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How to Write a Research Proposal

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a summary of your proposed research that must provide information about the core issues and questions you want to investigate. A well-written research proposal explains the research frames and refers to previous investigations in the field. A research proposal aims to convince the professor why your research is suitable. Be sure to explain the “what,” “how,” and “why” of the research.

Structure of a proposal for a research paper

Research proposal title

Proposal abstract (no more than 300 words) – description of the research problem, its contexts, and significance

General description of research:

  • The relevance of research
  • Goal, objectives, and expected results, which should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound
  • The main idea of the research is what and how you will study
  • Justification of the choice of the program in terms of the realization of the feasibility of the proposed research paper

Research positioning – literature review:

  • An overview of the available and the most significant research in this area
  • A description of the existing theoretical and practical gaps that the project intends to fill

Research methodology:

  • The main research questions and the rationale for their importance
  • Description of the information required for research

Research methods

  • Plan for the implementation of a research paper – a description of specific goals
  • Bibliography

How to write a research proposal outline

Before writing a research proposal, it is important to make a great outline. The outline should be clear and acceptable for the person who writes a research proposal and those who take part in it (the supervisor and other persons interested in it). The greatness of the outline is determined by the presence of “great” scientific terms that are rarely used in everyday life. The comprehensibility and acceptability of the outline are the simplicity and accessibility in understanding its structure and the meaning of its constituent parts.

A great research proposal outline is made if there is a need and, especially, a desire to do it. The better the outline, the easier (more convenient) it is to write a research proposal. It is necessary to determine the urgency of the problem. It is necessary to determine the scientific novelty. You should narrow the problem to your specialty and the specifics of the topic to note that as a result of the analysis of scientific literature, you were convinced that no one considered this problem in this context. After you have done your outline, it is time to write your paper.

Steps for writing a research proposal

1. Write an abstract. While writing a research proposal abstract, make an emphasis on the research question, hypothesis, research methods, and findings. This part should be at most 300 words and be as brief as possible.

2. Write an introduction. Here it would help if you determined the object of research. Based on the topic, you should identify the keyword (words, phrases). For example: “The object of our research was the process of industrial production of brooms.” Also, it would be best if you determined the subject of research. Identify the quality, action, and process that takes place with the object. In other words, the goal of writing an introduction is quality pitching the research idea. After reading an introduction, your audience should realize what you are going to do and recall the interest of an audience in getting the results of your project.

3. Define a hypothesis. Assume the presence or absence of a causal relationship between one thing and another, that is, as a result of this, and something will happen (or not). You need to demonstrate that what happens to the subject affects the object.

4. Determine the purpose of the research. Based on the topic and the problem, identify ways to solve it (what you need to do to solve the problem: identity, study, form, etc.). Define research tasks. Based on the goal, identify and list what needs to be done to solve it (1, 2, 3…). Each task should help solve the problem.

5. Define research methods. Based on the goals and objectives, determine exactly how and with the help of what you will solve the problem. Methods should facilitate problem-solving.

6. Write a literature review. This part of the proposal aims to prove there is the solid groundwork for the investigation and the writer’s understanding of the researched problem. The literary review is a part of the research work, as it contains information that gives an idea of the theoretical works that you take as the basis of your research. You draw parallels with other texts (on the basis of a common time frame, common political views of the authors, etc.), look for differences, and express your opinion on the point of view presented in the book.

One of the main concerns modern researchers face is the vast number of available sources. The era of digitalization makes access to data high-speed and easy. Almost any topic can be covered with an enormous amount of information. Hence the central issue of a researcher would be including the most significant aspects of the project.

When creating a literature review section, it is essential to structure it properly. You can use an approach that is common for writing a bibliography annotation. Sum up each article you use, writing a small paragraph with its highlights. In the literature review, the summary of the previous research should be described, summarized, and clarified objectively. The researcher should inform the readers about all supporting data. Use the rules of the Five C’s when you create a literature review section:

research proposal writing

7. Write the methodological section. This section should describe how you will carry out your research and justify the chosen methods you will use. Identify ways of obtaining scientific knowledge that reflects dynamic processes and phenomena. Determine a specific path on which a research objective is achieved. Ensure comprehensive information about the process or phenomenon that is being researched. It is crucial to provide complete information related to your research and offer specific methods which will be relevant and effective for the proposed research. The main objective of writing the methodological section is to provide a well-planned research design tied to a research topic. You should include the following information in a methodological section:

 

  • Data collection

It is vital to effectively define the time frames required to collect data for tour research. One must ensure that the chosen methods are acceptable enough to provide the analysis in given circumstances. In addition to mentioning the required time frames to apply preferred data collection methods, one should also predict the potential barriers that will not allow effective data collection. In other words, one should provide plan B suggestions if there will be no ability to apply a chosen research design. Moreover, if a researcher will use specific materials to collect data, they should also provide additional documents attached to a proposal (questions for interviews, tests, etc.)

  • Criteria for choosing population

Research must cover a specific population. It could be individuals, objects, etc. It is crucial to provide criteria for defining the population of the study. Measures of inclusion and exclusion related to research are significant. One must be clear about each detail of the research population.

  • Neutrality

One should provide information about the neutrality of chosen methodology. The results you get during research must be pure and work against bias. It is vital to give assurances that the methods exclude influencing other variables.

  • Applicability

The research should be actual and applicable to vast cases, contexts, and groups. Selected methods should be appropriate to this criterion.

  • Consistency

If you want to make research effective, the methods you choose should be flexible and universal. It means that they must apply to other similar research projects. Describe the details of the preferred methods underlining their universality.

  • Ethical aspects

Each methodology must be chosen considering ethical aspects. If you are going to investigate sensitive topics, it is vital to meet the ethical standards of the industry. The research participant’s rights must be secured and guaranteed. For example, you should be sure that the study participants related to the methods you choose and use for research will not have issues in self-determination. Confidentiality will be safe from harm and discomfort. All research participants should be well-informed about the ethical aspects of the chosen methodology.

8. Write the results section. Offer some expectations about what kind of information you discovered and what you aimed to achieve. The main criterion of the effectiveness of the work done for students is the level of mastery of skills of research activities, and the results show how you mastered those skills.

9. Write a conclusion. It is necessary to make basic conclusions. Relate conclusions with the relevance, purpose, objectives, and hypothesis. Mention that the results of the research confirmed that it was not done in vain.

Widespread pitfalls to avoid in writing a research proposal

When a student tries to create a good research proposal, more than following the guidelines and a specific algorithm is required. The best way to become successful in your studies is by learning from others’ mistakes. Hence, read the information below and keep it in mind while creating a research proposal.

  • Failing to cite another research

Any research has a theoretical base supported by other investigations in the current field. Your project contributes to the existing knowledge, and you must remember it. When writing a research proposal, reference other investigations in the field to show your knowledge and level of preparation.

  • Overload with word constructions

A research proposal should be highly informative and provide the required information about the project. At the same time, one should avoid complicated word constructions and unnecessary data. Keep in mind that the main goal of writing a research proposal is to inform the readers of the project’s key aims.

  • No focusing on the main purpose

The factor that could weaken your research proposal is including too many supporting and side questions and issues. It would be best if you focused on the central goal of a proposal and the research itself. Do your best to cover the key purpose and biggest issues.

Research proposal example

We have made a short example of the abstract, introduction, and literature review to help you start your writing. The topic of the research proposal is “Analysis of Milk Composition.”

Analysis of Milk Composition

Abstract

In a biology research proposal on the analysis of milk composition, an analysis of the composition of milk from the manufacturers selected for the experiment will be carried out in order to identify milk that most closely meets nutritional standards. The proposal contains interesting information about the most important product for humans: milk.

In the process of research work on biology related to the analysis of milk composition, the author summarizes the theoretical material on the composition and benefits of milk, and also reveals the most natural milk among manufacturers. This paper analyzes the attitude of consumers to the firms that produce milk.

In the framework of research and experiment, the author reviewed the composition of milk indicated on the manufacturers’ packaging and compiled a table that highlights the main characteristics of each sample. The research proposal on the composition of milk is relevant at the present time of production of this product.

Introduction

The benefits of milk have been known for a long time, and since ancient times it has been included in the diet of both children and adults. It is a valuable product for the body and is even used as a preventive and medicinal drug. Milk is considered a light product, because the lowest concentration of gastric juice is sufficient to digest it.

The benefits of milk are due to the content of a fairly large amount of vitamins of group B, A, and C. All parents call on their children to drink milk in order to increase their immunity and improve their mood, thanks to which familiarity with this product is high. But today, due to various technologies for preserving milk, the usefulness of this product is questioned, and a number of researchers believe that an adult does not have the proper enzymes that digest milk, and therefore its useful properties are disputed.

Literature review

The fact that milk is good for the nervous system was announced in 2017 by Japanese scientists from Tohoku University. According to research involving more than a thousand people, milk (especially low-fat milk) and yogurt significantly reduce the risk of developing depression and increase emotional stability. As the head of the study, Dr. Ryoichi Nagatomi established that, to strengthen the nervous system, it is enough to drink milk or yogurt about four times a week. In further studies, scientists hope to determine what kind of biological mechanism underlies this phenomenon.

Researchers from the University of Maine (USA) have proven that drinking milk has a positive effect on brain function. Moreover, to improve memory and concentration one can and should not only drink milk, but also include dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and even ice cream in the diet. American scientists conducted a study on a group of people of different ages, who first carefully described their diet, and then performed a series of tests. The results showed that those who consume milk at least five to six times a week coped with the tests best of all, especially with the tests that check memory. But people who refuse milk showed results five times worse. Scientists attribute this to the beneficial substances found in milk that affect the development of “gray cells” (in particular, magnesium) as well as the beneficial effects of milk on the circulatory system that nourish the brain.

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