How to Write a Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal?

Each person who applies for a Ph.D. program is to submit his or her application together with a research proposal. A Ph.D. proposal is a summary of the whole investigation you are willing to conduct. The main reasons for doing this are as follows:

  • It is a great way for supervisors to assess your ideas regarding originality and value.
  • You will develop skills in critical thinking and designing a substantial piece of material.

The process usually takes 3 (full time) or 6 (part time) years. For different fields, different standards and steps of writing are required, but the key ones are provided below. The size limit also depends on the requirements. Usually, it’s 1,000 – 3,000 words. Whether it is a quantitative or empirical research, it’s vital to structure your proposal well to make it attractive, logical and significant for a particular subject area.

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Preferable order to respect

  1. Title

The title is the initial thing the supervisors see in your paper. It can be changed in the process, but try to use at least the “keywords” of the paper.  There must be an indication of the questions or issues you are to address. It must determine the topic or the subject area for further investigation.

  1. Literature survey

This paragraph is a summary of the current state of knowledge presented in the works of different researchers, Ph.Ds, MPhils, etc. This is the background of the paper. You are to read as many sources as possible and give your feedback on them, then identify any gaps in the literature – this opens many issues to work on. The purpose is that you are part of a larger system – you enter the particular field of investigation with fresh ideas and impact future researchers.  Here are suggested tips which will help in dealing with this task:

  • Do not be afraid to argue the issues you don’t agree with. All the works are mostly subjective, and it means that perspectives may differ and all have their own opinion;
  • Use citations as a basis for developing your point of view. It will help your proposal look more authoritative and worthy to read;
  • Compare and contrast various theories, arguments, controversies and give your suggestions on how to come to an agreement;
  • Link your own research to literature and state how crucial it will be for the development of this subject area.

  1. Problems with the study

It is crucial to emphasize the problems relating to the afore-mentioned literature gaps that you’ll cover while writing this paper. Your readers should grasp the idea of your personal interest, see your suggestions and realize why it concern them.

  1. Introduction

Your primary task is to deliver the weight of your paper to all readers.  After reading the sources and identifying gaps and problems, it’s easy to write an introduction. This is the synthesis of the last two steps.Here you have to mention: the summary of the literature you are based on as well as the gaps and problems. During your study, many questions will arise. Mention the most challenging ones in the introductory paragraph. While reading this section, everyone has to realize the significance of the work as well as understand your purpose for writing it. It is also preferable to explain your personal interest in this area of study and in which way you will conduct the research.

  1. Abstract

It is preferable to include this paragraph from your research paper in the proposal. It may be a text of more than 100 words where either the problem is identified, or your suggestions on the shortcomings are given.

  1. Research design and the methodology of the study

These two issues aim to assure your reader that the paper is promising. You analyze existing ideas, not do the complete research. The point here is to make your work noticeable and exciting to read with the help of logical organization and various persuasive methods that will fulfill all the objectives of your study. A well-organized paper attracts the readers’ attention and boosts the value of the project.

A proper methodology is necessary, especially if you’re doing empirical research. Methods include using the library archives and even interviews. Do not forget to give the arguments “for” each method and describe how they will contribute to reaching your aims. To have the precise understanding of this section, look for the example of methods for the paper entitled “The impact of the environment on juvenile delinquency in Phoenix, Arizona”:

To examine central questions, the following research methods will be used:

  • Analysis of official and unofficial statistics;
  • Participant observation;
  • Community observation;
  • Face-to-face interviews.

Naturally, each method should be described.

  1. Research schedule

Here you set the timetable of the whole work on the paper. Discuss a bit what you will do during particular weeks, months or years to achieve your goals connected with this investigation.

  1. Citations

The paper must include the sources you’ll use in the research. There are two options:

  • References

    , where you identify the list of the literature only;

  • Bibliography

    – the overall list of everything used in the process of writing (literature, well-known statements, statistics etc.)

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How to Write a Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal when you have no idea what is it? A research proposal is another writing assignment a student can be faced with. For your help, our site custom paper writers wrote a full guide on how to write a research proposal with a research proposal example included. Let’s get right into the topic starting with a research proposal definition.


What Is a Research Proposal

When your instructor assigns a research proposal, they seek a brief summary and a detailed methodology of the research you have conducted or will conduct for their class. The proposal allows them to approve your idea or propose any necessary changes before you begin writing. It is important to understand what this assignment’s purpose is.

Writing a proposal will allow you to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge in a particular field, as it will show your ability to express complex ideas briefly. The process of writing involves several steps such as brainstorming, picking a topic, drafting, and revising. At the end of the writing process, you will have a proposal that explains your research question and the purpose of your conducted study.

Starting Writing a Proposal

To start, find something that interests you, and choose a topic related to your field of study. Read on articles about recent discoveries, breakthroughs, and innovation. Find inspiration on our blog or just ask one of our professional writers to help you. Make sure that the topic you’ll be writing on will interest you so that you’ll find it easier to write about. Take a look at things you believe in. Review on things that you are passionate about and ask yourself these questions.

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon (and hopefully go beyond) conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

Once you chose the topic, follow the research proposal template.

Research Proposal Template

No ‘one-size-fits-all’ research proposal template would suit every type of paper. However, regardless of the scope and depth of your research, you will find that most sample templates include the listed information.

Research Paper Title

You will be able to revise your title throughout your research, but it is important that the title encompasses what your paper is about.


The direct influence of Hitchcock’s Psycho on the genre of horror.


This portion should be around 100 words long, consisting of the central question that you wish to address.


Your proposal should include a brief background to which you conducted your research. That includes the area of study, any debates on the topic and the relevance of the question.

Research Question

The aim should be to attempt to answer a question. The question needs to be narrow and focused, and reflect the objective of your essay. During your writing process, narrow your research question to two different aspects. You should elaborate on how you intend to answer the question and brief the reader on the conclusion that you made.


How did Hitchcock’s Psycho influence the way horror films were made? How has the horror genre changed with respect to the film?

Research Method

The research proposal should show how you conducted your research. Explain your key resources (ways you found your information) and how you collected your data. If you did interviews, brief the reader on who the people you interviewed were. Then explain how you analyzed the findings.

Research Significance

Explain why your work is important. In any sample, you will find a short justification for why your research is original and how it adds something new to the field of study. You might want to list a reason why your research is pressing in the current time.


The conducted research links Hitchcock’s Psycho too many modern films that exhibit the same shock-factor qualities. Today, shock-factor is harder to achieve; this is visible on the increase of poorly produced, lower-quality horror flicks that resort to shock rather than suspense to hold the audience’s attention.


Lastly, you would want to create a list of the most relevant works that contributed to your study. You can need to so in the research paper format required by your instructor (




, etc.). You can create an annotated bibliography, giving some insights into how each of the sources helped you with your research.

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Research Proposal Outline

Your research proposal


should be structured according to the template above. Before embarking on the proposal writing process, make sure that you have your research question narrowed down properly and a solid outline as to how you will structure your proposal.

  1. Title

  2. Intro/Abstract.

    Why is your research significant?
  • General area
  • Area’s importance

  1. Context
  • What is already known?
  • Previous studies
  • Background information

  1. Rational and Research Question
  • Your research question
  • How does your research question relate to the larger area of study?
  • What is your argument/claim/hypothesis as to the answer to this question?
  • Is there an opposite viewpoint?

  1. Method
  • How did you collect the data?
  • What method did you use?
  • Did you have participants?
  • How does it relate to your research?
  • What results did you expect?

  1. Significance and Conclusion
  • How did the data/information gathered confirm/disconfirm your hypothesis?
  • Why should anyone care about the research you conducted?

  1. Bibliography.

    Include at least 6 sources

Research proposal outline

Research Paper Format

A format can vary from being only a couple of paragraphs long to about 2,500 words long for things like dissertations. Discuss with your instructor specifics such as length and contents before starting the writing process.

APA Research Proposal


APA format

itself can help you understand how to write a proposal for a

research paper

. The APA guidelines require writing an abstract, an introduction, and a bibliography as part of the paper, not only in the proposal. Here is a short breakdown of the APA proposal format:

  • 12-point font Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins
  • An APA running head (limited to 50 characters)
  • A title page with the paper’s title (no more than 12 words in length), your name, and the name of your institution
  • An abstract (150-200 words)
  • In-text citations (formatted accordingly to APA guidelines)
  • References page (formatted accordingly to APA guidelines)

Research Proposal Example

Here is a research proposal example APA. Notice the structure of a short research paper (around 15 pages) and the APA formatting.

Research Proposal: Video Guide

Avoid in a Research Proposal

There are a couple of things that successful proposals have in common. If you look at an example, you will see that there are a couple of things in common that all of the proposals avoid:

  • Not being concise enough. Your proposal must be written with a clear purpose in mind.
  • Alleviating works cited page.
  • Forgetting to disclose research boundaries and conflicting variables (age of participants, for example)
  • An underdeveloped argument.
  • A lack of focus and unrelated tangents.
  • Poor grammar.
  • Too much detail or not enough detail.