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  • Indian J Anaesth
  • v.60(9); 2016 Sep

How to write a research proposal?

Department of Anaesthesiology, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Devika Rani Duggappa

Writing the proposal of a research work in the present era is a challenging task due to the constantly evolving trends in the qualitative research design and the need to incorporate medical advances into the methodology. The proposal is a detailed plan or ‘blueprint’ for the intended study, and once it is completed, the research project should flow smoothly. Even today, many of the proposals at post-graduate evaluation committees and application proposals for funding are substandard. A search was conducted with keywords such as research proposal, writing proposal and qualitative using search engines, namely, PubMed and Google Scholar, and an attempt has been made to provide broad guidelines for writing a scientifically appropriate research proposal.


A clean, well-thought-out proposal forms the backbone for the research itself and hence becomes the most important step in the process of conduct of research.[ 1 ] The objective of preparing a research proposal would be to obtain approvals from various committees including ethics committee [details under ‘Research methodology II’ section [ Table 1 ] in this issue of IJA) and to request for grants. However, there are very few universally accepted guidelines for preparation of a good quality research proposal. A search was performed with keywords such as research proposal, funding, qualitative and writing proposals using search engines, namely, PubMed, Google Scholar and Scopus.

Five ‘C’s while writing a literature review

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A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer.[ 2 ] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about the credibility, achievability, practicality and reproducibility (repeatability) of the research design.[ 3 ] Four categories of audience with different expectations may be present in the evaluation committees, namely academic colleagues, policy-makers, practitioners and lay audiences who evaluate the research proposal. Tips for preparation of a good research proposal include; ‘be practical, be persuasive, make broader links, aim for crystal clarity and plan before you write’. A researcher must be balanced, with a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. Being persuasive implies that researcher must be able to convince other researchers, research funding agencies, educational institutions and supervisors that the research is worth getting approval. The aim of the researcher should be clearly stated in simple language that describes the research in a way that non-specialists can comprehend, without use of jargons. The proposal must not only demonstrate that it is based on an intelligent understanding of the existing literature but also show that the writer has thought about the time needed to conduct each stage of the research.[ 4 , 5 ]


The contents or formats of a research proposal vary depending on the requirements of evaluation committee and are generally provided by the evaluation committee or the institution.

In general, a cover page should contain the (i) title of the proposal, (ii) name and affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators, (iii) institutional affiliation (degree of the investigator and the name of institution where the study will be performed), details of contact such as phone numbers, E-mail id's and lines for signatures of investigators.

The main contents of the proposal may be presented under the following headings: (i) introduction, (ii) review of literature, (iii) aims and objectives, (iv) research design and methods, (v) ethical considerations, (vi) budget, (vii) appendices and (viii) citations.[ 4 ]


It is also sometimes termed as ‘need for study’ or ‘abstract’. Introduction is an initial pitch of an idea; it sets the scene and puts the research in context.[ 6 ] The introduction should be designed to create interest in the reader about the topic and proposal. It should convey to the reader, what you want to do, what necessitates the study and your passion for the topic.[ 7 ] Some questions that can be used to assess the significance of the study are: (i) Who has an interest in the domain of inquiry? (ii) What do we already know about the topic? (iii) What has not been answered adequately in previous research and practice? (iv) How will this research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this area? Some of the evaluation committees, expect the last two questions, elaborated under a separate heading of ‘background and significance’.[ 8 ] Introduction should also contain the hypothesis behind the research design. If hypothesis cannot be constructed, the line of inquiry to be used in the research must be indicated.

Review of literature

It refers to all sources of scientific evidence pertaining to the topic in interest. In the present era of digitalisation and easy accessibility, there is an enormous amount of relevant data available, making it a challenge for the researcher to include all of it in his/her review.[ 9 ] It is crucial to structure this section intelligently so that the reader can grasp the argument related to your study in relation to that of other researchers, while still demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. It is preferable to summarise each article in a paragraph, highlighting the details pertinent to the topic of interest. The progression of review can move from the more general to the more focused studies, or a historical progression can be used to develop the story, without making it exhaustive.[ 1 ] Literature should include supporting data, disagreements and controversies. Five ‘C's may be kept in mind while writing a literature review[ 10 ] [ Table 1 ].

Aims and objectives

The research purpose (or goal or aim) gives a broad indication of what the researcher wishes to achieve in the research. The hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study. The objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

Research design and method

The objective here is to convince the reader that the overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the research problem and to impress upon the reader that the methodology/sources chosen are appropriate for the specific topic. It should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

In this section, the methods and sources used to conduct the research must be discussed, including specific references to sites, databases, key texts or authors that will be indispensable to the project. There should be specific mention about the methodological approaches to be undertaken to gather information, about the techniques to be used to analyse it and about the tests of external validity to which researcher is committed.[ 10 , 11 ]

The components of this section include the following:[ 4 ]

Population and sample

Population refers to all the elements (individuals, objects or substances) that meet certain criteria for inclusion in a given universe,[ 12 ] and sample refers to subset of population which meets the inclusion criteria for enrolment into the study. The inclusion and exclusion criteria should be clearly defined. The details pertaining to sample size are discussed in the article “Sample size calculation: Basic priniciples” published in this issue of IJA.

Data collection

The researcher is expected to give a detailed account of the methodology adopted for collection of data, which include the time frame required for the research. The methodology should be tested for its validity and ensure that, in pursuit of achieving the results, the participant's life is not jeopardised. The author should anticipate and acknowledge any potential barrier and pitfall in carrying out the research design and explain plans to address them, thereby avoiding lacunae due to incomplete data collection. If the researcher is planning to acquire data through interviews or questionnaires, copy of the questions used for the same should be attached as an annexure with the proposal.

Rigor (soundness of the research)

This addresses the strength of the research with respect to its neutrality, consistency and applicability. Rigor must be reflected throughout the proposal.

It refers to the robustness of a research method against bias. The author should convey the measures taken to avoid bias, viz. blinding and randomisation, in an elaborate way, thus ensuring that the result obtained from the adopted method is purely as chance and not influenced by other confounding variables.


Consistency considers whether the findings will be consistent if the inquiry was replicated with the same participants and in a similar context. This can be achieved by adopting standard and universally accepted methods and scales.


Applicability refers to the degree to which the findings can be applied to different contexts and groups.[ 13 ]

Data analysis

This section deals with the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis including sample size calculation. The researcher is expected to explain the steps adopted for coding and sorting the data obtained. Various tests to be used to analyse the data for its robustness, significance should be clearly stated. Author should also mention the names of statistician and suitable software which will be used in due course of data analysis and their contribution to data analysis and sample calculation.[ 9 ]

Ethical considerations

Medical research introduces special moral and ethical problems that are not usually encountered by other researchers during data collection, and hence, the researcher should take special care in ensuring that ethical standards are met. Ethical considerations refer to the protection of the participants' rights (right to self-determination, right to privacy, right to autonomy and confidentiality, right to fair treatment and right to protection from discomfort and harm), obtaining informed consent and the institutional review process (ethical approval). The researcher needs to provide adequate information on each of these aspects.

Informed consent needs to be obtained from the participants (details discussed in further chapters), as well as the research site and the relevant authorities.

When the researcher prepares a research budget, he/she should predict and cost all aspects of the research and then add an additional allowance for unpredictable disasters, delays and rising costs. All items in the budget should be justified.

Appendices are documents that support the proposal and application. The appendices will be specific for each proposal but documents that are usually required include informed consent form, supporting documents, questionnaires, measurement tools and patient information of the study in layman's language.

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your proposal. Although the words ‘references and bibliography’ are different, they are used interchangeably. It refers to all references cited in the research proposal.

Successful, qualitative research proposals should communicate the researcher's knowledge of the field and method and convey the emergent nature of the qualitative design. The proposal should follow a discernible logic from the introduction to presentation of the appendices.

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How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on January 3, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:


Literature review.

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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.

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process of research proposal writing

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

To guide your introduction , include information about:

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

To determine your budget, think about:

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

Learning objectives.

Writing a good research paper takes time, thought, and effort. Although this assignment is challenging, it is manageable. Focusing on one step at a time will help you develop a thoughtful, informative, well-supported research paper.

Your first step is to choose a topic and then to develop research questions, a working thesis, and a written research proposal. Set aside adequate time for this part of the process. Fully exploring ideas will help you build a solid foundation for your paper.

Choosing a Topic

When you choose a topic for a research paper, you are making a major commitment. Your choice will help determine whether you enjoy the lengthy process of research and writing—and whether your final paper fulfills the assignment requirements. If you choose your topic hastily, you may later find it difficult to work with your topic. By taking your time and choosing carefully, you can ensure that this assignment is not only challenging but also rewarding.

Writers understand the importance of choosing a topic that fulfills the assignment requirements and fits the assignment’s purpose and audience. (For more information about purpose and audience, see Chapter 6 “Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content” .) Choosing a topic that interests you is also crucial. You instructor may provide a list of suggested topics or ask that you develop a topic on your own. In either case, try to identify topics that genuinely interest you.

After identifying potential topic ideas, you will need to evaluate your ideas and choose one topic to pursue. Will you be able to find enough information about the topic? Can you develop a paper about this topic that presents and supports your original ideas? Is the topic too broad or too narrow for the scope of the assignment? If so, can you modify it so it is more manageable? You will ask these questions during this preliminary phase of the research process.

Identifying Potential Topics

Sometimes, your instructor may provide a list of suggested topics. If so, you may benefit from identifying several possibilities before committing to one idea. It is important to know how to narrow down your ideas into a concise, manageable thesis. You may also use the list as a starting point to help you identify additional, related topics. Discussing your ideas with your instructor will help ensure that you choose a manageable topic that fits the requirements of the assignment.

In this chapter, you will follow a writer named Jorge, who is studying health care administration, as he prepares a research paper. You will also plan, research, and draft your own research paper.

Jorge was assigned to write a research paper on health and the media for an introductory course in health care. Although a general topic was selected for the students, Jorge had to decide which specific issues interested him. He brainstormed a list of possibilities.

If you are writing a research paper for a specialized course, look back through your notes and course activities. Identify reading assignments and class discussions that especially engaged you. Doing so can help you identify topics to pursue.

Set a timer for five minutes. Use brainstorming or idea mapping to create a list of topics you would be interested in researching for a paper about the influence of the Internet on social networking. Do you closely follow the media coverage of a particular website, such as Twitter? Would you like to learn more about a certain industry, such as online dating? Which social networking sites do you and your friends use? List as many ideas related to this topic as you can.

Narrowing Your Topic

Once you have a list of potential topics, you will need to choose one as the focus of your essay. You will also need to narrow your topic. Most writers find that the topics they listed during brainstorming or idea mapping are broad—too broad for the scope of the assignment. Working with an overly broad topic, such as sexual education programs or popularized diets, can be frustrating and overwhelming. Each topic has so many facets that it would be impossible to cover them all in a college research paper. However, more specific choices, such as the pros and cons of sexual education in kids’ television programs or the physical effects of the South Beach diet, are specific enough to write about without being too narrow to sustain an entire research paper.

A good research paper provides focused, in-depth information and analysis. If your topic is too broad, you will find it difficult to do more than skim the surface when you research it and write about it. Narrowing your focus is essential to making your topic manageable. To narrow your focus, explore your topic in writing, conduct preliminary research, and discuss both the topic and the research with others.

Exploring Your Topic in Writing

“How am I supposed to narrow my topic when I haven’t even begun researching yet?” In fact, you may already know more than you realize. Review your list and identify your top two or three topics. Set aside some time to explore each one through freewriting. (For more information about freewriting, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .) Simply taking the time to focus on your topic may yield fresh angles.

Jorge knew that he was especially interested in the topic of diet fads, but he also knew that it was much too broad for his assignment. He used freewriting to explore his thoughts so he could narrow his topic. Read Jorge’s ideas.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Another way writers may focus a topic is to conduct preliminary research . Like freewriting, exploratory reading can help you identify interesting angles. Surfing the web and browsing through newspaper and magazine articles are good ways to start. Find out what people are saying about your topic on blogs and online discussion groups. Discussing your topic with others can also inspire you. Talk about your ideas with your classmates, your friends, or your instructor.

Jorge’s freewriting exercise helped him realize that the assigned topic of health and the media intersected with a few of his interests—diet, nutrition, and obesity. Preliminary online research and discussions with his classmates strengthened his impression that many people are confused or misled by media coverage of these subjects.

Jorge decided to focus his paper on a topic that had garnered a great deal of media attention—low-carbohydrate diets. He wanted to find out whether low-carbohydrate diets were as effective as their proponents claimed.

Writing at Work

At work, you may need to research a topic quickly to find general information. This information can be useful in understanding trends in a given industry or generating competition. For example, a company may research a competitor’s prices and use the information when pricing their own product. You may find it useful to skim a variety of reliable sources and take notes on your findings.

The reliability of online sources varies greatly. In this exploratory phase of your research, you do not need to evaluate sources as closely as you will later. However, use common sense as you refine your paper topic. If you read a fascinating blog comment that gives you a new idea for your paper, be sure to check out other, more reliable sources as well to make sure the idea is worth pursuing.

Review the list of topics you created in Note 11.18 “Exercise 1” and identify two or three topics you would like to explore further. For each of these topics, spend five to ten minutes writing about the topic without stopping. Then review your writing to identify possible areas of focus.

Set aside time to conduct preliminary research about your potential topics. Then choose a topic to pursue for your research paper.


Please share your topic list with a classmate. Select one or two topics on his or her list that you would like to learn more about and return it to him or her. Discuss why you found the topics interesting, and learn which of your topics your classmate selected and why.

A Plan for Research

Your freewriting and preliminary research have helped you choose a focused, manageable topic for your research paper. To work with your topic successfully, you will need to determine what exactly you want to learn about it—and later, what you want to say about it. Before you begin conducting in-depth research, you will further define your focus by developing a research question , a working thesis, and a research proposal.

Formulating a Research Question

In forming a research question, you are setting a goal for your research. Your main research question should be substantial enough to form the guiding principle of your paper—but focused enough to guide your research. A strong research question requires you not only to find information but also to put together different pieces of information, interpret and analyze them, and figure out what you think. As you consider potential research questions, ask yourself whether they would be too hard or too easy to answer.

To determine your research question, review the freewriting you completed earlier. Skim through books, articles, and websites and list the questions you have. (You may wish to use the 5WH strategy to help you formulate questions. See Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” for more information about 5WH questions.) Include simple, factual questions and more complex questions that would require analysis and interpretation. Determine your main question—the primary focus of your paper—and several subquestions that you will need to research to answer your main question.

Here are the research questions Jorge will use to focus his research. Notice that his main research question has no obvious, straightforward answer. Jorge will need to research his subquestions, which address narrower topics, to answer his main question.

Using the topic you selected in Note 11.24 “Exercise 2” , write your main research question and at least four to five subquestions. Check that your main research question is appropriately complex for your assignment.

Constructing a Working ThesIs

A working thesis concisely states a writer’s initial answer to the main research question. It does not merely state a fact or present a subjective opinion. Instead, it expresses a debatable idea or claim that you hope to prove through additional research. Your working thesis is called a working thesis for a reason—it is subject to change. As you learn more about your topic, you may change your thinking in light of your research findings. Let your working thesis serve as a guide to your research, but do not be afraid to modify it based on what you learn.

Jorge began his research with a strong point of view based on his preliminary writing and research. Read his working thesis statement, which presents the point he will argue. Notice how it states Jorge’s tentative answer to his research question.

One way to determine your working thesis is to consider how you would complete sentences such as I believe or My opinion is . However, keep in mind that academic writing generally does not use first-person pronouns. These statements are useful starting points, but formal research papers use an objective voice.

Write a working thesis statement that presents your preliminary answer to the research question you wrote in Note 11.27 “Exercise 3” . Check that your working thesis statement presents an idea or claim that could be supported or refuted by evidence from research.

Creating a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a brief document—no more than one typed page—that summarizes the preliminary work you have completed. Your purpose in writing it is to formalize your plan for research and present it to your instructor for feedback. In your research proposal, you will present your main research question, related subquestions, and working thesis. You will also briefly discuss the value of researching this topic and indicate how you plan to gather information.

When Jorge began drafting his research proposal, he realized that he had already created most of the pieces he needed. However, he knew he also had to explain how his research would be relevant to other future health care professionals. In addition, he wanted to form a general plan for doing the research and identifying potentially useful sources. Read Jorge’s research proposal.

Read Jorge's research proposal

Before you begin a new project at work, you may have to develop a project summary document that states the purpose of the project, explains why it would be a wise use of company resources, and briefly outlines the steps involved in completing the project. This type of document is similar to a research proposal. Both documents define and limit a project, explain its value, discuss how to proceed, and identify what resources you will use.

Writing Your Own Research Proposal

Now you may write your own research proposal, if you have not done so already. Follow the guidelines provided in this lesson.

Key Takeaways

Writing for Success by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

12 Steps to Writing a Research Proposal

A guideline on writing a research proposal. Follow 12 steps described in the article below to write a research proposal effectively.

There is a number of useful tips that can be used for writing an effective thesis proposal. First, remember that a thesis proposal is generally written in a present or future tense. When you write your actual master’s thesis, you will need to use past tense. Below you will find the main steps that will show you how to write a research proposal. Want to know more about what a research proposal is? Below is the article explaining what a research proposal is:


A Guideline on Writing a Research Proposal

Writing a Research Proposal

Step 1: Make a great introduction.  The part that is designed to capture your reader’s attention is the introduction to your master thesis proposal. It is a good idea to write it last, that way it is more likely to become interesting and you will sound like you know what to do. This recommendation might seem strange at first; however, it’s perfectly logical because once everything has been researched, written and checked, you will have a good picture of what the end product is like. With this picture in mind, it’s best to work on the introductory part of your paper last.

Step 2: State the problem.  Voice your research question. You might want to restate it in the form of the sentence so that your reader understands it better.

Step 3: Provide background.  Explain how the problem emerged. Give some background information on the issue you are going to research to substantiate the need for the problem resolution.

Step 4: Declare the purpose.  You should necessarily mention the purpose of your dissertation in the thesis proposal.

Step 5: State significance.  Mentioning the significance of the problem will add value to your research project.

Step 6:  Explain methods.  Your reader should be aware of the methods your research project is going to utilize.

Step 7: Review literature.  A master’s research proposal is unthinkable without reviewing literature that is relevant to the topic of research. A thorough analysis of the literature sources should be conducted and clearly explained in the proposal. Do not forget to mention any alternative viewpoints on the topic; they might be useful in researching your question.

Step 8: Formulate a clear hypothesis.  Hypothesis section sets the goal for the thesis. If it is clear and understandable, the entire research project will become clear and easy to carry out.

Step 9: Define your terms.  Your proposal will be read by people who might not fully understand your dissertation and the terms it uses. You will need to provide a definition for every term you are using in your master’s thesis.

Step 10: Tell your reader about your research assumptions.  The research proposal for your master’s thesis should contain the basic assumptions you are making while working on the essay.

Step 11: Define scope and limitations.  Any research has its scope and limitations; you just can’t cover everything with just one research project. Clearly, state the limitations and scope for your study and outline possibility for subsequent research.

Step 12: Explain the procedure.  Your reader should be aware of the procedure you are going to follow in the writing process. You will need to explain what and how will be done within the framework of your research.

These simple steps will allow you to come up with a research proposal that will high chances of getting approved either by your advisor or the board of advisors. Once the research proposal is completed and approved, we can move on to reviewing the basic thesis structure. Here is a great list of research proposal topics:


In case you want our writers to create a custom-written research proposal or argumentative essay for you, let us know. All the outlined steps have proven their efficiency for getting the research proposal approved. We are also open to revising your research proposal outline and format until it becomes truly effective. Our writers can also review, revise and proofread your essay in case you have completed it yourself and want to have it reviewed by a professional writer. Whatever the case please visit the order page and we will start working on your research proposal.

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Research Proposal: A step-by-step guide with template

Making sure your proposal is perfect will drastically improve your chances of landing a successful research position. Follow these steps.

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There’s no doubt you have the most cutting-edge research idea to date, backed up by a solid methodology and a credible explanation proving its relevance! There are thousands of research ideas that could change the world with many new ideologies.

The truth is, none of this would matter without support. It can be daunting, challenging, and uncertain to secure funding for a research project. Even more so when it isn’t well-thought-out, outlined, and includes every detail.

An effective solution for presenting your project, or requesting funding, is to provide a research proposal to potential investors or financiers on your behalf.

It’s crucial to understand that making sure your proposal is perfect will drastically improve your chances of landing a successful research position. Your research proposal could result in the failure to study the research problem entirely if it is inadequately constructed or incomplete.

It is for this reason that we have created an excellent guide that covers everything you need to know about writing a research proposal, and includes helpful tips for presenting your proposal professionally and improving its likelihood of acceptance!

What Is a Research Proposal?

process of research proposal writing

Generally, a research proposal is a well-crafted, formal document that provides a thorough explanation of what you plan to investigate. This includes a rationale for why it is worth investigating, as well as a method for investigating it.

Research proposal writing in the contemporary academic environment is a challenging undertaking given the constant shift in research methodology and a commitment to incorporating scientific breakthroughs.

An outline of the plan or roadmap for the study is the proposal, and once the proposal is complete, everything should be smooth sailing. It is still common for post-graduate evaluation panels and funding applications to submit substandard proposals.

By its very nature, the research proposal serves as a tool for convincing the supervisor, committee, or university that the proposed research fits within the scope of the program and is feasible when considering the time and resources available.

A research proposal should convince the person who is going to sanction your research, or put another way, you need to persuade them that your research idea is the best.

Obviously, if it does not convince them that it is reasonable and adequate, you will need to revise and submit it again. As a result, you will lose significant time, causing your research to be delayed or cut short, which is not good.

A good research proposal should have the following structure

A dissertation or thesis research proposal may take on a variety of forms depending on the university, but  most generally a research proposal will include the following elements:

So, if you include all these elements, you will have a general outline. Let’s take a closer look at how to write them and what to include in each element so that the research proposal is as robust as the idea itself.

A step-by-step guide to writing a research proposal

#1 introduction.

Researchers who wish to obtain grant funding for a project often write a proposal when seeking funding for a research-based postgraduate degree program, or in order to obtain approval for completing a thesis or PhD. Even though this is only a brief introduction, we should be considering it the beginning of an insightful discussion about the significance of a topic that deserves attention.

Your readers should understand what you are trying to accomplish after they read your introduction. Additionally, they should be able to perceive your zeal for the subject matter and a genuine interest in the possible outcome of the research.

As your introduction, consider answering these questions in three to four paragraphs:

It is not necessary to include an abstract or summary for the introduction to most academic departments and funding sources. Nevertheless, you should confirm your institution’s requirements.

#2 Background and importance

An explanation of the rationale for a research proposal and its significance is provided in this section. It is preferable to separate this part from the introduction so that the narrative flows seamlessly.

This section should be approached by presuming readers are time-pressed but want a general overview of the whole study and the research question.

Please keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive essay that contains every detail of your proposed research, rather a concise document that will spark interest in your proposal.

While you should try to take into account the following factors when framing the significance of your proposed study, there are no rigid rules.

The steps to a perfect research proposal all get more specific as we move forward to enhance the concept of the research. In this case, it will become important to make sure that your supervisor or your funder has a clear understanding of every aspect of your research study.

#3 Reviewing prior literature and studies

The aim of this paragraph is to establish the context and significance of your study, including a review of the current literature pertinent to it.

This part aims to properly situate your proposed study within the bigger scheme of things of what is being investigated, while, at the same time, showing the innovation and originality of your proposed work.

When writing a literature review, it is imperative that your format is effective because it often contains extensive information that allows you to demonstrate your main research claims compared to other scholars.

Separating the literature according to major categories or conceptual frameworks is an excellent way to do this. This is a more effective method than listing each study one by one in chronological order.

In order to arrange the review of existing relevant studies in an efficient manner, a literature review is often written using the following five criteria:

#4 Research questions and objectives

The next step is to develop your research objectives once you have determined your research focus.

When your readers read your proposal, what do you want them to learn? Try to write your objectives in one sentence, if you can. Put time and thought into framing them properly.

By setting an objective for your research, you’ll stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked.

Any study proposal should address the following questions irrespective of the topic or problem:

Some authors include this section in the introduction, where it is generally placed at the end of the section.

#5 Research Design and Methods

It is important to write this part correctly and organize logically even though you are not starting the research yet.  This must leave readers with a sense of assurance that the topic is worthwhile.

To achieve this, you must convince your reader that your research design and procedures will adequately address the study’s problems. Additionally, it seeks to ensure that the employed methods are capable of interpreting the likely study results efficiently.

You should design your research in a way that is directly related to your objectives.

Exemplifying your study design using examples from your literature review, you are setting up your study design effectively. You should follow other researchers’ good practices.

Pay attention to the methods you will use to collect data, the analyses you will perform, as well as your methods of measuring the validity of your results.

If you describe the methods you will use, make sure you include the following points:

In the event that you closely follow the best practices outlined in relevant studies as well as justify your selection, you will be prepared to address any questions or concerns you may encounter.

We have an amazing article that will give you everything you need to know about research design .

#6 Knowledge Contribution and Relevance

In this section, you describe your theory about how your study will contribute to, expand, or alter knowledge about the topic of your study.

You should discuss the implications of your research on future studies, applications, concepts, decisions, and procedures. It is common to address the study findings from a conceptual, analytical, or scientific perspective.

If you are framing your proposal of research, these guide questions may help you:

Throughout this section, you will identify unsolved questions or research gaps in the existing literature. If the study is conducted as proposed, it is important to indicate how the research will be instrumental in understanding the nature of the research problem.

#7 Adherence to the Ethical Principles

In terms of scientific writing style, no particular style is generally acknowledged as more or less effective. The purpose is simply to provide relevant content that is formatted in a standardized way to enhance communication.

There are a variety of publication styles among different scholarly disciplines. It is therefore essential to follow the protocol according to the institution or organization that you are targeting.

All scholarly research and writing is, however, guided by codes of ethical conduct. The purpose of ethical guidelines, if they are followed, is to accomplish three things:

1) Preserve intellectual property right;

2) Ensure the rights and welfare of research participants;

3) Maintain the accuracy of scientific knowledge.

Scholars and writers who follow these ideals adhere to long-standing standards within their professional groups.

An additional ethical principle of the APA stresses the importance of maintaining scientific validity. An observation is at the heart of the standard scientific method, and it is verifiable and repeatable by others.

It is expected that scholars will not falsify or fabricate data in research writing. Researchers must also refrain from altering their studies’ outcomes to support a particular theory or to exclude inconclusive data from their report in an effort to create a convincing one.

#8 The budget

The need for detailed budgetary planning is not required by all universities when studying historical material or academic literature, though some do require it. In the case of a research grant application, you will likely have to include a comprehensive budget that breaks down the costs of each major component.

Ensure that the funding program or organization will cover the required costs, and include only the necessary items. For each of the items, you should include the following.

When doing a study, you cannot buy ingredients the way you normally would. With so many items not having a price tag, how can you make a budget? Take the following into consideration:

It is possible to calculate a budget while also being able to estimate how much more money you will need in the event of an emergency.

#9 Timeline

A realistic and concise research schedule is also important to keep in mind. You should be able to finish your plan of study within the allotted time period, such as your degree program or the academic calendar.

You should include a timeline that includes a series of objectives you must complete to meet all the requirements for your scholarly research. The process starts with preliminary research and ends with final editing. A completion date for every step is required.

In addition, one should state the development that has been made. It is also recommended to include other relevant research events, for instance paper or poster presentations . In addition, a researcher must update the timeline regularly, as necessary, since this is not a static document.

#10 A Concluding Statement

Presenting a few of the anticipated results of your research proposal is an effective way to conclude your proposal.

The final stage of the process requires you to reveal the conclusion and rationale you anticipate reaching. Considering the research you have done so far, your reader knows that these are anticipated results, which are likely to evolve once the whole study is completed.

In any case, you must let the supervisors or sponsors know what implications may be drawn. It will be easier for them to assess the reliability and relevance of your research.

It will also demonstrate your meticulousness since you will have anticipated and taken into consideration the potential consequences of your research.

The Appendix section is required by some funding sources and academic institutions. This is extra information that is not in the main argument of the proposal, but appears to enhance the points made.

For example, data in the form of tables, consent forms, clinical/research guidelines, and procedures for data collection may be included in this document.

Research Proposal Template

Now that you know all about each element that composes an ideal research proposal, here is an extra help: a ready to use research proposal example. Just hit the button below, make a copy of the document and start working!

process of research proposal writing

Avoid these common mistakes

In an era when rejection rates for prestigious journals can reach as high as 90 percent, you must avoid the following common mistakes when submitting a proposal:

A final note

We have come to the end of our research proposal guide. We really hope that you have found all the information you need. Wishing you success with the research study.

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How to Write a Research Proposal: Structure, Examples & Common Mistakes

How to Write a Research Proposal: Structure, Examples & Common Mistakes

Whether you are a student whose goal is to complete course requirements or a researcher looking for funding, knowing how to write a research proposal is an important skill. If you have had experience writing a project proposal, you might think that they are the same. However, they are not. The standards for research proposals are much stricter and they have varying guidelines for writing styles and formatting. In fact, those guidelines can change with every discipline or department.

A basic requirement when seeking approval for any type of research project and for applying for study grants or ethics committee approval (Kivunja, 2016) is providing an example of a well-written research proposal, which generally has two purposes. First, it shows and justifies the need to investigate a research problem and, second, it presents a set of workable strategies for conducting the proposed research (Miner & Miner, 2005).

This article aims to describe the common steps taken to prepare a written proposal as attractively as possible to achieve approval and/or funding. It also seeks to discuss key aspects that must be considered to help ensure that you can convert your proposed study into well-conducted actual research work.

How to Write a Research Proposal Table of Contents

I. Starting the Proposal Process

A. preliminary considerations.

Many students and novice researchers, unfortunately, do not completely comprehend what a research proposal structure means, nor do they recognize its value. At any rate, it is safe to say that a research project is only as good as its proposal. A poorly-prepared research proposal format adversely affects the research project although by some means it managed to get approved. Conversely, a well-written proposal not only helps ensure research success but also enhances your potential as a researcher among your evaluators.

Any type of research proposal follows the style, structure, and other writing conventions set by the relevant field of discipline. A research proposal outline’s content typically varies in length, from 3 to 35 pages, with references (and appendices, if necessary). But like any academic activity, start the research proposal template writing process by first carefully reading the instructions. Make sure to clarify anything that needs clarification and only proceed once everything is clear.

A word of caution, though. Maintain considerable control over how you conduct your research—a light, reconnaissance reading will do. People tend to fall into the over-research trap, which wastes valuable time to write. Once your structure of a research proposal has been approved, the researcher gains the right time to conduct deep research.

B. Key Questions to Be Asked

At this stage, it is good to ask these preparatory questions to help you steer your research in the right direction:

Generally, a compelling background and significance in research proposal will manifest if it effectively captures your knowledge about the topic and shows your deep interest to conduct the research. Handle it with the purpose of making your readers engaged about the study and what the outcomes will be.

In case you’re still unsure about your topic or in the process of exploring possibilities, it is good to consider how funding agencies across the world are allocating their budgets for research grants. For instance, in the field of market research, the top topics that won the most study grants in 2018 were market measurement (21%), media audience/research (12%), usage and attitude studies (12%), and CRM systems (8%) (ESOMAR, 2019). If you are considering marketing as a major , these are good references. Also, you can search for cutting-edge or controversial debate topics in your field. This way, you will also touch on the current interests of other researchers in your field.

Source: Global Market Research 2019

II. Research Proposal Writing

A. introduction.

A research proposal is commonly written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project when enrolling for a research-based postgraduate degree. Graduate and post-graduate students also embark on a university dissertation to obtain a degree or get that Ph.D. Although it is just a course assignment, a student must treat the introduction as the decisive initial pitch for a research inquiry or in-depth investigation of the significance of an issue for study.

After reading the introduction, your readers should be able to clearly understand what you want to do. Likewise, they should be able to appreciate your enthusiasm for the topic and to be engaged in the potential results of the study (Jackowski & Leggett, 2015).

Consider your introduction as a two-four-paragraph narrative that concisely responds to the following questions:

Take note that most academic institutions and funding agencies do not require an abstract or synopsis before the introduction. However, it is best to check your institution’s guidelines.

B. Background and Significance

This part is for explaining the context of a research proposal and for clearly describing its importance. While some writers integrate this part in the introduction, a number of scholars prefer to write it separately to allow for a smooth flow of a proposal’s narrative.

A good way to approach this section is by assuming that your readers are busy but want to know the gist of your research problem and the entire study (Kivunja, 2016). Remember that this is not an extensive essay that covers everything about your proposed study, but rather a concise text that is enough to elicit interest in your research.

With these in mind and although there is no definitive rule for framing a proposed study’s significance, you should endeavor to address the following key considerations:

C. Review of Prior Studies and Literature

Your study background and significance are directly related to this section, which primarily offers a more deliberate review and synthesis of existing studies pertinent to your proposed research problem. This part aims to properly situate your proposed study within the bigger scheme of things of what is being investigated, while, at the same time, showing the innovation and originality of your proposed work (Abdulai & Owusu-Ansah, 2014).

Because a literature review often involves heavy information, it is important that this section is smartly structured to allow a reader to comprehend the major contentions that underlie your proposed research vis-a-vis those of other scholars. An effective way to do this is to separate the literature into major themes or conceptual strategies. This is a better approach instead of chronologically or methodically describing sets of studies one by one.

As there are many efficient ways in framing your review of existing related studies, many scholars are following the use of the “five Cs” in writing a literature review (Sudheesh et al., 2016):

D. Aims and Research Questions

Once you’ve determined a good angle for your study, it is time to compose your research objectives. Ask yourself: What do you want your readers to know when they read your proposal? Give considerable time to properly frame your objectives and try to write them in a single sentence, if possible. Familiarize yourself with what is a research question if you are having difficulties in this area.

A research objective will help you stay focused and prevent you from drifting off on tangents (Krathwohl & Smith, 2005). Regardless of the specific topic or problem or method you choose, all study proposals must deal with the following questions:

For some institutions, this section can be included as part of the Introduction, usually placed as the last paragraph of that section.

E. Research Design & Methods

This part should be written properly and organized logically since you are not yet conducting the actual research. However, it must build confidence among your readers that it is something worth pursuing.

The underlying purpose here is to convince the reader that your research design and suggested analytical strategies will properly address the problem/s of the study. It also aims to assure the reader that the selected methods offer the means to efficiently interpret the likely study outcomes. Simply put, your research design and methods should be directly connected to the particular objectives of your research (Lyman & Keyes, 2019).

An effective way to frame your study design is by drawing good examples from your literature review. Emulate the good approaches used by other researchers. Be particular about the methodological techniques you intend to use to gather data, the strategies you will utilize to analyze your data, and the external validity measures you will employ.

Make sure to cover the following when describing the methods you will utilize:

Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect method for any type of research endeavor. However, if you rigorously follow the best practices employed by those who conducted relevant studies and provide the corresponding rationales why you selected them, then you can readily address any critique that might come your way.

F. Implications and Contribution to Knowledge

This section is where you contend how you think your proposed study will enhance, change, or expand current knowledge in the research topic that will be investigated. By drawing from your research objectives, explain how the expected outcomes will affect future studies, practice, theory, policymaking, procedures, etc. Discussing study implications typically have either methodological, theoretical, or substantive significance (Abdulai & Owusu-Ansah, 2014).

You can use these guide questions when framing the potential ramifications of your proposed research:

The purpose of this section is to reflect upon gaps or understudied topics of the existing literature and explain how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be conducted as proposed.

G. Compliance with Ethical Principles

There is nothing fundamentally best or worst when it comes to the scientific writing style. It is just a standardized approach for presenting information that is tailored to facilitate communication. Different scholarly disciplines have diverse publication styles. So this section depends on the protocols set by the target institution or agency.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that fundamental ethical principles guide all scholarly research and writing. If you are observing APA conventions, ethical guidelines are meant to accomplish three objectives, namely, “to protect intellectual property rights, to protect the rights and welfare of research participants, and to ensure the accuracy of scientific knowledge” (APA, 2014, pp. 11).

Every social and behavioral sciences writer (and other scholars who adhere to these principles) advocates these objectives and observes the long-standing standards that their professional groups follow (APA, 2014).

Another major ethical APA principle promotes the need to ensure the accuracy of scientific knowledge. The underlying principle behind the (universal) scientific method comprises observation, which can be verified and repeated by other scholars. Accordingly, scholars are expected to not engage in research writing that involves falsifying or fabricating data. Moreover, researchers should not modify study outcomes just to uphold a hypothesis or to remove problematic data in order to present a more credible report (APA, 2014).

Some universities do not require a detailed budgetary allocation for proposed studies that only involve archival research and simple academic research, although some still do. However, if you are applying for research funding, you will likely be instructed to also include a detailed budget that shows how much every major part of the project will cost.

Be sure to verify what type of costs the funding agency or institution will agree to cover, and only include relevant items in your budget. For every item, include:

Conducting a research project is not the same as buying ingredients when cooking meals. So how do you make a budget when most entries do not have a price tag? To prepare a correct budget, think about:

I. Timetable

The research schedule is another aspect where one should be realistic and to the point. The study turnaround time shows that your proposed study can be finished within the allowed period of completion, e.g., the student’s candidature or the university’s academic calendar.

The timeline must comprise a series of objectives that should be met to complete all the aspects of your academic research requirements (thesis, dissertation, or other degree requisites), from preliminary research to the final editing. Every step must include an expected completion date.

It should likewise contain a statement of the progress that one has made so far. Other relevant research-related activities should also be included, such as paper presentations (if applicable). Finally, it must be noted that the timeline is not a fixed document—a researcher must update it regularly, when necessary.

J. Conclusion

One of the best ways to conclude your research proposal is by presenting a few of your anticipated outcomes. Upon reaching this final stage, you must disclose the conclusions and arguments that you expect to reach. Your reader will know that these are anticipated results based on how much you’ve researched so far and that these expectations will likely change once the complete study has been made.

It is important, nonetheless, that you give your reader a sense of what conclusions may be drawn. This will allow your reader to further assess the significance and validity of your project. It will also indicate to your reader that you have thought ahead and considered the potential outcomes and implications of your research. Writing a r esearch proposal example should allow you to determine if you are communicating all essential information in your conclusion.

K. Appendices

Some funding agencies and academic institutions require proponents of research proposals to include an Appendix section. This contains supplemental material that is not a core element of a proposal’s main narrative but is considered valuable in enhancing the views and arguments raised in the proposal. It may include forms and data like tables, informed consent, clinical/research protocols, data collection instruments, etc.

This supplementary section is also the best part to include one’s latest curriculum vitae if required. You can include all relevant academic and professional experience to present your case as a qualified individual to conduct your proposed research. It will help significantly to present pertinent research works you’ve completed, especially if you have published research reports, articles, etc.

It should be noted that many students and budding researchers who went through the rigors of research actually found the experience so worthwhile that they made it a long-term career. In fact, research as a professional job is one of the better-paying jobs worldwide. According to Glassdoor (2020), the average base pay for professional researchers in the U.S. is $54,411 per year. Among OECD-member countries, Denmark tops the list with an average of 15.65 people employed as professional researchers or scientists for every 1,000 employees in 2018.

Source: oecd.org

III. Revisions and Proofreading

As with any other piece of academic writing, it is essential to redraft, edit, and proofread your research proposal before you submit it (van Ekelenburg, 2010). If you have the opportunity, ask a friend, colleague, or supervisor for feedback and writing suggestions before handing it over to the evaluators.

The peer-review process, whether for professional or student research, was designed not to reject submissions but actually as a quality control system to help researchers improve on their craft (RPS, 2016). Proposal revision can entail careful rewriting, which, in itself, can be a fruitful experience that can be used for the long term.

In academic publishing, proposal rejection is a reality, even for the most seasoned scholarly writers. In fact, the success rate of reapplied proposals is considerably higher compared to the first submissions. For instance, at the European Research Council, new applicants have a success rate of 9-10%. Repeat applications tend to have better success rates, from 14-15% (ERC, 2019).

To really boost your chances of getting a Google Scholar research proposal approval, you might want to consider seeking the help of professional proofreading services to remove grammatical errors, examine your proposal’s structure, and enhance your adherence to the required academic style.

process of research proposal writing

IV. Skills Required for a Research Proposal

It follows that the skills necessary to write research are similar to the set of skills needed to prepare a research proposal (Gilbert, 2006). Here, these necessary skills are grouped into three categories for better understanding:

It is essential to remember these skills as you work on your research proposal. This is because your readers will be looking for evidence of these important researcher’s skills in how you write. With the success rate for many research grants below 20% (e.g., NIH, Wellcome, NHMRC, etc.), these skills will be key in helping you achieve funding approval.

Research Proposal Success Rates for Selected Funding Organizations

Sources: US NIH (2017), Wellcome (2018), MHMRC (2019)

V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Proposal Writing

With rejection rates reaching as high as 97% at prestigious journals, it is only prudent to ensure that you are not making any of these customary mistakes when submitting your research proposal:

Submitting lengthy proposals . When writing research proposals, be to the point. Your submitted document must be focused and concise. Don’t diverge into irrelevant tangents without a clear sense of purpose.

Covering too much research ground . It is common for students to fail in delimiting the contextual boundaries of their studies, be it the topic, time, place, etc. As with any research paper, the proposed research must clearly inform the reader how the study will investigate the problem. Look for some research paper thesis examples  so you would know how to clearly communicate the scope of your inquiry.

Not citing major works in a literature review . While it is advised to keep everything in the proposal at a minimum—a few milestone research studies must already be included. Proposals should be grounded in landmark studies that provide the groundwork for appreciating the growth and scope of the issue.

Too much focus on minor issues, yet very few details on major issues . A proposal must focus only a few key study questions to clearly argue why it should be conducted. Mentioning minor issues is acceptable but they should not overpower the major ones, which should control the overall narrative.

Inability to frame a persuasive and coherent argument for the proposed study . This is another common yet crucial mistake of students and grant-seekers. In essence, the research proposal must be able to effectively argue why a study should be approved or funded.

Poor grammar or careless writing . While a research proposal only represents a small part of a complete study, it is expected to be well-written and observes the writing style and guidelines of good academic writing.

Source: APA (2018)

VI. Some Good Examples of Research Proposals

If you are looking for a research proposal example for students, here are some made for various disciplines and levels of study that you can emulate or derive valuable ideas from:

Postgraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

Although this article had covered as much ground as possible, the truth is that there is no universal style in writing search proposals. In the same manner, there is actually no definitive standard or secret formula behind a winning proposal. This is because every academic or funding institution has its own guidelines and protocols that every candidate or funding application must adhere to.

Nonetheless, integrating the specific instructions and guidelines of your institution with the key considerations and best practices discussed in this article will help ensure the approval of your proposal. Always remember to keep a healthy balance between substance and brevity when writing a research proposal. Share enough ideas just to open the door for your readers’ interest, and then give your “all” once you are given the go-signal to proceed with the proposed study.

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10 research proposal writing steps.

10 Research Proposal Writing Steps

At the onset of any thesis, you must be very clear with the Research Proposal writing steps. These steps must be synchronised in a very systematic manner. Always keep in mind that Research Proposal writing steps must be comprehensively organised to make the Supervisor understand the what , why , and how of your future thesis. It is therefore important that before the phase of the Research Proposal writing steps, you must have a clear draft of what exactly you are going to write in the Research Proposal. The draft must have well elaborated –

10 Research Proposal writing steps

As the draft for the Research proposal is finalised with a properly structured Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methodology, Possible Outcomes, and Reference list, it is time for following the Research Proposal writing steps. 10 steps that must be well arranged in the Research Proposal are noted below:

Step 1: Cover Page

At the beginning of the writing process of the research proposal, you need to have 3 pages for the Cover page, Title page, and Abstract. The step to prepare the cover page must be followed by -

=> Revise and Proofread

However, this can be considered even after the completion of the rest of the steps. This is a personal choice. 

Step 2: Introduction

The writing of the Introduction is very important for a Research Proposal. In this step, you need to make clear statements about the purpose or the relevance of the research. You must make an appropriate declaration of the Research Question, along with its Aim and Objectives.

Research Purpose/Relevance

Research Question

Research Aim and Objectives

The Research Question, Aim and Objectives, are the three things that remain the same in the future thesis. Thus, you need to be very assured of these declarations.    

Step 3: Literature Review

Research Proposal writing steps must consider Literature Review as the spine of the research process. It is the Literature review that makes the researcher attains exclusive knowledge about the research question and related queries. The notable subheadings to be included in this step are:

Empirical Analyses

Theoretical Analyses

Research Gaps

This step of writing the Literature review must make some declarations on empirical derivations and theoretical analyses initiated by former researchers in the respective field of research. In this step, it becomes very necessary to offer a Theoretical Framework as the map for understanding the research field. Critical evaluation of all the relevant former content is mandatory at this step. As the evaluation process gets accomplished, there is a need for making clear declarations about the attained Research Gaps. These researcher gaps will lead the Research Proposal writing steps to the next level- Research Methodology.

Step 4: Research Methodology

The decision regarding the Research Methodology depends on the identification of the right research philosophy. The research philosophy can be of either Pragmatism, Positivism, Realism, or Interpretivism. The appropriate selection of research philosophy will decide for research approach and design, and eventually the need for data collection sources. The necessary subheadings for this heading are:

Research Philosophy

Research Approach

Research Design

Data Collection

Kindly note that the inclusion of Research Design must remain about the Theoretical Framework as declared under the heading of the Literature Review.

Step 5: Knowledgeable Contributions

This is a step that remains focussed on the inclusion of -

Critical Evaluations of Possibilities

Research Contributions

=>  Revise and Proofread

As the researcher follows the Research Proposal writing steps, this step might appear difficult to present as it becomes somewhat early to declare the contributions of the research at this initial phase of the proposal. However, the researcher must offer some idea about the kind of possibilities that can be achieved through this research.

Step 6: Ethical Approval

The step for Ethical Approval must be well supported by the declarations of-

Consent Letter

Code of Ethics

The consent latter is mandatory for primary data collection, and the maintenance of the code of ethics must be adhered to as per the University norms. Remember, that you need to read all the ethical norms as stated on the official site of the University and structure the research process accordingly. 

Step 7: Research Timeline

Research Proposal writing steps must make a clear declaration about the total timeline need for the completion of a thesis. It is therefore very important to include-

Schedules Date Sheet

Chapters with Months

There can be possible variations in meeting the declared timelines, yet the basic framework needs to be followed appropriately.

Step 8: Research Expenditure

Many research works need travelling and other expenditure. Even many get funded. The researcher needs to make clear elaboration about the expenditure or funding of the research work. This elaboration must comprise- 

Research Cost

Justification on Cost

Source of Expenditure

It is necessary that you offer documents in support of your justification and the same can be added in the Appendices.

Step 9: Reference List

The researcher must follow this step as the crucial step among all the other steps of Research Proposal writing steps. A detailed and well-formatted list of the sources used in the research must be declared at this step.

University Recommended

Alphabetical Arrangement

Thus, this officially remains the last step on the entire list of Research Proposal writing steps.

Step 10: Appendices (if any)

The need for Appendices can be a step in the list of Research Proposal writing steps. However, it stands as optional, yet is recommended as it includes some major information related to the research. These major information can be-

Additional Data


Interview Questions

This step can consider including official documents or tables & charts, which have great relevance to the Introduction and the Literature Review sections.

On a conclusive note, revise and proofread the entire Research Proposal at every step. Always keep in mind that the aforementioned Research Proposal writing steps are very important in meeting the core need for systematic explanation on what , why , and how of your future thesis.

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Research Proposal with Example | How to Write a Good Research Proposal?

In academia, a research proposal is a document proposing a research project. This proposal generally constitutes a request for sponsorship of their research. An example research proposal is an outline of your proposed project that is designed to explain all the important factors of your proposed research .

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All the research proposals are evaluated on the cost and potential impact of the proposed research, and on the soundness of the proposed plan for carrying it out.

Key factors of Research Proposal

A good research proposal should contain the following key factors,

In this article, in order to help the researchers to write a successful research proposal ilovephd provides the 9 important steps to write a good research proposal with example.

9 important steps in writing a research proposal with Example

First of all, the research proposals are not the same in size. It may vary based on the funding agency you going to apply for. So it is important to check the format and guidelines of the particular funding agencies you apply to. However, A typical proposal may contain 2500-3000 words.

1. Abstract

As always, the abstract is the key area where all the evaluator check first.

2. Introduction

The second most important part of the proposal is the introduction. An impressive introduction must include the following points.

3. Problem statement in research proposal

A problem statement is build based on valuable research questions such as what is the problem that you have identified in your research area? or What is the current problem faced and what are its persisting effects? Also, it should follow some important attributes which are mentioned below.

4. Purpose of the study

This section briefly describes the purpose of your study and why you are going to do this study in a crisp and clear manner.

5. Objective and Significance of the research

The impact of the study need to be clearly stated in the proposal also it should answer the following 4 questions.

6. Methodology

A sixth most important point to write a fine proposal is to write a research methodology with the questions how you are going to start your research right from literature review till the end conclusion in 4 to 5 points.

7. Expected results of the project

This section includes the expected result of your research . 2 to 3 lines of approximate result with its achievement on the target application.

8. Research Proposal – Estimated Budget

Budgeting is one of the important parts to be estimated. It is divided into two parts “Non-Recurring Budget” & “Recurring Budget”.

What is Recurring Budget?

A recurrent  budget  tracks ongoing revenues and expenses that occur on a regular basis, be they monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually. Also known as an operational  budget , a recurrent  budget  includes line items such as wages, utilities, rent or lease payments, and taxes.

This part comprises of salary budget (if you hire anyone like JRF, SRF, fellows), Budget for consumables( yearly expenditures), Budget for travel (within your country or abroad), Budget for other costs / contingencies ( purchasing of books, review papers, taking prints, Xerox, demonstration, electricity charges, institute infrastructural charges etc.).

What is Non-Recurring Budget?

This part you have to state what are all the machines, software ’s, equipment you want. This is a one-time purchase. So have a clear idea of what all you need to start your research experiment.

A separate table of the entire summary of the budget estimate has to be developed stating all the total of different budgets in a single table and the GRAND TOTAL

9. References

Finally, include 1-4 high impact research works related to your research as a reference in your research proposal.

Hope, these 9 important Research Proposal Examples will help you to write a successful research proposal .

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How to write your research proposal

A key part of your application is your research proposal. Whether you are applying for a self-funded or studentship you should follow the guidance below.

If you are looking specifically for advice on writing your PhD by published work research proposal, read our guide .

You are encouraged to contact us to discuss the availability of supervision in your area of research before you make a formal application, by  visiting our areas of research .

What is your research proposal used for and why is it important?

How long should my research proposal be?

It should be 2,000–3,500 words (4-7 pages) long.

What should be included in my research proposal?

Your proposal should include the following:


You should include:


You should formulate these clearly, giving an explanation as to what problems and issues are to be explored and why they are worth exploring


You should provide an outline of:


You should include an outline of the various stages and corresponding time lines for developing and implementing the research, including writing up your thesis.

For  full-time study  your research should be completed within three years, with writing up completed in the fourth year of registration.

For  part-time study  your research should be completed within six years, with writing up completed by the eighth year.


Related pages

Fees and funding.

How much will it cost to study a research degree?

Research degrees

Find out if you can apply for a Research Degree at the University of Westminster.

Research degree by distance learning

Find out about Research Degree distance learning options at the University of Westminster.

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