Tips on how to write a research proposal

You may be a little confused about how to write a research proposal for funding, or for persuading a university department to accept you onto a PhD programme. The research proposal needs to be planned very carefully as it is this that will determine whether or not you are admitted onto a programme.

The research proposal itself has to be crafted very well and with attention to detail. You have to justify the reasons why your proposed study will be useful and add to the current literature on your chosen subject in a positive way.

 

You have to write a proposal before being accepted onto a post-graduate programme.

Here are the steps you need to take before you write your proposal.

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You do not need to write an abstract for a research proposal. The proposal should be written in sections.

  • Section 1 The introduction
  • Section 2 The theoretical framework
  • Section 3 The background to the study
  • Section 4 The literature review
  • Section 5 Research design and Methodology
  • Section 6 The issues and challenges that you might face
  • Section 7 Conclusion

Of course, you don’t have to actually do the study for the research proposal, but you do have to consider what problems you might encounter and suggest ways of dealing with them.

  1. The introduction should contain the research problem or hypothesis, you need to state what you are trying to prove (or disprove). You will need to explain why your topic is important and say how your study will add to the body of research in this field. You will need to cite works by others to support the importance of your study.
  2. You need to plant your study firmly within a theoretical framework and justify the reasons you chose to use this one rather than any other.
  3. The background to the study is important, as readers will need to understand the context in which the research was conducted.
  4. The literature review will take the longest time to write and it has to be comprehensive. In this section you demonstrate your in-depth understanding of the topic and show that you have read extensively about the topic.
  5. In the research design and methodology section you need to justify your methods of conducting the study and state why you chose to do it in this way rather than any other. Also explain how you will apply the methods, for example how will you code the data you collect?
  6. The issues and challenges that you might face are also important. You have to show that you have anticipated potential problem areas and state how you will surmount them.
  7. In the conclusion, you have to draw everything together into a coherent whole. You need to restate the importance of your research and summarise the study. Emphasize why the study needs to be carried out and explain how it will advance what is already know about the topic. Also mention the implications inherent in your study and show how it fits into the existing research on the topic.

You will need to write a comprehensive bibliography which will follow your proposal. This should include all the material you have read, not just the material you have referred to in your study. The bibliography section does not count as far as your word limit is concerned.

If you need a reference section, this should only list the material (books, paper, journals etc.) that you have cited in your proposal.

Follow the guidelines your tutor has given you and be sure to write your proposal in the required style, for example A.P.A. (American Psychological Association). This is one of the most usual styles required.

The following are examples of citations in APA style:

  • for books in print, you need this format: - the author’s last name followed by his or her initials, the date the book was published in brackets, then the title of the book, written in italics. Next comes the city where the book was published, followed by the state where the publisher is, and finally the name of the publisher.
  • downloaded material, or material that was found on a database should be cited in this way – first comes the author’s name followed by his or her initial(s). Next comes the year the work was published in brackets. After that comes the italicised title of the work, then you state the source, ‘Retrieved from http://_ or DOI: _’ and give the date you read it.

Note that DOI is an abbreviation for digital object identifier. The number given assists in linking content to its URL and location in the world wide web (www.). DOI numbers all begin with the number 10 and they are always separated by a slash (/).

If you need to cite a magazine that is in print you will need to give the author’s last name, followed by his or her initial(s), then the year and month the magazine was published (in brackets), followed by the title of the article and then the name of the magazine in italics. Next you need to write the volume, followed by the issue and finally comes the page numbers of the article. So, for example: Fahey J. (2018, May) Are you coming with us? New Statesman 201 (16) 6-12.

If you cite an article you found online, follow the pattern given above, but say when you retrieved it.

To cite a printed newspaper article, the author’s name comes first, followed by his or her initials. Next you write the year, month and date of the newspaper, again in brackets. Next comes the article title, then the name of the newspaper in italics. Finally write the page number(s) of the article. Write p. before the page number for single page articles, or pp for two or more pages.

If you have found an article in a journal, you follow the same format as used for magazines but remember to cite the volume, issue and page numbers of the article.

If you read the journal article online, then you give the author’s name followed by the initials and follow the format as given above. Give the name of the journal, the number of the volume and the issue, followed by the page numbers of the article, then the DOI or you can simply give the URL of the journal.

If, after reading this article, you think you understand how to write a research proposal, you can go ahead and write it as long as you have a well-formulated research question or hypothesis. A word of warning: you must ensure that your research is original and has not been done by another academic. Check with your supervisor to find out if he or she is aware of any ongoing research that might overlap with yours.

You will need to attend conferences and seminars to keep up with all the latest research papers that have been written recently and do a lot of networking.

If you don’t feel confident about your writing abilities, contact us and take advantage of our services. We can do your proof reading and editing work for you, so you can be certain that your proposal is grammatical and has no typographical errors.

If you would prefer, we can write your proposal for you as long as you provide us with the data and information we need to complete the task.

Why not contact us now and find out precisely how we can help you? As we provide our clients with a confidential, professional service, you have no reason to worry about entrusting us with the task of writing, proof reading or editing your proposal.

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