Guidelines on writing the best research proposal
What’s a research proposal?
Writing your first research proposal can be nerve-wracking. Students usually come across it at least once when preparing their thesis, dissertation, etc., in college or university. A research proposal provides a brief overview of the topic you’ll be discussing in your bigger projects. Further, it sheds some light on the significance of the topic, and the method(s) you’ll be using for conducting your research.
There’s no rule of thumb for drafting a perfect research proposal. This is so because the sections will slightly vary depending on the degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD) you’re pursuing. While the sections may vary a bit, the overall agenda and the elements in a research proposal still remain the same.
There are myths that every research proposal should be long to procure a good score or receive approval for funding. However, that’s not the case. The length of your proposal depends on the degree or level you’re preparing it for. For example, the one for your grad or post-grad degrees will be shorter in length and comprise of a couple of pages only; the proposal for your Ph.D. dissertation needs to be longer and more detailed.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the different elements that you should include in your next research proposal:
Keep your ‘introduction’ section to the point. Here, you’ll share some insights on your topic, including a problem statement along with the questions you want to answer in your research and give a clear context for your topic.
You can add relevant information in a couple of paragraphs. However, don’t be too bothered about adding all the information in this section. Sometimes, you may also want to add sections like a table of contents and abstract before introducing the topic.
This section will cover why you’re researching this topic and how it connects to the prior research done in your area. This means whether you’re using the prior research as support or want to counter it, you should provide details on it in your proposal. Also, talk about the issues you will cover and how you plan to do your research. Besides, you can also use this section to mention the areas or the issues that won’t be a part of your research.
This section incorporates all the relevant links and sources that you’ll use in your research. Also, it will demonstrate how you’ll be using them in your thesis or dissertation. This not only portrays that your topic has a strong premise already but also ensures that you’re bringing a unique and strong aspect to the table.
Use this section to describe how you will approach the problem and what methods you’ll use to answer the issues of your research. Talk about the type of research you’ll be conducting, population and sample size, and the method of selecting them, tools and techniques (observation, inquiry, questionnaire, etc.) you’ll be using, and your rationale behind selecting them, and the time it will take to gather information/data. Further, describe how you’ll identify and contact the samples or participants and any prospective struggles you may face when reaching out to them.
To gain some brownie points, you can identify the prospective implications of your research topic and how it adds value to the work done in the past.
List of references
Any sources or links you’re aiming to use in your research should be included in the reference section. Make sure to give complete details of the sources you’ll be using.
In case your proposal demands a bibliography, enlist all the sources you used in your proposal. Note that you can even include the sources not cited in the text and the ones you’ll be going through later.
Some projects may ask you to give an estimated timeline of completing each stage. For instance, mention the date(s) when you’ll be doing the background research, literature review, design planning, etc.
Proofread your work
After adding the aforementioned elements to your proposal, don’t rush into submitting it right away. Sleep on it or have a break for around 5-6 hours after you’ve finished your writing, and then come back for proofreading with a fresher perspective. This will help you spot any grammatical mistakes or inconsistent sentence structures.
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