Many students and beginner researchers do not fully comprehend the meaning of a research proposal. Surprisingly, a good number do not know its purpose. A proposal covers the “what” (research topic), the “why” (justification), and the “how (methodology)” of the research project. So, to write an outstanding research (thesis or dissertation) proposal, first, understand the practicality of your research.
Proposal writing skills are fundamental for both undergraduate and post-graduate students. It is equally important to the business community. For instance, imagine someone seeking a tender to supply vehicles. Yet, they can neither name a single car model nor know the basics of a car. Funny, right? Well, would you accept his or her proposal? I believe not – unless such a person is a representative of a known car dealer.
Similarly, it would be best if you did not propose a complex research topic unless you can explore it perfectly. Before deciding on a thesis topic, consider factors like interest and area of study, knowledge, and skills on the subject matter, and literature availability. It would help if you thought of the variables’ measurability and how you will collect and analyze it.
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Let’s first understand why writing a good proposal is essential…
Why Writing a Good Proposal is Essential
A research proposal forms the basis (foundation) of your research project or dissertation. So, it should be really good. Your professor (thesis committee) uses it to examine your potential researching skills. Therefore, a high-quality proposal promises your research project’s success. It also ensures that your topic is relevant and researchable.
You are wondering why the professor declined your proposal? Or, probably, why your professor advised you to change your dissertation research topic? Why would you opt to change the subject at the results stage of your research project? Regardless, it’s time wastage, right? That’s why understanding how to write a research proposal will make you a good researcher and sa
Before exploring the dos and don’ts in writing an academic research proposal, understand the difference between a proposal and research.
Research Vs. Proposal; What’s the Difference?
Is a proposal the same as research? Not really. The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary defines a proposal as “to suggest a plan, an idea… for people to think about and decide on – propose something.”
While a research project contains all proposal elements, the proposal lacks findings and analysis sections. The basic sections of a research project include the following;
- Literature Review
- Analysis of Findings
- Recommendations and Conclusion
Research is the process of conducting a detailed analysis of a particular area of inquiry. In most cases, learners are free to select an area of inquiry. However, while conducting research, you would be expected to get into the field and measuring, collecting samples, reading, and interpreting data and text.
Writing a scholarly research proposal has a different perspective. The professor expects you to identify a research problem that you would wish to explore further. You are not expected to go into the field yet.
The proposal should explain, in detail, and practical sense, how you intend to investigate, and how you plan to accomplish the investigation. It is a collection of ideas for your final dissertation or research project.
A proposal presents and justifies the research problem and presents practical ways the proposed study shall be conducted.
Having understood what a research proposal is, let’s get into details;
What Writing Thesis or Research Proposal Entails
Although research proposals are written across all academic levels, they are more prevalent among undergraduate and postgraduate students. Appropriate topic selection would affect the outcome of your proposal and the final project. However, if your topic is unreachable or irrelevant, it would be challenging to produce an outstanding academic paper.
Your professor may assign you the role of writing a scholarly research paper for various reasons, such as;
- Identify, improve, and monitor your research and writing skills.
- Improve your ability to access relevant literature and review them for a better understanding of class concepts
- Advance your skills in developing a comprehensive research design
- Ability to identify a research problem and propose solutions to problems within your area of study
- Understand and examine various data gathering and analysis methods related to the research problem
- Understand the logical steps necessary for the completion of a research project
- Examine your problem-solving capabilities
The Do’s in Writing a Proposal
Regardless of your area of study, the research problem, the research methodology you select, e.t.c., your proposal should answer the following three questions.
- What does your research aim to accomplish? You must state the research question clearly – it should neither be too general nor too narrow. The question should be realistic (practical) and researchable, and significant as well. Please avoid suggesting a topic that you have no interest in or too complex to explore. However, should you still be wondering whether your research topic is researchable, call for help?
- Why do you want to explore the topic? Better invest your time and resources on a research question that makes sense. You need to conduct a critical literature review to gather convincing evidence that the research question is worth exploring. It is crucial to answering the “so what” question.
- How will you conduct the research? Your proposed research should be clear and practical. Do not propose a question that you do not have the materials or expertise to handle. You need to understand the most practical research design, population, e.t.c. However, if you are having a problem formulating a research question, make an order here.
Now that you know what to answer when you want to write a research proposal, let’s explore the 6 things you should never do.
While writing a research proposal, avoid these 6 Common Mistakes:
#1 Not being Concise. Your research proposal must be clear and focused. It would be best if you avoided diverging to other unrelated topics throughout the paper. For instance, Don’t diverge to animal husbandry in a thesis proposal on plants. Pick a particular area, and focus on it.
#2 Not Citing Landmark Works. The literature review of your thesis proposal must be cited appropriately. However, failure to cite other people’s work results in plagiarism. The literature review gives you an overview of the research gap, methodologies, and limitations in your study area.
#3 Lack of clear definition of Contextual boundaries. While writing a scholarly research proposal, you must delimit boundaries such as places, people, and time. State clearly where the research would be conducted, who would be participating, and set timelines. It must be clear how your research plan to examine the problem.
#4 Developing an Incoherent argument for the proposed research. While defending your dissertation proposal, ensure you persuade your organization of the professor that the topic is significant. Many organizations that fund research could ask you, why should we fund your proposal? You should be in a position to defend it.
#5 Sloppy Writing and Poor Grammar. Since a proposal impacts your grades and researching skills, be sure to be coherent. If you are not sure what an academic language is, order professional proofreaders and editors.
#6 Majoring on minor issues and ignoring the major ones. Give more attention to the significant issues in your proposal writing. Although you should address minor issues, they should not be dominant. Focus on the research questions, and your project would be outstanding.
Here is the general format to follow when you want to write a scientific research proposal.
How to Format A Research Proposal
This is How to Write Research Proposal for either undergraduate or postgraduate research paper.
Like any other academic writings, research proposals have a general format. However, unlike essays, research proposals are more detailed. The research entails the collection and analysis of data and proposes solutions to the question under consideration.
The format is the same across all academic levels – whether undergraduate or postgraduate. However, at the doctorate level, your research should be more detailed and informed.
Most institutions have varying research proposal outlines and guidelines. It is not uncommon to find different professors within the same unit or course, offering different research outline. In short, consult with your professor and ask around which version you should use.
Generally, the volume of a proposal falls between 5 to 10 pages. However, before you write a research proposal, you would be expected to present the research topic and question (s) for vetting.
Let’s explore some basic elements of a Research Proposal;
The General Format of a Proposal
To write outstanding research proposal, you need to follow the following format – unless your institution has a different one.
- The Title (Cover Page)
And other cover page details, e.g., name of the institution, course, and student number. However, this section varies across institutions.
- Table of Contents
Background and Context of the Study
The problem statement
This chapter also explains the significance of research
- Literature Review
Critical analysis of existing studies (cite, compare, contrast, critique, connect)
Also, identify key debates and controversies.
Conceptual and Theoretical analysis
Explores the existing knowledge gap
- Research Methodology
Research design and methods
Participants and projected obstacles
Also entails deciding on the population size and sampling method
Proposed data collection and analysis techniques
- Preliminary Suppositions and Implications
Practical implications of the proposed study
Also entails presenting theoretical implications
While writing the conclusion section, remember that recommendations are neither expected nor required, like in research projects .
- Bibliography or References
Correct bibliography in APA/MLA/Harvard, e.t.c.
Also, remember to reference all the sources.
- Research Schedule
Deadline, which illustrates when the proposal is expected to be completed.
While writing a research proposal, you should give some thoughts on the practicality of your research. Similarly, you need to have some basic understanding of the research methodology you intend to apply. Conduct some relevant research and get some tips on how to select an appropriate topic for your paper.
Want to write an outstanding research proposal? Avoid these 6 common mistakes…
- Not being Concise
- Not citing landmark works
- lack of clear definition of contextual boundaries
- Developing an incoherent argument for the proposed research
- Sloopy writing and poor grammar
- majoring on minor issues and ignoring the major ones.
- What your research aims to accomplish (topic & objectives)
- Why you want to explore the topic (justification)
- How you will conduct the research (methodology)
Finally, remember to follow the prescripted format while writing your proposal.
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