A research proposal's purpose is to capture the evaluator's attention, demonstrate the study's potential benefits, and prove that it is a logical and consistent approach (Van Ekelenburg, 2010). To ensure that your research proposal contains these elements, there are several aspects to include in your proposal (Al-Riyami, 2008):
Details about what to include in each element are included in the boxes below. Depending on the topic of your study, some parts may not apply to your proposal. You can also watch the video below for a brief overview about writing a successful research proposal.
Van Ekelenburg (2010) uses the PROSANA Model to guide researchers in developing rationale and justification for their research projects. It is an acronym that connects the problem, solution, and benefits of a particular research project. It is an easy way to remember the critical parts of a research proposal and how they relate to one another. It includes the following letters (Van Ekelenburg, 2010):
Research proposal titles should be concise and to the point, but informative. The title of your proposal may be different from the title of your final research project, but that is completely normal! Your findings may help you come up with a title that is more fitting for the final project. Characteristics of good proposal titles are (Al-Riyami, 2008):
It is also common for proposal titles to be very similar to your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement (Locke et al., 2007).
An abstract is a brief summary (about 300 words) of the study you are proposing. It includes the following elements (Al-Riyami, 2008):
Our guide on writing summaries may help you with this step.
The purpose of the introduction is to give readers background information about your topic. it gives the readers a basic understanding of your topic so that they can further understand the significance of your proposal. A good introduction will explain (Al-Riyami, 2008):
Your research objectives are the desired outcomes that you will achieve from the research project. Depending on your research design, these may be generic or very specific. You may also have more than one objective (Al-Riyami, 2008).
Be careful not to have too many objectives in your proposal, as having too many can make your project lose focus. Plus, it may not be possible to achieve several objectives in one study.
This section describes the different types of variables that you plan to have in your study and how you will measure them. According to Al-Riyami (2008), there are four types of research variables:
Your research proposal should describe each of your variables and how they relate to one another. Depending on your study, you may not have all four types of variables present. However, there will always be an independent and dependent variable.
A research question is the main piece of your research project because it explains what your study will discover to the reader. It is the question that fuels the study, so it is important for it to be precise and unique. You do not want it to be too broad, and it should identify a relationship between two variables (an independent and a dependent) (Al-Riyami, 2008). There are six types of research questions (Academic Writer, n.d.):
For more information on the different types of research questions, you can view the "Research Questions and Hypotheses" tutorial on Academic Writer, located below. If you are unfamiliar with Academic Writer, we also have a tutorial on using the database located below.
If you know enough about your research topic that you believe a particular outcome may occur as a result of the study, you can include a hypothesis (thesis statement) in your proposal. A hypothesis is a prediction that you believe will be the outcome of your study. It explains what you think the relationship will be between the independent and dependent variable (Al-Riyami, 2008). It is ok if the hypothesis in your proposal turns out to be incorrect, because it is only a prediction! If you are writing a proposal in the humanities, you may be writing a thesis statement instead of a hypothesis. A thesis presents the main argument of your research project and leads to corresponding evidence to support your argument.
Hypotheses vs. Theories
Hypotheses are different from theories in that theories represent general principles and sets of rules that explain different phenomena. They typically represent large areas of study because they are applicable to anything in a particular field. Hypotheses focus on specific areas within a field and are educated guesses, meaning that they have the potential to be proven wrong (Academic Writer, n.d.). Because of this, hypotheses can also be formed from theories.
For more information on writing effective thesis statements, you can view our guide on writing thesis statements below.
In a research proposal, you must thoroughly explain how you will conduct your study. This includes things such as (Al-Riyami, 2008):
For more information on research methodologies, you can view our guide on research methods and methodologies below.