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How to write a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a clear, brief overview of the study that the researcher intends to conduct. It outlines the main concerns or inquiries one plans to answer. It describes the broad field of study that the research comes under, making mention of the most recent discussions on the subject as well as the present level of knowledge. It also indicates the uniqueness of the study you suggest.

In addition to outlining the issue that the study will address, proving its relevance, and outlining the ramifications of the response, a proposal must also demonstrate how the present work fits into what is currently known about the subject and what new paradigm it will bring to the body of literature. The proposal must be able to persuade the assessment panel that the study design is credible, feasible, valid, and replicable.. The review committees may include representatives from four groups of audiences including academic peers, decision-makers, practitioners, and lay audiences who assess the study proposal, each with different expectations.

Certain guidelines for the preparation of a strong research proposal include being realistic, convincing, creating bigger connections, striving for absolute clarity, and organising the writing before starting the work. A balanced approach to inquiry is necessary, as is an awareness of what is possible. Being persuadable means that a researcher must be able to persuade other researchers, research funding organisations, educational institutions, and supervisors that the research is valuable enough to be approved. The purpose of the study should be made explicit in plain language, without the use of technical terms, and should describe the research in a way that non-specialists can understand. The proposal must not only show that it is founded on a thoughtful comprehension of the body of literature, but it must also indicate that the author has given consideration to the amount of time required to complete each stage of the study.

Length of a Research Proposal

While there are no certain limitations for how long a research proposal can be. In case of bachelor's and master's, the thesis often lasts a few pages. Longer and more comprehensive research proposals are frequently required for larger, more involved projects like PhD dissertations and grant applications. The purpose of a research proposal is to clearly lay out what your study will include and achieve; therefore, it is more crucial to make sure that all the required components and content are there than it is to include the proposal's word count or page count. But the recommended length is between 2,000 and 3,500 words (4 to 7 pages).

How to Write a Research Proposal The writing style for research proposals is formal and objective, just like it is for all other types of academic writing. Do not forget that academic writing requires you to be brief; formal does not always equal flowery. Before you begin editing your initial draft, give it some time to "cool off." You'll be able to see errors and gaps in your writing more easily if you do this.There are common pitfalls to avoid when writing a research proposal. These pitfalls are discussed below. Wordy Sentences The researcher should strive to make their writing as concise and direct as they can. It's best if they can convey their aim and objectives simply.

Failing to Cite Relevant Sources While doing research, one is enhancing the corpus of information already available on the research topic. One or more seminal works in the relevant area should be cited in the research proposal and the work should be connected in some manner to the literature review. This not only conveys the significance of the research, but it also shows that the researcher is knowledgeable about the subject matter.

Focusing Too Much on Minor Issues A research study is important for multiple reasons. All possible justifications should not be included in the research proposal. In fact, if the study proposal contains too many questions and problems, it will lose focus. Only discuss the major, crucial problems you intend to address in your proposal; save the lesser issues for your research paper itself.

Failing to Make a Strong Argument For The Research A research proposal is essentially a persuasive essay. This implies that even if you're presenting your idea in an academic, impartial manner, the end goal is to persuade the reader to accept the initial idea.. Whether your reader is a manager, department head, graduate school admissions committee, private or public funding provider, or the editor at a journal where you'd like to publish your work, this is true in every instance.

Grammatical Errors The researcher should never settle for anything less than complete confidence in your proposal when you're seeking clearance to do research, especially when financing is at stake. Your credibility will be damaged if your study proposal has typos, grammatical errors, an inconsistent or offensive tone, or even plain poor wording. Ensure that the research proposal shines by utilising tools to identify all of those mistakes. It's important to proofread the proposal even if you believe you caught all of them during editing.

Contents of a Research Proposal

After the proposal is finished, the research project should proceed without any problems because it serves as a precise strategy or "blueprint" for the proposed investigation. A wide set of rules for creating a research proposal that adheres to scientific standards has been attempted using search terms like "research proposal," "writing proposal," and "qualitative" on search engines like PubMed and Google Scholar. Writing a study proposal has the dual purposes of applying for funds and getting clearance from numerous bodies, such as the ethics committee. A solid research proposal is difficult to prepare, and there aren't many widely recognised practices. In general, the assessment committee or the institution provides the contents or forms of a research proposal, which vary based on the demands of the committee.

A cover page should typically include the following information: (i) the title of the proposal; (ii) the name as well as affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators; (iii) institutional affiliation (degree of the investigator and the name of the institution where the study will be conducted); and (iv) details of contact, such as phone numbers, email addresses, and lines for investigator signatures.

A research proposal follows a fairly straightforward structure. In order to achieve the goals nearly all research proposals include the following sections.

Title The study strategy or main question should be clearly stated in the title. It is only a hunch for the study you hope to conduct. If the proposal is approved, the title can be changed with the requirements of the study.


In a research paper, the abstract appears before the introduction. In order to comprehend the overall scope of the study, the reader should first understand the abstract. The goal of an abstract is to give a succinct summary of your research project. Without further reference of the original piece, it must be fully self-contained and make sense on its own. It describes the statement of the problem, research goals, the data collection methods, the relevance or importance of your study, and the key results. In order to make it simple to grasp, it should stay clear of jargon, highly technical references, and other challenging terminology. It is crucial to remember that the abstract should not exceed 100–300 words.

Introduction or Background of Research

A research proposal's introduction may contain a few paragraphs. Although it should be brief, the researcher shouldn't feel as though you have to cram all of your information into one paragraph. The goal of an introduction is to draw the reader in while providing some background knowledge on the subject. It provides an exhaustive review of your subject and, if necessary, explains any vocabulary challenging terminology or ideas. Additionally, it entails precisely outlining your research question, your goals, and most importantly the overall plan of the entire study.


The uniqueness of the desired research should be shown in the proposal. The researcher should discuss the need for the study and how it ties to earlier studies in the topic. No matter how your study will complement the work of other researchers, whether it strengthens or challenges it, one must describe it in depth in your research proposal. Additionally, they should outline the current issues that the study will try to solve in this area. By doing this, the researcher is elaborating on the need of the task. The researcher also describes the methodology they'll use for the investigation. Make a note, if required, of the connected topics and concerns that your study will not address.

Research Questions and Objectives

The objectives and research questions that will give the direction to the study should be outlined in the proposal. The researcher should ponder on the main questions that they hope to address before beginning to write the proposal. Generally speaking, there are two types of objectives: primary and secondary. These objectives relate to the conditions or means by which the purpose is to be accomplished. Reflecting on the primary research questions is an effective technique to ensure that your study is suitably restricted and manageable because many research ideas are overly wide. Prioritising one or two primary research questions can help you create a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also describe how you plan to respond to the issues, including if you'll use an empirical, doctrinal, theoretical, or other method. The research proposal's objectives should be spelled out in detail, explaining what problems and concerns will be investigated and why they are important to study.

Literature Review

A review of the literature includes all credible scientific sources that address the subject at hand. You briefly describe each source you want to employ in your investigation. This covers important research and the data they include, books, and academic papers. A literature review goes further than a simple list of sources; it describes how you're employing the materials you selected in your study. The researcher faces a hurdle in trying to integrate all of the pertinent material that is readily available in the current era of digitalization and simple accessibility in his or her evaluation since there is such a vast amount of information. It is essential to intelligently organise this part so that the reader can understand the argument connected to your study in connection to that of other researchers while still proving to your readers that your work is original and new. The elements important to the topic of interest should be highlighted in a paragraph that summarises each resource cited. A historical progression can be utilised to build the tale without making it comprehensive, or the review might proceed from more general to more specialised research. This section should include supporting data, disagreements and controversies. Five ‘C's to be kept in mind while writing a literature review. They are presented below.

Research Methodology

The research techniques should be described in the proposal, along with how you plan to conduct your study and collect and evaluate the data. Research strategies can involve conducting interviews, fieldwork, or visits to certain archives or libraries. Here, the goal is to persuade the reader that the overall study design and analytic methodologies will effectively solve the research problem, as well as to persuade the reader that the methodology and sources used are appropriate for the given topic. It must plainly relate to the precise goals of your research.

The research techniques and sources must be included in this area, with explicit references to any websites, databases, important texts, or writers who will be crucial to the project. The methodological approaches that will be utilised to obtain information, the techniques that will be used to analyse it, and the external validity tests that the researcher is committed to should all be specifically mentioned. You should lay out a review of the benefits and restrictions of various strategies and techniques. The components included in this are described below.

Population and Sample. Sample refers to a subset of the population that satisfies the inclusion requirements for enrollment in the research, whereas population refers to all components (individuals, things, or substances) that fulfil specified criteria for inclusion in a particular universe. It is important to describe the inclusion and exclusion requirements. Appropriate sampling techniques should be employed in order to reach the sample. Sampling could either be probability sampling or non-probability sampling.

Data Collection. The researcher is expected to provide a thorough explanation of the technique used for data gathering, including the amount of time needed for the research. The validity of the approach should be evaluated, and it should be made sure that the participant's life is not in danger while trying to get the desired findings. In order to minimise gaps in the research because of insufficient data collection, the author should be aware of all potential obstacles and pitfalls and outline plans to overcome them. Copy of the questions used for interviews or questionnaires should be included as an annexure with the proposal if the researcher intends to collect data using these methods.

Rigour. This focuses on the research's strength in terms of objectivity, coherence, and application. The proposal must demonstrate rigour throughout.

Neutrality. It speaks to how resilient a study approach is against prejudice. In order to ensure that the outcome of the chosen approach is only the consequence of chance and unaffected by any confounding variables, the author should elaborately describe the steps taken to eliminate bias, including blinding and randomization.

Tools and Measures. It examines whether the results would remain the same if the investigation was repeated with the same participants and in a related setting. By using standardised, well recognised techniques and scales, this may be accomplished.

Applicability. It describes how well the results may be used in various situations and with various people.

Data Analysis. This section discusses data reduction, reconstruction, analysis, and sample size determination. The researcher must describe the procedures used to code and organise the data they collected. The data will be subjected to a number of tests to determine its robustness, and its relevance must be made explicit. The names of statisticians and appropriate software that will be utilised in the course of data analysis, as well as their contributions to data analysis and sample calculation, should also be included by the author.

Plan of Work and Time Schedule

Despite the fact that there never appears to be enough time to perform the ideal study, it is helpful to set a reasonable completion date for the study in order to make it easier to go on. The researcher should also include a timeline with a description of the many steps in planning and carrying out the study, including writing up the thesis. Ideal research completion for full-time study is three years, followed by writing up in the fourth year of registration. For part-time studies, one should aim to finish their research within six years and write it up by the eighth year.


The proposal should detail the requirement of any specialised facilities and/or tools needed for the project, such as access to physiological apparatus, libraries, computers, data processing tools, specific papers or records, or labs; for instance, the project could call for a website. This should be discussed to ensure funders or advisers that the project will be able to move forward as scheduled. The institution the researcher is linked with should make clear its desire to provide the researcher with office space, technology, services, data, and secretarial assistance.


A thorough analysis of the financial assistance being asked from a sponsor is typically included in proposals. The expenses sought to accomplish a project are best estimated in a proposal budget. The greatest amount of information should be used while creating budgets. Costs for projects are often divided into direct and indirect cost categories. Expenses that may be directly linked to a particular project are referred to as direct costs. The expenses a sponsoring organisation incurs for facilities and project management that are not directly related to a particular project are known as indirect costs. Both are actual expenses that need to be accounted for in a budget. Additionally, a contingency fund must be established to account for unforeseen catastrophes, delays, and escalating expenses. Every line item in the budget needs to be supported.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations include obtaining informed consent, the institutional review process, and the protection of the participants' rights—including their right to self-determination, privacy, autonomy, and confidentiality—as well as their right to fair treatment and protection from discomfort and harm— as they are all considered to be ethical issues (ethical approval). Each of these areas has to be well covered by the researcher. The research site, the appropriate authorities, and the subjects must all provide their informed permission. Therefore, the researcher needs to take extra effort to make sure that ethical norms are upheld.

Suppositions and Implications

Although one won't know the outcomes of the study until you actually start it, you should have a clear notion of how it will advance your field before you begin. Because it presents the precise justification for why your study is required, this portion of your research proposal is possibly the most important to the case you make. To put it another way, the purpose of this section is not to specify the outcomes you anticipate. Rather, it's where you explain how the information you gleaned will be useful.

In this section, make sure you cover the following:

  • Any way your work challenges accepted theories and presumptions in your profession

  • How your work will provide the groundwork for future research

  • Your research' practical significance to practitioners, educators, and other academics in your field

  • The problems your work may be able to solve

  • Policies that may be affected by your results

  • How your results may be used in the academic or other settings, and how this will enhance or otherwise change those settings

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest arises when a researcher's objectivity may be jeopardised, or considered to be jeopardised, due to conflicting financial, personal, or professional ties, or personal views and stands. This can only be stated in case of reporting or conducting research.


The bibliography doesn't do much more than identify the sources used and their authors, in contrast to your literature review, where you discussed the significance of the sources you selected and occasionally disputed them. You must include citations for all of the sources you utilised to create your proposal, just like you would for a formal research paper. References and bibliographies are interchangeable, despite the fact that they have separate meanings. It alludes to the citations made for every source in the study project. Depending on the style manual you're using, there are many ways to format citations. The three most popular style manuals for academic writing are MLA, APA, and Chicago, and each has its own specific guidelines and specifications. Just about any type of source, including images, websites, speeches, journals, newspaper articles, books, and YouTube videos, must be cited according to the exact rules that each formatting style specifies.


The materials in the appendices support the application and the proposal. The appendices will vary depending on the project, but often needed materials include informed consent forms, supporting documentation, questionnaires, measuring instruments, and patient information about the research written in everyday language. References

How to write your research proposal. (n.d.). University of Westminster, London.Retrieved October 3, 2022, from

How to Write a Research Proposal. (n.d.). University of Birmingham. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from

Kramer. (2022, June 2). How to Write a Research Proposal | Guide with Examples. How to Write a Research Proposal.


The Article 'How to Write a Research Proposal' has been contributed by Diksha Jain and peer-reviewed by Sanika Sharma. Diksha Jain is a proactive and self-motivated individual with a very keen interest in the field of psychology. Owing the importance of mental health in today's times has helped her gain a vision of helping people thrive in their lives in its truest sense. Along with gaining more practical exposure to what this spectrum field of psychology has to offer.

Sanika Sharma is a Psychology graduate. She is an avid reader and a curious learner. She is inclined towards a holistic understanding of concepts and thus inclines towards interdisciplinary research.

They are a part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present them in creative content expression.


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