How to Write a Research Proposal with a Sample

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a coherent and clear summary of the proposed research. It states and explains the key issues the research intends to address. It aims to present one’s research idea by explaining the practical process they intend to adopt in conducting the research. The research proposal also explores the area of study that the proposed research is to examine by covering the current state of knowledge. As such, it provides a rationale for the proposed research through persuasive evidence and extensive literature review about the proposed research study.

A research proposal is an important document for academicians or students. For academicians, it gives them the opportunity to present their research ideas for funding. It is designed to persuade the educational institution or the funding body that the project is worth their time and money. For students, a research proposal is a chance to persuade your supervisor or instructor to approve your dissertation or thesis plan.

Purpose of a research proposal

The purpose of a research proposal is to:

  1. To propose a research project for knowledge contribution
  2. Convince the target audience that the project is important, original, and interesting
  3. Demonstrate the researcher’s knowledge of the research topic and the related field as well as the strong academic basis
  4. Demonstrate one’s understanding of the research methodology, tools, and data needed for the research

Length of research proposal

The length of a research proposal ranges from 7 to 35 pages based on the purpose. A master’s or bachelor’s proposal can be written in a few pages while a research funding or Ph.D. proposal can be long and detailed.

The outline of a research proposal

Starting the research proposal

A research proposal adopts the same format as most academic papers. Therefore, similar to other academic works, it is important to understand the assignment requirement and ask for clarifications if in doubt. For students, your professor may provide a specific format to be followed in completing your proposal. Some of the things to consider before starting your proposal include:

  • The topic of study
  • The importance of the topic
  • Relevance of the topic in the subject areas covered in class
  • The problem the study will solve
  • Its contribution to the existing knowledge
  • Ability to deliver the research within the available time


An introduction serves as an initial pitch of an idea. It is the first piece of information the reader obtains about the proposed research. This means that it should be compelling enough to make the reader want to learn more about the research. The introduction can also be an in-depth examination of the research problem and its importance. For scholars seeking funding for their studies, examining the importance of the research problem is vital for winning the hearts of potential funders. The introduction should inform your readers of your research intentions. It should also demonstrate your passion for the research topic and possible outcomes. This will help persuade the potential funders to buy into your idea. For students, the introduction should be compelling enough to show the professor that you have a good understanding of what you intend to study. Here are the important considerations for writing a great introduction:

  • The main research problem
  • The relationship between the research problem and the topic of study
  • The methods for analyzing a research problem
  • The significance of the research

Background and significance

The background section describes the context of the proposal and its significance. You should explain the research problem in a manner that your readers can easily follow through and understand. This section can be combined with the introduction or written separately. It is important to focus on the most relevant information to describe and explain the objectives of the research. The following are important in writing this section:

  • State and explain the objective of the study in detail. This section builds on the introduction and therefore you should make sure that the problem is discussed exhaustively.
  • Provide the study rationale by explaining its significance. This is where you convince the potential funding body or the professor why the research is worth doing.
  • Identify the problems the research intends to address and how it builds on previous assumptions made in earlier studies.
  • Explain the plan for carrying out the research including the methods, procedures, and resources and their significance in achieving the study outcomes.
  • Identify the research boundaries including what the study will cover and what it will not.

Literature review

The literature review section provides a review and synthesis of the previous studies related to the research problem. It demonstrates your understanding of the field of study and the innovativeness and originality of your research project. It outlines related researches related to the research problem including the research questions, methods, findings, and recommendations. Notably, the literature review section contains a lot of information and that is why organizing your thoughts in a structured manner is vital for reader understanding. It is advisable to create a flow of information by separating main concepts into categories under subtitles. Every concept should be defined and explained exhaustively before moving to the next one. For example, if you are researching the effects of cultural factors in the management of autism, start by defining and explaining autism and its impacts on individuals and the society and management practices, then identify and explain the cultural factors in a separate category. As you review other studies feel free to point out their failures in addressing problems. The following guidelines should be considered in writing the literature review:

  • Provide accurate citations for the sources you are reviewing
  • Give a comparison of different theories, methodologies, and findings of other authors
  • Give contrast of the theories and arguments by highlighting their similarities and controversies
  • Criticize other studies’ approaches, methodologies, and findings to identify the valid, appropriate, and reliable ones
  • Give connection between the studies and your proposed research including whether it adds, departs, or draws upon them.

Research Design

The purpose of this section is to persuade the reader that the proposed methods and research design are effective to address the problem and achieve its outcomes. Your research design should be based on previous studies reviewed in the literature review sections. The research methods used in the previous studies should act as a guide to developing an effective research design. Clearly explain the methodological techniques and procedures for collecting, validating, and analyzing the data. This section should contain:

  • The research process you intend to use including the data collection, preparation, and analysis methods
  • Clear explanation of the research methodology
  • Identification of potential challenges to conducting the research and how they will be addressed. Remember that if you are presenting the proposal to a potential funding body, your ability to overcome the research challenges will add to your credits to earning the funding.

Implications and knowledge contribution

Explain how the proposed research will contribute to the current knowledge in the research topic. Explain how it will change, enhance or expand the current knowledge. You should also explain how the outcomes of your research will influence future procedures, studies, theories, and policymaking. This section should consist of:

  • How the outcome will affect the underlying theoretical frameworks
  • The possible recommendations for further studies
  • The effect of the research outcomes on practitioners
  • The impact of the study methods and intervention programs
  • Impact of the outcome on policy decisions
  • The research benefits to people
  • The implementation of the research outcomes
  • The aspects of life the research will impact or disrupt


This is where you give a short summary of the study and reiterate its significance emphasizing on uniqueness and contribution to current knowledge. It should cover the following:

  • The reason for the study
  • The purpose and problem it intends to address
  • The rationale for the research method and design
  • Any potential implications from the research


It is vital to cite the resources used in the study to show that you did extensive research for the project. You can cite your sources in the form of references where you only list the literature used in the proposal or in the form of a Bibliography where everything used in the proposal is listed.


Sample of a research proposal

Research proposal sample


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