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What is a Research Proposal and How to Write it? (With Example)

What is a Research Proposal?

In short terms, a research proposal is a concise, brief, and coherent summary of your proposed research and it explains what you plan to research. When you write a research project, most of the time it starts with a proposal and you will need to write one before you begin your thesis or dissertation. In fact, a research proposal is intended to persuade someone that your project is worthwhile, for instance, your supervisor or funding body.

How to Write the Best Research Proposal

A research Proposal mainly aims to reflect the following aspects of your project:

  • Relevance
  • Context
  • Approach
  • Feasibility

The format of the research proposal changes between fields, but the most proposal should consist of at least the following elements:

  • Title Page
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research design
  • Reference list

Title Page:

Write the proposed title of your project in the title page of your proposal and include:

Your Name:

Your supervisor name:

The institution and department:

It’s good to check with your department to see if there are specific requirements.

The Introduction:

The introduction is where you attract the attention of the reader and demonstrate relevance. Here in this part, you should introduce the context of your research problem and disclose that your project is interesting, important, and original.

Questions to Guide Your Introduction:

  • How much is already know about the problem?
  • For whom is this interesting and engaging? (For instance: Policymakers or scientists)
  • What are the key research questions that you aim to answer?

Literature Review:

A strong and convincing literature review convinces your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing theory or knowledge. Moreover, it shows that you are familiar with the field. In this part, you are explaining that how your project will contribute and cooperate to conversations on your topic. If you don’t know how to write a Literature Review click here and learn about the steps of writing it.

Research Design:

This section is also called the methodology section and it should describe the overall approach and practical steps you will undergo to answer your research questions. The following things you should describe in the research design section:

  • Research Type (Whether it is qualitative or quantitative, primary or secondary)
  • Sources (Who or what will you actually study)
  • Research methods (What procedure and tools will you use)
  • Practicalities (any predictable or foreseeable obstacles in terms of timescale or resources required)


To conclude your proposal with a strong note you can explore the potential implications of the research for practice or theory, and stress and emphasize again what you aim to contribute to existing knowledge on the topic. As an illustration, your consequences or result might have implications for:

  • Confirming or developing a theory
  • Challenging current assumptions
  • Creating a basis for further research

Citations and Reference List

A perfect research proposal must consist of proper citations and a reference list for every source you have used. It’s significant to keep track of your sources right from the beginning. It also depend on the requirements of your program, sometimes you might have to include a detailed timeline and budget of the project. This aims to show your research is feasible and achievable.

Within the timeline you will describe what you will do at each stage and how long it is going to take and how much will it cost. Check the following picture as an illustration.


In every piece of academic writing, it’s important to edit and proofread your work, so before you submit your research proposal make sure to edit and proofread to make it error-free. For the best chance of approval, you can consider using these proofreading tools to rectify your language errors, check your proposal’s structure and improve your academic style.

If you think for how long the research proposal should be, it really varies and depends. for example, a bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, on the other hand, a proposal for Ph.D. dissertations and research funding is often very long and detailed, so it’s recommended to check with your supervisor.

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