Research Proposal: Definition, Features and Professional Tips

on 24/11/2019

Usually, newbie scientists and students fail to know what a research proposal actually means. In addition, they do not always understand how critical it is. To explain that shortly, professionals say: the look of your proposal determines that of your research.


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A wrongly written proposal means the death of your project, even in case it passes through the admission committee successfully for some reason. Oppositely, a perfect proposal impresses supervisors with your scientific potential and almost guarantees success for the paper itself.

The goal of that paper is to prove that your project is worth attention, and you are competent enough to finish it correctly. Also, it shows your built plan. Typically, this writing contains critical elements playing their roles in the process of researching and includes vital information about the study evaluation.

No matter what the chosen methodology and academic fields are, the proposal should answer the standard set of questions:

  • What exactly do you aim to reach?
  • What is the reason for you to investigate that particular topic?
  • How do you plan to explore it and reach your goals?   

A proposal needs to contain enough data to ensure the reader about the importance of its idea, the availability of proper reference materials regarding the topical problems, and the appropriate methodology.

The proposed project does not determine the quality of a proposal on its own. The way you write it matters a lot. Actually, even the best project can potentially face a denial just because of a poorly written proposal. So, compelling, bright, and coherent writing will pay off.

The further article text is not about how to develop your ideas. We concentrated on research proposal writing more.

Research Proposal Title

Make sure to structure it in a descriptive and concise manner. Come up with a title that is catchy and informative at a time. An excellent title encourages the interest of readers and additionally tunes them to a positive attitude regarding the proposal.

Research Proposal Briefing: Abstract

An abstract consists of nearly 300 words summarizing the project. Points to mention:

  • The main question.
  • The study rationale.
  • The hypothesis (if relevant).
  • The investigation method.
  • The key findings.

Method descriptions may also contain the samples, instruments, procedures, and the design planned to use.

Introduction: Probably the Most Critical Part

The goal of every intro is to set the required context or background for the chosen problem. The most significant dilemma in writing a proposal is probably the problem framing.

In case you frame the research problem as the general, common literature review, the reader may find the question and the project banal. Nevertheless, when you place the question in the narrow area context, the evident significance appears.

It’s a pity, but straight rules on framing the research problem do not exist. The same thing works for writing an informative and intriguing introductory paragraph: we do not have any universal receipt. Things depend on your ability to be creative, to understand problems deeply, and to have clear thinking.

It would be an excellent choice to position the question in the context of a relevantly "hot" field. Next to this, you should bring a short but appropriate history retrospective to the table. Then, show up the ongoing context while placing your question right in the middle of the scene. The last but not least important step is to mark "key" experts and reference scientific publications. Long story short, you need to present the question in a broader manner while underlining its significance simultaneously.

Normally, the intro beginning is some general framing of the problem field. Then, you focus on a special problem connected with the study justification or rational.

General intro components:

  • The research problem statement serving as the study purpose.
  • Showing the need and relevance of the chosen research question by setting up the context for it appropriately.
  • Indicating why the study is worth to do it.
  • The description of the main problems and issues your research addresses.
  • The experiment variables (both dependent and independent ones) indicated. The other way is to focus on the phenomenon you plan to study.
  • In case it is relevant, a theory or hypothesis statement. One may not have a hypothesis if there is phenomenological or exploratory research.
  • Setting the limits and frames to narrow down the research focus.
  • Optional point: definitions of key ideas, words, and concepts.

Literature Review

Students sometimes decide to insert this point into the intro part. Nevertheless, teachers and supervisors usually like to separate literature review sections more. A distinguished part of a proposal helps them review the literature references in detail.

Here is the list of critical functions the research proposal literature review has:

  1. It proves that your research is not about the "wheel reinvention."
  2. It serves as a credit to people providing the research basis.
  3. It shows that you know the problem.
  4. It means that you understand the theory and possible research issues.
  5. It demonstrates your critical thinking and evaluation of the literature data relevance.
  6. It proves your ability to synthesize and use the available sources.
  7. It gives new insights into theories or brings new models to the scene shaping the research concept.
  8. It ensures the reader about the significance of your future scientific contribution.

There are several common errors that students make when writing their literature reviews:

  1. The text lacks structure and organization.
  2. The review is not coherent, united, and focused.
  3. There are too many words and repetitions.
  4. The review does not cite crucial, acknowledged works.
  5. The literature is outdated.
  6. The review fails to evaluate cited texts critically.
  7. References are trivial.
  8. Too many secondary literature sources on the list.

In case any of the mentioned mistakes appear in your proposal, be ready for reviewers doubting your competence, experience, and scholarship.

You can choose several various ways to structure and organize this part of a research proposal. Try using subheadings to turn a literature review into a coherent and ordered part of a scientific project, for instance.

Do not forget that you should tell the audience a story. Choose an engaging and stimulating manner to shape it correctly. Avoid turning the proposal into a boring piece of text.

Research Proposal: Methods

It is a critical section as it shows the committee your plans on tackling the research problem. The method section brings your work plan to the table and describes the steps and actions required to finish the research.

The main rule when writing the research proposal method section is to make sure it contains enough data. When the reader is able to find out the methodology is okay, the section is written well. There are also scientists telling that a perfect proposal provides details enough for any other qualified expert to complete the project.

It is good to show alternative, unconventional methods, and their knowledge, and prove that your way is the most suitable one for the particular question.


Proposal writing


Research Proposal Writing: Results

Of course, there are no results available when you write the proposal. Nevertheless, there should be an idea about the information you plan to gather and statistics you intend to use to give answers or complete tests.

Discussion Point

Another critical thing is to convince readers that the proposed investigation has a potential impact. Share your confidence and enthusiasm. Try to give them the same feeling yet without exaggerating the inquiry merits.

Due to the points above, you also should point out the weaknesses and frames of the investigation you plan to provide. Time, financial constraints, early field development, and other likely reasons can justify them.

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