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How to write a research proposal

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Writing a research proposal is not always an easy task since it requires a clear understanding of the project proposal format, proposal writing steps and proposal sample. In college or graduate school, you may find yourself writing a research proposal for an assignment or seminar. While reading this research proposal writing guide, you will get to know about different kinds of research proposal samples, its types, structure etc.

What is Research Proposal?

By definition, a research proposal is a written outline of the research project which you are planning to do. It is your chance to convince your advisor that this is an important piece of work worth his/her time and efforts. Your proposal should also include the plan for the study, including its significance, significant questions or issues, proposed methodology or procedures, tools needed for data collection etc.

A well written research proposal cover letter performs several functions at once that includes providing information on your proposed endeavor, describing what needs to be done to meet your goals and conveying why the project is important. There are so many things to know when it comes to preparing a research paper proposal. An example should include details such as who’s funding the study, who’s included in the study population, how long the experiment or observation will take place for and how much money has been allotted for the study.

What are the benefits of writing a research proposal?

There are several benefits to writing your own research proposal:

  1. A good way to organize your thoughts and set out what you plan to do in detail so there won’t be any misunderstandings when you discuss it with your supervisor.
  2. Gives you a chance to explain in more details about the specific topic you will be researching on.
  3. It is a great opportunity to explain why this topic is significant or interesting.
  4. A chance to show your potential advisor how much work you have put into the project

and many more.

Structure of a research proposal

Here is the structure of a research proposal:

1) Introduction

A research proposal needs an introduction that highlights the problem and its significance. It also contains the background of the study (i.e., theoretical framework). The introduction section should also include a statement that states the aim or objective of the study. You can also write about why this research is being done and who will benefit from it.

2) Problem statement/research question(s)

The problem statement states your main reason for conducting the study. The purpose of this part is to convince readers why they should embark on reading your project proposal paper further. However, there is no need to include complicated language here; instead, use simple words that can be understood by everyone. You may also include a brief explanation of the background to the problem.

3) Literature review

This part presents previous related studies that may either support or refute your claim. In addition, it should outline the gaps in prior studies and why your research is important in filling these gaps. The literature review section must be detailed enough to prove the significance of your study along with giving readers a coherent understanding of your project proposal paper. It should contain a list of key references too.

4) Research methodology

In this part, you should describe how data will be collected and analyzed in the course of conducting the study. To guide you, here are key elements that you have to include when writing a research proposal: population selection/description, sampling techniques, instrument/measurement, procedure and data analysis plan.

5) Significance of the study

This part gives a summary of your research proposal paper including its overall contribution to the field of study and what the readers should expect from reading it. It also covers why your study needs to be done and how you will do it. This is where you show that you have an actual understanding of the project proposal format. You may include references here too along with proper citations or in-text referencing so as to show proofreaders that you know how to write a research proposal properly.

6) References

At this point, it is important to provide full reference details for all sources used in your project proposal paper including dates when they were published. Only relevant references should be included; otherwise, you will likely get kicked out of your school or college with false accusations of plagiarism.

As you can see, the structure of a research proposal is fairly easy to follow. However, it is not enough that you only memorize them because in the real world where deadlines are strict and expectations are high, they may not serve their purpose well unless they are properly executed. That said, here is another important tip that will surely help: never start writing without first doing some preliminary research on what others have already said about your topic of study so as to show proofreaders/professors/lecturers that you understand most parts of your project proposal paper even before you start writing.

How to Start a Research Proposal

To start a research proposal, you will need to begin writing the first section of your paper. The introduction for this type of assignment should be more general in nature. While you are still formulating ideas, it is OK for this section to read a little rough. You can always revise after you have more of your work completed.

The introduction of a research proposal offers an overview of what the reader will find within the pages of the final submission. It is where you elaborate on what specific question or problem you are trying to address through your research, as well as how that fits into existing scholarship about the topic.

Here are key tips to start a research proposal well:

  1. Start working immediately.
  2. Know what type of research proposal you are writing.
  3. Carry out thorough research.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the requirements and submission guidelines.
  5. Know the expected format your paper.
  6. Create an outline for your proposal paper.

Write the introduction last, after you have most of your work completed. This gives you a chance to see what information is missing and where there may need to be changes in direction or emphasis with your project description or hypotheses.

How to write my research proposal step by step

Writing a good research proposal requires thorough prior planning. Before actually getting down to writing, make sure you are clear about what you are going to do, why are you doing it and what’s in it for others. Take time out to discuss your initial ideas with your supervisor/instructor who may be able to help you modify them further. Your preliminary thoughts will give way for specific aims & objectives, which in turn would lead onto methodology and timeline. Once all these components of the plan comes together, it should be easy for you to finalize your research proposal.

To help you get started, this section will explore the various stages of writing a research proposal.

1. Brainstorming

This is the first step in pulling out all the relevant information that would help in drafting your plan. Under brainstorming, make sure you note down all possible ideas which might be associated with your topic even if they seem irrelevant right now. Also, try and put together all relevant material like books/articles related to your topic so it becomes easier for you to craft an appropriate proposal. At this point, do not worry about anything else other than gathering as much information as possible so don’t limit yourself at this stage by thinking what will and what will not go into the proposal.

2. Topic Selection:

Choosing a great topic is an integral stage when writing a research proposal. It is important to pick a topic that you are knowledgeable about with an aim of showing your ability to conduct the research. The topic should be significant in nature and have practical importance for example, “how does ____ best work?” or “what ____ strategy works best for this business?”

The next step would be to critically examine your proposed topic so as to determine if it can be researched, how it can be researched among others.

This will enable you decide on the study design that will fit the chosen topic. For instance, if you are interested in exploring area knowledge among social media marketers then you need not conduct a literature review since they are all experts in their chosen field of work, but rather focus on what they do instead.

Creative thinking is key to coming up with an appropriate topic for your research proposal. Consequently, you should initiate brainstorming sessions with yourself or chat with friends and family members about the idea that interests you. When writing a research proposal, it is important to find first hand information. It may be useful to conduct some preliminary research on the chosen topic so as to collect samples of relevant data before starting the actual process of crafting your proposal. You should also choose a topic which will interest your readers since this entails their taking time off their busy schedules to read what you have written in your proposed study and hence influence positively their response towards it

3. Prepare an Outline

As you continue to add ideas from your brainstorming session, it’s important that you begin organizing them in a logical manner. Usually an outline represents main points which are further expanded by paragraphs or sections. In your outline, make sure you note down all supporting details for each listed point/topic. Also, while writing the proposal try and keep it simple but effective. Make sure there is coherence among points and use plain English instead of complex jargon wherever possible.

4. Review the existing literature:

After choosing a great topic and formulating your hypothesis, the next step is to search the literature on your topic. Literature review does not involve just reading academic articles, you should also include books, dissertation etc in your list of references. More importantly, make notes of what has been said in previous research papers about your topic and note down the gaps if any. Pay attention to how each paper is trying to solve these gaps or improve upon them. You can start writing a rough draft of the introduction which would mention all this information.

5. Writing

With a clear idea of what needs to be written about in each section, start drafting the proposal using relevant data from research studies along with other relevant material from books & journals/magazines. To make sure your proposal is not too long, try and write short sentences instead of lengthy ones. If you are working with a word processing program like MS-Word or Google Docs, split chapters into several sections or subsections to keep it well organized.

6. Revising – Proofreading and Editing

Once you are done writing the entire document, take time out to revise it for any possible errors/omissions etc. You can also ask someone else to read through it so that they can give input regarding the content before submitting the final copy. Remember to use the proofreading marks before submitting it.

These are the 6 important steps to write a research proposal perfectly.

How to Create a Research Proposal Outline

A research proposal outline is a critical element to any research proposal you write. The purpose of the outline is to get your thoughts in order, identify potential problem areas before you begin writing the full proposal document.

The following list covers ideas for including in a research proposal outline:

  1. Rationale for study – State why an investigation into the subject area is needed. Provide evidence that there are gaps in existing research or deficiencies in current practice that could be addressed through further study.
  2. Problem/Question Statement – Present an overview of what question(s) will be investigated and how this study will add to expert knowledge on the topic. Information can also be included about how these results would be used by key stakeholders.
  3. Literature review – As much as possible, limit this section to citations from works that directly relate to your study. Identify the gap, problem or opportunity for further investigation and explain why an in-depth examination of this particular topic is important.
  4. Goals & Objectives – State what you aim to achieve through a study and how you plan to conduct the research. Also provide a general timeline for conducting each step of the project.
  5. Methods – Describe what methods will be used to gather information regarding the topic under investigation including selection criteria for participants, data collection instruments and data analysis techniques. In this section also describe any statistical procedures that will be used or reference statistical expertise on your team if necessary.
  6. Limitations – In this part consider stating limitations related to time constraints or available resources that might affect your ability to successfully complete all of the tasks in your project plan. Also consider limitations related to the data collection and analysis stages of your research including potential biases that might occur and ways to manage these limitations. Consider providing ways to address these issues before, during and after the study is conducted (i.e., pilot testing surveys prior to full-scale administration).
  7. Implications for practice – In this section identify how you will disseminate results from your research project including when presentations, publications or other forms of dissemination might occur. This section could also include a discussion on whether or not further studies are indicated based on your findings.
  8. References – List the references that you will use when writing your research proposal.

Creating a good research proposal is one of the important steps toward writing a research proposal that is flawless and effective. A great research proposal can help in getting a great project that will yield good results for your study.

Research proposal format

Wondering how to format a research proposal? The research proposal format varies with subject of study but most proposals should have these sections:

  1. Cover page/Title Page
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature review
  4. Research design
  5. Reference list

These are the basic sections required when formatting a research proposal. These sections may be different based on specific institution instructions.

Research Proposal Examples

Here are some research proposal examples to help you write an outstanding project proposal paper for school:

Research Proposal Topics

The role of a research proposal is to lay down the course of action that will be followed for carrying out any research. Research proposals should be written in such a manner that it gives an idea about how the work should proceed and what all data needs to be collected during the research process. A good research proposal topic must also contain details related to time schedule, cost incurred etc. The best thing about writing a research proposal is that one can include ALL his ideas regarding ALL facets involved in conducting any empirical study and making sure it flows well together instead of focusing on them while actually doing the project.

Writing a good research proposal requires one to do enough amount of meticulous planning and thinking about each aspect related to their thesis or dissertation subject matter. People might think that writing a proposal is easy, but putting down every thought about their research in an organized manner requires discipline.

Selecting a good dissertation topic is the first and foremost thing to be done while starting any research work. There are numerous topics for research on which the person can choose the one that interests him/her, but before writing anything it is required to be sure about what exactly needs to be researched?

What are good research proposal topics and ideas to write about?

Here are 50 good research proposal topics:

  1. How can a new marketing plan be developed for a small business?
  2. Factors affecting the adoption of e-commerce in developing countries.
  3. How does crisis management affect brand image?
  4. Role of social media in promoting tourism industry.
  5. A study on service quality from customer perspective: an Indian coffeehouse chain case study.
  6. Relationship between perception, values and behavior towards organic food products among consumers in India.
  7. What is the impact of krill oil on cognitive function and brain health?
  8. Does wearable technology have a lasting impact on consumer behavior?
  9. Developing a marketing communication program to promote electric cars in California.
  10. How has the spread of internet affected international cooperation among different countries?
  11. Public protest as a response to climate change: A case study of Arctic Sunrise event.
  12. What is the impact and importance of technology in financial management?
  13. How does brand loyalty affect customer satisfaction and profitability?
  14. How can online sales be improved for an e commerce retailer based out of New Delhi, India?
  15. The role of social media in impacting consumer purchase behavior — A case study of Twitter users.
  16. How has the development of e commerce led to changes in consumer purchase decisions over time?
  17. An analysis on how value added tax impacts domestic economy.
  18. A study of factors influencing online purchase decisions among college students in India.
  19. Analyzing the social media strategies of Reliance Jio.
  20. What is the impact of e-commerce on consumer perception regarding product availability?
  21. Protest as a tool for change: An analysis on how public protest affects policy making process.
  22. How has the globalization of financial markets affected capital income inequality within countries over time?
  23. What is the impact of preference for non-social brands on consumer buying behavior?
  24. How has the global financial crisis affected spending patterns among American consumers?
  25. Does familiarity with privacy policies affect users’ privacy concerns?
  26. Impact of street food culture in India.
  27. Comparative analysis between organic and conventional marketing strategies.
  28. The role of social media during political events.
  29. What is the relationship between brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and profitability for an Indian fast food chain?
  30. How do factors like pricing strategy, product positioning, distribution channels etc affect consumer purchase decision making process for a sports drink brand across Delhi NCR region?
  31. Analyzing advancements in technology related to facial recognition software/hardware.
  32. Assessing Internet-related risks for companies.
  33. How does social media marketing affect small business marketing strategies?
  34. What is the impact of e-commerce on supply chain management in India?
  35. Does price sensitivity predict consumer purchase decision making process across different product categories?
  36. Study of factors influencing online purchase decisions among millennials in Delhi/NCR region.
  37. What are the major effects of Big Data on business analytics?
  38. Analyzing customer service strategies for an airline company.
  39. The role of social media during public events and disasters.
  40. A study on how financial crises have affected brand growth over time.
  41. Impact of mobile phone usage on teenagers’ lifestyle.
  42. How does online shopping affect customer satisfaction?
  43. Impact of 3D printing on manufacturing industry.
  44. Analyzing social media influence in renewable energy generation.
  45. A study on how mobile phone usage affects teenagers’ lifestyle.
  46. What is the impact of mobile technology on small business marketing strategy?
  47. How can social networking sites increase consumer participation during a political event?
  48. Analysis of factors influencing customer behavior towards a tech company’s product.
  49. The effect of big data on financial markets and institutions.
  50. Comparison between traditional and digital marketing strategies for an e-commerce firm in developing countries.

Research proposal ideas can be endless, but one should stay focused on their topic and not get carried away by adding unrelated points to their proposal. The research proposal should contain all necessary information about conducting any research without leaving out anything that might prove helpful to the person carrying out the project later.

In order to select a good research proposal topic one must have thorough knowledge about the subject matter so that he/ she can decide on the ideas and arguments that can be included in the research.

After selecting a research topic, one must start gathering as much information as possible. Research is all about studying and thus for this an ample amount of material should be collected which should primarily include books, magazines, journals etc.

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