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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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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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Proposal Overview and Format

Proposal committee, proposal hearing or meeting.

  • Printing Credit for Use in School of Education Labs

Students are urged to begin thinking about a dissertation topic early in their degree program. Concentrated work on a dissertation proposal normally begins after successful completion of the Second-Year Review, which often includes a “mini” proposal, an extended literature review, or a theoretical essay, plus advancement to doctoral candidacy. In defining a dissertation topic, the student collaborates with their faculty advisor or dissertation advisor (if one is selected) in the choice of a topic for the dissertation.

The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student’s dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters. The student must provide a written copy of the proposal to the faculty committee no later than two weeks prior to the date of the proposal hearing. Committee members could require an earlier deadline (e.g., four weeks before the hearing).

The major components of the proposal are as follows, with some variations across Areas and disciplines:

  • A detailed statement of the problem that is to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem on both theoretical and educational grounds.
  • A thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should provide proof that the relevant literature in the field has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and mistakes of others.
  • its general explanatory interest
  • the overall theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued
  • the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered
  • a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
  • an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, data analysis)
  • a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted (This aspect of the proposal will be somewhat different in fields such as history and philosophy of education.)
  • If applicable, students should complete a request for approval of research with human subjects, using the Human Subjects Review Form ( http://humansubjects.stanford.edu/ ). Except for pilot work, the University requires the approval of the Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Behavioral Science Research before any data can be collected from human subjects.

Registration (i.e., enrollment) is required for any quarter during which a degree requirement is completed, including the dissertation proposal. Refer to the Registration or Enrollment for Milestone Completion section for more details.

As students progress through the program, their interests may change. There is no commitment on the part of the student’s advisor to automatically serve as the dissertation chair. Based on the student’s interests and the dissertation topic, many students approach other GSE professors to serve as the dissertation advisor, if appropriate.

A dissertation proposal committee is comprised of three academic council faculty members, one of whom will serve as the major dissertation advisor. Whether or not the student’s general program advisor serves on the dissertation proposal committee and later the reading committee will depend on the relevance of that faculty member’s expertise to the topic of the dissertation, and their availability. There is no requirement that a program advisor serve, although very often they do. Members of the dissertation proposal committee may be drawn from other area committees within the GSE, from other departments in the University, or from emeriti faculty. At least one person serving on the proposal committee must be from the student’s area committee (CTE, DAPS, SHIPS). All three members must be on the Academic Council; if the student desires the expertise of a non-Academic Council member, it may be possible to petition. After the hearing, a memorandum listing the changes to be made will be written and submitted with the signed proposal cover sheet and a copy of the proposal itself to the Doctoral Programs Officer.

Review and approval of the dissertation proposal occurs normally during the third year. The proposal hearing seeks to review the quality and feasibility of the proposal. The Second-Year Review and the Proposal Hearing are separate milestones and may not occur as part of the same hearing or meeting.

The student and the dissertation advisor are responsible for scheduling a formal meeting or hearing to review the proposal; the student and proposal committee convene for this evaluative period. Normally, all must be present at the meeting either in person or via conference phone call.

At the end of this meeting, the dissertation proposal committee members should sign the Cover Sheet for Dissertation Proposal and indicate their approval or rejection of the proposal. This signed form should be submitted to the Doctoral Programs Officer. If the student is required to make revisions, an addendum is required with the written approval of each member of the committee stating that the proposal has been revised to their satisfaction.

After submitting the Proposal Hearing material to the Doctoral Programs Officer, the student should make arrangements with three faculty members to serve on their Dissertation Reading Committee. The Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form should be completed and given to the Doctoral Programs Officer to enter in the University student records system. Note: The proposal hearing committee and the reading committee do not have to be the same three faculty members. Normally, the proposal hearing precedes the designation of a Dissertation Reading Committee, and faculty on either committee may differ (except for the primary dissertation advisor). However, some students may advance to Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status before completing their dissertation proposal hearing if they have established a dissertation reading committee. In these cases, it is acceptable for the student to form a reading committee prior to the dissertation proposal hearing. The reading committee then serves as the proposal committee.

The proposal and reading committee forms and related instructions are on the GSE website, under current students>forms.

Printing Credit for Use in GSE Labs

Upon completion of their doctoral dissertation proposal, GSE students are eligible for a $300 printing credit redeemable in any of the GSE computer labs where students are normally charged for print jobs. Only one $300 credit per student will be issued, but it is usable throughout the remainder of her or his doctoral program until the balance is exhausted. The print credit can be used only at the printers in Cubberley basement and CERAS, and cannot be used toward copying.

After submitting the signed dissertation proposal cover sheet to the Doctoral Programs Officer indicating approval (see above), students can submit a HELP SU ticket online at helpsu.stanford.edu to request the credit. When submitting the help ticket, the following should be selected from the drop-down menus for HELP SU:

Request Category :  Computer, Handhelds (PDAs), Printers, Servers Request Type :  Printer Operating System : (whatever system is used by the student, e.g., Windows XP.)

The help ticket will be routed to the GSE's IT Group for processing; they will in turn notify the student via email when the credit is available.

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

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

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

Introduction

Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

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

Table of contents

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

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

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

Research proposal length

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

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

Download our research proposal template

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

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

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

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

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

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

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

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

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

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

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

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

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

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

Download our research schedule template

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

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

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

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.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

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

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

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

I will compare …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COMMENTS

  1. Research Proposal Example (PDF + Template)

    Downloads: 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:

  2. PDF A Guide to Writing your PhD Proposal

    Introduction This short guide is aimed at helping you to write a good research proposal. It is intended to help you to think about your proposed PhD research in a clear, structured and meaningful way.

  3. PDF Writing a thesis proposal

    At the Honours level, the thesis is one part of the overall degree, at the Master or other Doctoral level it can be one part of the degree in conjunction with coursework or the whole degree, and at the PhD level, the thesis constitutes the sole requirements of the degree.

  4. PDF THESIS PROPOSAL

    This thesis proposal is an outline of my Ph.D. thesis describing the research to be conducted over the next 31⁄2 years. The target audience is the appointed committee, the supervisor, and interested colleagues.

  5. (PDF) How to Write a PhD Proposal

    A PhD proposal is a focused document that introduces your PhD study idea and seeks to convince the reader that your idea is interesting, original and viable within the allocated study period...

  6. PDF Please note: This is a sample PhD thesis proposal for the School of

    Proposal for Thesis March, 2010 Ph. D. Candidate (Geology) ­ My Name, Student Number: 0000000000 School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington Ph. D. Supervisors ­ Ben Glacier, Victoria University of Wellington; Jerry Moraine, Victoria University of Wellington

  7. Dissertation Proposal

    The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student's dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters.

  8. PDF How To Write a Good PhD Research Proposal

    PhD proposal is an outline of your proposed project. It needs to: Define a clear question and approach to answering it. Highlight its originality and/or significance. Explain how it adds to, develops (or challenges) existing literature in the field.

  9. PDF Guidelines for Preparing Your Doctoral Thesis Proposal

    You must submit your written thesis proposal to the Academic Program Coordinator (Jeanine Majewski) as a single PDF file no later than two weeks prior to the date of your oral presentation. She will check your thesis proposal to ensure that it adheres to the format described below and distribute it to the members of your committee.

  10. How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

    A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it. It's helpful to think about the proposal like this: if the rest of your application explains your ability to do a PhD, the proposal demonstrates the actual PhD you plan to do.

  11. PDF Doctoral Guidelines for Preparing a Proposal and Thesis

    specify a "working thesis" - i.e. tentative answer or line of reasoning. 2.2 Structure/Content of the Thesis Proposal Format The thesis and research paper proposal should: Not exceed 7,500 words (i.e. about 30 pages) in length (excluding cover page, abstract, table of contents, bibliography, and appendices). It is imperative to

  12. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    Revised on July 18, 2023. When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic.

  13. PDF Sample Research Proposals

    Sample Research Proposals Sample Research Proposals You will find here two examples of proposals for postgraduate research from the Department of Social Policy and Criminology. They both give good indication of the sorts of things that need to be included.

  14. PDF Guidelines for The PhD Dissertation

    Every PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is required to successfully complete and submit a dissertation to qualify for degree conferral. This document provides information on how to submit your dissertation, requirements for dissertation formatting, and your dissertation publishing and distribution options.

  15. PDF A Practical Guide to Dissertation and Thesis Writing

    However, both dissertations and theses are expected to meet the same standard of originality, approaching a new area of study and contributing significantly to the universal body of knowledge (Athanasou et al., 2012). Originality is a key issue in both dissertation and thesis development and writing (Bailey, 2014; Ferguson, 2009). The ideas, the

  16. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023. A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it's important, and how you will conduct your research. The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements: Title page

  17. PDF PhD Thesis Writing Process: A Systematic Approach—How to Write ...

    1) Make an assertion about your style of interpretation. 2) Capture the attention of your reader. 3) Know what your readers anticipate and provide them with answers. 4) Challenge your peers about the severity of the research problem and put for-ward your proposal for a solution.

  18. PDF Thesis & Dissertation Proposal Guide

    The thesis proposal should include: a background theory a working hypothesis a methodology which should be organized under chapter headings a body of work for analysis a bibliography If your thesis will be presented in an alternate format (such as performance), be sure to include this in your proposal. Some graduate programs require students to ...

  19. PDF PhD Thesis Proposal

    PhD Thesis Proposal Evaluating Performance in Product Development - The Case of Complex Products ... The doctoral proposal is concluded with a complete list of publications resulting from this ... In this thesis the definition of efficiency and effectiveness proposed by O'Donnell and Duffy (2005) based on the IDEF0 framework of an activity ...

  20. PDF Research Proposal for a PhD thesis in English Literature

    This chapter will argue that Margaret Livingstone's assertion that 'the most primitive or necessary visual information Ian Gregson, 'Post/Modernist Rhythms and Voices: Edith Sitwell and Stevie Smith to Jo Shapcott and Selima Hill' in Jane Dowson (ed.)

  21. PDF PhD Research Proposal

    Proposals for the key dates are: • Start - August 2016 • Upgrade report - July 2017 • Second year report - July 2018 • Paper submission - May 2017 (initial database analysis) and February 2019 • Thesis submission - July 2019 A Gantt chart of the expected activities is shown below.

  22. PDF How to Write Your PhD Proposal: A Step-By-Step Guide

    Proposal is a solid and convincing framework of a PhD thesis that must underline the originality of a research. It also must delineate a significant contribution to the existing intellectual knowledge. The proposal either must challenge or support the existing literature on the proposed problem. Proposal must also explain that why this

  23. (PDF) PhD Research Proposal

    PDF | On Apr 11, 2021, Abhinav Dutta published PhD Research Proposal | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate

  24. PDF Procedure Number: 618a Procedure Name: Dissertation Proposal

    Format: The proposal is prepared by following the Research (R) Instructions in the . SF424 (R&R) Application Guide- for the R01 parent grant. A variety of referencing systems may be preferred for the dissertation proposal (i.e. due to page limitations for the R01 application, you may use a referencing system other than APA). Therefore, students ...

  25. PDF PhD Program in Social Work Student Handbook Rutgers, The State

    General Guidelines for Dissertation Proposals . Prior to scheduling a proposal defense, please consult the . Dissertation Proposal Checklist (Please see the Canvas site and program website for the Dissertation Proposal Checklist. 1. Timeframe for completing Dissertation Proposal. All full-time students are expected to defend

  26. PDF Proposal for The Reation of The Professional Master'S Degree in Iology

    PROPOSAL FOR THE REATION OF THE PROFESSIONAL MASTER'S DEGREE IN IOLOGY WITH PROJECT (PLAN II) AND NO THESIS OR PROJECT (PLAN III) IN THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO AT MAYAGÜEZ Department of Biology Graduate Committee Sandra L. Maldonado Ramírez, PhD, Sean Locke, PhD, Alberto R. Puente Rolón, PhD,