is worth pursuing.
  • Pinpoint the critical issues addressed by the research.
  • Explain your chosen type of research methodology and sources that you are planning to use.
  • Define the boundaries of the research clearly.
  • Write definitions of key terms or concepts for easy understanding.

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Literature Review

A comprehensive literature review is important. It is a thorough analysis of literature sources that are relevant to the research topic. A strong review aims to convince readers about the valuable contribution to the existing knowledge by giving information.

Moreover, this section is usually challenging to complete because it contains lots of information. However, a strong literature review aims to convince readers about a valuable contribution to the existing knowledge.

Analyze what research questions are raised by others. Similarly, identify the methods used by them.

Don’t be afraid to challenge the findings of others. Just make sure that you have challenged their results with substantial and relevant information.

Here are the 5 C’s that can make up a literature review.

  1. Cite
  2. Contrast
  3. Compare
  4. Connect
  5. Critique

By using them, compare and contrast the main theories and methods. Also, identify the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches while writing a literature review.

Research Design and Methods

The methodology section explains the overall strategy and steps you should take to address your research questions.

Don't just compose a list of methods but try to prove that your method is the most relevant and practical approach to answering the questions.

When writing, always be specific. Using multiple methods in your work can confuse the readers.

The below table will help you identify the methodology in a research proposal.

Research Type
  • Qualitative or quantitative research?
  • Primary or secondary sources?
  • Research design (descriptive, correlational, and experimental)?
Sources
  • How will you select your sources? (case studies, random sampling, etc.)
  • Where will you collect the data?
  • When will you collect it?
Research Methods
  • What tools and procedures will be used to collect and analyze the information? (surveys, observations, interviews, experiments)
Practicalities
  • What is the time required to collect the data?
  • How to access participants and sources?
  • Are there any challenges and obstacles? How will you deal with them?

Hypothesis

A hypothesis is the first step in setting a clear goal for your research. It sets a clear objective for researchers and also helps other readers understand what's being studied.

Furthermore, if your hypotheses are well-worded and easy to follow, conducting research becomes much more efficient.

  • What is going to be the result of your study concerning the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions?
  • What possible suggestions could arise from the research outcomes?
  • How will results contribute to the natural setting of the workplace?
  • Will the outcomes contribute to social and economic problems?
  • How will outcomes influence policy decisions?
  • How can research work benefit individuals or groups?
  • What can be improved as a result of your study?
  • How will the outcomes of the study be implemented in the future?

Discussion

The substantive, methodological, and theoretical frameworks are generally highlighted in the discussion. The primary purpose is to analyze the significance of your findings in light of the research problem. This section also explores new and fresh insights for future research studies.

It is likely to be connected to the introduction, research questions, and hypothesis. Thus, stick to the purpose of the research to make it easier for the audience to understand.

Research Paper Conclusion

The conclusion is a summary of the entire research study. It describes the importance and significance of your proposal.

Moreover, this section should be one to two paragraphs long that emphasizes on:

  • Why should you conduct the research study?
  • How will it advance the existing knowledge?
  • How is the research related to your theory or hypothesis?
  • How will it benefit other scholars?
  • What are the prospects for future implications?

Lastly, discuss the prospects for future implications.

Citations

A research proposal formatting must include proper citations for every source that you have used. Similarly, the referencing list should also contain full publication details. Remember, writing the work cited list properly will increase the credibility of your work.

A standard paper proposal has two kinds of citations.

  • References - Only list the sources you have used in the proposal.
  • Bibliography - List sources used along with other additional citations that you have studied to conduct the research.

Always choose the specific citation formats required by the professors. It includes APA, MLA, and Chicago.

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Research Proposal Examples

Have a look at the sample research proposal for a better understanding.

Research Proposal Topics

Below is a list of interesting and easy research proposal topics.

  • How can a political system influence society?
  • Discuss the difference between Fascism and Nazism.
  • How can terrorism affect the economy of a state?
  • What is the importance of advertising in running a business?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of a testing system.
  • Education is the basis for developing a child’s character.
  • Role of methodology in a research paper.
  • Impact of non-governmental organizations.
  • How can waste management programs influence society?
  • Educational technologies for higher education.

If you still need more ideas, here are some research paper topics to help you choose a good topic.

Research Proposal Writing Strategies

Follow the below-given writing strategies to write a perfect research proposal.

  • A research proposal should be focused on a clear sense of purpose.
  • Landmark works must be cited in the literature review.
  • The proposal should also lay a foundation for understanding the scope of the research study.
  • It should limit the boundaries of your research (e.g., time, place, or people).
  • It must inform the readers how and when the study will examine the main research problem.
  • A coherent and persuasive argument should be developed for the research proposal.
  • Avoid poor grammar and informal proposal writing. Instead, it must be well-written and follow the rules of good academic writing.
  • The proposal should provide enough details about the major issues to support the argument.
  • Minor points can also be discussed but should not dominate the overall narrative.

Hopefully, this guide will help you understand the structure of a research proposal. But there are cases when students lack good research and writing skills. For this, they prefer to seek writing help from different paper writing services.

While doing so, they often fall victim to the low-quality research proposals delivered by such scams. In return, they get nothing but low-quality papers.

So to avoid this, you can always reach out to MyPerfectWords.com. Our team of expert writers only aims to write high-quality research proposals and papers for you at affordable rates.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a research proposal?

The research proposal is your chance to tell the audience what the project will be about and how important it is. It also shows your ability to conduct the research efficiently.

How far in advance should you plan a proposal?

A researcher should plan the proposal almost eight weeks before begin writing a research paper.

Nova A.

Nova A.

Literature, Marketing

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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