Grad Coach

What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

Need a helping hand?

research proposal work meaning

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Webinar - How to write a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics , content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

Literature Review Course

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 .

You Might Also Like:

Thematic analysis 101


Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.


I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

Christopher Makuvaza

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.


Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful:

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again


thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you


I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂


Thank you, this was so helpful.

Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified


Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.


Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

laramato ikayo

thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties


I have really learnt a lot based on research proposal and it’s formulation

Arega Berlie

Thank you. I learn much from the proposal since it is applied


Your effort is much appreciated – you have good articulation.

You have good articulation.

Douglas Eliaba

I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.


This really helping


Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

Alice Kuyayama

Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

Abdurahman Bayoh

I need any research proposal


Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation


Very helpfull

faith wugah

the videos are very good and straight forward


thanks so much for this wonderful presentations, i really enjoyed it to the fullest wish to learn more from you

Bernie E. Balmeo

Thank you very much. I learned a lot from your lecture.

Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

Andrea Eccleston

This article was most informative and easy to understand. I now have a good idea of how to write my research proposal.

Thank you very much.

Georgina Ngufan

Wow, this literature is very resourceful and interesting to read. I enjoyed it and I intend reading it every now then.


Thank you for the clarity

Mondika Solomon

Thank you. Very helpful.


Thank you very much for this essential piece. I need 1o1 coaching, unfortunately, your service is not available in my country. Anyways, a very important eye-opener. I really enjoyed it. A thumb up to Gradcoach

Md Moneruszzaman Kayes

What is JAM? Please explain.


Thank you so much for these videos. They are extremely helpful! God bless!

azeem kakar

very very wonderful…

Submit a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

research proposal work meaning

  • Print Friendly
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar
  • Skip to footer


PhD: Been There, Done That...

  • What is a Research Proposal?

Definition : a research proposal is a document written by a researcher that provides a detailed description of his proposed activities. It is an outline of the entire research process that gives a reader a summary of the information discussed in a project.

Types of research proposals Research proposals can serve a wide range of purposes. Just a couple of examples:

+ PhD application proposal – if you apply for a PhD, you usually have to outline what you are up to and what your research would be about.

+ PhD research proposal – once you are accepted to a doctoral program, you have to make a detailed plan of your proposed research activities, at least for the first year, if not for the entire length of your scholarship.

+ Science project proposal – In most scientific fields, a projects can be started only if there is a proper project proposal which all participants agreed upon.

+ Project funding proposals and grant proposals – Projects need funding, because the resources (including the people working in them) cost money. Funding doesn’t come easy, let alone without a properly written proposal.

+ Dissertation proposal – once you get to the point of writing a dissertation (also called “thesis” in some countries), you will already have written a couple of research proposals, so it won’t be the problem to write one more, even though it might be for a much bigger research project than all previous ones. This is probably true if you do a PhD by coursework.

If you do a “PhD by research” (meaning little to no coursework), the dissertation proposal is most probably originating from the research proposal you initially had to submit along with your application (unless you changed direction completely over the years). In that case, you most probably have your supervisor guiding your progress in some way, and this article is not for you in the first place.

As for PhD applicants starting out fresh: Each research project is different, and every university may have its own set of rules and requirements, hence there is no single “best” research proposal format or research proposal example that would work the same way for everyone. However, you can always recognize similarities and patterns among successful research proposals.

Check out our research proposal writing section for a couple of research proposal writing tips.

Recent Posts

  • 250 Words a Day
  • Procrastination is NOT cool
  • What Great Writers Have in Common
  • Sit Down and Write
  • Get Off Your A** and Write Your Thesis
  • No Grad Student is an Island
  • What Are Your Own Metrics?
  • The Real Cost of Graduation
  • Read Fiction
  • Why Proofreading Matters
  • Leaders Are Readers
  • Effective Supervision
  • Stay Healthy
  • What NOT to do in grad school
  • How to Stay Motivated in Grad School?
  • Attention to Detail
  • Your PhD Supervisor and You
  • The World’s Shortest PhD Dissertations
  • Are You Ready for a PhD?
  • How to write a dissertation proposal?
  • The Best Research Proposal Template to Start With
  • How to Write a PhD Research Proposal?
  • How to Find the Right Thesis Advisor

Research Proposal: Definition, Purpose, & Writing Steps

Few students fully get the meaning and the importance of a research proposal. If you have a good research proposal, it means that you are going to carry out adequate research. A low-quality research proposal may be the reason your research will never start.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for 13.00 10.40/page

The main purpose of a research proposal is to convince the reader of your project’s value . You will have to prove that you have a plan for your work and that your project will be successful. Your reader has to be sure that it is not another useless piece of writing, but a profound research work that will be extremely important for science.

The main purpose of a research proposal is to convince the reader of your project's value.

Want to learn more about the reasons why it is important to have a research plan? Continue reading this article by experts!

  • 🔤 Definition
  • ❗ Purpose & Importance
  • 👣 Writing Steps

🔗 References

🔤 research proposal: definition.

A research proposal is a document that proposes a particular research project, usually in academia or sciences, intending to get funding from an institution. A typical research proposal addresses a range of points:

  • A research question(s) that the proposed research seeks to answer
  • The data & methods that will be used to answer the questions
  • The time and financial costs for the research
  • The prior research in the field
  • Potential benefits for the sponsoring institution

Research proposals are usually required when one plans to write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper. The format is similar to that of a research paper, with an introduction, a literature review, a methods section, and a conclusion.

❗ Research Proposal: Purpose & Importance

The primary goal of any research proposal is to convince a sponsoring institution that a particular research project is worthwhile. The document usually aims to cover the aspects below.

👣 Making a Research Plan in 10 Steps

Research proposal topics.

  • A research proposal on staff attitudes to physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) . 
  • Research the aspects of corporate social responsibility integration for multinational companies. 
  • Explore the efficacy of speaker recognition technology for the crime rate reduction.  
  • Analyze the peculiarities of Nigeria’s healthcare system and the problems it faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • Marketing research proposal : study the skill deficiencies of the students of the current occupational training programs and their influence on the job perspectives.  
  • Write a research proposal on the examination of asthma risk factors for African immigrants.  
  • Research proposal on the connection between hypertension and chronic kidney disease .  
  • Conduct research on cyber terrorism as a political weapon.  
  • Explore the effective programs for asthma education among adolescents .   
  • Research proposal on the controversy of the second amendment .  
  • Examine the impact of Nokia’s marketing strategy on its product popularity and the company’s share price.  
  • Analyze the current situation of VEGA medical center and the necessity to implement sustainable change.  
  • Formulate a research proposal on the sustainable innovation strategy implementation methods for logistics companies.   
  • Research proposal on homeland security in the United States .  
  • Study the most efficient ways to implement a harm reduction approach in healthcare practice.  
  • Research the efficacy of current procedures of early ventilator-associated pneumonia diagnostics.  
  • Explore and compare the consumer behavior of generation Y in the USA and China.  
  • Research proposal on the usefulness of the mobile app English at Hands implementation in educational establishments’ curricula.  
  • Justice in healthcare: a research proposal . 
  • Analyze whether watching movies can be considered an effective method of foreign language practice. 
  • Examine the most widespread reasons for medical personnel shortage in low-income countries.  
  • Research proposal on the current state of McDonald’s company . 
  • Study the effect of lowering high-calorie food consumption on human health and life quality.  
  • Write a research proposal on the effect of technology on human health and living conditions.  
  • Explore the connection between congestive heart failure and air travel. 
  • Study the role of government in enhancing the sustainable innovation strategy implementation rates. 
  • Research the use of BMP in improving e-government security.  
  • Analyze the necessity of health teaching to middle-aged women.  
  • Research proposal on the online buying site ViaBela .  
  • Examine the current methods of suicide prevention among geriatric patients.  
  • Write a research proposal on the investigation of the COVID-19 lockdown on people with mental health issues .  
  • Explore and compare consumers’ corporate social responsibility awareness in different countries.  
  • Study the use of the national DNA database for law enforcement.  
  • Research the specifics and the ways to eliminate narcoterrorism in Mexico .  
  • Examine the contemporary ways to prevent Clostridium difficile infection .  
  • Research proposal on the advantages and disadvantages of skin-to-skin contact after labor .  
  • Explore the reasons for inadequate nurse staffing and its impact on the level of healthcare service.   
  • Anasarca and acute renal failure: a research proposal . 
  • Analyze whether telephone follow-ups will help to improve the satisfaction and life quality of diabetic patients. 
  • Write a research proposal on the safety and efficiency of fad diets .  
  • Research proposal on capital punishment application .  
  • Examine the benefits and drawbacks of wireless technologies for modern business organizations.  
  • Research the reasons that influence the participation rates of African Americans in clinical trials . 
  • Study how motivational interviews can reduce childhood obesity rates.  
  • Research proposal on the role of e-marketing strategies in business development.  
  • Analyze the connection between critical thinking and mass media literacy .  
  • Explore the benefits of medicine computerization .  
  • Research proposal on green supply chain management . 
  • Examine the impact of computer technology development on criminology . 
  • Conduct intersectionality research on prejudices against Asian American women.  
  • Writing a Research Proposal (USC Library Guides)
  • Writing a research proposal – Research & Learning Online
  • How to write a research proposal? – NCBI
  • How to Write a Research Proposal – University of Birmingham
  • How To Write an Academic Research Proposal
  • How to write a research proposal (Yale College)
  • How to write a research proposal for a strong PhD application (University of Sydney)
  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Share to LinkedIn
  • Share to email

Sup guys! I need definitions about research defined by scholars and year of publication plz🙏

Very informative, as for social science student. 😍

Custom Writing

We are so grateful for your feedback! Much appreciated.

Thanks a lot dear!! Many information gained

Glad you liked it! Thank you for your feedback!

Thanks it’s so much easier and helpful who are work first time in research proposal like me It’s interesting but I can’t decided what topic I researching for my collage project or which topic is better 🙂 so I need a guide line or instructions for choosing a good topic

thank you for our explanation about research proposal but i want to know the aims or purpose of research proposal

This is informative and inspiring paper for me👏👏

Thanks for the feedback! Much appreciated.

very good concept on research proposal. thank you

Thank you for your feedback!

useful data

Recommended for You

Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates

Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates

A literature review is an update on the status of current research related to the issue in question. Its purpose is to provide the reader with a guide to a particular research topic. And for the writer, a well-written literature review is the best way to show their competence in...

How to Make a Research Proposal: Template, Sample, & Tips

How to Make a Research Proposal: Template, Sample, & Tips

A research proposal is a document that aims to show the significance and value of a particular project. It is common to have to write research proposals to acquire funding for various research projects. But that’s not all. Perhaps the most important function of a research proposal is that it...

How to Write a Term Paper: The Ultimate Guide and Tips

How to Write a Term Paper: The Ultimate Guide and Tips

Are you tired of getting average grades for your term papers? Well, that’s good that you’re here! It may be true that some excellent writing and time-management skills can help you create an impressive piece, but it’s not necessary. Most of the assignments have similar outlines, whether it’s a term...

How to Write a Dissertation: Tips & Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a Dissertation: Tips & Step-by-Step Guide

Congratulations! A dissertation is your last step before getting your doctoral degree. But, no matter how great the excitement is, the frustration and panic might be overwhelming. And it’s understandable as there is a lot of pressure on you right now. The good news is that there is nothing to...

Research Paper Format Tips for Ultimate Writing Success

Research Paper Format Tips for Ultimate Writing Success

Most of the times, there is the same research paper format for different types of research. This makes it easy to learn the correct research essay format, no matter what you are writing.

Ultimate Report Writing Tips for Students: Best Ideas [Free]

Ultimate Report Writing Tips for Students: Best Ideas [Free]

At some point, whether in school or university, you will be required to do report writing. Generally, reports are used to communicate information, which was compiled as a result of studies and analysis. For instance, academic reports are to discuss the findings of studies or surveys. The tips on report...

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • Starting the research process
  • 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:


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

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

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.


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


  • 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.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. & George, T. (2023, November 21). How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, how to write a problem statement | guide & examples, writing strong research questions | criteria & examples, how to write a literature review | guide, examples, & templates, what is your plagiarism score.

How to Write a Research Proposal: Format, Outline, Example

24 August 2023

last updated

This article provides a guideline concerning how to write a good research proposal. It teaches students the most critical elements of this type of scholarly text, including the abstract, introduction, research question and hypothesis, research methodology, limitations, and ethical considerations. Writing a research proposal is an essential activity in academic life, while a research paper helps to show how people understand certain concepts. In this case, students need to understand that a research proposal is not a research paper, and it should give a sense of future work. Moreover, a good research paper begins with a well-organized proposal, being the basis for evaluating the relevance and applicability of a study. By reading this article, one can grasp valuable insights on how to start and write a research proposal, including the most critical; details that can prevent the professor, department, or research committee from rejecting it.

General Aspects on How to Write a Research Proposal With Examples & Templates

Learning and perfecting how to write a research proposal is not only an academic requirement for college students but also a pivotal process of intellectual development. In any academic calendar, students write various types of papers , including different types of essays , reports, and commentaries. Therefore, continually developing one’s knowledge of writing proposals is essential for success in college. Researching is an academic and intellectual activity that helps individuals to explore or investigate phenomena to advance knowledge. Ideally, the students’ main agenda is to identify gaps in the existing knowledge and conduct research to fill study gaps. Practically, any research process begins with a proposal. In particular, this guideline teaches students and anyone interested in understanding how to start and write a research proposal.

How to Write a Research Proposal: Format, Outline, Example

Definition of What a Research Proposal and Its Meaning

A research proposal is a text that explains why researching a topical area is critical because it provides a research question or hypothesis and how writers intend to answer it. From this perspective, this type of paper means providing a logical presentation of the intended study topic and methods to evaluate its relevance and applicability, being the first stage of writing a research paper. The primary purpose of a research proposal is to convince the assessment committee that writers are knowledgeable about a thematic area. They demonstrate this knowledge by addressing specific gaps in the literature, adding new knowledge, or evaluating existing paradigms in a topical area. For example, students establish their research topics and relevant evidence about their studies, determining if there exists enough support for the suggested theme under investigation.

Use of a Research Proposal

In most instances, students write research proposals toward the end of their college education when they must demonstrate a deep understanding of what they have learned through the years. However, a research proposal differs from a research paper in that it lacks the findings category, which is the primary purpose of any research work. Besides, people use their proposals to assess the relevance and scope of studied topics. As a result, proposal writing helps to evaluate the effectiveness of the issue and methods of investigation.

Key Features of Starting a Research Proposal

Any proposal depends on the scope of the research and what authors intend to achieve. In other words, the main sections of essay proposals may vary depending on the goal of the study. For small essays, some sections can be skipped, for example, due to the absence of the sample population or experiment itself. However, for huge projects, all main sections should be included. In turn, all research proposals must have the next elements:

Title and Its Objectives

A good research proposal contains a suitable essay title and objectives of a study. For instance, the title shows what students intend to explore, setting up the scope and purpose of their proposal. As a rule, the title gives a clear indication of the central research question or null hypothesis. Hence, a proposal should show the primary objective of carrying out the study. Along these lines, writers must provide a clear introduction that provides a statement of the problems and research question. Besides, this section includes specific and accurate synopsis of the purpose of the study. Therefore, a proposal must contain a unique title and a clear goal that focuses on addressing a defined problem.

Literature Review in a Research Proposal

A research proposal contains a literature review section, which provides background and context for study objectives. For instance, the literature review established the need for an investigation, showing the knowledge gap in the literature that the study must address at the end. Besides, the literature review should logically lead to study hypotheses and research questions. Hence, a proposal must have a well-organized literature review section that reveals knowledge gaps and substantiates the actual study.

Methods and Plan of Work

A research proposal contains anticipated methods for data collection and planning the work. For instance, this paper reveals the systematic steps that one takes to answer study questions or test hypotheses. As a rule, the method section must contain sufficient details of possible activities in collecting data. In this case, a research or essay proposal should end with a plan of work, which indicates the order of events. Moreover, the plan of work should have deadlines for completing data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Thus, a proposal should contain appropriate methods and timetables for essential activities.

Standard Structure of a Research Proposal & Template

Like any term paper or essay, a research proposal has a unique structure that students should adopt. The structure must include an abstract or executive summary , an introduction that emphasizes the study’s significance, a background or literature review, the study’s rationale, the research methodology, ethical considerations, analysis of information, limitations and critical assumptions, the expected findings and conclusion , and references. Each section addresses specific issues that writers cannot ignore. In this respect, short sections have headings only, while long ones often incorporate sub-headings. People must understand that this structure is a standard outline, but professors may provide a different design depending on the topical area.

1️⃣ Abstract Section of a Research Proposal

The abstract is the first section of a research proposal, often limited to between 100 and 200 words, because its primary purpose is to provide a summary of the entire paper. In this respect, the text introduces the topic of the research that the author proposes and its significance, such as filling some gaps in the literature, adding new knowledge, or critiquing existing paradigms. The rest of the information should briefly describe the methodology, ethical considerations, limitations, significance, expected findings, and conclusion. When writing this section, students should aim to inform readers about the critical aspects of their proposal that allow them to grasp key concepts without reading the entire paper. It is also important to note that this section stands on a single page in any writing format, and students should begin the introduction of the paper on the following page.

2️⃣ Introduction Section of a Research Proposal

The introduction is the second section of a proposal but the first part of the work itself because it is where writers introduce research topics, research questions or hypotheses, and the significance of their work. When writing this part of a proposal, students should provide readers with essential information that contextualizes the expected study work. Context establishes the reason why their proposal is critical. In most instances, researchers use this part to set the background of the study by pointing out what is lacking in the existing literature. However, they do not conduct an in-depth analysis of knowledge gaps because that is the purpose of the later literature review section. It makes sense to hint to readers what a research proposal is all about at this point.

A. Research Topic

The crux of every academic paper is the title because it tells readers about the author’s focus. Choosing a good topic is a fundamental aspect of writing any scholarly material. When selecting research topics for a proposal paper or essay, students should provide a general description of the topical area, such as the link between substance use and mental disorders or the role of mentorship in leadership development. Essentially, this component is the most critical because it is the foundation of everything writing the paper. Therefore, students should choose topical areas they are well conversant with because they must demonstrate their understanding through valid arguments. While instructors provide their topics for writing research papers and essays that high school or college learners write as part of ongoing assessments, students of higher educational institutions choose their own topics for writing a term paper, thesis paper, and dissertation.

B. Research Question(s) or Hypothesis(es)

Generally, research proposals, essays, or papers must answer study questions or prove or disapprove hypotheses. A research question is a statement that establishes a first foundation of any thematic area. For example, students may seek to answer the question: “Why is substance use and abuse a pathway to developing mental health disorders?” This question establishes the focus of writing a proposal by informing readers of what they expect to find in a complete research paper or essay, understanding the way how substance use and abuse lead to mental health disorders. A hypothesis is a statement that authors aim to validate or invalidate in a research proposal, such as “There is a strong linkage between substance use and abuse and poor academic performance.” Scholars should prove or disapprove of this statement after conducting an actual study or experiment.

Types of Hypotheses

There are six types of hypotheses. The first is a simple hypothesis that suggests a dependent and an independent variable relate in some way. The second is a complex hypothesis that suggests several dependent and independent variables relate in some way. The third type is a directional hypothesis, which reflects the researcher’s focus on a particular outcome using the relationship between different variables as the pathway. Then, there is a non-directional hypothesis, which applies when scholars have no theory to base their proposal paper or essay on and instead justify a relationship between two variables without predicting its exact. The last types are null and alternative hypotheses , where authors state that a relationship does not exist between independent and dependent variables or there is a link between these elements.

C. Significance of the Study

Every academic text has some significance that writers should determine during preparation. When students understand why addressing a particular issue is essential, they can develop a mindset focused on a high-quality product. When writing a research proposal, people should explain why their proposal paper or essay is critical. In this respect, they must demonstrate gaps in existing knowledge they intend to close, new knowledge to add, or existing paradigms, like arguments and concepts to appraise or critique. Besides, students should write this component bearing in mind research questions or hypotheses. However, the significance of a research proposal should not divert readers to an issue different from the paper’s primary focus: answering study questions or validating or invalidating hypotheses.

3️⃣ Background or Literature Review for Writing a Research Proposal

In this second part of a research proposal, authors provide readers with an in-depth background of a study area by reviewing the existing literature using credible sources . Although this section aims to contextualize the proposed research and its theoretical framewrok , the general description is a review of the literature. Writers use this part of their papers to expound on the hint they gave readers in the introduction part, which means evaluating existing knowledge on the topical area to identify gaps, the need for new knowledge, or popular paradigms. When writing this part of their proposal, students should consider research questions or hypotheses since they directly affect the field of the existing literature under analysis and its content. This section tends to be extended because writers must review reliable sources by explaining their purpose, often the findings. A critical feature of this section is citations based on the applicable style, like APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian, among others.

4️⃣ Research Methodology in Proposals

Research methodology is the third section of writing a research proposal, where authors describe how they will conduct their studies. In this respect, students tell readers how they intend to collect data, answer research questions or test their hypotheses, and analyze the data. Critical features of this section include the research design, research methods, study participants, procedure, and data analysis. Research methods are components that address data collection. Therefore, when writing a research proposal, students should view research methodology as the crux of the entire paper because it outlines how they will answer the research or essay question or prove or disapprove of the hypothesis.

A. Research Design

Research design emphasizes research methods and techniques that scholars employ to conduct scientific studies. There are two main research designs, such as qualitative and quantitative. Each design has several study types that students can consider for their proposal. For example, the qualitative approach includes case studies and ethnographies, while the quantitative approach incorporates correlational, descriptive, and experimental studies. Therefore, authors need to know when each design applies and the specific type of a proposal paper or essay that fits their objective. A research design is the overall description of a research study because it gives readers a hint of what to expect.

Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative research design is flexible and inductive and allows writers to adjust their approach depending on various factors during the research process, such as the characteristics of study respondents. This format applies to studies that seek to answer a specific question or questions, systematically use predefined procedures to get answers, collect evidence, and interpret the findings to address an existing literature gap, add new knowledge, or appraise or critique common paradigms. Moreover, qualitative research methodology is most appropriate for studies investigating the impact of social phenomena, such as the influence of parental divorce on adolescents’ social and mental health. This design is subjective because it describes a social phenomenon from the point of view of those who experience it. Common examples of qualitative research are case studies, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups.

Quantitative Research Design

Quantitative research design is the dominant study framework in the social sciences because it incorporates assumptions and techniques in investigating economic, social, and psychological phenomena. For example, writers may seek to investigate why students from low-income backgrounds score poorly on a depression scale. The most critical elements in quantitative studies are numerical data, such as household income, statistical analyses that aggregate the numbers, relationships among the information, or comparisons across different data sets. Unlike the subjective qualitative design, this study framework is more objective because people aim to interpret data related to a phenomenon. Research types that apply this design include correlational and descriptive studies and experiments.

B. Research Methods

In a simple definition, research methods are specific strategies that scholars use to collect and analyze data, and they are an integral part of any study design. Concerning data collection methods, authors should decide on what information can help to answer research questions or validate or invalidate hypotheses. This data can be words for qualitative research and numbers for quantitative research, primary or secondary, depending on whether scholars will collect it or use what others have gathered. About data analysis in a quantitative study, students should state statistical techniques they use to test relationships between variables. For qualitative studies, they should communicate their approaches to interpret the data’s patterns and meanings. However, people should use the data analysis component to indicate how they will comprehensively analyze information for writing a proposal.

C. Sample Population

Most qualitative and quantitative studies involve study participants as the primary sample for observation. Students need to define the population and explain why they want to study this segment. Doing so requires one to describe the population by stating its characteristics, such as age, gender, occupation, or socioeconomic profile. Then, scholars should note whether there are participants who would be excluded and why and whether there would be a control group. It is standard practice in research for students to incorporate these components in their proposals. The inclusion and exclusion criteria help readers to understand the complexity of the study process or experiment. While research work may seem straightforward in theory, one must be prepared to face multiple hurdles when executing actual research in the field. In turn, students should explain how they will choose the final sample from the target population when writing their proposal.

D. Study Procedure

Like other processes, writing is procedural, and students must understand the dynamics involved in producing a research proposal. The study procedure describes the steps or processes researchers will use to actualize their studies. Firstly, they state the research population and how they will select the study sample. Secondly, students describe how they will collect data, such as observing or interviewing the sample. They should also mention how they will analyze the study data for further interpretation. The section should provide exact details of how authors will execute the study. From this perspective, concluding that a wrong procedure can produce flawed results and invalidate the whole work is valid. Professors, departments, and research committees can reject a research proposal if the procedure is questionable.

E. Data Analysis

Often the last component in the methodology section, being data analysis, stipulates how students will analyze the data collected. Data analysis is critical because it enables authors to make the collected data sensical and interpret it to answer research questions or validate or invalidate hypotheses. When describing data analysis for a proposal, students should mention analytical tools they will use, such as regression analysis, to indicate the logical reasoning that uses the collected data to point out patterns, relationships, and trends. While writers can get the right data, they can make it useless using the wrong analytical tool. Therefore, students must be familiar with various analytical tools and how they relate to qualitative and quantitative research approaches.

5️⃣ Preliminary Data for Writing a Research Proposal

It is standard for students to gather preliminary data when outlining a research proposal. Ideally, this data gives the audience a sneak peek into research methods, instrumentations, and expected findings. Researchers gather this data through survey questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, mail correspondence, telephone calls, or online. Therefore, preliminary data enables authors to give readers an idea about what to expect when reading through a research paper or essay. Most importantly, it motivates writers by giving readers a proper perspective. When authors understand critical details about the work they intend to undertake, they can develop the right attitude, including proactive engagement with existing knowledge materials, like books and research findings. While preliminary data can form part of the actual information that students use in their research papers, it is not mandatory. One can choose a new set of data to conduct any study.

6️⃣ Statement of Limitations in Research Proposals

Limitations are issues that complicate one’s agenda to produce a perfect proposal. In this section, authors inform readers about possible limitations of the proposed work. The essence of this component is the understanding that nothing is always perfect, especially if it is subject to external factors or influences. Scientific research falls under this category because it is subject to different external factors, such as people’s willingness to participate and the relevance of the collected data to the study topic. Various limitations that researchers face include the generalizability of the data, where the findings can only apply to a section of the population for various reasons. Some of these reasons include the method of sample selection, size, and representation.

7️⃣ Ethical Considerations

This section of a research proposal states how authors intend to address ethical considerations that often apply to scientific research. One consideration is the permission by relevant authorities to conduct the investigation. Typically, scholars receive this permission from universities’ ethical committees. Another ethical consideration is the consent of study participants. A research proposal must explain how students will seek this consent, such as sending a consent form to the study sample and requiring participants to fill and sign the document if they believe the researcher’s explanation about the study is satisfactory. Parents and guardians give consent if the study sample comprises underage individuals. Some guarantees that researchers provide to get the participants’ consent include the privacy and confidentiality of their data and personal safety throughout the study period.

8️⃣ Expected Findings

In this section of a research proposal, authors predict the findings of the proposed study based on the preliminary data. This part addresses the readers’ curiosity about a proposal paper or essay and what it will uncover. Although not the exact findings of the research, the predicted results show that authors are conversant with the topical area and can use the preliminary data to formulate expectations in the actual research. A key feature of this section is the implications of the investigation, where students reemphasize the study’s significance and how the findings will affect or influence the discipline within the study topic falls under, such as psychology. As a result, writers mention how the expected results will address existing literature gaps, add new knowledge, or appraise or critique popular paradigms.

9️⃣ Conclusion Section of a Research Proposal

The conclusion paragraph is the last section of a research proposal where writers sum up their paper or essay. As such, most of the information reiterates the content in the preceding paragraphs, with the introduction taking the most significant chunk. Ideally, authors remind readers about the aim they set out to achieve at the beginning of a proposal. Students can also mention other sections briefly to emphasize the document’s purpose. When concluding a research proposal, one should focus on convincing readers of the necessity of the study.

🔟 References

Like the abstract, the references section does not often feature as a typical research proposal or paper component. Nonetheless, it is a critical section that students should incorporate into their proposal paper or essay as it provides readers with a list of scholarly materials used in the literature review. Notably, this part of the paper demonstrates that authors have widely consulted the literature to justify a proposal. The more the sources, the more vigorous the activity of researching for information to answer research questions or prove or disapprove of study hypotheses. When constructing this last part of a research proposal, students should consider the applicable styles, such as APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian.

Formatting Template for a Research Proposal

When writing a research proposal, students should ensure that the relevant style applies from the beginning to the end. Academic writing rules stipulate that writers can only use one style — APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian —  in their proposal paper or essay. As such, one cannot structure the paper according to the APA style and provide citations according to the MLA style. In turn, each style is unique and has characteristics that writers should adopt and demonstrate when producing a research proposal. The most critical elements in these styles are the author, the year of publication, the title of the work, and the publisher’s name and location.

📕 APA Style

The APA (American Psychological Association) writing style is the most common in research work. In this case, students should understand the basic rules of this referencing approach. In-text citations allow authors to indicate the source of information they have used in their proposal to support an argument or contextualize an observation. Students can use two approaches when doing these citations, such as naming the source in the sentence or indicating it at the end of the sentence in parenthesis, such as (Stevenson, 2018). At the end of the paper, one should create references listing all the sources. For example, a reference entry for a scholarly source should follow the structure:

Surname (full), first initial (shortened), second initial (shortened). (Year of publication). Title of the work in the sentence case. Name of the Journal in Title Case in Italics, volume in italics (number in brackets), page numbers, and doi link.

📕 MLA Style

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is not commonly used in research proposals. However, instructors may require students to use it when writing a research proposal. As such, one needs to know how to use it correctly. The most important thing to know is that when citing sources in the body of the text, students should mention the author’s surname and the page where the information is located in parentheses at the end of a sentence: (Stevenson 19). At the end of a research paper proposal, they should create a works cited page listing all the sources used, like:

Surname, first and second names. “Title of the Work in Title Case in Double Quotations.” Name of the Journal in Title Case Italics , volume, number, year of publication, year of publication, page numbers, and doi identifier.

📕 Harvard Style

The Harvard style has greater similarities with the APA format. One similarity is citing the author’s name and the year of publication in in-text citations. However, unlike the APA style, Harvard referencing does not require writers to use a comma after the author’s surname. Therefore, an in-text citation in Harvard appears (Stevenson 2018). At the end of a research proposal, students should create a reference list where they capture all the sources they have used in their literature review. For example, a reference entry for a scholarly article should have the following information:

Surname, first and second names (shortened and with no coma) year of publication, ‘Title of the work in sentence case in single quotation marks,’ Name of the Journal in Title Case in Italics , volume, number, page numbers, and doi identifier.

📕 Chicago/Turabian Style

Chicago/Turabian referencing format is similar to the MLA style. However, the most significant difference is that students should use footnotes to capture in-text citations when writing their proposals. Such citations should indicate the author’s surname and the page number where they got the cited information. For a scholarly source, the first footnote should capture the next information:

Author’s first name with second name and surname, “Title of the Work in the Topic Sentence in Double Quotation,” The Name of the Journal in the Topic Case in Italics , volume, number (year of publication): the exact page number where the writer got the cited information, and doi link.

Ultimately, students should create a bibliography page to note all the sources. The above source should appear as it is, except that the surname followed by the first and second names and the page numbers will indicate all the pages of the source document.

Author’s surname, first name with second name, “Title of the Work in the Topic Sentence in Double Quotation,” The Name of the Journal in the Topic Case in Italics , volume, number (year of publication): page numbers, and doi link.

Reasons for Rejection of Research Proposals

Rejection of academic texts happens for various reasons, the most common being the author’s failure to satisfy basic requirements, like the referencing style and deadline for submission. Other reasons include proposing a topic irrelevant to the discipline and proposing questionable research questions, hypotheses, research design, and methods. Submitting an incomplete proposal, a poorly written literature review, and presenting a research methodology beyond the principal investigator’s capacity can also lead to the rejection of a research paper proposal. Therefore, it is paramount that students acquaint themselves with the basic requirements of proposals and the expectations of professors, departments, and research committees.

Error Elimination

While students must format their research paper proposals according to the applicable style, they should also ensure that their work is error-free. Basically, authors make many mistakes when producing academic texts: wrong and missing citations, punctuation, and inconsistent arguments and ideas. In turn, students should eliminate such flaws when writing a proposal to avoid the professor, department, or research committee rejecting their papers or essays. It is paramount for one to read and reread their proposal to identify any errors. While it is easier to fix grammatical and formatting mistakes, it can be challenging to identify inconsistencies in thought. As such, students can give their research paper proposals or essays to colleagues or peers to peruse because authors may be biased to critique their own work.

Academic Writing Conventions

Students should observe academic writing conventions when writing a research paper proposal or essay. The first rule is to use formal language. All authors must use third-person pronouns, such as ‘they,’ and avoid first- and second-person pronouns, such as ‘I’ and ‘we.’ Another convention is citing all information from outside sources using the applicable style described above. Other rules include writing in the active voice, observing the 80/20 rule, avoiding slang and emotive and exaggerated language, and following a well-organized researh paper outline template . The 80/20 rule suggests that writers should spend 80 percent of their time researching material and 20 percent composing it into a logical proposal paper or essay. Observing these rules can make a high-quality research paper proposal or essay and prevent rejection by relevant authorities.

Examples of Topics for Research Proposal

When writing research paper proposals or essays, students should choose topics carefully because it will significantly determine the quality of their work. Ideally, it is easier to research an issue people are excited about and confident they can write about because they have studied it in class or during personal study in the library or at home. In other words, a research topic is important because it directs what students intend to do, including researching information in multiple databases. The following list provides possible research paper topics that students can choose because each indicates an aspect of examination, exploration, or investigation:

  • Examining the Influence of Peer Pressure on Adolescents’ Behaviors
  • How Parental Divorce Impairs Teenagers’ Socioemotional Development
  • Examining Leadership Through Employees’ Attitudes, Behaviors, and Performance
  • Investigating the Relationship Between Education and Economic and Social Mobility
  • How Morale Impacts Cohesion in the Workplace

Outline Example for Writing a Research Paper Proposal & Template

Provide a summary of the whole paper in 100-200 words, including a few keywords.

I. Introduction

  • Research topic: ___ .
  • Research question: ___ .
  • Significance of the study: ___ .

II. Literature Review

Review all sources that correspond to a research proposal topic and question and cite them according to the rules of the selected reference style.

III. Research Methodology

  • Research design: ___ .
  • Research methods: ___ .
  • Sample population: ___ .
  • Study procedure: ___ .
  • Data analysis: ___ .

IV. Preliminary Data

Talk about preliminary data.

V. Statement of Limitations

In a proposal paper or essay, analyze limitations.

VI. Ethical Considerations

Include ethical aspects of conducting the study.

VII. Expected Findings

Explain what is expected from doing research.

VIII. Conclusion

Sum up key aspects of a proposal paper or essay.

Provide reference entries for all sources used in a proposal paper or essay.

Research Paper Proposal Example

Topic: How Parental Divorce Impairs Teenagers’ Socioemotional Development

Abstract Sample for Writing a Research Proposal

This paper outlines a research paper proposal for a study examining how parental divorce impairs teenagers’ socioemotional development. The paper highlights the research question and the study’s significance. It also reviews the literature and outlines the research methodology. Other sections of this proposal include preliminary data, study limitations, ethical considerations, expected findings, and conclusion.

I. Example of an Introduction

Divorce is an event with considerable effect on children, mainly if they are still in the early developmental phases. Adolescence qualifies for this categorization because it is a period when youth experience significant physical and emotional development. As such, parental divorce can have adverse effects on this population. This proposal aims to examine how parental divorce impairs teenagers’ socioemotional development by answering the question: How does divorce affect teenagers’ social and emotional functioning? The proposed study is significant because it aims to provide insights into how parental divorce exposes youth to circumstances that impair their social and emotional functioning. Such knowledge is vital for parents, counselors, educators, and youth who may need to provide guidance and other assistance to young people experiencing difficulty accepting their parents’ divorce.

Multiple studies have examined how family events, particularly divorce, exert immense pressure on children. Research evidence suggests that parental divorce is a pathway for social and emotional disorders in children. According to researchers, divorce exposes children to ugly incidences, such as court cases, which make parents bitter and unable to connect emotionally with their children. Under such a context, children find it easier to internalize their anger and pain and eventually develop externalizing behavior, including physically assaulting peers and using drugs.

The proposed research will be a qualitative study utilizing observation and in-depth interviews as research methods. Researchers will target youth who have experienced parental divorce within the last five years, focusing on 20 participants. The proposed research methodology will include observing the study sample and interviewing each participant individually over three weeks. The study will utilize content analysis to determine themes and patterns that indicate problematic socioemotional functioning.

Preliminary data suggests parental divorce is a present reality across the United States and consumes considerable time for district courts countrywide. Consequently, evidence shows that most adolescents who have experienced parental divorce have undergone counseling during both pre- and post-divorce periods. In this respect, the proposed study is essential to determine how parental divorce impairs teenagers’ socioemotional development.

The proposed study has several limitations. The first one is that the study sample is small, which might affect the generalizability of the findings. Secondly, the study focuses on participants who have experienced divorce in the last five years. As such, there is a high probability that factors other than divorce, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, may account for participants’ socioemotional deficiencies.

Researchers will write to the University Ethical Committee seeking permission to conduct the proposed study. Consequently, they will seek the participants’ consent by requiring each participant to sign a consent form. The form will explain the purpose of the research and emphasize that participation is voluntary, while participants’ data will be strictly confidential.

VII. Expected Findings of a Porposal

Researchers expect the proposed work to confirm that parental divorce impairs teenagers’ socioemotional development. One expected finding is that, when parents divorce, teenagers become vulnerable to problematic behavior because of influence by those who seek to fill the gap that develops. In turn, the proposed work is essential to demonstrate that teenagers are affected significantly when parents seek to divorce because the new reality predisposes them to internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

VIII. Example of a Research Proposal Conclusion

Understanding how divorce affects adolescents is vital for parents, educators, and counselors because they are the ones who deal with the aftermath of this emotionally draining family experience. As such, this proposal is timely and provides an opportunity to investigate parental divorce’s impairments on teenagers’ socioemotional development and functioning.

References of Used Sources

For this example, only general knowledge is used to show how to write a research proposal in brief. Therefore, there is no need to cite anything since it serves only for educational purposes. However, when writing any paper and using any source, everything that people took from articles must be cited within the text and at the end of a proposal paper or essay to avoid plagiarism.

Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Research Paper Proposal

A research proposal is a logical statement that helps to evaluate the relevance and applicability of any scholarly work. Basically, this type of paper must have a well-organized introduction that presents the main study objectives. The literature review reveals the knowledge gap that the investigation must address, substantiating the work or essay. Moreover, a good proposal must contain the anticipated methods and plan of work. In turn, the method section includes a detailed procedure for gathering the relevant data for the study. As a result, students need several tips for writing a high-standard proposal that the professor or research committee cannot reject, which include:

  • When writing a research proposal, the first thing to do is choose a thematic area one is acquainted with because it creates excitement and enthusiasm.
  • Then, students should develop their research question(s) or hypothesis(es).
  • The third agenda is to research sources in online databases for the literature review to identify knowledge gaps and popular paradigms.
  • The fourth aspect is to pick a specific type of research methodology, considering the differences between qualitative and quantitative research designs, such as correlational, descriptive, experimental, observational case studies, and ethnographies.
  • Lastly, students should review their work to address every critical detail of a research proposal.
  • Subscriber Services
  • For Authors
  • Publications
  • Archaeology
  • Art & Architecture
  • Bilingual dictionaries
  • Classical studies
  • Encyclopedias
  • English Dictionaries and Thesauri
  • Language reference
  • Linguistics
  • Media studies
  • Medicine and health
  • Names studies
  • Performing arts
  • Science and technology
  • Social sciences
  • Society and culture
  • Overview Pages
  • Subject Reference
  • English Dictionaries
  • Bilingual Dictionaries

Recently viewed (0)

  • Save Search

Related Content

Related overviews.

research brief

market research

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Business and Management

research proposal

Quick reference.

A document prepared by a research agency for a prospective customer outlining in detail the programmes of research, its objectives, its methodology, and project timescales and costs that the agency proposes to carry out on behalf of the customer. See market research.

From:   research proposal   in  A Dictionary of Marketing »

Subjects: Social sciences — Business and Management

Related content in Oxford Reference

Reference entries.

View all related items in Oxford Reference »

Search for: 'research proposal' in Oxford Reference »

  • Oxford University Press

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE ( (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice ).

date: 04 December 2023

  • Cookie Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • Legal Notice
  • Accessibility
  • [|]

Character limit 500 /500

  • DailySocialTV
  • Selasa Startup
  • Privacy & Policy
  • Terms of Service

Biznet Logo

Copyright©2020. PT Digital Startup Nusantara

DS Startups

Artificial Intelligence

Funding News

Founders Tips

Tips & Tricks



  • Terms of Services
  • Presidential Candidate's Digital Economy
  • Indosat x MNC Play
  • LLM Indonesian
  • Landing Page

Research Proposal: Definition, Function, Purpose, Types, Writing Structure, and Examples

The research phase is quite long. One of them is the stage of preparing and presenting the research proposal. Proposals are an important part of research activities so that research results can be known by the wider community. 

Firdilla Kurnia - 11 May 2023

Copy link Link copied!

Research Proposal/© Pixabay

A research proposal is the first step you should prepare when starting any project, including research projects. The research proposal thus becomes a kind of document proposing a research project, usually in the sciences or higher education, and a request for funding for the research to be carried out.

Therefore, it makes sense that the proposals are then evaluated according to the costs and potential impact of the proposed research, as well as the strength of the implementation plan.

Definition of Research Proposal

Understanding a research proposal will help you write it properly and correctly. For them to get approval and get funding ensuring research is done.

The first thing that must be understood is the meaning of the proposal itself, usually a proposal is an action plan that is written as a work plan to be implemented.

Meanwhile, a research proposal can be interpreted simply as a research action plan, which is outlined in the form of a work plan to be implemented in the research. The proposal then contains detailed information about the research to be carried out. Starting from the topic, background to topic selection, from the results of hypothetical research to the RAB (Budget Plan).

The lecturers are Indonesian language teachers and researchers who know this application well. In addition, application is a mandatory requirement for funding. Both are from colleges, authorities and partners. A well-prepared application with reasonable RAB arrangements is one of the possibilities for acceptance. So they can get grants and then do research comfortably because they don't have to worry about insufficient funds available.

Research Proposal Function

Preparation of research proposals is the duty and need of lecturers. Because it has many functions, such as:

1. Get Approval

The function and purpose of a research proposal is to obtain approval from the funding agency or sponsor. In short, research proposals are made in such a way that researchers are given permission to allow researchers to carry out their research without hindrance from any party.

2. Provide an Overview

The function of the following research project is to convey the purpose and nature of the research project to be carried out. In this case, the researcher must state clearly what the benefits and implications will be after the research is completed.

3. Describe the Research Plan

The research plan contained in the proposal must be carried out systematically and easily understood. However, research content will not be removed. The purpose and task of the research proposal is to explain the general objectives of the plans that have been prepared. This allows the approver to properly digest the plan.

4. Facilities for Research Purposes

The final function of the research proposal is to provide facilities and needs during the research. Therefore, the researcher must make a good research proposal document so that he can get all the requirements needed for his research later.

Purpose of Research Proposal

The objectives of the research proposal are:

1. Present and justify the necessity of studying a research problem and present practical ways in which the proposed research should be carried out.

2. The research proposal includes a detailed literature search. Proposals must demonstrate conclusively that the requested research is required.

3. The proposal describes a detailed methodology for conducting research that meets the needs of a professional or academic field and an explanation of the expected results and/or benefits of completing the research.

4. Outline a detailed research area and ensure the feasibility of a research proposal is prepared.

Types of Research Proposals

There are many types of research proposals including;

1. Development Research

R&D proposals are proposals put to action that result in designs or products that can be used to solve real-world problems. The focus of development work is to use theories, concepts, principles or research results to solve problems.

The form of research and development proposals is different from research proposals based on research activities because the characteristics of development activities and results-oriented research activities are different. Research activities are carried out to find answers to a problem, but development research is carried out to apply findings or theoretical foundations to solve problems.

2. Literature Review

A literature review research proposal is a research proposal to solve a problem which is basically based on a critical and in-depth review of the relevant literature.

Literature research is usually carried out by collecting information or information from various sources in the literature and then presenting it in a way for a new purpose.

In this case, library materials are needed as a source of ideas to explore new thoughts or ideas and as a basis for drawing conclusions from existing information for the development of new theoretical frameworks or as a basis for solving problems.

3. Qualitative Research

A qualitative research proposal is a proposal that plans to formulate a problem comprehensively and contextually by gathering information from a natural background and using the researcher himself as the main research tool.

Examples of qualitative research proposals are descriptive and usually use inductive analysis. In qualitative research, process and meaning are emphasized (subjective perspective).

The characteristics of this type of qualitative research shape the nature and form of the report. Therefore, the report is a creative and immersive story, with naturalistic features full of authenticity.

4. Quantitative Research

Quantitative research proposals are various examples of quantitative research proposals written using a deductive-inductive approach, namely an approach that departs from a theoretical framework, expert ideas, or understanding based on the researcher's experience.

Based on these points, problems and solutions are then developed to get justification (confirmation) in the field in the form of empirical data support.

Research Proposal Writing Structure

Basically every educational institution and the like has its own system and structure in writing research proposals.

But in general, the shape is not much different. The most common systems and structures when writing a research proposal are described in more detail below:

1. The Beginning

The first part of the research proposal contains the name of the research and introduction to be carried out, the structure is as follows:

1. Research Title

2. Introduction

3. Background

4. Formulation of the problem

5. Research objectives

6. Goals, outputs, and scope/limitations

7. Literature review

8. Formulation of the research hypothesis

9. Framework of thought

10. The theoretical assumptions used in the research.

In the beginning it is important to make it systematic and easy to understand. To enable agencies or applicants to accept submitted research proposals.

2. Content Section

In the second part is the contents section, which includes research methods which include, as follows:

1. Research approach

2. Variables and indicators

3. Population and sample or focus and locus

4. Data collection techniques

5. Data processing and analysis techniques

More Coverage:

6. Research subjects

7. Research instruments and stages (can be adapted to qualitative, quantitative, or development research approaches).

8. Schedule of research implementation

9. Plan for publication of research results.

10. Concluding Section

3. Final Section

The final part of the research proposal contains a discussion of several topics, including:

1. Bibliography

2. Attachments consisting of validation sheets from 3. Leaders of institutions/agencies, statements

4. Curriculum Vitae Documents

5. Budget Plan

6. Research documentation.

Sample Research Proposal

The following is an example of a research proposal that we present to you to strengthen your reference for this proposal.

research proposal work meaning



Pandemic Subsides, Telemedicine becomes More Meaningful

Cultivating Wellness Aspects Through a Health and Personal Development Platform

Tags: Research proposal Sample Business Proposal Definition of Research Proposal


28 November 2023

10 August 2023

30 July 2023

Review Order

IDR 150.000

Payment Details

Subscribe Monthly

Total payment

By clicking the payment method button, you are read and agree to the terms and conditions of


Check the box to Create your Account

Login to your account

Forgot Password?

To reset your password, please input the email of your account.

Reset Password

Reset link sent!

Thanks! You've been emailed a password reset link.

Create your account

Create Account

Check your email to verify!

If you didn't receive an email in your inbox, check your spam folder.

We've emailed you a temporary password.

Stay connected with us and get full features in our platform. Community and Information can be fully open.

No thank you.


  1. Choose from 40 Research Proposal Templates & Examples. 100% Free

    research proposal work meaning

  2. FREE 12+ Research Proposal Samples in PDF

    research proposal work meaning

  3. Importance of Research Proposals in Academic Writing ~ With Example

    research proposal work meaning

  4. Research Proposal Template

    research proposal work meaning

  5. Research Proposal Sample

    research proposal work meaning

  6. 👍 Research proposal. Research Proposal Example. 2019-02-23

    research proposal work meaning


  1. Research proposal Assignment, Video Presentation, Fall, 2023

  2. Justification in research

  3. How to write Research proposal

  4. Mistakes in Proposal Writing_How To Overcome Them

  5. Lecture 8: BRM- Writing a Research proposal

  6. How to write Research Proposal for Foreign Scholarships


  1. What Are Examples of Nursing Research Proposals?

    The unifying theme of successful nursing research proposals is that the author(s) observed a problem, did research to make sure the observation was not personal bias, and then wrote to describe not only the problem, but a potential solution...

  2. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Research Proposal

    Research proposals are an essential component of any academic or scientific project. They outline the objectives, methods, and expected outcomes of a research study. One of the most common mistakes researchers make when writing a research p...

  3. Step-by-Step: Using Free Research Proposal Samples for Inspiration and Guidance

    Research proposals are an essential part of any academic or professional research project. They outline the objectives, methods, and expected outcomes of a study, providing a roadmap for researchers to follow.

  4. What Is a Research Proposal? (Plus How To Write One)

    A research proposal is a highly structured document that describes your study's topic and explains how you plan to investigate a specific

  5. What Is A Research Proposal? Examples + Template

    Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it's worth researching (your

  6. Research proposal

    A research proposal is a document proposing a research project, generally in the sciences or academia, and generally constitutes a request for sponsorship

  7. Research Proposal Definition, Components & Examples

    The research topic must communicate what is being investigated and its context. How does this work? Consider this example topic: TOPIC: An examination of the

  8. What is a Research Proposal?

    Definition: a research proposal is a document written by a researcher that provides a detailed description of his proposed activities.

  9. Research Proposal: Definition, Purpose, & Writing Steps

    The main purpose of a research proposal is to convince the reader of your project's value. You will have to prove that you have a plan for your

  10. How to Write a Research Proposal

    A research proposal aims to show why your project is worthwhile. It should explain the context, objectives, and methods of your research.

  11. How to Write a Research Proposal: Format, Outline, Example

    Lastly, students should review their work to address every critical detail of a

  12. Research proposal

    work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice)

  13. Research: Proposal

    worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work- plan to

  14. Research Proposal: Definition, Function, Purpose, Types, Writing

    The function and purpose of a research proposal is to obtain approval from the funding agency or sponsor. In short, research proposals are made