Writing a research proposal
In a research proposal you pitch your research idea. You pitch a research problem, your approach to developing a solution and why it matters. This pitch needs to be credible and convincing. You need to sell your research idea.
A research proposal describes your planned research. It presents your research topic and describes why this topic is significant, it reviews some of the key thinking related to the topic that can be found in published literature and it signals the approach you will take to gather data so that you can investigate the topic you propose.
Research proposals are used whether the research you propose will be qualitative (i.e. research which is based on textual data), quantitative (i.e. research based more on numerical data) or mixed (i.e. based both on texts and numbers).
You may be asked to develop a research proposal as part of an assignment task in a unit or you may wish to write your own research proposal to express interest to enrol in a research degree. You may need to compile a research proposal when you apply for a grant or scholarship.
The purposes of a research project may include one or more of these:
- To propose a research project that will contribute to new knowledge
- To demonstrate that you understand the research field
- To demonstrate that you know how to conduct discipline-specific research
- To formulate a detailed plan of the research, including methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks
- To create a road map and timeline for your research – to ensure that you have adequate resources and time to complete the project
- To gain feedback from supervisors or a review panel regarding the feasibility of the project.
Quick tips for writing a research proposal View
1. Write a descriptive title that directly describes the intended research.
2. Write an introduction which summarises the proposed research directions in the present tense.
3. Write a literature review which positions your proposed research in the field. It should show how the work of other scholars connects to your proposed topic and identify the key thinking in this area. This is usually written in the past tense.
4. Write a logical, step-by-step methods section in the future tense that explains how you will approach gathering data for this topic.
5. Define key terms where appropriate.