Most applicants and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research proposal means, nor do they understand its importance.
The quality of your research proposal depends not only on the quality of your proposed project, but also on the quality of your writing. A good research project may run the risk of rejection simply because the proposal is poorly written. Therefore, it pays off if your writing is coherent, clear and compelling.
This guide focuses on proposal writing rather than on the development of research ideas.
Please use following structure in your proposal:
It should be concise and descriptive. For example, the phrase, “An investigation of . . .” should be omitted. Often titles are stated in terms of a functional relationship, because such titles clearly indicate independent and dependent variables.If possible, think of an informative but catchy title. An effective title not only attracts the readers’ interest, but also predisposes them favorably towards the proposal
Introduction of research problem (max. 2 pages):
The introduction typically begins with a general statement about the problem area, with a focus on a specific research problem, to be followed by the rationale or justification for the proposed study. The introduction generally covers the following elements:
- State the research problem; this is often referred to as the purpose of the study.
- Provide the context and set the stage for your research question in such a way as to show its necessity and importance.
- Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing.
- Briefly describe the major issues and sub-problems to be addressed in your research.
- Identify the key independent and dependent variables of your experiment. Alternatively, specify the phenomenon you want to study.
- State your hypothesis or theory, if any. For exploratory or phenomenological research, you may not have any hypotheses. (Please do not confuse the hypothesis with the statistical null hypothesis.
- Set the limits or boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus.
- Provide definitions of key concepts. (This is optional.)
Literature Review (max. 2 pages, including reference list):
Sometimes the literature review is incorporated into the introduction section. However, most faculty members prefer a separate section, which allows a more thorough review of the literature.
The literature review serves several important functions, as it…
- …ensures that you are not “reinventing the wheel.”
- …gives credit to those who have laid the groundwork for your research.
- …demonstrates your knowledge of the research problem.
- …demonstrates your understanding of the theoretical and research issues related to your research question.
- …shows your ability to critically evaluate the information presented in the relevant.
- …indicates your ability to integrate and synthesize the existing literature.
- …provides new theoretical insights or develops a new model as the conceptual framework for your research.
- …convinces your reader that your proposed research will make a significant and substantial contribution to the literature (i.e., resolving an important theoretical issue or filling a major gap in the literature).
Most students’ literature reviews suffer from the following problems:
* Lack of organization and structure
* Lack of focus, unity and coherence
* Repetitiveness and verbosity
* Failure to cite influential publications
* Failure to keep up with recent developments
* Failure to critically evaluate cited publications
* Citing irrelevant or trivial references
* Depending too much on secondary sources
Your scholarship and research competence will be questioned if any of the above applies to your proposal.
There are different ways to organize your literature review. Make use of subheadings to bring order and coherence to your review. For example, having established the importance of your research area and its current state of development, you may devote several subsections to related issues, such as theoretical models, measuring instruments, cross-cultural and gender differences, etc.
It is also helpful to keep in mind that you are telling a story to an audience. Try to tell it in a stimulating and engaging manner. Do not bore your readers, because it may lead to rejection of your research project. (Remember: Professors and scientists are human beings, too.)