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How To Write a Research Proposal: Must-Haves

November 14, 2019

You’ve spent weeks, months, and potentially years agonizing over what you want to study.

Now’s the time to put your passion into action. Writing a research proposal can grant you the permission you need from a school, company, or other institution to conduct an in-depth analysis of a particular topic of interest, as well as helping you apply for a grant.

Of course, there are a few elements of research proposals that differ by the type of research you’re looking to conduct.

In this article, we’ll go over the essential elements of all research proposals that will give you the foundation you need to write an effective one.

How to write a research proposal

Your research proposal is going to have many elements you’ll want to highlight about your methods, the logistics of your research, and the type of finished work it can produce. We’ll go through them, item by item, to make sure you have everything in line for a killer proposal.

Title

First, you need a tentative title for your research that you can list at the front of your proposal. One main thing to consider when crafting your title is whether it can communicate the value that a reader of your research would receive upon reading your work. Try to keep it concise, informative, and catchy, letting the reader know what they can expect to gain from your work.

Abstract

Next comes the introduction to the central questions of your research, the abstract. This should be roughly 200 words and should introduce the main questions that your research is trying to answer, mention your hypothesis, and the methods you will use to conduct your research and come to a conclusion.

Context

The primary goal of your research proposal should be to communicate the value and importance of your research. There is no way to accomplish this without providing the background information necessary for your reader to know why and how this research should be conducted.

One important area to focus on in describing the context of your research is other work that has been done in the field you are conducting research and how your work can contribute to this space. In order for your work to be valuable and worthy of approval, it should be original. Take the time before writing this aspect of your proposal to examine the work that has already been published on your topic, and make sure that the questions you set out to answer are unique in their contributions to the field.

how to write a research proposal

Research questions

Included in your proposal should be the key questions that you are setting out to answer with your research. Since the answers to these questions will make up the bulk of your final work’s content, make sure the questions on your proposal are as specific as possible and can be answered in a unique and original way.

A tip for this section of your proposal is to differentiate what makes these questions unique from other ones that have already been asked by others in similar fields of research. Make sure that what distinguishes your research questions is a sense of narrowness that shows just how specific and unique your research is to the field. One way to do this is to center your research on one main question that can serve as an umbrella question for additional research questions that address the nuances and particulars of your research topic.

Methods

This section of your proposal deals with addressing the logistical elements of your research, including the when, where, and how of the ways you’ll conduct it. Are you visiting any libraries or museums? Conducting any interviews or field work, or will you mainly stay home and use video interviewing software?

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What is the timeline for your research, and what travel will it require? All of these questions should be answered in this part of your proposal. Also, be sure to highlight the practicality of your research methods. If they seem outlandish or unrealistic in the amount of time you have to conduct your research, such as involving extreme amounts of travel or private, hard-to-access archives, think about ways you can simplify your research methods to be more doable.

Make sure to highlight the individual sources and texts you are looking to work with at the places you’re intending to research. Pointing out these specific materials shows the narrowness of your research intentions and demonstrates the essentialness of your research to answer the questions you are setting out to research.

Significance

No research proposal is complete without listing the significance of your research. What will it contribute to the field? What will the finished product look like? How accessible will it be? You’ve spent a ton of time perfecting and narrowing down the focus of the work you will put into your research, and this section of the proposal is your place to prove that it will make a worthwhile and important contribution to its field. Invoke what you mentioned in the context and research questions sections of your proposal.

Start your research

These must-haves will give you the foundation you need to write a well-rounded and effective research proposal. It is important to note that depending on your field of research, there may be other elements to add such as a literature review or budget. Be sure to check with the readers of your proposal before submitting to ensure that it has everything you need to include. Then, once you submit your proposal, you’ll be on your way to approval and conducting your research!

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