How to Write a Research Proposal – Full Writing Guide

Definition of a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a proposed plan of study or research required to receive a research grant or for admission to a doctorate. Everyone who wants to learn how to make a research proposal should know its definition and features.

how to write a research proposal

What Is So Special About a Research Proposal

The research proposal allows the commission or potential scientific adviser to determine the following:

  • the candidate has studied literature and previous studies on his or her problem in detail;
  • scientific problems are in the sphere of interests of a potential scientific adviser;
  • the candidate is able to plan his or her research work.

It is important that the research proposal convinces those who read it that the candidate:

  • identified a scientific problem;
  • has a theoretical basis and has an idea of the methodological approaches to solving this problem within a reasonable time and for reasonable means;
  • will bring something new to the research in the chosen field.

how to write a research proposal example

Steps: How to Write a Research Proposal Example

1. Make a title page. Include name, date of birth, nationality, and contact information. Write the working title of your dissertation or scientific report. (The title should accurately reflect the essence of the research and, preferably, the research method, include keywords on which the study can be classified.) You should set a realistic period of time for which the study is planned. The name of the prospective supervisor, the name of the department where you are going to conduct the research, and the names of the other professors with whom you are going to cooperate (if applicable) should be mentioned. Include a list of research projects that have previously received funding from the department or scientific foundation in which you apply to show that your project matches their scientific interests or mission.
2. Choose a topic for a research proposal. It should meet the following requirements: the topic should correspond to the inclinations of a particular student (that is, to correspond to the books read, as well as the political, ideological, and spiritual culture of the student). The main texts should be achievable (that is, physically accessible to a particular student). The main texts should be comprehensible (that is, intellectually feasible for a particular student). Choosing the right topic is the main thing if you want to know how to start a research proposal.
3. Define the goal, tasks, hypothesis, object, and subject of research. Any work requires its author to formulate the goals and objectives of the study. In determining the purpose of the study, it is necessary to answer the questions: What is the expected result? How does this result seem before it is received? The tasks of the research are understood as what needs to be done to achieve the goal. A hypothesis is the scientific assumption put forward to explain any phenomena. The object and the subject of the proposal are also determined. The object of the study is a process or phenomenon that generates a problem situation and is selected for study. The main question in determining the object is the following: What is considered?
4. Make a literature review. Include a brief description of the field of the research proposal directly related to your research. Designate the theoretical framework in which the study will be conducted. Identify the scientific problem that you are going to solve and justify what new information you are going to add to the existing studies.
5. Indicate objectives of the study. It is necessary to identify the academic and, perhaps, public, political, economic, and other goals that you plan to achieve with the help of your project. It should be clear to the reader why your research is important and worthy of investing effort and money.
6. Add a description of the project. This is the central part of the research plan. Here you should indicate a description of the stages of the study over a certain period of time, where you plan to receive data for research, how you will analyze the data received, what time frame you set, what methods you will use to collect data, how you will control the validity of the data, what statistical methods you will use, how you will analyze documents or literature, etc.
7. Create a graph, preferably in the form of a table, where you should indicate the sequence of research steps and the time that will be required to implement each stage.
8. Include a bibliography. Here you should list sources which were used while writing the research proposal, as well as other important scientific studies on your topic.
9. Add the list of applications. Here you should list the documents that you attach to the research plan, such as your CV, recommendations, etc.

Research Proposal Sample Analyzed

If you pay serious attention to making a high-quality research proposal, then you need to read the following example of research proposal paper. Today you have a great opportunity to see how this type of paper should be properly written. In the following research proposal sample, you can find useful information and get some ideas to deal with your own writing.

Click the images to see their full size.

how to write a research proposal example

how to write a research proposal sample

How to Write a Research Proposal for a Master’s Degree: Choosing a Topic

Choosing a concrete topic is creative work which approximates you to generating your own ideas – that’s why it is quite difficult to give a final and concrete recommendation on this issue. Nevertheless, we can formulate some general techniques to choose a topic, because it is important if you want to know how to write a research proposal sample in the best way.

  • A topic for a research proposal can be borrowed from good critical reviews of achievements in certain fields of science, and from recommended lists of good research proposal topics which are offered by authoritative scientists. A catalogue of defended dissertations will be very helpful. In good monographs, the conclusion of scientific work is dedicated, as a rule, to non-answered questions related to the problem that the authors study – reading it through can be helpful while choosing a topic. Moreover, at many conferences, it is indicated which questions on the discussion problem are recommended for study. The sources which were mentioned will help while choosing an actual topic for research.
  • A critical analysis of previously written and interesting scientific works which indicate questions the authors didn’t give proper answers to will also help. Many authors, while discussing results of researches, formulate themselves directions which you should work with to make research and even provide hints in how to do it in the right way.
  • At first, a topic of scientific research can be the repeat of previously conducted research on the new methodological level using new technological means or new material that will help to set new links, and explain mechanisms of this or that phenomena.

how to do a research proposal

How to Write a Research Grant Proposal: Tips

If you want to know how to write a good research proposal, you should know that it is written after carrying out profound research and analysis of the results. If you are concerned that a lot of efforts are required for quality research, we offer you this chance to get acquainted with some tips.

  • Formulate the research topic. It should be:


Poor choice: Who was the most important writer?
The correct question is the following: How did Shakespeare influence the use of extended monologues in Melville’s “Moby Dick”?

Being scientifically researched

Poor choice: Why does a son behave like a father?
The revised question: What are the consequences of the authoritative style of upbringing on the dignity and creativity of the child?

  • Make the introduction convincing. In the main part of the research work, the importance of a particular study is discussed.
  • Consider the goals of the sections. The conclusion should be brief; it is a summary of your research proposal. It should be written after the completion of your project. The introduction should provide background information, indicate the importance of research on this topic, and formulate the main research questions. In this case, you should know how to write background of the study in research proposal.

The literature review should include existing opinions on the selected topic. The methodology consists of specific methods and tools that can be used in the study. In conclusion, only the results are presented (without any remarks on them). Discussion of the results of the analysis establishes the relationship between different facts. Do not forget to underline the value of your research proposal, and also mention the directions of further research.

  • Make a review of the literature. Collecting sources and just a couple of words about each of them is the wrong technique. Before writing your review of the literature, divide your sources into groups. Make sure that you include conflicting opinions and highlight the gaps in the existing literature.
  • Use common phrases for different sections. You will forget about writer’s block if you use the following list of academic phrases for different parts of your academic research papers:


  • In recent years there has been increased interest in …
  • Over the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in …
  • Recently … has been thoroughly studied.
  • Previously / In the past, the main goal of … was to be …
  • … is an increasingly important area in …
  • In the new computerized world, … has become a central issue.

Results and discussion:

  • The results showed that …
  • Among the possible explanations for this phenomenon …
  • The results of the experiment indicate that …
  • The most striking conclusion emerging from observations is that …
  • The obtained data is consistent with (contradict) the results of previous studies.


– This study showed that …

– The second important conclusion is …

– The results of this study show that …

– This data can contribute to a better understanding of the problem …

– This study makes an important contribution to …

  • Cite your resources correctly. Referring to the sources, it is not necessary to use a style guide, since this is a cumbersome method; instead, consider using free online citation generators.
  • Use free expression. If you can not make any progress in your research proposal at a certain point, try to write freely. Write as if you were explaining your highlights to a friend. This can improve the flow of thoughts for your work, as well as logical reasoning.
  • “Write drunk, edit sober.” This quote is erroneously attributed to Hemingway, but there is no official evidence that he ever said or wrote it. However, it makes a lot of sense. Put off your work for a while, and then go back to it later with a fresh mind and eliminate all typos and errors in grammar and style.

how to write an introduction for a research proposal

How to Write an Academic Research Proposal: Methods of Research

If you want to understand how to do a research proposal, it is important to know what research methods exist.

  • Observation. It is an active cognitive process, based primarily on the work of the sense organs and material activity.
  • Comparison. It allows us to establish the similarity and difference of objects and phenomena of reality. As a result of the comparison, the commonality that is inherent in two or more objects is established.
  • Measurement. This is the procedure for determining the numerical value of a certain value by means of a unit of measurement. It gives accurate, quantified information about the surrounding reality.
  • Experiment. It presupposes interference in the natural conditions of the existence of objects and phenomena, or the reproduction of certain aspects of objects and phenomena in specially created conditions for the purpose of studying them without complicating the process of accompanying circumstances.
  • Abstraction. The essence of this method consists of a mental abstraction from inessential isolation, and fixation of one or several of the researcher’s interesting perspectives of these objects. The process of abstraction is the aggregate of the operations leading to the receipt of such a result (abstraction). Examples of abstraction are innumerable concepts that people use not only in science, but also in everyday life: tree, house, road, liquid, etc.
  • Analysis. This is the study of each element or side of the phenomenon as a part of the whole, the dismemberment of the studied object or phenomenon into composite elements, and the singling out of individual sides.
  • Synthesis. This is the combination of elements, properties (sides) of the studied object into a single whole (system), carried out both in practical activity and in the process of cognition.
  • Induction. The basis of induction is data obtained by observation and experimentation.
  • Deduction. This is the transition from general knowledge of objects to individual knowledge of a particular subject.
  • Modeling. This is the method of research of objects on their models – analogues of a certain fragment of natural and social reality; building and studying models of existing objects and phenomena and constructed objects. By the nature of the models, object and symbolic modeling are distinguished. The object modeling is called modeling, during which the research is conducted on a model that reproduces the geometric, physical, dynamic, or functional characteristics of the object. Schemes, drawings, and formulas serve as models for symbolic modeling.
  • Generalization. One of the thought actions is present in any activity, allowing a person to discover in the variety of objects something common, which is necessary for him or her for the correct orientation in the surrounding world. An empirical generalization is carried out by comparing a group of objects (or ideas about them) and revealing their identical, repetitive properties. Theoretical generalization is carried out by analyzing the system, which consists in its transformation in order to reveal some abstract initial relation as the genetically common basis of this system.
  • Forecasting. This is the development of forecasts, i.е. probable judgments about the state of some phenomenon in the future. Usually it is subdivided into scientific, technical, economic, political, and social forecasts.
  • Ascent from the abstract to the concrete. This represents the universal form of the movement of scientific knowledge, the law of representation of reality in thought. It consists of two stages. At the first stage there is a transition from the concrete definition in reality to its abstract definitions. A single object is dismembered, described by a variety of concepts and judgments. The second stage of the process of cognition is the ascent from the abstract to the concrete. Its essence consists of the movement of thought from the abstract definitions of the object, i.e. from the abstract in knowledge, to the concrete in knowledge.
  • Conversation. It is organized to identify the individual characteristics of the individual, its motives, and position. The conversation is used at the stage of preparation of mass questionnaires for determining the field of research, updating and refining the data of mass statistics, and as an independent method of collecting information.

This guide on how to write a proposal for a research paper allows students to discover useful information that can help everyone to write proposals. Feel free to find more guides on our blog, and good luck with your writing!

how to write an academic research proposal

Common Mistakes in Research Proposal Writing

– Having a surplus of obvious statements and well-known facts. Remember that you are writing for an audience that is more knowledgeable in the field than you. For this reason, you shouldn’t waste their time on stating things that they know well. Your aim is to provide with new views.

 Discussing several topics simultaneously. When you don’t have much experience of writing papers of this type, you may have difficulties with defining information that is related to your topic and which is not.

 – Losing the connection with reality. This is about ambitions. When you are young, you can think that you are almighty and can do everything. However, when you start working on a certain project, you find many factors that hinder you from making your expectations come true. Therefore, be realistic. Don’t mention the equipment that you won’t be able to get, or deadline that you won’t be able to reach, or place that you won’t be able to visit. You understand the idea.

 – Omitting word limit requirements. More is not always better. The committee expects that you are able to present your ideas briefly. Each word that you write should be informative and necessary. Don’t be sorry to delete redundant pieces of writing.

So, we’ve already answered your question, “how to write a proposal for a research paper?” but let us provide you with a final caution. Find the right balance between precision and clarity of your research, and the commitment and passion you feel for the topic to make your proposal attractive to the reader.