How to Write Your Research Proposal (Including Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An effective research proposal can help demonstrate the value of your intended research. It can demonstrate your suitability for a research program and aid you in obtaining sponsorship for your research. Understanding the elements of a comprehensive research proposal might help you create your own. In this article, we define a research proposal, provide the steps to creating a proposal and discuss some tips to help you improve it.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a document that explains the intended research. A proposal intends to convince a potential sponsoring institution that the research is worth supporting and funding. Your proposal demonstrates the value of your study while emphasising how it's innovative, interesting and essential. It also explains how the research is suitable and manageable. A proposal is a structured document explaining what you're planning to research, why it's valuable and how you intend to investigate.

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How to write your research proposal

Here are nine steps to help you create an effective proposal:

1. Start with a title page

Beginning your proposal with a descriptive title page offers an organised, easily identified document. Your title page might include your full name, the proposed name of your research and the name of the institution that you're committed to. It can also include the name of the institution or organisation where you submit the proposal. Although the title page is brief, it's important to ensure you present it professionally because this is the first thing a reviewer sees. It could help intrigue them, encouraging them to analyse the rest of the proposal.

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2. Consider a table of contents

Depending on the requirements of the institution you are seeking sponsorship from, your proposal might benefit from a table of contents. This can help ensure your document is easy to navigate, and important information is easy to find. A table of contents is most beneficial for a lengthy proposal. The length of each proposal can vary significantly depending on each institution's requirements. Consider the length of your document and whether a reader might benefit from having a table of contents to help navigate through the amount of information.

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3. Create a strong introduction

Your proposal's introduction is your pitch to the reader about the research and why it is important. An introduction might begin by describing the central issue of your study. Outline the field of study relevant to this central issue, why it is important and the methods you believe are necessary to conduct your research. Your introduction's intention is to demonstrate why the reader may have an interest in the proposed research.

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4. Specify background information for the proposed research

Specifying background information for the proposed research allows you to explain its importance in further detail. Here, you can elaborate on the purpose of the research, which is essential for proposals that involve complex or multifaceted elements. You can justify your proposal and describe the reasoning that makes it valuable and worthwhile. In this section, you might also highlight how your research could support and build on existing hypotheses. You can also clearly outline the limitations of your proposed study, creating a clear research focus.

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5. Outline existing research on the issue

This section includes previous research done on the topic and its significance to the proposed research. Providing an in-depth review of existing research on the issue can help the potential sponsor to understand how yours can build on existing research, while also drawing attention to the originality of your proposed research. You can structure these details by listing them in major themes, allowing the reader to understand how they're pertinent to the primary arguments of your proposal.

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6. Explain your research methods

Explaining your research methods to show your proposed research is capable of adequately addressing the core issues within the study. When developing this section, ensure it's structured appropriately and logically. This helps you build confidence in your proposal and convince a sponsor that it's worth pursuing. To do this, explain your intended research methodologies and key decisions thoroughly.

These elements help to demonstrate how you plan to undertake your research, if the intended research is appropriate for your study and whether the research is manageable within time and budget restraints.

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7. Elaborate on the contribution of knowledge

You can elaborate on the expected contribution to the knowledge your proposed research might provide. This can include further information on how it might enhance understanding of the research topic and how it could potentially affect future studies, procedures and theories. In this section, discuss what the potential outcomes of your research could signify, which future studies might emerge from your research, how the research could affect professionals in the real-world context and how people might benefit from this research. This determines how your research can contribute to a valuable conclusion about the research topic.

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8. Include a budget and timetable

Including a detailed and honest budget and timetable helps determine the costs the sponsor may need to cover and how long the research might take if they move forward with your proposal. To detail the budget, begin with the amount of money you require to complete the entire study. You can then explain why the budget items are necessary for conducting the research. Once you've presented the amount and reasoning, you can provide an explanation of how you calculated the budget.

The timeline in your proposal includes each objective comprising all aspects of your research requirements. When creating your timeline, focus on ensuring it highlights your ability to complete your proposed study within the projected period.

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9. Finish with a conclusion and bibliography

Conclude your proposal by explaining some of your expected research outcomes. Explain any conclusions you anticipate you might reach to help show that you've considered the potential implications and outcomes thoroughly. It can also be important to include a thorough bibliography. This consists of a detailed list of any references or sources relevant to your proposal. You can also include specific key articles you've referred to in your proposal.

Tips for creating an effective proposal

Here are some tips to help you create an effective proposal:

Prepare yourself before you begin

Before you begin writing, ensure you've prepared yourself with the adequate knowledge to create a structured document. Consider the research topic you plan to study and ensure you have a clear understanding of why it's worthwhile researching. Determine the problems you intend to resolve by completing the study and how your research of this topic might help to improve already existing research related to the topic. Having a deep awareness of these questions can help you create a well-written and organised proposal.

Determine clear objectives

With a good understanding of the research topic you wish to pursue, you can create clear objectives. Ensure you have specific and focused objectives that consider exactly what you plan to achieve, why you want to achieve these results and how you plan to manage them. This helps maintain your document's focus, ensuring it's compelling and targeted.

Proofread your proposal

Proofreading your proposal thoroughly is an essential step before submitting it. An error-free document highlights your attention to detail and can help portray your professionalism. To ensure you create an error-free proposal, you could use a spell check tool while typing it. Once you've written your proposal, it's beneficial to read it through to identify any potential wording, grammar or spelling errors and resolve them. When identifying errors, it can often be helpful to print the document and read a hard copy.

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