Every student’s guide to writing the best research proposal
Research writing is not an easy task. It demands dedication, concentration, and hard work. Research is a tool for gaining knowledge and a proven way for efficient learning. Your research could be a building block for someone in future. It is an effective way for people to nurture their potential and achieve their aim academically. With research, people introduce new ideas, innovations and concepts, adding on more to a field of study and broadening the area’s knowledge. A research is not a one day task and therefore it involves a series of steps. A researcher cannot achieve his goal without following a standard format for research and an effective planning. The most important step before starting the research is to write its blueprint, which presents all the steps in a systematic way and provide a clear path to the researcher.
What is a Research Proposal ?
A research proposal is a detailed blueprint of your research for dissertation, thesis or any report. It describes an idea for a research on a specific topic. Research is not a one day or one person task, it is a team work and you need others opinion too and therefore it is very necessary to have a blueprint or a written document before writing the actual report. A typical proposal ranges from 1000 to 3000 words or eight to nine pages long. A researcher will not be able to execute the research work properly in the absence of a well-designed research proposal. It is a way of convincing others regarding the research topic, detailing the inspirations, scope and limitations associated with it.
Why is a Research Proposal Required ?
A research proposal assists you for conducting a research. After the first step of the research process; discussion and presentation before research committee, you need a research proposal for finalization of your research plan. It is the foundation of your working relationship with your seniors, supervisors and other experts.
If you are doing research at a big level and you need funding for it, you have to submit a research proposal to a government organization or an agency. This is because an agency will invest their money in your research only if they find that your problem purpose to investigate is significant enough and the results will make a significant contribution.
How to Write a Research Proposal ?
Now that you know what a research proposal is and why should you write one before the actual research, the question is how to write it?
Though there are no hard and fast rules governing the structure of a research proposal, a typical one has various elements like chapters in a dissertation. A research proposal is divided into various sections.
It is very necessary to give a good impression from the very beginning. A title is the first part of your research proposal that is seen by the authorities or the research committee. It represents the main idea behind your research. The title needs to be self-explanatory and should provide the information about the focus area of your research.
A good title is neither too long nor too short to understand the idea of the study. A long title with unnecessary words indicates the over smartness of the writer. Avoid using long sentences while forming the title. Refrain from using sentences such as ‘A study to investigate the role of Democrats in shaping the political system of U.S.A.’A title should be to the point and descriptive.
On the other hand, a short title with very few words indicates the lack of creativity. A title must contain the fewest words but should describe the purpose of the research in those words. Titles like, ‘American Politics’ are too broad and non-specific and do not tell the reader what is actually being studied.
TIP: An informative title with a catchy subtitle can add more points to your research.
There is no secret that the first impression is the last impression. An abstract plays an important role in forming the initial impression of your research work. Most of the funding depends on the effectiveness of your abstract and therefore it is very important to focus on the abstract writing. It helps the committee to decide whether your proposal is worth reading or not.
It is the summary of your overall proposal in 200-300 words. The abstract should give a brief about the purpose of the study, need of the research, the research problems you worked on, the main objective, the new findings, result from analysis, conclusion and the future scope of your study.
Go through your abstract again and again. Read it more and take suggestions from your supervisors. Your abstract should tell the whole information about your research proposal.
TIP: Add your judgment about the validity and reliability of your research to make it more appealing.
The introduction establishes the foundation of your research proposal. It sets the significance and context of your study. An introduction provides the direction to the reader by taking them from a general subject to a specific area of your research. It explains the background information of your study, states the purpose of the study, gives a brief about the methodological approaches used to investigate the research problem, focuses on the outcomes of the work and set a framework for the remaining paper.
An introduction should provide the basic information of the research proposal. A typical introductory paragraph of a research proposal includes the opening of the paragraph, which covers two questions: What are you studying and why this particular topic is important to investigate?
The opening is followed by the review of the literature in which the writer should mention about his prior knowledge on the topic. At last the introductory paragraph should end with your observation and must answer the most important question: How will your study add new information to the original?
TIP: Even though it is the first section of your proposal, write the last paragraph, ‘the end’ of the introduction after completing the research proposal or you can rewrite it after finishing your work.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The aims and objectives of a research proposal summarize what is to be achieved by your research. In general terms, it actually states the expectations of the researcher from the study and the overall purpose of the research. Your aims should be very clear and concise.
In above section, you have already given the answer of ‘why’, in next section(methodology) you are going to focus on ‘how’ and here you just need to focus on a single word, ‘what.’ In this section, you have to write about your desired outcomes. What are you expecting from this study? What is the purpose of the study? What to be accomplished?
While writing down your aims and objectives you should avoid general statements and try to be more specific towards your goal. Choose objectives that are possible to achieve, don’t be too over ambitious.
TIP: Emphasize on target based aims.
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Remember, you would not get an appreciation for the work that has already been reported by someone else, so make sure to thoroughly review the prior literature before writing your own study. According to Merriam (1998), the literature review is an interpretation and synthesis of published work.
The ability to review and find out the relevant data from the already written literature is a key academic skill. The very first thing an agency wants to know before funding your research project is whether your study will add knowledge to the existing theories and beliefs or not? That’s why it is mandatory to review books, articles, journals and any other sources relevant to your area of study.
Writing literature review has a systematic order. Divide your review into four sections and work on each section separately. The first section should cover the overview of your field of study and its component issues along with the theories related to your topic. After giving a brief about prior written literature, in the next section separate them into three categories: In support, against and alternative approaches.
The third section will judge your analytical skills. This must contain your analysis on how a particular theory is in favor of your study and how other varies from your investigation. The last section is always the conclusion, covering an explanation of the best pieces of work contributing to the development and understanding of your area of research.
TIP: Don’t go entirely for the earlier work; try to cover the latest researches done on your chosen subject.
For now, you know your area of study, you are done with your title page, you have introduced your research problem, done analyzing the prior research and know your objectives very well. It is the time to describe how your each objective will be achieved? You are now ready to plan the specific techniques and procedures required to investigate your research problem.
This is the very crucial part of your research proposal. By this, the investors and the readers will judge your level of smart work and dedication towards your research. This section should always write in past tense and must answer the two important questions: How you obtained your data? And, how you analyzed it?
There are a number of methods you can use to investigate your research problem such as questionnaire, survey, interview, observation, archival research but make sure your proposal should clearly explain the reason behind choosing a particular method or technique. Your methods should have a direct connection with your research problem and should be suitable to achieve the objective of the study.
TIP: Don’t go for tough one, when you can achieve the same result through an easy technique. Research committee goes for smart work, not hard work.
The conclusion is the synthesis of the key points of your proposal. As most of the research committee members and readers go directly from an introduction to conclusion, a strong conclusion helps them to understand why your study matter to them and what is its scope in future. A well structured and well-written conclusion is an opportunity to tell the authority about your understanding of the research problem. It offers you a golden chance to leave your last impression.
Write your conclusion in simple and clear language; don’t use words or phrases you are not aware of. Don’t just re-write your result or the theories that are already mentioned above, jot down the key points and elaborate the significance of your findings or results.
Think as it is the last chance to convince the organization or an agency to invest in your study. Don’t go out of the box, stay focused on your area of study and introduce the possible areas and ways of future research on your topic.
TIP: Don’t introduce new information
The whole reason behind writing the research proposal is money. While going through your research proposal the investors want to know how much amount you will need to investigate your research problem.
Make an accurate budget. Give yourself some time, think about it, ask your supervisors and then mention the relevant amount you need.
TIP: Don’t be greedy!
In this section describe how long it will take to complete your research. You have to provide timeline benchmarks for your study. It will help you in taking grants easily. For example, if you need 4 months to collect data, 5 months for analysis, 3 months to come to the conclusion and 2 months to assign everything together then write everything on the proposal.
This will also help you to complete for research before your own set deadlines and make your work go as smooth as possible.
TIP: Make a table and divide your timeline into different sections and keep the deadlines real.
It is very important to mention the list of books, journals, research papers, conference proceedings or articles and any other document or source you have cited in your proposal. Different fields have different formats of writing, but in general, it is written in alphabetical order by the name of the author of the book or article.
TIP: This section is not counted in the page limitation and should be placed at the end of the text.
POINTS TO REMEMBER Before you Submit a Research Proposal
- Always submit the research proposal with a cover letter
- Avoid any kind of plagiarism
- Always use diagrams and models to explain your theories
- Make tables and charts to summarize your data
- Re-think and Re-type
- Use short and concise sentences
- Write short paragraphs
- Cite your every single source
In the end, we can summarize the key points to remember while writing a good quality research proposal with this small infographic chart on 7 Fs that can make your research proposal a complete failure.