What is a Research Proposal?

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What is a Research Proposal?

You’ll almost definitely need to create a research proposal if you’re reaching the conclusion of your degree programme and need to write a dissertation or thesis, or if you want to apply for a PhD programme. But, what is a research proposal? What is the proper structure for one? If you have similar worries, read the entire blog to get all of your questions answered. We’ll explain the research proposal in layman’s terms in this blog.

What is a Research Proposal?

The purpose of a research proposal is twofold: to explain and justify the necessity to study a research topic, as well as to offer the methodological approaches for carrying out the suggested study. The requirements for research proposals are more rigorous and less formal than a general project proposal since the design components and methods for conducting research are regulated by the standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem lies. Extensive literature reviews are included in research proposals.

They must give convincing evidence that the proposed study is necessary. A proposal includes a rationale, a comprehensive methodology for doing the research in accordance with the professional or academic field’s standards, and a statement on expected outcomes and/or benefits obtained from the study’s completion.

Your professor may assign the task of creating a research proposal to you for the following reasons:

  • Improve your ability to design and organize a complete research project.
  • Learn how to perform a complete evaluation of the literature to determine if a research problem has been satisfactorily handled or has been answered ineffectively.
  • Learn how to perform a comprehensive review of the literature to determine if a research problem has been satisfactorily handled or has been answered ineffectively.
  • Improve your research and writing abilities in general.
  • Identify the logical steps that must be taken to achieve one’s research objectives.

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Structure of a Research Proposal


A research proposal is most commonly created by researchers seeking grant funding for a research project or as the first step in gaining clearance to write a doctoral thesis in the actual world of higher education. Treat your introduction as an early presentation of a concept or a comprehensive analysis of the relevance of a research topic, even if it’s simply for a class assignment. Your readers should not only understand what you intend to achieve after reading the introduction, but they should also get a feeling of your enthusiasm for the subject and be enthusiastic about the study’s potential consequences.

Consider your introduction to be a two- to a four-paragraph narrative that simply addresses the following four questions:

  • What is the main research issue?
  • What is the research topic in relation to the research problem?
  • What approaches should be used to investigate the study question?
  • Why is this research essential, what is its relevance, and why should someone reading the proposal be interested in the study’s results?

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Background and Significance

This is the section where you explain the context of your idea and why it’s essential. It can be incorporated into your introduction or separated into its own part to assist in the organizing and narrative flow of your proposal. When writing this part, keep in mind that you can’t expect your readers will be as knowledgeable about the study topic as you are. This part is not an essay in which you summarise all you’ve learned about the issue; rather, you must select the information that is most important to describe the research’s objectives.

While there are no set guidelines for determining the significance of your planned study, you should make an effort to address any or all of the following:

  • Declare the research problem and provide a more extensive explanation of the study’s objective than you did in the introduction. This is especially true if the issue is complex or multidimensional.
  • Present the reason for your planned study and why it is worthwhile; be sure to address the “So What?” issue [i.e., why should anyone bother].
  • Describe the key challenges or problems that your research will address. This might take the form of questions that need to be answered. Make a note of how your planned study builds on past research problem assumptions.
  • Make a note of how your planned study builds on past research problem assumptions.
  • Describe the methods you intend to use to carry out your research. Clearly identify the major sources you want to use and explain how they will aid in your topic analysis.
  • Define the parameters of your planned research to give it a clear focus. Not only should you describe what you want to examine, but also what parts of the research topic will be left out.
  • Provide definitions of important ideas or terminology if required.

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Literature Review

A part of your proposal devoted to a more detailed evaluation and synthesis of past studies relating to the research topic under inquiry is connected to the context and importance of your study. The goal is to place your study within the wider context of the current research while also proving to your audience that your work is unique and innovative. Consider what questions other researchers have posed, the methods they employed, and how you interpret their findings and, if applicable, their recommendations.

Consider the “five C’s” of drafting a literature review to help structure your proposal’s review of past research:

  • Cite to keep the focus on the literature that is relevant to your research question.
  • What do the writers agree on when they compare the numerous arguments, ideas, methods, and conclusions published in the literature? Who uses the same methods to analyze the study problem?
  • Compare and contrast the many arguments, themes, methods, approaches, and conflicts represented in the literature: what are the key points of contention, dispute, or discussion among scholars?
  • Examine the literature to see which arguments are more convincing and why. Which methods, conclusions, and techniques appear to be the most trustworthy, legitimate, or appropriate, and why? Take note of the words you employ to explain what an author says or does [e.g., claims, demonstrates, argues, and so on].
  • Connect the literature to your own field of inquiry and investigation: how does your own work build on, deviate from, integrate, or contribute to what has been expressed in the literature?

Research Design & Methodology

Because you are not carrying out the research, this part must be well-written and clearly arranged. However, your reader must have faith that it is worthwhile. The reader will never be able to judge if your methodological decisions were proper based on the study’s results. As a result, the goal here is to persuade the reader that your overall study strategy and recommended techniques of analysis will successfully address the problem and that the methodologies will give the tools to properly evaluate the potential outcomes. Your study’s design and procedures should be definitely connected to the study’s unique goals.

Build on and use examples from your literature review to describe the overall study plan. Consider not just the methods used by other researchers, but also data collection approaches that have not been used but could be. Be clear about the methods you plan to use to gather data, the procedures you plan to use to evaluate the data, and the external validity tests to which you commit [i.e., the trustworthiness with which you can extrapolate from your study to other individuals, locations, events, and/or time periods].

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Preliminary Suppositions & Implications

Just because you aren’t responsible for conducting the study or analysing the data doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explain the analytical method and its implications. The goal of this part is to explain how and why you feel your study will improve, modify, or extend current knowledge in the topic area under examination. Describe how the anticipated results may affect future academic research, theory, practice, modes of intervention, or policymaking, depending on the aims and objectives of your study.

NOTE: This section should not include idle speculation, opinion, or statements based on weak evidence. The goal is to consider gaps or understudied areas in the present literature and illustrate how your proposed research will add to a new knowledge of the research topic if carried out as planned.


The conclusion affirms the value or significance of your idea and summarises the whole study. This part should be no more than one or two paragraphs long, stressing why the research topic is important to investigate, why your research project is unique, and how it will contribute to current knowledge.

This part should leave the reader with an understanding of:

  • Why is it necessary to do the research?
  • The study’s precise goal and the research questions it aims to address,
  • Why did you choose the study strategy and procedures you used over other options?
  • The possible implications of your suggested research problem investigation, as well as
  • An understanding of how your research fits into the larger body of knowledge about the research topic.


You must cite the sources you used, just like any other scholarly research work. This portion of a standard research proposal can take two forms, so talk to your professor about which one is best.

References: Only the material that you actually used or mentioned in your proposal is listed in the References section.

Bibliography: includes citations to any significant materials crucial to understanding the study topic, as well as a record of everything you utilized or cited in your proposal.

In either case, this part should show that you performed enough planning to ensure that your study would complement rather than duplicate the efforts of other scholars. Create a new page with the header “References” or “Bibliography” in the centre of the page. Cited works should always be formatted in a standard manner that follows the writing style recommended by your course’s subject [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that your professor prefers. This part is usually not included in the overall number of pages of your research proposal.

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Questions to Keep in Mind While Writing a Research Proposal

  • What do you want to achieve? Define the research problem and what you want to learn more about in a concise manner.
  • Why are you interested in doing research? You must perform a thorough review of the literature and give convincing evidence why the issue is deserving of in-depth inquiry in addition to describing your research strategy. Make sure you respond to the “So What?” question.
  • What method will you use to do your research? Make sure what you’re suggesting is realistic. If you’re having trouble coming up with a research problem to investigate, check out this blog for tips on how to come up with a study problem.

Research Proposal – Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Inability to write concisely: A study proposal should be targeted, not “all over the place,” or go off on irrelevant tangents without a clear sense of goal.
  • Failed to cite important publications: Proposals should be based on fundamental research that sets the groundwork for understanding the issue’s evolution and extent.
  • Failure to define your research’s contextual limits [e.g., time, location, people, etc.]: Your suggested study, like any other research article, must tell the reader how and in what ways it will examine the problem.
  • Failure to build a compelling and logical argument for the proposed research: This is really important. The research proposal is used in many workplaces to justify why a study should be supported.
  • Poor grammar or sloppy or imprecise writing: Despite the fact that a research proposal does not reflect a finished research project, it is expected to be well-written and adhere to the style and norms of excellent academic writing.
  • There’s a lot of information on little concerns, but not enough on important ones: To support the case that the study should be undertaken, your proposal should focus on only a few important research topics. Minor concerns can be highlighted, even if they are valid, but they should not overshadow the overarching narrative.

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