Nova A.
Nova A.

Learn How to Write a Research Proposal

16 min read

Published on: May 1, 2021

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

writing a research proposal

Have you ever been tasked with writing a research proposal and found yourself struggling to even come up with a topic? 

Or maybe you have a topic in mind but don't know where to begin writing a proposal. Whatever the case may be, fear not! 

In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of writing a perfect research proposal that stands out. We will briefly discuss the format and types of research proposals. We will also provide examples and tips to help you craft a compelling argument for your research.

So grab a notebook and pen, and let's get started on your journey toward research success!

On This Page

What is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal outlines a research project's objectives, methodology, timeline, and expected outcomes. It is often written by researchers or graduate students who wish to obtain funding or approval from supervisors, or stakeholders.

Importance of Research Proposal

The significance of a research proposal cannot be overstated in research writing and here’s why:

  • Provides a roadmap for the research project
  • Helps researchers to clarify and refine their research ideas
  • Allows communication of research plans and goals to others
  • Ensures that research is ethical, feasible, and relevant
  • Facilitates obtaining feedback and support from supervisors, funders, and collaborators

Check out the informative video below!

Types of Research Proposals

Research proposals can be classified based on their purpose into three main types:

Exploratory Research Proposals

These proposals are designed to explore a research topic or problem that has not been studied extensively. The primary purpose of exploratory research proposals is to generate ideas, hypotheses, or insights that can guide future research. 

Examples of exploratory research proposals include pilot studies, case studies, and qualitative research proposals.

Descriptive Research Proposals

These proposals aim to describe or document a research phenomenon or problem. The purpose of this type is to provide a complete picture of the topic, including its characteristics and features. 

Examples of descriptive research proposals include surveys, cross-sectional studies, and observational studies. 

Explanatory Research Proposals

These proposals aim to explain or test causal relationships between research variables. The purpose is to identify the factors that influence a research outcome or phenomenon and to establish cause-and-effect relationships. 

Examples of explanatory research proposals include experimental studies, quasi-experimental studies, and longitudinal studies. 

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Elements of a Research Proposal

Let’s take a look at some key elements of the research proposal: 

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Research Objectives
  • Methodology
  • Expected Results
  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Conclusion

Research Proposal Format

Here is a general research paper format:


  • Find a unique title


  • Write down the summary of your research proposal
  • Give an overview of the topic, mention the problem statement and significance 


  • Provide background to the topic
  • Highlight key points

Research Objectives

  • Describe what problems and issues to be explored and what are your research objectives

Research Methods

  • Provide an outline of what methods you use 

Working Plan and Schedule

  • Provide a working plan, budget, or timeline for your research


  • Summarize the main points of your research proposal


  • Mention the list of references and sources you use in your writing

How to Write a Research Proposal?

To write a research proposal correctly, one effective way is to answer some essential research questions. The following questions can guide you in creating your research proposal:

  • What do you aim to accomplish through your research? Clearly define the research problem you will investigate and explain what you intend to research.
  • Why is this particular research important? This is the most crucial element of your research proposal. It demonstrates your thorough understanding of the research area and its significance.
  • What are the practical solutions to the problems you have identified? Provide clear and specific solutions to address the research problem.

Writing a research proposal involves a process that is divided into two phases: pre-writing and writing.

Pre-writing or outlining allows you to structure and draft your research proposal efficiently. Once you have a clear plan, preparing the proposal will become easier.

Your research proposal should include the following components in detail:

1. Title Page 

Similar to other academic writings, a research proposal should have a title or a cover page as the first page. This page usually includes the following information:

  • The topic or title of your research project
  • Researcher's name
  • Name of the instructor
  • Institution's name
  • Department

Before creating your title page, make sure to carefully read and understand the guidelines and instructions provided by your instructor. This ensures that you include all the required information for your research proposal.

Additionally, clarify what format is required for writing your research proposal.

2. Table of Content and Abstract

If you anticipate that your research proposal will be lengthy and detailed, consider writing an abstract before you begin. An abstract provides a brief summary of your proposal and can help you clarify your ideas before delving into the details.

Another important aspect of formatting your research proposal is to include a table of contents. This should list the page numbers, headings, and subheadings of your proposal, providing an overview of the content of your proposal.

3. Introduction

The first part of a proposal is the introduction, which should be engaging enough to set the stage for your project. This section should include an introduction to the topic of your research, its background and context, and a thesis statement.

To write an effective introduction, consider including the following information:

  • Identify who would be interested in the topic, such as scientists, policymakers, or members of the general public.
  • Discuss the existing information about the topic and any mainstream or available solutions that are already being discussed.
  • Highlight what is missing from the existing knowledge and present new ideas and points to address this gap.
  • Emphasize the importance of the research and why it is valuable.

Depending on the length and detail of your research proposal, you may need to use different sections to present this information.

4. Literature Review

The literature review is written to demonstrate that you have a comprehensive understanding of the existing research on your topic. It aims to convince your audience that the topic you have chosen to research is significant and warrants further investigation.

By conducting a literature review, you establish a foundation for your research. It helps you build a robust argument that is supported by theory and empirical evidence.

It is essential to clearly state how your research will contribute to a particular field in the literature review. This will help to establish the significance of your research and the potential impact it could have.

5. Research Methods and Designs

After conducting a literature review, it is important to draw the reader's attention to your project and present its objectives clearly.

This section provides information about the research design and methodology used to solve the research problem. It describes the basic approach and practical steps taken to address the research question.

There are two main types of research: qualitative and quantitative. Researchers choose one of these two types depending on the topic and field of study. The research method refers to the specific techniques used to collect data for the research.

A quantitative research method is typically used for scientific research, while qualitative research is commonly used in the social sciences.

When describing the methods used in your research, avoid just listing them down. Instead, provide a clear argument explaining why the method chosen is appropriate for your research, including its validity and reliability.

6. Budget

The budget section of your research proposal should outline the financial resources needed for your study. It should include a detailed breakdown of expenses, such as equipment, materials, travel, participant compensation, and other relevant costs. 

Justify each item by explaining how it directly supports your research objectives, and provide an estimated cost for each item.

7. Implications and Contributions

In order to write a strong research proposal, it is important to consider the implications of your potential research on both practice and theory. 

You should also emphasize how your study and research will contribute to the existing knowledge base in your field.

8. Limitations 

It is important to acknowledge the limitations of your research in order to maintain honesty and credibility. 

The limitations section should provide an explanation of any unavailable resources for your research, as well as any shortcomings or flaws. This can include discussing if the methods used were incorrect or if the sample size was too small.

Discussing the limitations of your research shows your understanding of the topic. Lastly, it also demonstrates that you have thoroughly considered all aspects of the research.

9. Bibliography 

The bibliography is an essential part of the research proposal as it helps to prevent accusations of plagiarism. It is important to provide proper citations for all sources used in the research.

At the end of the proposal, a reference list should be included with all the publication details of the sources used. To generate citations for your proposal, you can use an online citation generator.

In some cases, you may also be required to provide a bibliography that includes all the sources you consulted but did not cite in the proposal.

10. Research Schedule 

Some instructors may require a schedule and a detailed timeline of the research project. This timeline outlines what the researcher plans to accomplish at each stage of the project and how much time will be dedicated to each task.

Here’s an exemplary research schedule:

Research Phase  

Literature ReviewConduct a thorough search for relevant literature on the topicWeek 1-2

Read and critically evaluate the selected sourcesWeek 2-3

Organize the literature review and identify gaps in the research

Week 3-4

Research Design  

Develop a clear and concise research question or hypothesis

Week 4-5

Determine the appropriate research methodology and data collection techniques

Week 5-6

Develop a research plan with specific objectives and timelines

Week 6-7
Data Collection

Collect data using selected methods

Week 7-8

Ensure accuracy and reliability of data through quality control measures

Week 8-9

Data Analysis

Analyze data using appropriate statistical techniques 

Week 9-10

Interpret results and draw conclusions based on findings

Week 10-11

Writing and Revision

Write the research report or manuscript 

Week 11-12

Revise and edit the report for clarity, coherence, and accuracy

Week 12-13

Submit the final research report or manuscript

Week 13-14

11. Proofreading

In order for any piece of writing to be effective, it should go through a proofreading process to ensure its quality. Proofreading involves checking for mistakes and errors in the content. Therefore, before submitting your research proposal, it is important to proofread it and make any necessary edits.

Check for your proposal’s formatting, structure, spelling mistakes in the content, punctuation, grammar, citation, syntax, vocabulary, etc. 

Formatting Guidelines for Research Proposals

Formatting rules for a research proposal may vary depending on the specific requirements of the institution or funding agency. However, some common formatting guidelines include:

  • Font: Use a legible font such as Times New Roman or Arial, with a font size of 12.
  • Spacing: Double-space the entire document, including the title page, abstract, body of the proposal, references, and any appendices.
  • Margins: Use one-inch margins on all sides of the document.
  • Page numbers: Number all pages, including the title page, with Arabic numerals in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Title page: Include a title page with the title of the proposal, name of the researcher(s), institutional affiliation and date.
  • Abstract: Include an abstract summarizing the proposal in 150-250 words.
  • Table of contents: If the proposal is long, include a table of contents that lists the sections and page numbers.
  • Headings and subheadings: Use headings and subheadings to organize the proposal into sections and subsections.
  • In-text citations: Use the appropriate citation style, such as APA or MLA, for in-text citations and references.
  • Appendices: Include any necessary appendices, such as data tables or survey instruments, after the reference list.

Research Proposal Example For Students

Examples are important to get a better understanding of everything. Look at the example provided below to understand how to write a research proposal.

Expert Tip

Read our blog if you are searching for a complete guide on “how to write a research paper

Research Proposal Topics

Here are some research proposal topics examples:

  • The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health: An Analysis of the Effects of Social Media Use on Depression and Stress.
  • The Influence of Parental Involvement on Academic Performance: A Case Study of High School Students.
  • Understanding the Relationship Between Employee Motivation and Job Satisfaction in the Hospitality Industry.
  • Investigating the Effectiveness of Online Learning: A Comparative Study of Online and Traditional Classroom Learning.
  • The Role of Technology in Enhancing Classroom Learning: A Study of the Impact of Educational Technology on Student Achievement.
  • Exploring the Factors that Influence Consumer Buying Behavior: A Study of the Impact of Advertising and Branding on Consumer Choices.
  • Analyzing the Impact of Gender and Race on Hiring Practices: A Study of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.
  • The Effect of Exercise on Mental Health: A Study of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Depression.
  • Examining the Relationship Between Leadership Styles and Employee Turnover: A Study of the Impact of Transformational and Transactional Leadership.
  • The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity: A Study of the Effects of Global Warming on Ecosystems and Wildlife.

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Research Proposal Writing Tips

Follow the expert’s tips below to draft an impressive proposal.

  • The research proposal should be focused on and explicitly state the primary purpose.
  • It should identify the development and scope of the issue.
  • An exact representation of how the study will examine the problem?
  • It should be adequately formatted and follow all the academic writing rules.
  • Make sure that your proposal focuses on a few key research questions that support the main argument. 
  • Discuss the research methodology.
  • Show the existing research and debate on the relevant topic.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Proposal Writing

If you want your research proposal to be accepted by a prestigious journal, make sure you avoid making these common mistakes:

  • Submit Lengthy Proposals: When writing research proposals, be clear and concise. Your document must be focused and not go off on irrelevant tangents without a clear purpose.
  • Add Too Much Information: Many students have trouble knowing what to study and how to study it. This is true for any kind of research paper. The writer must be clear about what the paper will investigate and how it will do so.
  • Not Citing Major Work: It is a good idea to keep your proposal short and to the point. However, you should still include some landmark research studies that support your argument. These studies will help the reader understand the scope and growth of the issue you are addressing.
  • Focus on Minor Issues: When writing a proposal, you must focus on only a few key questions. You should explain why these questions should be studied. If you have any minor issues, you can mention them, but they should not overpower the major questions.
  • Careless Writing: A research proposal is a small part of a study, but it should be well-written and follow the guidelines for academic writing.

Wrapping Up!

Writing a research proposal can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a proposal that showcases your research ideas and potential outcomes. 

Remember to always consider your audience, provide a clear research question, and include a detailed methodology section. Our AI essay writer will generate well-crafted and plagiarism-free content in less than a minute!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should a Research Proposal Be?

Typically, a research proposal should be 1500-2000 words long, but it ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the institution or funding agency.

Can a research proposal be revised after submission?

Yes, it is possible to revise a research proposal after submission, but it depends on the guidelines and policies of the institution or funding agency.

Do I need to have a specific research question before writing a proposal?

Yes, a research proposal should have a clear and specific research question that the study aims to answer.

Can I use bullet points or lists in my research proposal?

Yes, bullet points or lists can be used in a research proposal, but it is important to ensure that they are formatted properly and integrated into the overall structure of the proposal.

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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