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Tips on Writing Research Proposals

Research proposals serve one exclusive purpose i.e. they describe the writer’s plan to undertake some type of research or study. The proposal’s primary purpose is to help the writer find a focus for their writing and to identify any key points requiring further study. Proposals are written in advance of a thesis, dissertation, or capstone project.  

While it is not mandatory to adhere strictly to what is outlined and detailed in a research proposal, they do provide a useful plan that may be altered slightly or substantially as the writer progresses. The topic and general substance are a presentation of the primary ideas to one’s tutor or course supervisor. These are also helpful when preparing to present the final paper.

How to Write a Research Proposal: The Steps

  1. Look for a suitable topic and agree this with your course tutor.
  2. Find a specific theoretical focus, which is usually linked to the chosen topic.
  3. Demonstrate that you are undertaking a genuine investigation i.e. that you are attempting to uncover fresh information on a worthy subject within a particular context.
  4. Look for materials to use for your investigation or research. Usually, this means articles, books, journals, audio, visual, and other suitable sources.
  5. Open a special folder for any cuttings, notes, copies, and other types of information.
  6. Organize these notes into subjects and sub-topics.
  7. Create a list of points for inclusion in your proposal.
  8. Decide on a research methodology, and adhere to this.
  9. Show you understand any ethical issues related to your chosen topic.
  10. Start drafting short paragraphs to go along with each source.
  11. Begin writing your introductory paragraph in a way that shows you properly understand the requirements and how you plan on directing your research.
  12. Make sure you are conversant with the style required to document your sources.

Main Points for Consideration

  • Before starting to write the plan for your proposal, there may need to be several meetings between you and your course supervisor. Some things that will need to be discussed include your topic and its suitability, the completion timeframe, and how physically feasible the project is.
  • It is important to make notes for every meeting, and these must be arranged or organized in a sensible manner.  
  • Create a folder in your word processing software for your notes. It will be easy to rework these into the draft of your paper at a later time.  
  • Sometimes, facts and figures are of as much importance as findings or opinions, although much depends on the research topic. The plans for certain mathematical and scientific research use data that does not involve narrative and this usually needs to be very specific and accurate. In other cases, the narrative or literary element is quite significant e.g. in subjects like history, literature, and philosophy.   
  • When you are in the note-making stage and rationalizing your reference materials, it is important you write everything clearly and flawlessly and without vagueness. It is also important you arrange your research materials in a proper manner, and eliminate any superfluous information or anything that might cause ambiguity or confusion.
  • Something else that is important in research proposal writing is the use of good techniques. Because notes are explanatory and brief by nature, you should leave out any extras like long descriptions.
  • One convenient method is to combine every topic that you can use provided it directly relates to the progress of your research.
  • Every individual fact can be developed into short paragraphs using the notes and any paraphrased text from your research sources.
  • The writing style you choose should be precise and academic.

Choosing Points for Inclusion

Every good research proposal is comprised of numerous parts. These parts are usually agreed by the student and their course supervisor, and they may include:

  • An outline of the central idea
  • The rationale or purpose behind the project
  • Relevant background information to include the cultural, ethical, scientific, philosophical, and/or other themes related to the study
  • The basic elements of your research plan
  • A timeframe for completion
  • A sketch or prediction for the outcome of your study
  • An explanation or glossary of any terms you use in your written work
  • The key aims to accompany the sketch or predicted outcomes of your project
  • A contents table or an outline of the chapter for the dissertation or thesis that you will ultimately produce.

Dos and Don’ts  

What You Should Do

  • Spend as much time as you can visiting libraries and doing online searches to find the latest literature for your planned research.
  • Make a comprehensive list of source materials for you to select from.
  • Do not feel you have to use every source you discover.
  • Create a number of drafts for every paragraph.
  • Be resolute in your determination to gather the best and most suitable documents. This might include extracts from articles, books, journals, websites, and other research proposals, and from the theses and dissertations of other scholars.

What You Should Not Do

  • Do not make the mistake of thinking you can take shortcuts in your research proposal. Make the most of the time to complete as much of the written work as you can for your final paper.
  • Do not hand in the first proposal draft you write.
  • Avoid old or outdated sources and reference materials, particularly where a topic is related to communications, information technology, or is in some way scientific.
  • Avoid overstating your own abilities in the introductory section.

Frequently Made Mistakes

  • Using too many words is a very common error in research proposals. Your writing should be as informative and tight-knit as you can make it.
  • It is a serious mistake to leave out important elements. This suggests you need to understand your topic or subject even when you are looking for research materials to write about it.
  • It is a mistake to use persuasion in a research proposal since the aim of this paper is not to persuade but to present materials you are likely to use in your thesis or dissertation.
  • Another error is writing too hastily or in an improvised way.
  • Not understanding the information that needs to be included. You should be able to demonstrate your research idea is well developed.
  • It is also a mistake to use irrelevant or inappropriate vocabulary or to show poor English language skills.