The research proposal is the very first step in research. A research proposal, in very simple words, refers to a short piece of academic writing that provides details on what exactly shall be covered in the larger research project. It presents the plan of the researcher regarding the research he/she intends to conduct. A research proposal demonstrates how and why the research is relevant to the particular field. It also demonstrates that the researcher is capable of conducting the research and contributing to the current state of his/her field.
In certain cases, a research proposal is also aimed at securing fund for the said research. While in others, the aim is to get the research approved by the researcher’s supervisor or department so that they can move ahead with the same.
Thus, it is highly evident the importance of research proposal writing as a piece of academic writing. Therefore, this blog attempts at providing an easy guide to write a research proposal.
How long should a research proposal be?
The research proposals for the bachelor’s and master’s theses are generally a few pages long. While, a research proposal for meatier projects, like Ph.D. dissertations and funding requests, are longer and more detailed. However, taking in general, an ideal research proposal should have 2,000-3,500 words, which is approximately 4-7 pages long.
What should a research proposal consist of?
An ideal research proposal should consist of the following:
The very first element of your research proposal is the title. Choosing an appropriate title is very crucial to your research proposal, since it gives the first impression of your proposed research. Use a title that gives a clear indication of your proposed research approach or your key research question(s).
The next element of your research proposal is introduction. Introduce your research topic, and give an overview on your problem statement and the questions that your research aims at answering. The introduction generally provides a context for your research.
Your introduction in the research proposal can be a few paragraphs long. An ideal one generally is concise and provides all the necessary information, but at the same not revealing much details.
3. Background & Rationale of the Study
This part of your research proposal is where you explain why is your research necessary and how does it relate to the already established research in your field. Your research may either complement and strengthen the existing research, or challenge it; but no matter how your research plays with the existing researches, it is essential to express it in details in your research proposal.
This section of the proposal also clearly defines the problems that exists in your research, and that are going to be addressed by your research. This helps you explain the necessity of your work.
4. Literature Review
A strong literature review is at the core of a strong research proposal. A literature review provides an overview of the previously published works on your proposed research topic. It serves two purposes: One, it provides the researcher as well as the audiences/readers with a general overview of the existing knowledge on the concerned topic; and two, it helps to find the existing gaps in the literature that can be further addressed.
5. Research Question(s)
The research question(s) should be formulated clearly. The research questions are basically meant to explain the problems/issues that are going to be explored by the proposed research and why should they be explored.
6. Research Methodology
The next element is the research methodology. As the name suggest, the research methodology tends to provide an outline on the method(s) and approach(es) to be adopted for the proposed research, the theoretical resources to be drawn on, and finally discussing the advantages as well as the limitations of the particular method(s) and approach(es).
7. Plan of Work & Time Schedule
Your proposal should also include an outline of the various stages and the corresponding timelines required for developing and implementing your research, including your thesis writing. Generally, a full-time study for research should be completed within 3 years, with writing part being completed in the fourth year of registration. Similarly, a part-time study of your research should be completed within 6 years, with the writing part being completed by the eighth year of registration.
The final element of your proposal writing is bibliography, which should include a list of references to articles and texts that are discussed within your research proposal as well as the sources appropriate to the proposed research.