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Research Proposal Example/Sample

Detailed Walkthrough + Free Proposal Template

If you’re getting started crafting your research proposal and are looking for a few examples of research proposals , you’ve come to the right place.

In this video, we walk you through two successful (approved) research proposals , one for a Master’s-level project, and one for a PhD-level dissertation. We also start off by unpacking our free research proposal template and discussing the four core sections of a research proposal, so that you have a clear understanding of the basics before diving into the actual proposals.

  • Research proposal example/sample – Master’s-level (PDF/Word)
  • Research proposal example/sample – PhD-level (PDF/Word)
  • Proposal template (Fully editable) 

If you’re working on a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis, you may also find the following useful:

  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : Learn how to write a research proposal as efficiently and effectively as possible
  • 1:1 Proposal Coaching : Get hands-on help with your research proposal

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

FAQ: Research Proposal Example

Research proposal example: frequently asked questions, are the sample proposals real.

Yes. The proposals are real and were approved by the respective universities.

Can I copy one of these proposals for my own research?

As we discuss in the video, every research proposal will be slightly different, depending on the university’s unique requirements, as well as the nature of the research itself. Therefore, you’ll need to tailor your research proposal to suit your specific context.

You can learn more about the basics of writing a research proposal here .

How do I get the research proposal template?

You can access our free proposal template here .

Is the proposal template really free?

Yes. There is no cost for the proposal template and you are free to use it as a foundation for your research proposal.

Where can I learn more about proposal writing?

For self-directed learners, our Research Proposal Bootcamp is a great starting point.

For students that want hands-on guidance, our private coaching service is recommended.

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Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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How to write a good research proposal (in 9 steps)

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A good research proposal is one of the keys to academic success. For bachelor’s and master’s students, the quality of a research proposal often determines whether the master’s program= can be completed or not. For PhD students, a research proposal is often the first step to securing a university position. This step-by-step manual guides you through the main stages of proposal writing.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using the links below at no additional cost to you . I only recommend products or services that I truly believe can benefit my audience. As always, my opinions are my own.

1. Find a topic for your research proposal

2. develop your research idea, 3. conduct a literature review for your research proposal, 4. define a research gap and research question, 5. establish a theoretical framework for your research proposal, 6. specify an empirical focus for your research proposal, 7. emphasise the scientific and societal relevance of your research proposal, 8. develop a methodology in your research proposal, 9. illustrate your research timeline in your research proposal.

Finding a topic for your research is a crucial first step. This decision should not be treated lightly.

Writing a master’s thesis takes a minimum of several weeks. In the case of PhD dissertations, it takes years. That is a long time! You don’t want to be stuck with a topic that you don’t care about.

How to find a research topic? Start broadly: Which courses did you enjoy? What issues discussed during seminars or lectures did you like? What inspired you during your education? And which readings did you appreciate?

Take a blank piece of paper. Write down everything that comes to your mind. It will help you to reflect on your interests.

Then, think more strategically. Maybe you have a rough idea of where you would like to work after graduation. Maybe a specific sector. Or even a particular company. If so, you could strategically alight your thesis topic with an issue that matters to your dream employer. Or even ask for a thesis internship.

Once you pinpoint your general topic of interest, you need to develop your idea.

Your idea should be simultaneously original, make a scientific contribution, prepare you for the (academic) job market, and be academically sound.

Freaking out yet?! Take a deep breath.

First, keep in mind that your idea should be very focused. Master and PhD students are often too ambitious. Your time is limited. So you need to be pragmatic. It is better to make a valuable contribution to a very specific question than to aim high and fail to meet your objectives.

Second, writing a research proposal is not a linear process. Start slowly by reading literature about your topic of interest. You have an interest. You read. You rethink your idea. You look for a theoretical framework. You go back to your idea and refine it. It is a process.

Remember that a good research proposal is not written in a day.

And third, don’t forget: a good proposal aims to establish a convincing framework that will guide your future research. Not to provide all the answers already. You need to show that you have a feasible idea.

how to write a research proposal easy

If you are looking to elevate your writing and editing skills, I highly recommend enrolling in the course “ Good with Words: Writing and Editing Specialization “, which is a 4 course series offered by the University of Michigan. This comprehensive program is conveniently available as an online course on Coursera, allowing you to learn at your own pace. Plus, upon successful completion, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a valuable certificate to showcase your newfound expertise!

Academic publications (journal articles and books) are the foundation of any research. Thus, academic literature is a good place to start. Especially when you still feel kind of lost regarding a focused research topic.

Type keywords reflecting your interests, or your preliminary research idea, into an academic search engine. It can be your university’s library, Google Scholar , Web of Science , or Scopus . etcetera.

Look at what has been published in the last 5 years, not before. You don’t want to be outdated.

Download interesting-sounding articles and read them. Repeat but be cautious: You will never be able to read EVERYTHING. So set yourself a limit, in hours, days or number of articles (20 articles, for instance).

Now, write down your findings. What is known about your topic of interest? What do scholars focus on? Start early by writing down your findings and impressions.

Once you read academic publications on your topic of interest, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is there one specific aspect of your topic of interest that is neglected in the existing literature?
  • What do scholars write about the existing gaps on the topic? What are their suggestions for future research?
  • Is there anything that YOU believe warrants more attention?
  • Do scholars maybe analyze a phenomenon only in a specific type of setting?

Asking yourself these questions helps you to formulate your research question. In your research question, be as specific as possible.

And keep in mind that you need to research something that already exists. You cannot research how something develops 20 years into the future.

how to write a research proposal easy

A theoretical framework is different from a literature review. You need to establish a framework of theories as a lens to look at your research topic, and answer your research question.

A theory is a general principle to explain certain phenomena. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

It is not only accepted but often encouraged to make use of existing theories. Or maybe you can combine two different theories to establish your framework.

It also helps to go back to the literature. Which theories did the authors of your favourite publications use?

There are only very few master’s and PhD theses that are entirely theoretical. Most theses, similar to most academic journal publications, have an empirical section.

You need to think about your empirical focus. Where can you find answers to your research question in real life? This could be, for instance, an experiment, a case study, or repeated observations of certain interactions.

Maybe your empirical investigation will have geographic boundaries (like focusing on one city, or one country). Or maybe it focuses on one group of people (such as the elderly, CEOs, doctors, you name it).

It is also possible to start the whole research proposal idea with empirical observation. Maybe you’ve come across something in your environment that you would like to investigate further.

Pinpoint what fascinates you about your observation. Write down keywords reflecting your interest. And then conduct a literature review to understand how others have approached this topic academically.

Both master’s and PhD students are expected to make a scientific contribution. A concrete gap or shortcoming in the existing literature on your topic is the easiest way to justify the scientific relevance of your proposed research.

Societal relevance is increasingly important in academia, too.

Do the grandparent test: Explain what you want to do to your grandparents (or any other person for that matter). Explain why it matters. Do your grandparents understand what you say? If so, well done. If not, try again.

Always remember. There is no need for fancy jargon. The best proposals are the ones that use clear, straightforward language.

The methodology is a system of methods that you will use to implement your research. A methodology explains how you plan to answer your research question.

A methodology involves for example methods of data collection. For example, interviews and questionnaires to gather ‘raw’ data.

Methods of data analysis are used to make sense of this data. This can be done, for instance, by coding, discourse analysis, mapping or statistical analysis.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good timeline. Inevitably throughout your thesis process, you will feel lost at some point. A good timeline will bring you back on track.

Make sure to include a timeline in your research proposal. If possible, not only describe your timeline but add a visual illustration, for instance in the form of a Gantt chart.

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Blog Education

How to Write a Research Proposal: A Step-by-Step

By Danesh Ramuthi , Nov 29, 2023

How to Write a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a structured outline for a planned study on a specific topic. It serves as a roadmap, guiding researchers through the process of converting their research idea into a feasible project. 

The aim of a research proposal is multifold: it articulates the research problem, establishes a theoretical framework, outlines the research methodology and highlights the potential significance of the study. Importantly, it’s a critical tool for scholars seeking grant funding or approval for their research projects.

Crafting a good research proposal requires not only understanding your research topic and methodological approaches but also the ability to present your ideas clearly and persuasively. Explore Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates to begin your journey in writing a compelling research proposal.

What to include in a research proposal?

In a research proposal, include a clear statement of your research question or problem, along with an explanation of its significance. This should be followed by a literature review that situates your proposed study within the context of existing research. 

Your proposal should also outline the research methodology, detailing how you plan to conduct your study, including data collection and analysis methods.

Additionally, include a theoretical framework that guides your research approach, a timeline or research schedule, and a budget if applicable. It’s important to also address the anticipated outcomes and potential implications of your study. A well-structured research proposal will clearly communicate your research objectives, methods and significance to the readers.

Light Blue Shape Semiotic Analysis Research Proposal

How to format a research proposal?

Formatting a research proposal involves adhering to a structured outline to ensure clarity and coherence. While specific requirements may vary, a standard research proposal typically includes the following elements:

  • Title Page: Must include the title of your research proposal, your name and affiliations. The title should be concise and descriptive of your proposed research.
  • Abstract: A brief summary of your proposal, usually not exceeding 250 words. It should highlight the research question, methodology and the potential impact of the study.
  • Introduction: Introduces your research question or problem, explains its significance, and states the objectives of your study.
  • Literature review: Here, you contextualize your research within existing scholarship, demonstrating your knowledge of the field and how your research will contribute to it.
  • Methodology: Outline your research methods, including how you will collect and analyze data. This section should be detailed enough to show the feasibility and thoughtfulness of your approach.
  • Timeline: Provide an estimated schedule for your research, breaking down the process into stages with a realistic timeline for each.
  • Budget (if applicable): If your research requires funding, include a detailed budget outlining expected cost.
  • References/Bibliography: List all sources referenced in your proposal in a consistent citation style.

Green And Orange Modern Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal in 11 steps?

Writing a research proposal in structured steps ensures a comprehensive and coherent presentation of your research project. Let’s look at the explanation for each of the steps here:  

Step 1: Title and Abstract Step 2: Introduction Step 3: Research objectives Step 4: Literature review Step 5: Methodology Step 6: Timeline Step 7: Resources Step 8: Ethical considerations Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance Step 10: References Step 11: Appendices

Step 1: title and abstract.

Select a concise, descriptive title and write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology and expected outcomes​​. The abstract should include your research question, the objectives you aim to achieve, the methodology you plan to employ and the anticipated outcomes. 

Step 2: Introduction

In this section, introduce the topic of your research, emphasizing its significance and relevance to the field. Articulate the research problem or question in clear terms and provide background context, which should include an overview of previous research in the field.

Step 3: Research objectives

Here, you’ll need to outline specific, clear and achievable objectives that align with your research problem. These objectives should be well-defined, focused and measurable, serving as the guiding pillars for your study. They help in establishing what you intend to accomplish through your research and provide a clear direction for your investigation.

Step 4: Literature review

In this part, conduct a thorough review of existing literature related to your research topic. This involves a detailed summary of key findings and major contributions from previous research. Identify existing gaps in the literature and articulate how your research aims to fill these gaps. The literature review not only shows your grasp of the subject matter but also how your research will contribute new insights or perspectives to the field.

Step 5: Methodology

Describe the design of your research and the methodologies you will employ. This should include detailed information on data collection methods, instruments to be used and analysis techniques. Justify the appropriateness of these methods for your research​​.

Step 6: Timeline

Construct a detailed timeline that maps out the major milestones and activities of your research project. Break the entire research process into smaller, manageable tasks and assign realistic time frames to each. This timeline should cover everything from the initial research phase to the final submission, including periods for data collection, analysis and report writing. 

It helps in ensuring your project stays on track and demonstrates to reviewers that you have a well-thought-out plan for completing your research efficiently.

Step 7: Resources

Identify all the resources that will be required for your research, such as specific databases, laboratory equipment, software or funding. Provide details on how these resources will be accessed or acquired. 

If your research requires funding, explain how it will be utilized effectively to support various aspects of the project. 

Step 8: Ethical considerations

Address any ethical issues that may arise during your research. This is particularly important for research involving human subjects. Describe the measures you will take to ensure ethical standards are maintained, such as obtaining informed consent, ensuring participant privacy, and adhering to data protection regulations. 

Here, in this section you should reassure reviewers that you are committed to conducting your research responsibly and ethically.

Step 9: Expected outcomes and significance

Articulate the expected outcomes or results of your research. Explain the potential impact and significance of these outcomes, whether in advancing academic knowledge, influencing policy or addressing specific societal or practical issues. 

Step 10: References

Compile a comprehensive list of all the references cited in your proposal. Adhere to a consistent citation style (like APA or MLA) throughout your document. The reference section not only gives credit to the original authors of your sourced information but also strengthens the credibility of your proposal.

Step 11: Appendices

Include additional supporting materials that are pertinent to your research proposal. This can be survey questionnaires, interview guides, detailed data analysis plans or any supplementary information that supports the main text. 

Appendices provide further depth to your proposal, showcasing the thoroughness of your preparation.

Beige And Dark Green Minimalist Research Proposal

Research proposal FAQs

1. how long should a research proposal be.

The length of a research proposal can vary depending on the requirements of the academic institution, funding body or specific guidelines provided. Generally, research proposals range from 500 to 1500 words or about one to a few pages long. It’s important to provide enough detail to clearly convey your research idea, objectives and methodology, while being concise. Always check

2. Why is the research plan pivotal to a research project?

The research plan is pivotal to a research project because it acts as a blueprint, guiding every phase of the study. It outlines the objectives, methodology, timeline and expected outcomes, providing a structured approach and ensuring that the research is systematically conducted. 

A well-crafted plan helps in identifying potential challenges, allocating resources efficiently and maintaining focus on the research goals. It is also essential for communicating the project’s feasibility and importance to stakeholders, such as funding bodies or academic supervisors.

Simple Minimalist White Research Proposal

Mastering how to write a research proposal is an essential skill for any scholar, whether in social and behavioral sciences, academic writing or any field requiring scholarly research. From this article, you have learned key components, from the literature review to the research design, helping you develop a persuasive and well-structured proposal.

Remember, a good research proposal not only highlights your proposed research and methodology but also demonstrates its relevance and potential impact.

For additional support, consider utilizing Venngage’s Proposal Maker and Research Proposals Templates , valuable tools in crafting a compelling proposal that stands out.

Whether it’s for grant funding, a research paper or a dissertation proposal, these resources can assist in transforming your research idea into a successful submission.

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11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the steps in developing a research proposal.
  • Choose a topic and formulate a research question and working thesis.
  • Develop a research proposal.

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.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in the news
  • Sexual education programs
  • Hollywood and eating disorders
  • Americans’ access to public health information
  • Media portrayal of health care reform bill
  • Depictions of drugs on television
  • The effect of the Internet on mental health
  • Popularized diets (such as low-carbohydrate diets)
  • Fear of pandemics (bird flu, HINI, SARS)
  • Electronic entertainment and obesity
  • Advertisements for prescription drugs
  • Public education and disease prevention

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.

Collaboration

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

  • Developing a research proposal involves the following preliminary steps: identifying potential ideas, choosing ideas to explore further, choosing and narrowing a topic, formulating a research question, and developing a working thesis.
  • A good topic for a research paper interests the writer and fulfills the requirements of the assignment.
  • Defining and narrowing a topic helps writers conduct focused, in-depth research.
  • Writers conduct preliminary research to identify possible topics and research questions and to develop a working thesis.
  • A good research question interests readers, is neither too broad nor too narrow, and has no obvious answer.
  • A good working thesis expresses a debatable idea or claim that can be supported with evidence from research.
  • Writers create a research proposal to present their topic, main research question, subquestions, and working thesis to an instructor for approval or feedback.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Write a Research Proposal: Steps, Outline, Example, and More!

how to write a research proposal easy

What Is a Research Proposal: Definition and Purpose

A research proposal is a strategic tool for a world of uncharted discoveries. It is the entrance to the world of scientific inquiry, where the bounds of human knowledge are pushed, and new perspectives are unveiled. When wondering what is a research proposal and what is its main purpose, remember that it accomplishes two things at once: it persuades the academics that the proposed study deserves funding and leads the researcher on an exciting intellectual quest. The proposal combines a call to action, a request for financial support, and a mission statement. It's a creative work that unites the brilliance of creation with the powerful ability to persuade, opening up a whole new range of alternatives.

A research proposal sets forth a planned research study's objectives, approach, schedule, and financial details. Its main goal is to persuade a funding organization or other interested parties that the suggested project is worth the investment and that the scholar has the competence and assets necessary to complete it adequately. The proposal has to be crystal clear, direct to the point, and persuasive, making a strong argument for the significance of the study, its future contribution, and the original strategy the scholar would employ. Each ambitious researcher should have a strong study proposal, which may lead to funding possibilities, team projects, and even brand-new insights.

We bet you'd fancy a guide on how to write a proposal for a research paper with detailed information and explaining steps required to successfully complete your work. Then, let's delve into the following sections right away!

How to Write a Research Proposal Step-by-Step

There is no research proposal template that is universally applicable to all types of papers. However, no matter how extensive and in-depth your study is, you will discover that the majority of research paper proposal example templates contain the following information:

How to Write a Research Proposal Step-by-Step

Research Paper Title

So, how to start a research proposal? The logical answer is to first come up with a proper title. A well-written title can greatly increase the likelihood of a research article being read and referenced. For instance, a study titled 'The Effect of Media Platforms on Social Development: A Systematic Review' effectively communicates the study's focus while clarifying how it was conducted. The reader will find it simpler to comprehend the study's goal and any potential ramifications owing to the title's precision and informational nature.

An abstract provides a 150-300 word summary of a research paper and its primary objectives, methods, results, and conclusions. As it is frequently the first thing readers see and can influence whether they continue reading the complete article, the abstract is an important part of a research study. An effective abstract should summarize the paper's ideas, be simple to read, and emphasize the importance and possible influence of the work. It should give readers a thorough understanding of the paper's scope and purpose while piquing their interest in learning more.

If you're wondering how to write a research proposal context, remember that here you should provide the structure and background information of your paper. Typically, you should discuss related literature reviews and any gaps in research that you'll be exploring throughout the study. It's also suggested that you stress the importance of undertaking the research and mentioning related theoretical and conceptual frameworks employed. Considering these, providing the context in your proposal is crucial since it helps your audience comprehend the study's relevance and how it fits into a broader perspective.

Research Question

The research question is the foundation of your proposal that shapes your study design and defines its main goal. It demonstrates your desire to learn more while furthering your academic career. If you're writing a proposal about comparing the US and UK healthcare systems, then you can come up with the following research question: 'How do low-income citizens with severe diseases do in terms of their physical well-being in the US and the UK?'.

Research Method

In the research proposal, you should go into depth about how you conducted your study. Explain your key research tools and the techniques you employed to get your results. If you conducted interviews, tell the reader about the subjects of your questions. Lastly, provide your analysis of the results.

Research Significance

Afterward, you should describe the significance of your work. Every research proposal sample will briefly explain how your research is unique and contributes to the topic of study. You might wish to provide reasoning for the necessity of your study at this given moment. For example: 'The study's findings connect Psycho with other contemporary movies that share the same shock-factor traits. The startling aspect is more difficult to create today, as seen by the rise of low-budget, badly made horror movies that rely on shock rather than suspense to keep viewers' interest.'

Bibliography

Finally, you should compile a list of the articles and books most helpful to your research. You may need to do so according to the guidelines set forth by your instructor for research papers (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). You could also develop an annotated bibliography in which you explain how each resource aided your inquiry.

How to Create a Research Proposal Outline with a Research Proposal Template

Your outline format should look like the research proposal example provided above. Ensure you have a well-defined research topic and a clear plan for organizing your approach before starting the proposal writing process. Our history essay writer suggests that the following be included in your research proposal outline:

How to Write a Research Proposal outline

I. Introduction

  • Background information and context
  • Research problem statement
  • Research question(s) or hypothesis

II. Literature Review

  • Review of relevant literature
  • Identification of gaps in existing research
  • Explanation of how the proposed research will address those gaps

III. Methodology

  • Research design
  • Participants or population
  • Sampling method
  • Data collection methods
  • Data analysis methods

IV. Expected Results

  • Discussion of expected outcomes
  • Significance of expected outcomes

V. Timeline

  • Project timeline with major milestones
  • Itemized budget with justification for expenses

VII. Conclusion

  • Recap of the research problem and proposed solution
  • Potential contributions to the field of study

VIII. References

  • List of references cited in the proposal

outline research

This research paper outline should give you a clear idea of how to write a research proposal example effortlessly. Now, let our research proposal writing service tells out more about the formatting details.

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How to Format a Research Proposal Properly: APA Research Proposal

A research proposal format might be as short as a few paragraphs or as extensive as up to ten pages for dissertations. When unsure how to format a research proposal, first discuss details with your teacher, such as length, content, style, etc. However, one of the most demanded formats is the APA style, which follows a specific format as given in the American Psychological Association guidelines. As it guides the project and helps guarantee that the study is thorough, ethical, and evidence-based, a research proposal example APA is usually generated before the study is conducted. Here is the general APA format:

  • 12-point font Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins
  • An APA running head (limited to 50 characters)
  • A title page with the paper's title (no more than 12 words in length), your name, and the name of your institution
  • An abstract (150-200 words)
  • In-text citations
  • References page

Effective Research Proposal Topics

Research proposals are the foundation of scholarly investigation. Therefore, thinking of fresh and distinctive research proposal ideas might be difficult. Due to this, our paper writers have supplied some excellent research proposal topics that will add excitement and enthusiasm to your academic endeavor:

  • Investigating whether virtual reality affects how medical students acquire empathy.
  • Examining the efficiency of a mindfulness-based treatment in decreasing college students' social media addiction.
  • The link between preschoolers' cultivation of creativity and outdoor recreation.
  • Evaluating the application of chatbots to provide mental health therapy to underprivileged groups.
  • Fostering food security and social cohesiveness in urban areas using green spaces.
  • An investigation of how music affects the development of memory in older people.
  • Examining how light pollution affects nocturnal animals' circadian clocks.
  • Investigating how mindfulness techniques affect people with anxiety disorders' ability to control their emotions.
  • The link between teenage self-esteem and use of social media.
  • An investigation on the effects of daily exercise on mental function in people with moderate memory loss.

Research Proposal Example

Here is a research proposal example APA. Notice the structure of a short research paper (around 15 pages) and the APA formatting.

If you enjoyed our sample, feel free to drop us your ' write an essay for me ' request for any kind of assignment.

To wrap up, we hope our article assisted you in writing a research proposal. In addition to providing a thorough analysis of all the crucial elements of a research project, we provided guidance on how to write a research paper proposal that stands out.

And if you're already prepared to start producing a scholarly research paper, you can always rely on us! Contact us with your ' write my research paper ' request to place an order for a quality custom term paper that will easily impress your professor!

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Home » How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

Table of Contents

How To Write A Proposal

How To Write A Proposal

Writing a Proposal involves several key steps to effectively communicate your ideas and intentions to a target audience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each step:

Identify the Purpose and Audience

  • Clearly define the purpose of your proposal: What problem are you addressing, what solution are you proposing, or what goal are you aiming to achieve?
  • Identify your target audience: Who will be reading your proposal? Consider their background, interests, and any specific requirements they may have.

Conduct Research

  • Gather relevant information: Conduct thorough research to support your proposal. This may involve studying existing literature, analyzing data, or conducting surveys/interviews to gather necessary facts and evidence.
  • Understand the context: Familiarize yourself with the current situation or problem you’re addressing. Identify any relevant trends, challenges, or opportunities that may impact your proposal.

Develop an Outline

  • Create a clear and logical structure: Divide your proposal into sections or headings that will guide your readers through the content.
  • Introduction: Provide a concise overview of the problem, its significance, and the proposed solution.
  • Background/Context: Offer relevant background information and context to help the readers understand the situation.
  • Objectives/Goals: Clearly state the objectives or goals of your proposal.
  • Methodology/Approach: Describe the approach or methodology you will use to address the problem.
  • Timeline/Schedule: Present a detailed timeline or schedule outlining the key milestones or activities.
  • Budget/Resources: Specify the financial and other resources required to implement your proposal.
  • Evaluation/Success Metrics: Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and restate the benefits of your proposal.

Write the Proposal

  • Grab attention: Start with a compelling opening statement or a brief story that hooks the reader.
  • Clearly state the problem: Clearly define the problem or issue you are addressing and explain its significance.
  • Present your proposal: Introduce your proposed solution, project, or idea and explain why it is the best approach.
  • State the objectives/goals: Clearly articulate the specific objectives or goals your proposal aims to achieve.
  • Provide supporting information: Present evidence, data, or examples to support your claims and justify your proposal.
  • Explain the methodology: Describe in detail the approach, methods, or strategies you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Address potential concerns: Anticipate and address any potential objections or challenges the readers may have and provide counterarguments or mitigation strategies.
  • Recap the main points: Summarize the key points you’ve discussed in the proposal.
  • Reinforce the benefits: Emphasize the positive outcomes, benefits, or impact your proposal will have.
  • Call to action: Clearly state what action you want the readers to take, such as approving the proposal, providing funding, or collaborating with you.

Review and Revise

  • Proofread for clarity and coherence: Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Ensure a logical flow: Read through your proposal to ensure the ideas are presented in a logical order and are easy to follow.
  • Revise and refine: Fine-tune your proposal to make it concise, persuasive, and compelling.

Add Supplementary Materials

  • Attach relevant documents: Include any supporting materials that strengthen your proposal, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  • Appendices: Add any additional information that might be useful but not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Formatting and Presentation

  • Follow the guidelines: Adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.
  • Use a professional tone and language: Ensure that your proposal is written in a clear, concise, and professional manner.
  • Use headings and subheadings: Organize your proposal with clear headings and subheadings to improve readability.
  • Pay attention to design: Use appropriate fonts, font sizes, and formatting styles to make your proposal visually appealing.
  • Include a cover page: Create a cover page that includes the title of your proposal, your name or organization, the date, and any other required information.

Seek Feedback

  • Share your proposal with trusted colleagues or mentors and ask for their feedback. Consider their suggestions for improvement and incorporate them into your proposal if necessary.

Finalize and Submit

  • Make any final revisions based on the feedback received.
  • Ensure that all required sections, attachments, and documentation are included.
  • Double-check for any formatting, grammar, or spelling errors.
  • Submit your proposal within the designated deadline and according to the submission guidelines provided.

Proposal Format

The format of a proposal can vary depending on the specific requirements of the organization or institution you are submitting it to. However, here is a general proposal format that you can follow:

1. Title Page:

  • Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization’s name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines.

2. Executive Summary:

  •  Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.
  • Summarize the problem, proposed solution, and anticipated benefits.
  • Keep it brief and engaging, as this section is often read first and should capture the reader’s attention.

3. Introduction:

  • State the problem or issue you are addressing and its significance.
  • Provide background information to help the reader understand the context and importance of the problem.
  • Clearly state the purpose and objectives of your proposal.

4. Problem Statement:

  • Describe the problem in detail, highlighting its impact and consequences.
  • Use data, statistics, or examples to support your claims and demonstrate the need for a solution.

5. Proposed Solution or Project Description:

  • Explain your proposed solution or project in a clear and detailed manner.
  • Describe how your solution addresses the problem and why it is the most effective approach.
  • Include information on the methods, strategies, or activities you will undertake to implement your solution.
  • Highlight any unique features, innovations, or advantages of your proposal.

6. Methodology:

  • Provide a step-by-step explanation of the methodology or approach you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Include a timeline or schedule that outlines the key milestones, tasks, and deliverables.
  • Clearly describe the resources, personnel, or expertise required for each phase of the project.

7. Evaluation and Success Metrics:

  • Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Identify specific metrics, indicators, or evaluation methods that will be used.
  • Describe how you will track progress, gather feedback, and make adjustments as needed.
  • Present a detailed budget that outlines the financial resources required for your proposal.
  • Include all relevant costs, such as personnel, materials, equipment, and any other expenses.
  • Provide a justification for each item in the budget.

9. Conclusion:

  •  Summarize the main points of your proposal.
  •  Reiterate the benefits and positive outcomes of implementing your proposal.
  • Emphasize the value and impact it will have on the organization or community.

10. Appendices:

  • Include any additional supporting materials, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  •  Attach any relevant documents that provide further information but are not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Proposal Template

Here’s a basic proposal template that you can use as a starting point for creating your own proposal:

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing to submit a proposal for [briefly state the purpose of the proposal and its significance]. This proposal outlines a comprehensive solution to address [describe the problem or issue] and presents an actionable plan to achieve the desired objectives.

Thank you for considering this proposal. I believe that implementing this solution will significantly contribute to [organization’s or community’s goals]. I am available to discuss the proposal in more detail at your convenience. Please feel free to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

Yours sincerely,

Note: This template is a starting point and should be customized to meet the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.

Proposal Sample

Here’s a sample proposal to give you an idea of how it could be structured and written:

Subject : Proposal for Implementation of Environmental Education Program

I am pleased to submit this proposal for your consideration, outlining a comprehensive plan for the implementation of an Environmental Education Program. This program aims to address the critical need for environmental awareness and education among the community, with the objective of fostering a sense of responsibility and sustainability.

Executive Summary: Our proposed Environmental Education Program is designed to provide engaging and interactive educational opportunities for individuals of all ages. By combining classroom learning, hands-on activities, and community engagement, we aim to create a long-lasting impact on environmental conservation practices and attitudes.

Introduction: The state of our environment is facing significant challenges, including climate change, habitat loss, and pollution. It is essential to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to understand these issues and take action. This proposal seeks to bridge the gap in environmental education and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship among the community.

Problem Statement: The lack of environmental education programs has resulted in limited awareness and understanding of environmental issues. As a result, individuals are less likely to adopt sustainable practices or actively contribute to conservation efforts. Our program aims to address this gap and empower individuals to become environmentally conscious and responsible citizens.

Proposed Solution or Project Description: Our Environmental Education Program will comprise a range of activities, including workshops, field trips, and community initiatives. We will collaborate with local schools, community centers, and environmental organizations to ensure broad participation and maximum impact. By incorporating interactive learning experiences, such as nature walks, recycling drives, and eco-craft sessions, we aim to make environmental education engaging and enjoyable.

Methodology: Our program will be structured into modules that cover key environmental themes, such as biodiversity, climate change, waste management, and sustainable living. Each module will include a mix of classroom sessions, hands-on activities, and practical field experiences. We will also leverage technology, such as educational apps and online resources, to enhance learning outcomes.

Evaluation and Success Metrics: We will employ a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Pre- and post-assessments will gauge knowledge gain, while surveys and feedback forms will assess participant satisfaction and behavior change. We will also track the number of community engagement activities and the adoption of sustainable practices as indicators of success.

Budget: Please find attached a detailed budget breakdown for the implementation of the Environmental Education Program. The budget covers personnel costs, materials and supplies, transportation, and outreach expenses. We have ensured cost-effectiveness while maintaining the quality and impact of the program.

Conclusion: By implementing this Environmental Education Program, we have the opportunity to make a significant difference in our community’s environmental consciousness and practices. We are confident that this program will foster a generation of individuals who are passionate about protecting our environment and taking sustainable actions. We look forward to discussing the proposal further and working together to make a positive impact.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Should you have any questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

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How to Write a Research Proposal

Last Updated: October 12, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 777,158 times.

The exact format and requirements for a research proposal can vary slightly depending on the type of research being proposed and the specific demands of the institution you plan to submit your proposal to, but there are a few basics that are almost always needed. Overall, a good research proposal takes time to write and must identify what the proposed research will address and why the proposed research is so important. Here is a brief explanation of the sections needed to complete a standard research proposal as well as the writing timeline you should strive to follow.

Research Proposal Help

how to write a research proposal easy

Sections of a Proposal

Step 1 Come up with a title for your proposal.

  • For example, try a short, informative title like, “Medieval Plagues and the Movement Towards Humanism,” or “The Negative Impact of Alcohol on Liver Function.”
  • Avoid phrases like “An Investigation of…” or “A Review of the…”

Step 2 Create a title page.

  • Each sponsoring agency may specify a format for the title page. If an agency does not, apply the APA style. [3] X Research source
  • Include a "running head" in the upper left corner. The running head will appear on all pages of the document and should be a shortened version of the title.
  • Include the page number in the upper right corner. The page number should appear on all pages of the proposal.
  • Center the full title of your research proposal roughly 1/3 of the way down the page. Double space it, and immediately below the title, insert your name. Below your name, list the institution you are affiliated with and the names and affiliations of any co-investigators you’re working with. In some styles, you may include their contact information as well.

Step 3 Summarize the proposal...

  • Center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page.
  • Begin the text of your abstract directly below the word "Abstract." Do not indent the paragraph.
  • The text of you abstract will usually be between 150 and 250 words.

Step 4 List keywords that will come up in your proposal.

  • For example, if your proposal is about heart diseases, you might use phrases like circulatory system, blood, heart attack, etc.
  • Your keywords can be single words, or phrases of 2-4 words.

Step 5 Include a table of contents.

  • Brief proposals that only span a few pages do not often need a table of contents. Leaving out a table of contents is common, but depends on the type of research you’re doing and the institution you’re submitting the proposal to.
  • Especially long proposals may also need a list of illustrations, figures, or tables.
  • List all major parts and divisions of the proposal.

Step 6 Move into your introduction.

  • Restate and center the title of your paper before moving into your introduction. Include a quick note about the topic being discussed and a definition of the theory from which your proposed research will be based.
  • Write "Statement of Problem" before moving into a paragraph detailing the problem. When writing this part of the introduction, seek to answer the question: why does this research need to be conducted and what new issues does this research raise?
  • Type "Purpose of Study" before writing this section of the introduction. Identify the goal of the study in one precise terms.
  • Type "Significance of Research." In the paragraph below, answer why the area of research is important and identify the type of research or analysis proposed.

Step 7 Provide background in the introduction.

  • If desired, you can break this section into multiple subsections.
  • Under a header reading "Research Question" or "Research Hypothesis," describe the relationship between variables in the research or predict the relationship between variables. This essentially identifies the research problem.
  • Under a header reading "Definition of Terms," define the central ideas that will be utilized in the proposed research.
  • Also provide evidence supporting your competence or expertise in the field.

Step 8 Write a Literature...

  • Don’t turn this section into a list or a bland summary. Sum up existing research in a story-like manner that draws readers in while exposing the hole that your research will attempt to fill.

Step 9 Describe the proposed research.

  • This section can also be titled "Methodology."
  • Provide a complete explanation of your proposed research. Address the explanation to experts in the field rather than laymen.
  • The set up and information in this section will depend on whether your research is qualitative and quantitative. You’ll likely have subsections like "Research Design," "Instrumentation," "Data Collection and Analysis Procedures." You may include information about what you will do to protect the rights of human subjects, if necessary, under a section called "Protection of Human Rights.” Other possible subsections might include “Rigor,” “Neutrality,” “Consistency,” and “Applicability.”
  • You should also demonstrate your knowledge of alternative methods, while making the case that your approach is the most effective way to tackle your research question.
  • Be realistic about what you hope to accomplish, clear about your focus, and explicit about everything the research relies on. The description should also include a detailed schedule of the proposed work and thorough about all groundwork and materials needed.
  • Also include information about sample size and target populations, if applicable.

Step 10 Describe relevant institutional resources.

  • Identify information like the institution's past competence or contributions within the field of research, the university's supportive services, or the institution's research facilities.

Step 11 List references.

  • Note that this section is not always included, especially for shorter proposals.
  • State the expertise and responsibilities of each contributor.

Step 13 Include appendices, if necessary.

  • Each cost should include justifying information.

Writing Timeline

Step 1 Take several months to prepare your research proposal.

  • At 26 weeks, review administrative requirements for the foundations and organizations you plan to submit your proposal to. Double-check due dates and submission requirements.
  • At 23 to 25 weeks, create a one to two page preliminary statement defining your proposed research.
  • If working with an adviser or colleagues, present this short version of your proposal at 23 weeks. Use any feedback you receive to further focus your research in week 22.
  • Research the context, history, and background of your research problem at 21 weeks.
  • At 19 weeks, write a two to three page document exploring questions and possible methodological approaches.
  • Contact experts in the field at 17 weeks to learn about the feasibility and relevance of each potential methodological approach.
  • Continue your research during week 16 and refine your research question by week 14.

Step 3 Perform early administrative tasks in Phase Ib.

  • At 20 weeks, identify and contact any relevant sources of information, including experts, archives, and organizations.
  • Begin researching your budget needs by 18 weeks and your protocol process by 14 weeks.
  • Request any necessary transcripts by 13 weeks.

Step 4 Focus your writing and administration in Phase II.

  • Create a single 5-page document containing your research question, framework, and proposed research design by week 13.
  • Gather any additional data needed to complete a draft during week 12.
  • Reconnect with collaborators and organizations. Determine which will be most helpful.
  • Add the remaining details needed to complete your draft. Use the above guidelines or guidelines provided by the provider of the grant provider. Complete this between weeks 10 and 12.
  • Ask your colleagues or adviser for more feedback by the 9 week mark.
  • Revise your draft at 8 weeks. Create a tentative budget and ask advisers for letters of recommendation.

Step 5 Edit and submit your proposal during Phase II.

  • At 5 weeks, review specific requirements addressed by the application and revise your proposal to meet this requirements and incorporate adviser suggestions.
  • Give yourself a break during week 4 to let things settle.
  • Remind your adviser and other faculty about your letters of recommendation during week 3.
  • At 2 weeks, assemble your materials, review your proposal, and finalize your proposal.
  • Ask colleagues to help you copy-edit 10 days in advance.
  • Print your final copy and collect your materials 3 to 4 days in advance.
  • Submit your research proposal 2 to 3 days before the due date.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Include images, charts, and diagrams in your methodology section if allowed and if applicable. The resources can structure the information in an easy-to-digest format while also breaking up otherwise long, monotonous blocks of text. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 0
  • Be objective. Throughout the entire research proposal, you must strive to maintain an objective tone. Identify the importance of your research using broad academic reasons instead of narrow personal reasons. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1

how to write a research proposal easy

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  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185911
  • ↑ https://guides.library.illinois.edu/c.php?g=504643&p=3454882
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/abstract
  • ↑ https://libguides.lvc.edu/c.php?g=333843&p=2247147
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037942/
  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185916
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/literaturereview
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282423/
  • ↑ https://academicanswers.waldenu.edu/faq/72739

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a research proposal, start by writing an introduction that includes a statement of the problem that your research is trying to solve. After you've established the problem, move into describing the purpose and significance of your research within the field. After this introduction, provide your research questions and hypotheses, if applicable. Finally, describe your proposed research and methodology followed by any institutional resources you will use, like archives or lab equipment. To learn how to construct a realistic writing timeline, keep reading. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Research Paper Guide

Writing Research Proposal

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Research Proposal Writing - A Step-by-Step Guide

17 min read

Published on: Dec 9, 2017

Last updated on: Jan 18, 2024

Research Proposal

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If you're a student, you've probably heard about research proposals, but what are they exactly, and how do you write one without feeling overwhelmed?

A research proposal is a plan of your research paper that shows what you want to study, how you'll do it, and why it's important. 

But don't worry if it sounds a bit complicated at first; we're here to make it clear and straightforward.

In this guide, we'll break down research proposals into easy-to-understand steps. 

We'll explain how to structure your proposal, share examples, and tell you about common mistakes to avoid.

Let's begin!

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What is a Research Proposal? 

According to the research proposal definition, it is like a roadmap. It's a document that explains what you want to study, why it's important, and how you plan to do it. Think of it as your guidebook for conducting research.

How Long is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal typically ranges from 1,500 to 3,000 words in length for Bachelor’s or Master’s. However, the proposals for PhD dissertations are long and detailed due to their complexity when developing research strategies.

The precise length can vary depending on the academic institution, funding agency, or specific guidelines provided for your research proposal. 

Why Research Proposal is Important? 

A research proposal has different purposes, including: 

  • Clarifying Intentions: It forces you to think about what you want to investigate and why it matters.
  • Seeking Approval: In many academic settings, you need to get approval for your research. A well-written proposal is your ticket to gaining that approval.
  • Funding Your Research: If you need financial support for your research, a proposal is often required. It helps funding organizations understand the value of your work.

Key Questions to Address in Your Research Proposal  

When crafting a research proposal, it's essential to address several key questions to ensure that your proposal is comprehensive and well-structured. 

Here are the fundamental questions to consider:

  • What is Your Research Topic or Problem?

This question asks you to define the central issue or question that your research intends to explore. It's the starting point for your proposal and sets the stage for what you aim to investigate.

  • Why is Your Research Important?

Here, you explain the significance of your research. You need to clarify why your study is relevant and what impact it may have on your field of study or on society as a whole.

  • What is Your Research Objective or Hypothesis?

You should state what you intend to achieve or discover through your research. If applicable, you can also provide a hypothesis, which is a tentative answer to your research question.

  • What Previous Research Exists?

This involves conducting a brief literature review to identify existing research related to your topic. You should outline what has been studied before and highlight any gaps or unanswered questions that your research addresses.

  • What is Your Research Methodology?

Here, you describe the methods and techniques you plan to use in your research. You need to be specific about how you will collect and analyze data, which is crucial for evaluating the validity of your study.

  • What Are the Expected Outcomes?

This question asks you to outline the expected results or findings of your research. What do you hope to discover, prove, or contribute to your field? It provides a preview of the potential impact of your study.

How to Write a Research Proposal?

In this section, we'll explore the important sections needed to create a well-crafted research proposal, providing detailed insights and guidance.

In a research proposal, the title page is the very first section, serving as the cover page for your document.

It typically includes the following essential elements:

  • Main Title of the Research Work
  • Student's Name
  • Supervisor's Name
  • Institution and Department

Abstract and Table of Contents

In a research proposal, the abstract is a concise summary of your research proposal, providing a snapshot of its key elements. Keep the abstract brief, typically within 250 words, and include:

  • A concise statement of your research topic and its significance.
  • A brief overview of your research objectives or questions.
  • A summary of your research methodology.
  • The expected outcomes or contributions of your study.

The table of contents is a structured outline of your research proposal's contents. It acts as a roadmap, aiding readers in navigating the document efficiently. A well-organized table of contents typically includes:

  • Section headings and subheadings.
  • Page numbers for each section.
  • A clear hierarchy that reflects the document's structure.

Research Paper Introduction

The introduction of your research paper serves as a concise and compelling entry point for your readers. 

Wondering how to write a research proposal introduction? It should include:

  • Introduction of the Topic: Briefly introduce the subject matter and what readers can expect from your paper.
  • Main Research Problem: Clearly state the central research question or problem you are addressing.
  • Background of the Issue: Provide context by explaining the importance of the problem and any gaps in existing research.
  • Methodology: Mention the research methods you've employed.
  • Significance: Explain why your research matters and its potential impact.
  • Future Plan: Conclude with an overview of your paper's structure and research objectives.

Background and Significance

This section provides essential context and rationale for your research:

  • State the Problem: Clearly define the research problem and its complexities.
  • Rationale of the Study: Explain why your research is important and its relevance within your field.
  • Critical Issues Addressed: Specify the key issues your research aims to resolve.
  • Research Methodology: Briefly describe your chosen methods and data sources.
  • Scope Clarification: Define the research boundaries to outline what you will and won't cover.
  • Key Term Definitions: Provide concise explanations of any specialized terms or concepts.

Literature Review 

A comprehensive literature review in a research proposal is important. It is a thorough analysis of literature sources that are relevant to the research topic. A strong review aims to convince readers about the valuable contribution to the existing knowledge by giving information.

Key Elements of a Literature Review 

Here are the 5 C’s that can make up a literature review.

  • Cite: Reference relevant sources to acknowledge previous research.
  • Contrast: Highlight differences among theories or findings.
  • Compare : Identify similarities and shared insights.
  • Connect: Explain how your research builds upon prior work.
  • Critique: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of previous studies.

By using them, compare and contrast the main theories and methods. Also, identify the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches while writing a literature review. 

Research Design and Methods 

In this section, you outline the overall strategy and research proposal steps you'll take to address your research questions. 

The key is not just listing methods but demonstrating why your chosen method is the most suitable approach to answer your questions.

The below table will help you identify the methodology in a research proposal.

Hypothesis 

A hypothesis is a critical initial step in defining the purpose of your research. It not only provides a clear objective for researchers but also helps readers understand the essence of your study. 

Well-crafted hypotheses streamline the research process, making it more efficient.

Key Questions to Consider When Formulating a Hypothesis 

  • What Will be the Research Outcome Concerning the Theoretical Framework and Assumptions?

Define the expected outcome of your study in relation to the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions you've established.

  • What Suggestions Could Arise from Research Outcomes?

Anticipate potential recommendations or suggestions that might emerge from the results of your research.

  • How Will Results Contribute to the Natural Workplace Setting?

Consider how the research outcomes might impact or enhance the natural dynamics of a workplace or relevant setting.

  • Will the Outcomes Contribute to Social and Economic Issues?

Assess whether your research results have implications for broader social or economic problems.

  • How Will the Outcomes Influence Policy Decisions?

Explore how your research findings could inform or influence policy decisions at various levels.

  • How Can Research Benefits Extend to Individuals or Groups?

Identify the potential benefits that your research might offer to individuals or specific groups within society.

  • What Aspects Can Be Improved as a Result of Your Study?

Determine the areas or practices that could be enhanced based on the findings of your research.

  • How Will Study Outcomes be Implemented in the Future?

Consider the practical application and implementation of your research outcomes in the future.

The primary purpose of the discussion is to analyze the significance of your findings in the context of the research problem. 

Additionally, this section explores new and promising insights that can guide future research studies.

  • Highlight Frameworks: Emphasize the frameworks that guided your study.
  • Examine Significance: Analyze the importance of your findings in addressing the research problem.
  • Connect to Introduction: Maintain alignment with your research's purpose and introduction.
  • Present Fresh Insights: Share new insights that emerged from your study.
  • Propose Future Research: Suggest directions for future studies based on your research.

Define the timeline for the various writing stages of the research, along with milestones and deadlines:

1. Stages of Research

  • Break down your research into stages (e.g., literature review, data collection, analysis, writing).
  • Provide a timeline for each stage, indicating when you expect to start and finish each phase.

2. Milestones and Deadlines

  • Define specific milestones that mark significant progress points in your research.
  • Set deadlines for each milestone, helping you stay on track and manage your time effectively.

Define the budget of your work in this step if your research involves expenses. 

Provide a detailed outline for your budget, including:

  • Personnel Costs
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Travel Expenses
  • Participant Compensation
  • Data Collection and Analysis Services
  • Publication Fees
  • Miscellaneous Costs
  • Contingency Fund
  • Total Budget

Expected Outcomes

When you are writing about expected outcomes, briefly outline the main results or discoveries you anticipate from your research. 

Clearly connect these outcomes to your research objectives or questions.

  • Practical Implications
  • Scope Limitations
  • Methodological Limitations
  • Alternative Approaches

Research Paper Conclusion

The conclusion serves as a concise summary of your entire research study, highlighting its significance and importance. 

It should be a brief section, typically comprising one to two paragraphs, focusing on:

  • Purpose of the Research Study: Clarify why your research study was conducted and what overarching questions it sought to address.
  • Advancement of Existing Knowledge: Emphasize how your research contributes to the current body of knowledge in your field or area of study.
  • Relation to Theory or Hypothesis: Discuss how your research aligns with the theoretical framework or hypothesis you proposed earlier in the paper.
  • Benefits to Scholars: Consider how your research findings might benefit other scholars, researchers, or practitioners in your field.
  • Prospects for Future Implications: Conclude by highlighting the potential implications of your study for future research or practice.

A research proposal formatting must include proper citations for every source that you have used. Similarly, the referencing list should also contain full publication details. 

A standard paper proposal has two kinds of citations.

  • References - Only list the sources you have used in the proposal.
  • Bibliography - List sources used along with other additional citations that you have studied to conduct the research.

Always choose the specific citation formats required by the professors. It includes APA, MLA, and Chicago. 

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Research Proposal Format

A properly formatted research proposal not only enhances the clarity, but it also shows that the researcher is serious about a careful and well-planned study.

Here is the outline of a well-structured research proposal:

Guidelines for Research Proposal Formatting

Here are generic formatting guidelines for a research proposal:

Font and Font Size:

  • Use a readable font such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use a standard font size, typically 12-point for the main text.
  • Set standard margins on all sides, usually 1 inch (2.54 cm).
  • Use double-spacing for the entire document, including the abstract, body, and references.
  • Single space within tables, figures, and footnotes.

Citations :

  • Use a consistent citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Include proper in-text citations and a bibliography or references section.
  • If applicable, place any additional materials in an appendix.
  • Clearly label and refer to the appendix in the main text.

Research Proposal Examples

Have a look at the sample research proposal for a better understanding.

APA Research Proposal

Student Research Proposal Example

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Research Proposal Example Pdf

Research Proposal Topics

Here are some considerations and examples to inspire your research proposal topics:

  • The Impact of Technology on Remote Work Productivity
  • Gender Disparities in STEM Education
  • Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Urban Areas
  • Mental Health and Social Media Use
  • The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
  • Cultural Heritage Preservation in the Digital Age
  • The Economics of Sustainable Agriculture
  • Online Learning and Student Engagement
  • Psychological Resilience in the Face of Natural Disasters
  • Exploring Ethical Implications of Genetic Engineering

Mistake to Avoid when Writing a Research Proposal 

When crafting your research proposal, it's crucial to steer clear of common pitfalls that can hinder the quality and effectiveness of your proposal. Here are some key mistakes to avoid:

  • Lack of Clarity: Failing to clearly articulate your research questions, objectives, and methodology can lead to confusion among readers.
  • Insufficient Literature Review: Neglecting a comprehensive review of existing research can result in a lack of context and relevance for your study.
  • Overly Ambitious Scope: Trying to tackle too broad a topic within the constraints of a research proposal can lead to unrealistic expectations and an unfocused study.
  • Weak or Absent Justification: Failing to explain the significance and relevance of your research can undermine its credibility.
  • Inadequate Methodology: A poorly defined research methodology can raise doubts about the validity and reliability of your study.
  • Ignoring Ethical Considerations: Neglecting ethical considerations can have serious consequences for your research and its approval.
  • Neglecting Proofreading and Editing: Typos, grammatical errors, and formatting issues can detract from the professionalism of your proposal.

In conclusion, crafting a well-structured and compelling research proposal is an essential step in your academic journey. We've provided you with a complete format guide and useful templates to help you get started. Remember, a strong research proposal is the foundation for a successful research project.

If you find yourself needing further assistance in your academic pursuits don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our best paper writing service is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring your academic success.

So, contact our research paper writing service and make your academic dreams a reality!

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Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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Writing Research Proposals

The research proposal is your opportunity to show that you—and only you!—are the perfect person to take on your specific project. After reading your research proposal, readers should be confident that…

  • You have thoughtfully crafted and designed this project;
  • You have the necessary background to complete this project;
  • You have the proper support system in place;
  • You know exactly what you need to complete this project and how to do so; and
  • With this funding in hand, you can be on your way to a meaningful research experience and a significant contribution to your field.

Research proposals typically include the following components:

  • Why is your project important? How does it contribute to the field or to society? What do you hope to prove?
  • This section includes the project design, specific methodology, your specific role and responsibilities, steps you will take to execute the project, etc. Here you will show the committee the way that you think by explaining both how you have conceived the project and how you intend to carry it out.
  • Please be specific in the project dates/how much time you need to carry out the proposed project. The scope of the project should clearly match the timeframe in which you propose to complete it!
  • Funding agencies like to know how their funding will be used. Including this information will demonstrate that you have thoughtfully designed the project and know of all of the anticipated expenses required to see it through to completion.
  • It is important that you have a support system on hand when conducting research, especially as an undergraduate. There are often surprises and challenges when working on a long-term research project and the selection committee wants to be sure that you have the support system you need to both be successful in your project and also have a meaningful research experience. 
  • Some questions to consider are: How often do you intend to meet with your advisor(s)? (This may vary from project to project based on the needs of the student and the nature of the research.) What will your mode of communication be? Will you be attending (or even presenting at) lab meetings? 

Don’t be afraid to also include relevant information about your background and advocate for yourself! Do you have skills developed in a different research experience (or leadership position, job, coursework, etc.) that you could apply to the project in question? Have you already learned about and experimented with a specific method of analysis in class and are now ready to apply it to a different situation? If you already have experience with this professor/lab, please be sure to include those details in your proposal! That will show the selection committee that you are ready to hit the ground running!

Lastly, be sure to know who your readers are so that you can tailor the field-specific language of your proposal accordingly. If the selection committee are specialists in your field, you can feel free to use the jargon of that field; but if your proposal will be evaluated by an interdisciplinary committee (this is common), you might take a bit longer explaining the state of the field, specific concepts, and certainly spelling out any acronyms.

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A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

Research process steps

When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.

The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a  problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.

Table of contents

Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal, other interesting articles.

First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .

Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.

Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.

>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic

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So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .

The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.

Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.

To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.

>>Read more about defining a research problem

Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.

A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.

In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .

>>See research question examples

The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.

There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?

You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.

>>Read more about creating a research design

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Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.

As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.

You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.

>>Read more about writing a research proposal

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

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  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

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Table of Contents

The importance of a well-written research proposal cannot be underestimated. Your research really is only as good as your proposal. A poorly written, or poorly conceived research proposal will doom even an otherwise worthy project. On the other hand, a well-written, high-quality proposal will increase your chances for success.

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of writing an effective scientific research proposal, including the differences between research proposals, grants and cover letters. We’ll also touch on common mistakes made when submitting research proposals, as well as a simple example or template that you can follow.

What is a scientific research proposal?

The main purpose of a scientific research proposal is to convince your audience that your project is worthwhile, and that you have the expertise and wherewithal to complete it. The elements of an effective research proposal mirror those of the research process itself, which we’ll outline below. Essentially, the research proposal should include enough information for the reader to determine if your proposed study is worth pursuing.

It is not an uncommon misunderstanding to think that a research proposal and a cover letter are the same things. However, they are different. The main difference between a research proposal vs cover letter content is distinct. Whereas the research proposal summarizes the proposal for future research, the cover letter connects you to the research, and how you are the right person to complete the proposed research.

There is also sometimes confusion around a research proposal vs grant application. Whereas a research proposal is a statement of intent, related to answering a research question, a grant application is a specific request for funding to complete the research proposed. Of course, there are elements of overlap between the two documents; it’s the purpose of the document that defines one or the other.

Scientific Research Proposal Format

Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you’re submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template.

In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal. These include:

  • Title: Make sure the title of your proposal is descriptive and concise. Make it catch and informative at the same time, avoiding dry phrases like, “An investigation…” Your title should pique the interest of the reader.
  • Abstract: This is a brief (300-500 words) summary that includes the research question, your rationale for the study, and any applicable hypothesis. You should also include a brief description of your methodology, including procedures, samples, instruments, etc.
  • Introduction: The opening paragraph of your research proposal is, perhaps, the most important. Here you want to introduce the research problem in a creative way, and demonstrate your understanding of the need for the research. You want the reader to think that your proposed research is current, important and relevant.
  • Background: Include a brief history of the topic and link it to a contemporary context to show its relevance for today. Identify key researchers and institutions also looking at the problem
  • Literature Review: This is the section that may take the longest amount of time to assemble. Here you want to synthesize prior research, and place your proposed research into the larger picture of what’s been studied in the past. You want to show your reader that your work is original, and adds to the current knowledge.
  • Research Design and Methodology: This section should be very clearly and logically written and organized. You are letting your reader know that you know what you are going to do, and how. The reader should feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge needed to get the project done.
  • Preliminary Implications: Here you’ll be outlining how you anticipate your research will extend current knowledge in your field. You might also want to discuss how your findings will impact future research needs.
  • Conclusion: This section reinforces the significance and importance of your proposed research, and summarizes the entire proposal.
  • References/Citations: Of course, you need to include a full and accurate list of any and all sources you used to write your research proposal.

Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Remember, the best research proposal can be rejected if it’s not well written or is ill-conceived. The most common mistakes made include:

  • Not providing the proper context for your research question or the problem
  • Failing to reference landmark/key studies
  • Losing focus of the research question or problem
  • Not accurately presenting contributions by other researchers and institutions
  • Incompletely developing a persuasive argument for the research that is being proposed
  • Misplaced attention on minor points and/or not enough detail on major issues
  • Sloppy, low-quality writing without effective logic and flow
  • Incorrect or lapses in references and citations, and/or references not in proper format
  • The proposal is too long – or too short

Scientific Research Proposal Example

There are countless examples that you can find for successful research proposals. In addition, you can also find examples of unsuccessful research proposals. Search for successful research proposals in your field, and even for your target journal, to get a good idea on what specifically your audience may be looking for.

While there’s no one example that will show you everything you need to know, looking at a few will give you a good idea of what you need to include in your own research proposal. Talk, also, to colleagues in your field, especially if you are a student or a new researcher. We can often learn from the mistakes of others. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are prior to writing your research proposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

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How to Write a Research Proposal? – Guide with Examples

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It’s easy to think that research is the most important part of a Ph.D. But before you can start that research, first you need to write a research proposal and obtain support for your work.  In fact, writing a compelling research proposal is critical to succeeding in the world of research and academia.

If you become an academic or a researcher, you’ll be writing research proposals often! But what is a research proposal, and how can you make sure that yours is successful? What are the elements of a research proposal, and how long should it be? Let’s read on to find out.

Table of Content:

Why write a research proposal.

  • What should be included in the research proposal?

How do I Write a Research Proposal?

  • Editing/Proofreading Your Research Proposal
  • Common Mistakes When Writing a Research Proposal
  • Examples of Research Proposals

The goal of a research proposal is to persuade potential funders that your research is important and worth spending money and resources to support. Because competition for funding is fierce, institutions and funders use research proposals to identify projects that have the potential to be of importance to the field and are well-planned and clearly based on a strong understanding of existing research.

Your successful research proposal will make a convincing case for the significance of your research, lay out a reasonable timeline and budget, and locate your study in the current literature.

What’s in a Research Proposal?

Research proposals are usually between 1,500 and 3,000 words long (about 4 to 7 pages), and contain all of the elements of an actual research paper with some extra information. These generally include some or all of the following:

  • Introduction
  • Background of the study (significance)
  • Literature review
  • Research design and methods
  • Supposition and implications
  • Bibliography

In addition, you will need to include a budget and timetable outlining your schedule for completing your research and your anticipated costs. Research proposals that involve human or animal subjects will also require a compliance plan demonstrating awareness of and planning to deal with any potential ethical issues.

Like any paper, you’ll want to begin writing your research proposal by selecting a good research topic . Once you’ve done that, the next step is to craft a good research question.

Your research question will refine what you hope to discover through your research and also guide the design of your study. Make sure your research question is feasible, specific, focused, measurable, and clear.

Once you’ve defined your research question, it’s time to make a list of relevant sources for your bibliography and literature review. Since this is just a proposal, your literature review does not have to be comprehensive, but you should mention the most prominent research in the related field and include the rest in your bibliography.

Now you can plan out your study design and create a timeline and budget. Finally, address the suggestions and implications that your research will have for the field and finish up by writing your introduction, background, and conclusion. Of course you can write your actual research proposal in any order that you like, but it’s often easier to finish by writing the introduction once you have the rest of your proposal laid out for you.

Editing Your Proposal

Once you’ve drafted your research proposal, it can be tempting to send it off and call it a day. But you should never skip the crucial steps of editing, proofreading, and polishing your proposal! No matter how brilliant your first draft might seem when you are writing it, there is always room for improvement when it comes to writing.

It’s easy to miss small but glaring errors the first time around. Even a poorly placed typo could endanger the success of your research proposal, as it can make you seem like you don’t pay sufficient attention to detail.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to edit your own work, you can always use an academic editing service , which will polish your writing and ensure it meets all of the proposal requirements. Alternatively, if you just want some extra help, an AI grammar checker like Trinka , which is specifically tailored towards academic writing, can be the best option.

What are Some Common Mistakes when Writing a Research Proposal?

To ensure the success of your research proposal, you’ll want to avoid making some common mistakes. The most essential mistake to avoid is failing to make a strong argument for your research. Your research proposal exists to demonstrate the importance of and need for your research to drive the field forward.

What question do you hope to make progress on, and how will it help others who follow you? You must establish the basis and significance of your proposed study in order to win over the reviewing committee or institution.

Other common mistakes research proposal writers make include being too wordy and focusing too much on minor issues. While you want your proposal to meet the minimum length requirement, you don’t need to waste anyone’s time writing meaningless sentences just to take up space.

The same goes for focusing on minor issues. You can delve into the details when you write your actual paper, but there’s no need to spend time on them in your proposal.

Finally, make sure the sources you cite in your proposal and bibliography are relevant. You don’t need to read through every study just for your proposal. But you should at least read the abstracts and make sure the studies relate to your proposed project.

One good strategy to find sources is to find one very relevant paper and then check out their cited sources. Remember, you need to demonstrate you understand your proposed research area well, and citing relevant sources is a key aspect of that.

Can you Show me Some Example Proposals?

If you’d like some examples of successful research proposals, check out the following links:

  • Clinical Research Project Proposal Example
  • Department of Social Policy and Criminology Proposal Examples
  • Politics PhD Proposal Examples
  • Civil Engineering Proposal Example

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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.

INTRODUCTION

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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Object name is IJA-60-631-g001.jpg

BASIC REQUIREMENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

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 ]

CONTENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

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 ]

Introduction

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

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

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.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

How to Write a Proposal in 10 Easy Steps [Templates Included]

You’re tasked with writing a proposal, and a lot is at stake.

Now is not the time to guess. What should you write? How can you appeal to the client’s deepest desires? How do you satisfy client expectations for your specific industry?

Now is the time to follow a proven process. We’ve analyzed millions of proposals sent with our software to see which tips and tricks actually have an impact on closing rates.

We’re covering all that and more.

Keep reading for our step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to write a proposal simply by customizing the sections in one of our proposal templates . The right template will show you exactly what to include while helping you save hours on design and formatting.

Graphic showing the elements needed to write a proposal

What’s in this guide:

What is a proposal?

How to write a proposal in 10 easy steps, industry-specific proposal writing guidelines, 3 proposal templates, next steps: write your own proposal.

A proposal is a document that outlines a project or service to clarify the details and get agreement from all parties involved. Proposals typically include the overall service approach, important timelines, and key deliverables.

For best results, use proposal software instead of a PDF. This way, you’ll get important features for sales like e-signatures, brand and content control, and full visibility into the client’s viewing activity.

The 9 Important parts of a proposal

There are many different ways to structure a proposal . Through our research of successful proposals , we’ve found that the winning documents usually include these key sections:

Executive Summary

Deliverables

Terms and Conditions

Case Studies (or Social Proof)

Each proposal might name these key sections differently, or put them in a different order.

No matter the sections you choose, make sure you include a table of contents. If you use Proposify , the table of contents is automatically shown on the left-hand side, so clients can easily click around to review different sections again. As you might imagine, the pricing section is often viewed a few times before a decision is made.

Proposals vs reports

While a proposal is used to pitch a new project or service (either to a client or internally to your boss), a report is designed to share details on a project that’s already taken place. Use reports to audit business operations or share the success of a marketing campaign.

Follow along with our step-by-step process, as we use our advertising proposal template . While the content of the examples is specific to advertising, this template can easily be adjusted to fit any industry or project type.

Step 1. Discover the needs and requirements

You can’t write a great proposal without a great pitch.

Take the time to understand what your client needs, what their goals are, what they’re concerned about, and what results they care about most.

If you’re pitching a project internally, be sure to talk with different stakeholders and members of your team.

Tips for discovery:

During discovery sessions , ask the appropriate questions to find out if the client is worth your time. Do they fit your ideal client profile? Are they ready to implement your solution? Set criteria to determine if this prospect is ready to even receive a proposal for you. And make sure to update your criteria over time as you learn more about your ideal client.

Proactively discover and handle objections . Ask the client about any concerns, hesitations, or times they’ve been burned by service providers before. This way, you know exactly what points to cover in your proposal.

Get verbal agreement from the client on your pitch and approach before putting it in writing with a proposal.

Step 2. Create the cover page

Kick off your proposal writing with a compelling cover page (also known as the title page). The visuals and style take center stage here—it’s your first impression after all. As for the text, you just need a proposal title and key details such as your company’s name, the client’s name, the date, and your contact information.

Our proposal example features a bright, bold design and all of the details you need. There’s no “one way” to do this right, as long as you’re following your brand guidelines.

Writing a proposal. Advertising packages

Tips for creating cover pages:

Give your project a results-driven title that will immediately put the entire pitch and investment into perspective.

Make sure to choose a proposal template that matches the style of your brand, as it will be easy to change the colors and text later.

Step 3. Write the cover letter

Now it’s time to write your cover letter. This is one of the most challenging proposal sections to write because it really sets the tone for the rest of your pitch.

The cover letter (also known as the executive summary) should do more than just provide an overview. This section must be persuasive enough to convince your client to read the rest of the proposal.

Appeal to their desires, hit their key pain points, and get them excited about the transformation you can provide. Make sure you’re crafting compelling, relevant messaging specifically for each individual buyer.

Writing a proposal. Cover letter.

Tips for writing cover letters:

Make sure the copy is on brand. That might mean funny and irreverent or serious and formal.

Put the focus on the outcome of the service, whether that’s customer acquisition, improved facility safety, or a memorable event.

Step 4. Create a company bio

Before you move on to the project approach and pricing, it’s smart to tell the potential client a bit about your company.

This section could include basic information such as your founding date and the niche you focus on, as well as small business bragging rights, such as awards, average results, or audience reach.

If this is an internal pitch, you can write about your team instead of the entire company.

In our example proposal, there’s one page for a company bio and one page for company statistics that matter to the potential client.

Writing a proposal. Who are we?

Tips for writing company bios:

Even though this section is about you, find ways to make it about your prospective client. Include the company details that show that you can get them the results they’re looking for.

Get creative. Instead of just a wall of text, can you use icons or statistics to show who you are?

Make sure to save this section as a template to re-use it for future proposals. You don’t have to modify this for each client, but you might want to create slightly different company bios for different services (if you offer very different services).

Step 5. Add social proof

We recommend that you include social proof immediately after your company bio section. This way, you use the words of your previous clients to back up the nice things you just said about yourself.

Social proof can be testimonials, mini case studies, reviews, and star rating averages.

If you’re doing creative or construction work, you might also want to include a couple of portfolio samples.

What people are saying.

Tips for using social proof:

Match the testimonial or review to the pitch. Have a bank of testimonials to choose from so you can always pick the most relevant ones.

Be concise. You may want to trim or edit long testimonials so each one is under 50 words. Otherwise, prospective clients might not read them.

Continue to proactively collect social proof. Ask happy clients to write a testimonial or review you online

Step 6. Outline the core approach

Now it’s time to sell your services. Create an approach section to showcase what you want you plan to offer the client.

There are so many different ways to write this section, as it really depends on what you’re pitching. You might break the work down into categories with bullet points or descriptions for each category. Or, you might write a few paragraphs describing your proposed solution and why you believe it’s the best fit for the client.

Your advertising media mix.

Tips for writing approach sections:

Consider giving this section a unique name, such as The Project Path , Our Plan , or Let’s Get to Work .

Beef it up with additional details. You might include a list of deliverables, a more detailed breakdown of the scope of services, or a timeline illustration with important milestones.

If you don’t have package options and there’s only one price listed, then this section should be very detailed. If there are pricing and service options, then this section will be simpler, and the following section will have the service breakdowns (per package options).

Step 7. Create a pricing table

When writing proposals, make sure to give plenty of time and attention to the pricing section. All of the details and options you provide will help clients better understand what they’re getting.

We recommend naming this section "Your Investment" as it helps remind potential buyers of the investment they’re making in their business.

In our example below, you’ll see 3 package options on the first page of the pricing section. And then, the client can select their package choice on the second page. This will automatically update the total pricing of the proposal.

Advertising with us: Your investment

Tips for proposal pricing:

Use optional pricing when possible, such as packages, project lengths, or add-ons, because these methods are known to positively affect closing rates .

Make sure to clarify the different types of costs, such as hourly costs versus fixed costs for an event management pitch.

Step 8. Write bios for your team members

In Step 4, you created a bio for your company to sell your company’s expertise and prove that you have what it takes to succeed at the service you’re pitching.

Now it’s time to show your client the real humans they’ll be working with if they decide to work with you. Think of this as the “you’re in good hands” section.

Include the faces the client will interact with, making sure to specify your team’s unique talents and what they bring to the table.

Our Sales Team

Tips for writing team bios:

Only include bios for up to 6 people. You could write bios for the entire company (for a very small business), the executive team, or the people who will handle the account if the proposal is won.

Use this section to show off not only your credentials but your personality. Have fun with it, but as always, stay on brand. A formal proposal might skip the jokes and stick just to the accolades.

Step 9. Add your business contract

This section of the proposal should include the contractual details that will formalize the agreement. This way, you can send the business proposal, and you don’t have to also send a separate contract.

You might have multiple pages of legal clauses or a simple statement of work.

Statement of work and contract

Tips for writing proposal contracts:

If the statement of work isn’t already clarified in the meat of the proposal, make sure to include it here.

Include a clause on refunds, cancellations, and project modifications.

Make sure to have your legal team help you craft the contract section so you know it satisfies your company’s requirements.

Step 10. Sign and send it for signature

And lastly, you need to write your e-signatures page and add an e-signature for yourself and one for your client.

As soon as a client has chosen their pricing options, they can sign the proposal to begin the project.

Writing a proposal. Standard legal content and sign-off

Tips for adding proposal e-signatures:

Write a message above the signature that helps to seal the deal. Talk about how excited you are to get started and clarify what the immediate next steps will be after the proposal is signed.

Always sign your proposals before you send them! Our research shows that a proposal is more likely to close if you’ve already signed it by the time the client opens it.

Review your proposal analytics to know how to follow up with clients. For example, if a client hasn’t opened the proposal yet, remind them to do so. But if they’ve opened it several times, ask if they have any questions or if they would like to modify the project.

Every industry has its own proposal writing best practices. Here are some tips to consider.

When writing a software proposal, ensure you include ample information on how you will help the client implement and utilize your software. That might look like staff training sessions, custom integrations, a pilot rollout, etc.

Construction

In the construction industry, you will likely receive a request for proposals (RFPs) from large corporations and government agencies. So make sure you check the details of the RFP so that your solicited proposal covers all required information.

You typically need to include a very detailed pricing and timeline breakdown, and you might need to showcase your adherence to state and county requirements , whether for certifications, environmental protections, etc.

Marketing is all about results. You should include a couple of different formats of social proof, such as statistics with client results and testimonials. Marketing also requires a lot of creativity regardless of the channel, so make sure you showcase your company’s creative side with unique proposal headings and imagery.

When you’re writing a proposal for event management, catering, or some other service, you need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, make sure that you source testimonials from event attendees, not just your direct clients. Also, your pricing section should include the fixed costs (such as a venue) and the variable costs (like your team’s hours decorating the event or the venue’s bar tab at the end of the night). For any variable costs, provide an estimate that’s 10% higher that what you actually expect.

Proposify offers dozens of proposal templates to guide your writing and help you win deals. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Construction job proposal template

Construction Job Proposal

Ready-made for the construction industry, this template includes previous projects to serve as portfolio pieces, a detailed project summary with items the client is expected to provide, and a project schedule.

2. Accounting proposal template

Accounting Proposal

While this template was created for accounting services , it can be easily modified to fit various consulting services. The top sections include the introduction letter, about us page, project summary with goals and service breakdown, and a detailed pricing estimate.

3. Catering proposal template

Catering proposal

With this event catering proposal template , you’ll get a short and sweet introduction page, a longer company bio, a food showcase, event details (great for proactively handling any confusion or mix-ups), a theme moodboard, and a menu sample.

This proposal could be adapted for other types of creative work, such as photography, retail store decorating, or makeup services.

To write an effective proposal, you must start with a solid understanding of the client’s needs. This way, you can put their desired results and transformation front and center. Write a cover letter, project summary, company bio, and pricing table to clarify what the client will receive while also selling your company as the best solutions provider.

You can easily write a proposal using our detailed, beautifully designed proposal templates .

Ready to close deals faster? Start your free trial of Proposify.

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How to Write a Research Proposal

As part of the application for admission onto our MJur, MPhil and PhD programmes, you must prepare a research proposal outlining your proposed area of study.

Student enjoying a seminar

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. It sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It outlines the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic. It also demonstrates the originality of your proposed research.

The proposal is the most important document that you submit as part of the application process. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the aptitude for graduate level research, for example, by demonstrating that you have the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly, concisely and critically. The proposal also helps us to match your research interest with an appropriate supervisor.

What should you include in the proposal?

Regardless of whether you are applying for the MJur, MPhil or PhD programmes, your research proposal should normally include the following information:

This is just a tentative title for your intended research. You will be able to revise your title during the course of your research if you are accepted for admission.

Examples of the thesis titles of some of our current and recent research students can be seen on our Current Projects page .

2. Abstract

The proposal should include a concise statement of your intended research of no more than 100 words. This may be a couple of sentences setting out the problem that you want to examine or the central question that you wish to address.

3. Research Context

You should explain the broad background against which you will conduct your research. You should include a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic. This will allow you to demonstrate a familiarity with the relevant field as well as the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

4. Research Questions

The proposal should set out the central aims and questions that will guide your research. Before writing your proposal, you should take time to reflect on the key questions that you are seeking to answer. Many research proposals are too broad, so reflecting on your key research questions is a good way to make sure that your project is sufficiently narrow and feasible (i.e. one that is likely to be completed with the normal period for a MJur, MPhil or PhD degree).

You might find it helpful to prioritize one or two main questions, from which you can then derive a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also explain your intended approach to answering the questions: will your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical etc?

5. Research Methods

The proposal should outline your research methods, explaining how you are going to conduct your research. Your methods may include visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews.

Most research is library-based. If your proposed research is library-based, you should explain where your key resources (e.g. law reports, journal articles) are located (in the Law School’s library, Westlaw etc). If you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data, you should provide details about this (e.g. if you plan interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews will you conduct? Will there be problems of access?). This section should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.

6. Significance of Research

The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic).

7. Bibliography

The proposal should include a short bibliography identifying the most relevant works for your topic.

How long should the proposal be?

The proposal should usually be around 2,500 words. It is important to bear in mind that specific funding bodies might have different word limits.

Can the School comment on my draft proposal?

We recognise that you are likely still developing your research topic. We therefore recommend that you contact a member of our staff with appropriate expertise to discuss your proposed research. If there is a good fit between your proposed research and our research strengths, we will give you advice on a draft of your research proposal before you make a formal application. For details of our staff and there areas of expertise please visit our staff pages . 

Read a sample proposal from a successful application  

Learn more about Birmingham's doctoral research programmes in Law:

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Birmingham Law School is home to a broad range of internationally excellent and world-leading legal academics, with a thriving postgraduate research community. The perfect place for your postgraduate study.

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How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Securing Funding

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Grants, which are funds awarded by an outside source and typically earmarked for a particular use, are incredibly valuable for nonprofit organizations to achieve their missions. In fact, it is not uncommon for organizations to rely on this type of funding to cover operating expenses, pay workers, and launch initiatives.

Common sources of grants include public and private institutions, including government departments, family trusts, foundations, and the like.

Because of the competitive nature of the grant process, it’s important to know how to write a grant proposal, how to evaluate which opportunities are worth pursuing, and how to effectively communicate your organization’s intentions.

What Is Grant Writing?

Grant writing is the application process required of an organization seeking certain financial awards. Crafting an impactful grant proposal takes compelling communication, clear language, and an understanding of the funding landscape. To start, it is useful to differentiate between funding sources and the types of grants they offer.

  • Federal grants are a way in which the U.S. government contributes to a wide range of ideas and projects that provide public services or stimulate the economy.
  • State grants vary from federal grants when it comes to administration. For example, a state grant is typically geared toward local needs as opposed to national or international causes.
  • Local (city or county) grants are useful for an even smaller scope. This level of targeted support typically involves the improvement of community development, infrastructure, public services, and individual efforts by community members.
  • Private grants can come from corporate or non-corporate entities, family trusts, foundations, financial institutions, or individuals. When it comes to these types of non-government grants, Candid keeps a global database of opportunities.

How to Write a Grant

These six steps will help you create a strong grant proposal, increasing your chances of achieving the funding and recognition that can drive your organization forward.

Dedicate ample time to analyzing your needs, including what areas of your organization will benefit from grants, exactly how much funding is needed, and realistic outcomes. You will want to thoroughly explore opportunities you qualify for, and allocate resources — time and personnel — to thoughtfully write your grant proposal.

2. Know what sets you apart

Grants are often highly sought after, so you’ll need to be well-versed on the ins and outs of what makes your organization unique and deserving. Conduct thorough research about your field, including the needs you serve and the impact you can make with grant funding. Share specific stories, testimonials, and experiences that stand out to you and the community at large that you serve.

3. Utilize facts and figures

Data will help prove your organization’s worth. Consider providing financial insights, information about existing partnerships, and budgeting outlooks. Use numbers to show the needs of populations you serve and project how beneficial grant funding will be, including plans for allocation.

4. Communicate clearly

Be highly sensitive to each and every requirement. These will vary by grant and must be followed. You’re the expert in your field, but your reader might not be. Write your grant proposal using clear, concise language without industry jargon if it’s not well-known. It’s important to also abide by any word counts or length requirements.

5. Fact-check and proofread

Get another set of eyes on the application to ensure nothing was overlooked, preferably someone with grant writing experience. Spelling errors, misrepresentations, and room for interpretation could all sway a grantor from accepting your proposal.

6. Educate yourself

For those interested in learning the latest nonprofit grant writing practices, USD offers a 100% online course focused on the step-by-step process of grant preparation, organization, and detailed evaluation. This course is best suited for nonprofit professionals and volunteers of all levels, including CEOs, executive directors, grant writers, and fundraising coordinators.

ESL mid-page CTA: eBook – 6 Common Mistakes in Nonprofit Management

Grant Writing Do’s & Don’ts

It’s probably clear by now that there are certain actions that will improve your chances of obtaining grant funding or quickly eliminate you from consideration. Here’s a simple breakdown of some of the most common habits to consider (and to avoid) when grant writing.

How do I know if I should apply for a grant?

Start by taking a close look at your organization’s circumstances — financial and otherwise — to evaluate exactly what areas need support. This will allow you to seek grant opportunities that are the right fit, also helping to ensure that you’ll stand out from other applicants.

Where do I find grant opportunities?

Resources like Grants.gov , Candid.org , and the Council on Foundations have searchable databases of grant opportunities. Consult your local network as well to learn about any community resources that might be available.

What are grant writing best practices?

Being prepared with facts and figures to prove your organization’s needs is important. Communicating clearly, knowing the latest industry trends, and setting yourself apart are also best practices when it comes to grant writing.

Where do I learn how to write a proposal for funding?

Courses such as USD’s online Nonprofit Grant Writing are incredibly useful to stay up to date on the latest, most effective methods. Students learn how to identify grant opportunities, step-by-step processes of grant preparation, how to integrate budgeting, and more.

What makes a grant proposal stand out?

Get specific during the grant writing process about how you will use grant funds and what beneficial outcomes are imminent. Make the grantor connect with your cause, even if this is the first time they’re learning about what you do. Include standout stories and examples to paint a clear picture of your circumstances.

What are some common mistakes in grant writing?

All too often, grant proposals include unrealistic asks, industry buzzwords that lack real meaning, and too much room for interpretation. Instead, it’s best to be as straightforward as possible and make clear what good you will be able to achieve with grant funding.

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