How To Write A Research Proposal

Writing Help on How to Write a research proposalHow To Write A Research Proposal That Will Help You Get There


A research proposal serves a very useful purpose. It’s part of the application process. Whether you are applying for a university place to study for a research degree or you are applying for a self-funded studentship, your ability to write an excellent research proposal will get you there. In addition, a research proposal is quite handy for a new contract researcher seeking funding.


Depending on your circumstances, you should know you are writing a research proposal in a very competitive environment. This is where this post comes in to help you get it right.


Your research proposal should follow the steps I will walk you through. Before we begin, it’s important to get the definition of a research proposal out in the open.


What Exactly Is A Research Proposal?


A research proposal is a comprehensive summary of your intended research outlining central issues or the questions to be addressed. It highlights the area of study within which your research falls. How does your research relate to previously published works in the field including recent debates around the topic?


A well-written research proposal should convince your target audience that you are the right candidate. So, you need to justify yourself.

(1) Why you think your research is worthwhile.

(2) Why you are the best competent person  to conduct it. 

(3) If your research is going to provide some useful results?

(4)  You must indicate how you will go about conducting your research in a timely and economical way.  


Purpose of a research proposal

(1) A research proposal should establish expertise in your proposed area of research.

(2) Your research proposal is part of the assessment of your application. Therefore, at some point, your ideas will evolve. As they evolve, your proposed research is likely to take a different course (change).


How long should my research proposal be?


It should be 2,000–3,500 words (4-7 pages) long.


What should be included in my research proposal?



A research proposal should have a title that gives a clear indication of your proposed research approach ( problem statement). Specifying the main aims of the investigation. What are the anticipated outcomes you expect from the investigation?




To put your research into context, write a brief background and the issues involved (problems). For instance, how does the research relate to previously published works in the field?


It is also important that you identify the discipline under which your research falls. Is it related to Historical Studies or Media Studies?


Include a short literature review. To keep it short only make reference to literature which is relevant in terms of helping your central argument to make sense. Don’t simply list all the texts you have ever read on the subject.


Also, review and evaluate general and specific literary and other sources in the area of your topic. It would be more interesting if you were to identify the gap or the trigger for the research including possible solutions. A summary of key debates and developments in the field also adds to the background.




Research questions are based on the problem at hand which you need to justify. What problems and issues are to be explored and why they are worth exploring. Then you are able to come up with clear research questions.


Problem justification is very important for you to get your application approved. You must prove you have the potential to complete successfully the programme of work.




How you are going to conduct your research and to justify why you choose to do it in that particular way is all part of the research methodology. To write the methodology well, you should provide an outline of the following.


(1) The theoretical resources to be drawn on including proposed methods of investigation. You must indicate if there are any specialised facilities you would need to undertake during the course of the research. And where you will get them from.


(2) Explore the research approach (theoretical framework).


(3) Pinpoint the research methods appropriate for your proposed research. For example, are you going to conduct research based on oral history interviews?


Also, explain how your sample will be gathered. Are you going to use pseudonyms to guarantee the anonymity of participants and use open-ended questions to guide the interviews?


(4) A discussion of the advantages as well as limits of using particular approaches and methods. Does the project require appropriate approval?




Basically, this is about what you are going to do and when you are going to start and finish? A grand plan to get a sense of what is realistic.


You should include an outline of the various stages and corresponding timelines for developing and implementing the research, including the writing up of your thesis.


For those who are into a full-time study, your research should be completed within three years. The write-up period is expected to be completed by the fourth year of your registration.


If you choose to study part-time, your research should be completed within six years. The writing up period is expected to be completed by the eighth year.




Different universities (organisations) use different styles of referencing. Also, depending on your area of study. Some institutions use the Harvard way of referencing while others prefer the MLA style of referencing.


I am sure each university or organisation will provide its students with a reference style sheet to show them how to write a reference list using the in-house style.


A reference simply means a list of all the references that you would have cited in your work. This includes references to key articles and texts you have written about in your research proposal. Only a selection of sources appropriate to the proposed research should be included.


To conclude, writing a research proposal should be straight forward. Key things to remember are including the title, the contextual background and justification. You have to justify why your research is an important area of investigation using the method you would have chosen among other methods. The project plan and time schedule for completing it will put everything into perspectives in terms of what is practical. Lastly, referencing using a style approved by your institution.


It all depends on the level of research you want to embark on, an MPhil, PhD or sponsored research. To have a breakthrough in pursuing your research interests, writing a research proposal is a must.


If you have any questions in relation to my article, ‘How to write a research proposal’, please leave them below. I will reply as soon as I can.

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