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A research proposal is usually created for the specific purpose of outlining a plan of study. The purpose of a proposal is to help the person doing the writing to find and apply the emphasis and main points for future study, ahead of a capstone project, dissertation, or thesis.

Although adhering to the outline and details of a research proposal is not compulsory, they form a necessary plan and might be altered either substantially or in fine detail as the writer makes headway into his or her research. The substance and topic are prime suggestions to a supervisor, tutor, or instructor of a student’s course. They also help in the preparation of a final presentation.

Steps for Writing a Research Proposal

  1. Seek and agree upon a topic with a course supervisor.
  2. Create a particular theoretical direction. This is generally linked to the topic of choice.
  3. Demonstrate the undertaking of a genuine inquiry—that is, discovering new information about a worthwhile subject in a specific context.
  4. Seek materials on which to base your research. These are usually books, articles, journal entries, visual materials, audio files, and other sources.
  5. Create a folder for notes, cuttings, photocopies, and other information.
  6. Organize your notes into sub-topics and subjects to facilitate organization.
  7. Make a point list of all aspects to cover in the proposal.
  8. Establish a methodology, and stick to it.
  9. Demonstrate consideration of the ethical issues attached to your topic.
  10. Draft brief paragraphs to accompany each item of source material.
  11. Write an introduction which shows you fully understand what is required of you, and how you intend to direct research.
  12. Ensure you know how to list the references, using the correct style.

Key Points to Consider

  • Before writing a plan, a number of meetings must take place between the student and the supervisor. The topic, time-frame, suitability of the subject, and physical feasibility must be discussed.
  • Notes must be taken at each meeting, which must be organized in a commonsense arrangement.
  • Open a word processing folder for the notes. These files can be easily reworked into some of the drafting for the main writing later.
  • Facts and figures are sometimes just as important as opinions and findings, depending on the topic of research. Some scientific or mathematical research plans are based on non-narrative data, which must be accurate and specific. Other subjects such as philosophy, history, or literature have a massive literary or narrative component.
  • While making notes and rationalizing the references found, you need to write clearly and without flaws or vagueness, organize your materials properly, and remove superfluous details, which might present confusion or ambiguity.
  • It is important to use solid writing techniques in a research proposal. As the notes are necessarily brief and explanatory, you must omit any extra elements such as lengthy descriptions.
  • Combining all usable topics that relate directly to the direction of study you have chosen is a convenient method.
  • Each fact can be built into a short paragraph, using notes and paraphrased material from the sources found.
  • Choose a writing style that is academic and precise.

Selecting Points to Include

A solid research proposal is made up of a number of parts. The student and the supervisor or instructor usually agree upon them, and can include:

  • Description of the main idea
  • The purpose or rationale
  • Background information relating to the ethical, philosophical, scientific, cultural, or other themes of the study
  • Basics of the research plan
  • A timeline
  • The main meaning or outcome sketch for the study
  • A glossary of terms used in the written material
  • Key objectives to go with the meaning and outcomes
  • A table of contents or chapter outline for the resulting thesis or dissertation

Do and Don’t


  • Do spend a long time in libraries and online searching for the most up-to-date writing about the research you plan to do.
  • Do make an extensive list of materials from which to choose from.
  • Do not think you must use everything you find.
  • Do write several drafts of each paragraph you need to present.
  • Do make a firm determination to collect the right documents. Excerpts from books, articles, germane journal entries, appropriate websites, other research plans, and a few theses and dissertations written by others must be included.

  • Don’t think you can get away with making short work of a research proposal. It is the best time to lay away as much written material as you can towards your final dissertation.
  • Don’t submit the first effort you make at writing a proposal.
  • Don’t use old references and sources, especially if your topic is scientific or related to communications and information technology.
  • Don’t overstate your abilities in the introduction.

Common Mistakes

– The most common mistake found in research proposals is wordiness. All writing should be as terse and informative as possible.

– Omitting items of importance is a grave mistake. This means you must understand your subject and topic even while seeking material to research about it.

– Using a persuasive tone. The role of a research proposal is not persuasion, but to present the probable material to be used for a dissertation or another thesis.

– Hasty or improvised writing.

– Lack of understanding about what information you need to include. You need to demonstrate how well you have developed your research idea.

– Poor language skills, inappropriate or irrelevant vocabulary.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic research proposal writing tips and rules, you can check out our best research proposal samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Writing a Research Proposal


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