Research Proposal

Being a common undertaking in different academic levels, research work requires scholars to possess excellent skills on how to write a research proposal.

This is in the acknowledgment that research work is a requirement for graduation.

Besides knowledge on how to conduct research, use different types of research instruments,  organize and analyze data, scholars should also gain skills on how to write a research proposal.

Whether you are writing a nursing capstone, a business dissertation, or a medical research paper, a research proposal will come in handy.

Before you begin writing, it is important to understand what a research proposal entails.

What is a Research Proposal?

At higher academic and scholarly levels, research proposal writing presents the opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of topic or area in a discipline, knowledge of theoretical underpinnings, and possession of excellent writing skills.

So, the question is, “what is a research proposal?”

A research proposal can simply be defined as:

A concise and logical summary of intended research.

In this, the proposal stipulates the questions or central issues you seek to address.

Research proposals are usually used by academics to solicit for funding necessary in carrying out their projects.

On the other hand, they are key to students in securing approval for their thesis or dissertation work.

Purpose of a Research Proposal

Note that key knowledge on how to write a research proposal pertains to the objectives of the proposal.

Such objectives include:

1. Illustrating that intended research project is interesting, unique, and necessary.

2. Demonstrating your familiarity with the field the study is within, including existing research on the topic, and the strength of the academic basis of your ideas.

3. Illustrating that you have an appropriate research plan/methods for conducting the research, including required data, necessary tools, and right procedures.

4. Demonstrating that it is possible to conduct the research project within the given funding, program, and institution’s practical constraints.

How long should a Research Proposal be?

Sometimes length is a fundamental concern when it comes to how to write a research proposal.

Accordingly, the length of the proposal could significantly vary based on the academic level, purpose, and institution.

Nonetheless, and as earlier mentioned, it should be as concise as possible.

For most academic institutions, the research proposal should be about 2,500 words in length. Other institutions provide for a length between 2,000 and 3,500 words.

This length is usually for both graduate and postgraduate students.

For academicians or researchers working on projects, the proposal could be longer and more detailed.

Research Proposal Format

Coming up with a suitable research proposal format is an important skill on how to write a research proposal.

It encompasses the different sections the proposal should contain.

Although the research paper format could vary from one institution or field to another, some of the common contents to be included are:

Title Page

The title page should contain the tentative title of the research you intend to conduct.

You keep it in mind that this title can be revised during the course of the research if and after the proposal is accepted.

Besides the title, the title page should contain identification details.

The title page should have:

  1. Title of the study/project
  2. Student’s name
  3. Supervisor’s name
  4. Institution’s name
  5. Date of authorship


This is another important area to pay attention to when it comes to how to write a research proposal.

Research writing requires that you demonstrate good skills on how to write a research proposal abstract.

It encompasses a concise statement of the intend research.

Normally, it should be about 100 words in length, although sometimes it could be up to 150 words.

In most cases, it should include a couple of sentences stipulating the problem you intend to examine or the central question to address in the research.

Table of Contents

The table of contents entails a list of the different areas or headings covered in the research proposal.

Its role is to help the reader navigate through the proposal with ease.

Although sometimes deemed unnecessary, it is critical in particularly lengthy or detailed research proposals.


A critical part when it comes to how to write a research proposal outline, the introduction should act as:

  1. The initial pitch of the idea you seek to explore or
  2. A thorough examination of a research problem’s significance

From the introduction, the reader should be able to get:

  1. A clear understanding of what you intend to do,
  2. A sense of your enthusiasm for the topic, and
  3. An excitement about the possible outcomes

Key questions to ask on how to write a research proposal introduction include:

  1. What is your central research problem?
  2. What topic of study is related to the research problem you intend to study?
  3. What methods are essential in analyzing the research problem?
  4. What is the importance and significance of the research, and why should the reader care about the proposed research’s outcomes?

Background and Rationale

Skills on how to write a research proposal outline requires that you develop a solid context of the proposed research.

This is section where you explain this context and go ahead to in-details describe why the proposal is important.

You should provide adequate details to enable the reader acquire a better understanding of the research problem as you do.

It is critical that you include details only relevant to the topic; the ones that explain the aim of the research.

This section should:

  1. State the research problem and provide a detailed explanation of the study’s purpose than it has been done in the introduction section
  2. Stipulate the proposed study’s rationale and the reason why it’s worth undertaking. You should provide reasons why the reader should care
  3. Describe the major problems or issues you seek to address in the research

This is usually in the form of research questions. The study’s assumptions should also be highlighted.

  1. Explain the methods to be used in the research study. The section should clearly indicate the sources intended for use and their contribution to the analysis of the topic
  2. Describe the proposed research’s boundaries to provide a clear focus. You can go ahead and state the aspects of the problem to be excluded from the study
  3. Key concepts and terms definitions

Literature Review

This is another important section that requires good skills on how to write a research proposal outline.

It encompasses a deliberate review and synthesis of previous studies that are related to the research problem under study.

The key objectives include:

  1. Placing your research project within the larger context of what should be explored and
  2. Demonstrating the originality and innovativeness of your work

Key issues to examine in your literature review could include:

  1. Questions asked by other researchers
  2. Methods used by other researchers
  3. Your understanding of the findings
  4. Their recommendations

This section should be logically structured to create a clear understanding of the key arguments of the proposed study within the context of the larger research.

In developing your proposal’s previous research review frame, you should employ the “five C’s”.

These “five C’s” are:

1. Cite: This entails keeping the primary focus on the literature relevant to the research problem.

2. Compare: This requires a comparison between different theories, arguments, findings, and methodologies in the respective studies.

3. Contrast: This entails contrasting the different themes, arguments, approaches, methodologies, and controversies in the literature studies.

4. Critique: This involves examining persuasiveness in arguments, reliability, validity, and appropriateness of methodologies, approaches, and findings.

5. Connect: This encompasses creating coherency of the literature in relation to your research. It should look at how the new work departs from, draws upon, synthesized, or brings out a new perspective within the context of the literature.

Research Design and Methods

This is one of the most critical areas where you need to demonstrate apt skills on how to write a research proposal.

The section must be properly written and logically organized to help convince the reader that the research is worth pursuing.

In this, you must demonstrate that the chosen research design and analysis methods will effectively address the problem, with the methods providing the means for effective interpretation of probable results.

Importantly, the research proposal design and methods must be tied to the aims of the study.

This requires you to experiment with the different examples of research instruments to establish the most suitable one.

Further, you should build the design and methodologies upon your literature review, including specifics on data acquisition methodological approaches, data analysis techniques, and external validity tests.

Areas to cover in the methods section should include:

  1. The specific research process to be undertaken and ways of interpreting the obtained results within the context of the research problem
  2. Explanation of why the tasks in the methodology add up together as the best way of investigating the research problem
  3. Illustration of assumptions on potential research design barriers and pitfalls and ways of addressing them

Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

This is another important section when it comes to how to write a research proposal. It looks at the study’s analytical process and its potential implications.

In this section you should argue how the study will revise, refine, or extend current knowledge in the area being investigated.

In alignment with the study’s aims and objectives, you should describe how the expected results would impact future research, practice, theory, interventions, or policymaking.

Several questions could be asked on the potential implications, including:

  1. What could be the implications of the results on challenging chosen theoretical framework and fundamental assumptions supporting the study?
  2. What are the subsequent research suggestions likely to arise from the study’s potential outcomes?
  3. What are the likely implications on the practitioners within their natural workplace settings?
  4. Are the results likely to influence methods, programs, and intervention forms?
  5. Are the results likely to influence policy decisions?
  6. What are the ways in which individuals and groups benefit from the conducted study?
  7. What are the improvements or changes to be realized from the proposed research?
  8. In what ways will the study results be implemented and what transformative insights or innovations are likely to emerge from the implementation process?


This section is also equally important when it comes to how to write a research proposal.

It reiterates the significance or importance of the proposal, while providing a brief summary of the proposed study.

The section should be a paragraph or two.

From the section, the reader should be able to understand:

  1. The need to carry out the study
  2. The study’s specific purpose and the research questions it seeks to answer
  3. The reason for selecting the research design and methods over other options
  4. The potential implications from the proposed study
  5. The way the study fits within the broader research problem scholarship


Also essential in demonstrating your skills on how to write a research proposal, citations encompass the sources used in the research proposal.

It could take the form of either references or bibliography.

Research Schedule

Although not always required, it can be used to illustrate good skills on how to write a research proposal.

The schedule encompasses the proposed research project’s detailed timeline.

It is usually divided into tasks that are assigned specific execution time frames.

The schedule is usually in the form of a Gant chart.

Research Budget

This is particularly essential when applying for funds for the research.

Budget preparation demands good skills on how to write a research proposal.

The budget encompasses realistic estimations of costs to be incurred in carrying out the tasks entailed in the research project.

For every item put into the budget, the following aspects should be included:

  1. Actual cost,
  2. Justification of the cost, and
  3. Source on how the amount was arrived at

Key factors to consider when calculating the costs are:

  1. Travel expenses
  2. Required materials
  3. Human assistance required
  4. Time incurred in project execution