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A Thorough Guide on How to Write Research Proposal?

It is true that the exact requirements and format of the research proposal vary and depend on the research taken and the specific demands of the department and institution. However, a few basics remain the same. The main aim of a research proposal is to address why the proposed research is crucial. Given here is a complete idea and explanation of the sections which are required to complete a standard research proposal.

What is a Research Proposal? Why it is Written?

Writing a proposal for the research work is a challenging task indeed. It is a blueprint or a detailed plan of tee intended research study and once it is done the project flows smoothly. It is good to remember that this part of the dissertation has a dual purpose. A research proposal has all the key elements of the research and has adequate information for the readers to analyze and evaluate the proposed research. Irrespective of the methodologies and research area you have chosen, the entire research proposal should be to answer the following questions:

  1. What does your study plan to achieve?
  2. Why you have chosen to do it and how do you want to go about it?

The proposal you write should have an adequate amount of information for convincing the readers that you have a great research idea and you are using correct methodologies for the same. It is written with the purpose of persuading the supervisors and other readers that they have grabbed the relevant literature and the major issues.

Why it is so Important?

A research proposal is like a showcase window on which you place your dissertation. Your dissertation may run the risk of rejection if the proposal is written poorly and if the writing is not cohesive, clear, and compelling.

The Basic Structure

Title: You begin your proposal with a title that should be descriptive yet concise. Here you try to be “to-the-point” and “relevant” You can think of a title that has a direct relevance that can pick the interests of readers and disposes of the proposal well. Since the title grabs the interests of readers it should be utterly captivating.

Abstract of a research proposal:

This is a brief summary containing just 300-400 words only. This summary should have the research question, rationale of your research study, and hypothesis (if there is any). This particular section may also contain the methodologies you are going to use and your findings in brief. It also contains the procedures to be followed for accomplishing the objectives and the potential influence of the work.


This is written for the purpose of providing an insight into the background or context for the issue that your research is going to address. This is indeed one of the most difficult areas of writing a proposal because do not know how to frame the problem or issue that a proposal has to address.

If the research problem is built up in the context of an incoherent literature review it would appear uninteresting and trivial. But, if the same question is based on a focused and current research area, it becomes all the more significant.

It is true that there are no strict rules on framing the research question but a creative bent of mind helps. How clear and in-depth understanding of the problem area you have determines how well will be your research proposal.

It is true that you should consider placing your research question in the context of a current topic in vogue. Apart from that, you need to provide a contemporary context in which your proposed research question has a central stage. Most important of all, in this area you need to identify the “key players” and refer to the most relevant publications. It is here where you pain the question of your research work and take out its significance and relevance.

This section of the research problem starts with a general statement of a problematic area focused on a specific research issue. It is then followed by the justification or rationale of the proposed study.

The introduction of the statement must have the following elements in it:
  • First of all, a problem is to be stated which highlights what the purpose of the study is.
  • Next is the context of that particular problem for preparing a prelude for the research question. It should be such that it should show the importance and necessity of the question.
  • Presenting the rationale behind the study and indicating why it is important.
  • It also describes briefly the major issues and the sub-problems that need to be addressed by the research work.
  • Locate the key-dependent and independent variables of the experiment. Also, here the phenomenon under the study and evaluation can be discussed.
  • Stating theory or hypothesis if there is any.
  • Set delimitation or boundaries of the research that can enable you to focus.

Literature Review: Some people incorporate the literature review in the introduction section. But, most of the professors prefer a different section that enables a more thorough review.

The literature review serves the following:

  • This section is meant for those who have laid the groundwork for the research.
  • Demonstrates the knowledge of research.
  • Demonstrates the understanding of research and the theoretical issues pertaining to the research question.
  • It shows the ability to evaluate the relevant literature critically.
  • Providing a theoretical insight and developing new models as a framework.
  • Persuading the readers that the research work would make a significant contribution to the literature.


  • Students fail to organize and structure
  • It may lack coherence, unity, and focus
  • Students become repetitive
  • They fail to cite the influential papers.
  • They depend too much on secondary sources.
  • They cite irrelevant resources.

It is true that a research proposal fails to impress and the research competence is questioned if any of these problems are faced by the scholars. There are different ways of organizing literature reviews. You can make use of the subheadings for making your proposal look coherent and orderly. Always keep in mind that your proposal is your showcase window. If you will not present it as influential, there will be a rejection. So, try to be sensible, stimulating, and engaging.


The main principle for writing this section is to tell the research committee how you plan to tackle your research issue. It will describe your work plan and the methods or activities you have done to carry out those activities. The most important thing to keep in mind while writing a section is that it should have an ample amount of information for the readers. Some people are of the view that a good proposal should have all the details to implement the strategy.

Here in this section you demonstrate the knowledge of the methods used by you and describe why the approach used by you is the most valid way to address the research question. It is important to note that the research question can be best answered by qualitative research. You just need to justify the qualitative approach that you use.

Moreover, there can be no well-established qualitative analysis, methodologies section needs to be more elaborately written than what is actually needed for traditional research. Moreover, qualitative research has a greater impact as compared to quantitative research.

For quantitative studies, the methodologies should consist of the following:
  • Design:-Is it a questionnaire or just a lab experiment? What type of design is to be chosen?
  • Subjects or participants:-Who would take part in your studies? What kind of sampling or procedures are you using?
  • Instruments:-What kind of questionnaires have you used and why have you chosen them? Are they reliable and valid?
  • Procedures:- How do you plan to carry out your studies? What are the different activities involved and how long it would take?

Results: It may sound weird because nobody can expect to have proposal at this stage. But, obviously, at this stage, you should have an idea about what kind of data you would be collecting and what all statistical procedures would be used to order the answer the research questions or test your hypothesis.

Discussions: Most important part of the research proposal is to convince the readers about the potential influence of the proposed research work. A sense of confidence and enthusiasm needs to be inculcated and care is to be taken that the merits of the proposal should not seem to be overpowering. This is the reason why weaknesses or limitations of the proposed research work are to be mentioned also in the early developmental stage.

Mistakes That You Need to Avoid While Writing a Proposal

There are some commonly made mistakes that need to be avoided for writing a research proposal to make it sound good and to avoid rejections

  • Failure to provide a proper context for framing out a research question. (This is very important and a majority of students fail in this particular count.)
  • Failure to delimit the boundary conditions for the research.
  • Failure to refer to the landmark studies.
  • Failure to stay focused on the question of research.
  • Failure to develop a persuasive argument for the proposed research.
  • Too much detailing on small issues that are just trivial or not necessary and leaving out the major issues.
  • The entire proposal gets messed up and rambled as they lack direction.
  • Citation lapses and incorrect references.
  • It is either too long or too short.
  • It fails to adhere to the style or format of the department.

Always remember that a research proposal is presented before the supervisor just before writing a dissertation for the purpose of obtaining feedback on the topic, arguments and research goals.

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