The submission of your research proposal marks an important step in any researcher’s career, acting as the foundation for approval into a research program. Some higher education courses require a well-crafted and convincing proposal as part of the application process. With such a large amount of importance attached to this piece of work, it can become extremely difficult figuring out how to properly frame and write the document, to allow you to have the best chance possible at achieving your researching dreams.
The first steps should ideally involve you deciding the area of research and your topic. Although this sounds simple in theory, this can actually be the hardest step for many researchers. Fortunately, we have an article devoted entirely to the selection of research topics right here.
Once your research topic is finalised, the next step is writing the proposal itself.
What should my research proposal contain?
Every university, research body and funding institution has some different details when it comes to the content of a proposal, but some of the content is largely the same.
Your title should reflect keywords or phrases that highlight what your entire study is about. Although this can change while you are writing your thesis, bear in mind that the title is the first thing any reviewer will read. Keep it concise and relevant for the maximum impact.
Include a general background for your research. This should include a brief outline of your research area and the work that has already been carried out in your field. This shows reviewers that you are knowledgeable and passionate about this field and have carried out research relating to the topic.
♦ Aims, objectives, research questions and the significance of the study
What do you want to address in your study and what is the objective of your study? More importantly, as you should highlight in the section related to significance, why is your study important? What does it contribute to society and why would someone want to fund your research?
♦ Review of Literature
As stated in the previous point, it is important to show reviewers that you have done the groundwork for the given project. Poor effort or jumbled thoughts in a proposal are a forewarning of what the future research project will hold. Given that proposals have a word or page limit, it is impossible to include every single relevant reference in the document, which is why you need to include the most relevant landmark studies in your field. Good judgement and selection can go a long way. Be sure to highlight the research gap, reviewers and funding bodies want to know how your study will make a difference. The gap should be clear and well-defined.
This section addresses how you will tackle the research problem. Although you are not expected to go into great detail, you should be able to demonstrate some insight, relating to the approach you will use, whether you plan to use quantitative and qualitative methods, the statistical analyses you hope to adopt and so on.
Key Points to Address in your Proposal
- Keep a strict track of deadlines and word counts.
- Make sure that the research gap and the significance of your study are highlighted in your proposal.
- Do not leave your proposal till the last minute, reviewers can tell when you have rushed.
- Some institutions require you to name potential supervisors. If that is the case, make sure you approach them well before the deadline and have a refined version of the proposal to show them. Discuss your goals and prospective research with them and listen to their feedback. They may even offer you advice on your drafts.
- Research for a PhD or Masters program is time-bound. Ensure that your work is feasible within the time span. Projects that appear overzealous will be rejected. Be prepared to provide a rough schedule of how you will conduct your work within the stipulated time span.
- If your project has ethical implications, or your study involves vulnerable populations, make sure you address that in your proposal.
Writing a research proposal can be nerve-wracking, but as long as you put in the effort and can demonstrate your passion for research, you have an excellent chance of succeeding.
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