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Writing a Research Proposal

This guide contains information and guidance on how to write a research proposal.

Common Proposal Writing Mistakes

According to Wong (2002) and Locke et al. (2007), there are common mistakes that people make when writing a research proposal:

  • Not providing context to the research question(s).
  • Not citing significant studies ("landmark studies") in the field that changed others' understanding of the topic.
  • Not accurately presenting other research done on the topic.
  • Not staying focused on the primary research question.
  • Not focusing on the study's primary objective or paying too much attention to minor things (not focusing on the big picture).
  • Trying to change the reader's opinions on topics that are not relevant to understanding the project.
  • Using the proposal to take a stance on a particular political or social issue.
  • Failing to have a clear sense of direction (proposals should flow like a research paper).
  • Making the proposal too long or too short.
  • Using APA style improperly.
  • Using too many citations (only use what you need).
  • Not proofreading for grammar and spelling errors.

Making these mistakes can reduce the probability of gaining the favor of your evaluators, so it is critical that you avoid these common mistakes!

Preventing Common Writing Mistakes

Below are some tips that will help you avoid making common proposal writing mistakes (Wallwork and Southern, 2020):

  • If you feel overwhelmed with the thought of writing a proposal, start with creating an outline.  This will place your main ideas on paper and prevent you from getting sidetracked.  You can use the outline as a guide to write your proposal once it is complete.
  • Make an effort to "sell" your work.  Many people assume reviewers will automatically understand the importance of your proposed study, but you should assume that they know nothing about your topic.
  • Make sure your proposal follows the instructions and guidelines of your assignment prompt or instructions.  This includes having proper document formatting.
  • Ensure that your proposal is visually pleasing and easy to read.  Reviewers will not want to spend time on your proposal if it is not easy to follow.
  • Check spelling and grammar on your own before or after using a proofreading service.  Language editing programs like Grammarly can improve the quality of your writing, but it may not catch everything that should be edited or changed.