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How to Write a Research Proposal: Writing Guide (and Format)

    How to Write Great Research Proposal

    A research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains the “what” (research topic), the “why” (justification), and the “how” (methodology) of a project. This article guides you on how to write an excellent research proposal and how to format it correctly.

    Did you know that many students and beginner researchers do not fully comprehend the meaning of a research or thesis proposal? And, a good number of them do not know its purpose. It’s true.

    Yet, proposal writing skills are fundamental for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. But that’s not all. They are equally necessary to the business community. For instance, we have proposed budgets or policies in corporate governance.

    While preparing your proposal, always avoid proposing a complex topic unless you could explore it perfectly. So, before deciding on a particular thesis topic, assess factors like interest and area of study, knowledge on the subject, and literature availability.

    Think of variables’ measurability (both dependent and independent variables) and how you will collect and analyze them. Let’s first understand why writing a good proposal is essential.

    Why Write a Good Research Proposal?

    A research proposal forms the basis (foundation) of your research project or dissertation. So, it should be really good. The professor (or thesis committee) uses it to examine your potential research skills. That’s why writing a high-quality one promises your research project’s success. It also ensures that your topic is relevant and researchable.

    Could you be wondering why your lecturer declined your proposal? Or why he or she directs you to change your dissertation or research topic? Why would you opt to change the subject at the results stage of your research project? That’s time wastage, right?

    Understanding how to write a research proposal will make you a good researcher. And more importantly, it helps you save time while maximizing your grades at the same time. Before exploring the dos and don’ts of writing an academic research proposal, understand the difference between a proposal and research.

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    Research Report Vs. Proposal

    Research Proposal vs. Research Project. The term research proposal is enclosed by an orange colour and points to research report. While writing a research proposal, you should predetermine the outcome of the research project.

    Is a research proposal the same as a research report? Not really. But the two are interrelated – you can’t separate them.

    According to The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary, a proposal is “to suggest a plan, an idea‚Ķ for people to think about and decide on – propose something.” And while a research project contains all proposal elements, the proposal lacks findings, analysis and discussion, and conclusion sections. Additionally, a proposal is written in the future tense, while a research project is written in the present tense.

    The primary sections of a research project include the following;

    • Introduction
    • Literature Review
    • Methodology
    • Results
    • 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 the study, you would be expected to get into the field and measure, collect samples, read, and interpret data and text.

    On the other hand, writing a scholarly research proposal has a different perspective. The professor expects you to identify a research problem you 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. Moreover, 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 dive into how to write a great one.

    How to Write a Great Research Proposal

    Research proposals are written across all academic levels. However, they’re more prevalent among undergraduate and post-graduate students. Your instructor 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 to understand class concepts
    • Advance your skills in developing a comprehensive research design
    • Gauge your ability to identify a research problem and propose solutions to problems
    • 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 image aims to attract the customers to understand that the section explains the dos and don'ts Writing a Scholarly Research Propos

    Let’s explore the dos and don’ts you should consider while writing your research proposal.

    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.

    #1 What does your research aim to accomplish?

    You must state the research question clearly. Make sure it’s neither too general nor too narrow. The question should be realistic (practical), researchable, and significant.

    Please avoid suggesting a topic you are not interested in or are too complex to explore. However, should you still be wondering whether your research topic is researchable, ask for help?

    #2 Why do you want to explore the topic?

    Better invest your time and resources in 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.

    #3 How will you conduct the research?

    Your proposed research should be clear and practical. Do not propose a question you do not have the materials or expertise to handle. You need to understand, among other things, the most practical research design and population.

    However, if you face a problem formulating a research question, make an order here. Now that you know what to answer when writing a research proposal, let’s explore the six things you should never do.

    The Don’ts in Writing a Proposal

    While writing a research proposal, avoid these 6 Common Mistakes:

    #1 Not being Concise: Your research proposal must be clear and focused – avoid diverging to other unrelated topics throughout the paper. For instance, don’t diverge to animal husbandry in a plant thesis proposal. 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 your study area’s research gap, methodologies, and limitations.

    #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 where you plan to conduct the research, who would be participating, and set timelines. More so, be clear on how you plan to examine the problem.

    #4 Developing an Incoherent argument for the proposed research: While defending your dissertation proposal, ensure you persuade your organization or 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 research skills, be coherent. If you are unsure what 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 writing a scientific research proposal.

    How to Format A Research Proposal

    Like any other academic writing, research proposals have a general format. However, unlike essays, research proposals are more detailed. The research entails collecting and analyzing data and proposing solutions to the question under consideration.

    The format is the same across all academic levels – whether undergraduate or post-graduate. However, your research should be more detailed and informed at the doctorate level. Most institutions have varying research proposal outlines and guidelines.

    And it is not uncommon to find different professors within the same unit or course offering different research outlines. 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 essential elements of a Research Proposal.

    The General Format of a Proposal

    To write an outstanding research proposal, you need to follow the following format – unless your institution has a different one.

    1. The Title Page (Cover Page)

    The Title page outlines the proposed topic and other details such as the institution’s name, course, and student number. You could also be asked to include the word count here. However, this section varies across institutions.

    1. Table of Contents

    A table of contents, also known as a contents table, is an organized listing of a project’s chapters and sections, clearly labeled by page numbers for easier navigation.

    1. Introduction

    This section includes the background and context of the study, problem statement, research question(s), and research significance.

    1. Literature Review

    In this section, you’re expected to identify and analyze (compare, contrast, critique, and connect) the existing literature. It allows you to identify key debates and controversies surrounding your topic. More so, it contains conceptual and theoretical analysis and helps you explore the existing knowledge gap in your area of interest.

    1. Research Methodology

    While writing your methodology chapter, you should clearly state your proposed research design, methods, participants, and projected obstacles. You have to decide on the population size, sampling method, and research tools and propose the data collection and analysis technique.

    1. Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

    You’d be expected to give the practical implications of your proposed study. And also present the theoretical implications. What do you intend to achieve?

    1. Conclusion

    While writing the conclusion section, remember that recommendations are neither expected nor required, like in research projects.

    1. Bibliography or References

    Correct bibliography in APA/MLA/Harvard, e.t.c.
    Also, remember to reference all the sources.

    1. Research Schedule

    Outline your research phase, objectives, and deadline, illustrating when the proposal is expected to be completed.

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    While writing a research proposal, you should give some thoughts on the practicality of your research. Similarly, it would help if you had some basic understanding of the research methodology you intend to apply. Conduct some relevant research and get tips on selecting an appropriate topic for your paper.

    Want to write an outstanding research proposal? Avoid these six common mistakes:

    1. Not being Concise
    2. Not citing landmark works
    3. lack of clear definition of contextual boundaries
    4. Developing an incoherent argument for the proposed research
    5. Sloopy writing and poor grammar
    6. majoring in minor issues and ignoring the major ones.

    Always remember:

    1. What your research aims to accomplish (topic & objectives)
    2. Why you want to explore the topic (justification)
    3. How you will conduct the research (methodology)

    Finally, remember to follow the prescripted format while writing your proposal. Should you need further guidance on how to write an outstanding thesis or research proposal, talk to us anytime. You can also hire our writers to write, edit or format your proposals or essays 24/7.