7 Essential Details to Include in Your Research Proposal
  • 3-minute read
  • 18th October 2016

7 Essential Details to Include in Your Research Proposal

What’s that? You’re planning to study a PhD and you have a great idea for some groundbreaking research in the field of [insert subject of choice here]? But you’re not sure what to include in your research proposal?

Well, you’ve come to the right place! In the following, we set out the seven essential elements of a research proposal.

1. Title

Are we stating the obvious by saying you need a working title? Maybe. The point is that your title should be clear but memorable, quickly telling your reader what your research is about.

2. Introduction

Every research proposal should begin by introducing the subject area and the specific problem your research will address. This sets the tone for the rest of your proposal and is therefore your only opportunity to make a good first impression, so make sure it’s well organized and informative.

3. Literature Review

A research proposal doesn’t usually include a full literature review, but you should provide an overview of key studies in your field. Doing this supplies the reader with vital background information, helping them understand how your study will add to existing research.

4. Aims and Objectives

Once you’ve established your research problem, your proposal should outline a set of aims and objectives. The distinction here is as follows:

  • Your research aim is the broad expected outcome of the study and what you hope the research will achieve overall;
  • Your research objectives are narrower and more focused, with each one detailing how you will meet the overall study aims.

If required, you should also state the hypotheses your research will test.

5. Methodology

Make sure to identify the methods you intend to use in the study, especially if you’re conducting experimental research. This will include things like whether you’re using a qualitative or quantitative approach, equipment, ethical concerns, and sampling and analysis techniques.

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Try to be as descriptive as possible, which may include justifying why you’ve chosen to use certain methods over alternative options.

6. Scope of Research

A common mistake when writing a PhD proposal is failing to consider the scope of the research. Remember that you’ll be working with limited time and resources, so your study should be something you can realistically complete within these constraints.

The proposal should therefore include something about what your work will focus on and what it leaves unaddressed, as well as any limitations to the methods adopted.

7. Outline and Timetable

Finally, a good research proposal will also include a chapter outline and a timetable.

The chapter outline sets out how you intend to structure the final dissertation, noting what each section will cover and how it fits into your overall argument.

The timetable, meanwhile, will set out a step-by-step plan of when you expect to finish each stage of your study, including everything from initial research to writing up your results. Doing this shows that you’ve considered the practical side of conducting research, making your proposal more convincing as a result.

Comments (14)
Meseret Fetene
2nd April 2021 at 09:05
This is what I want to write my proposal. Thank you very much. in your future life please compare the contents of proposal with final thesis. Because there is confusion regarding it difference. for example in a lots of thesis i have seen from different websites put literature review under research method as well as making it independent chapter, Chapter Two
31st May 2021 at 14:33
do I have to include limitation of the study into my proposal
    1st June 2021 at 08:55
    Hi, Hanna. You may want to mention potential limitations of the research when you cover the scope of the study.
      Abdulmanan Fazly
      12th May 2022 at 05:57
      May I write problem statement
      12th May 2022 at 09:25
      Hi, Abdulmanan. Research proposals may include a problem statement when you're setting out the aims and objectives (you might want to check if the organization you're proposing research to has guidelines on what to include in your proposal). We have a post on writing problem statements here if that helps: https://proofed.com/writing-tips/how-to-write-a-problem-statement/
2nd August 2021 at 17:33
Please make a proposal template available for download.
    3rd August 2021 at 09:00
    Hi, Nadia. The format of a research proposal will depend on what you're proposing and to whom, so your best bet is to check the funding organization's website for guidance.
    Salim kawaga
    12th May 2022 at 15:49
    What are components of research proposal
      13th May 2022 at 09:27
      Hi, Salim. As in the response to Nadia, you should check the requirements of the organization you're writing a proposal for to confirm the exact requirements. If they don't have specific requirements, just try to include the things mentioned in this blog post.
19th May 2022 at 13:06
So everything has to be written in the same tense?
    20th May 2022 at 09:17
    Hi, Agripa. We don't discuss tense in this post, but there is likely to be some variation. For instance, when setting out the research aims, you may use the future tense (e.g., saying something like "This study will examine..."). But when you're discussing existing research, you may need to use the present tense (e.g., "The study by Smith and Jones shows...") and the past tense (e.g., "It was once believed that...") in places. It all depends on what works best for each section and situation. If you're not sure how to approach this, it may be worth checking with the organization for which you're writing a proposal (e.g., via email or checking a style guide if they have one) about whether they need particular parts of the proposal to use specific tenses. Otherwise, your best option is to use your best judgment while drafting and then to submit your proposal for proofreading, where an expert should be able to highlight any issues with tense that need addressing.
Clara Fodje
24th June 2022 at 22:58
Thank you very much for the blog post.It has helped to clear some doubts I had . hopefully,I should be having some updates from you.Thank you
    Callum Carlstrom
    28th July 2022 at 16:50
    You are very welcome Clara!
1st August 2022 at 10:53
It's a good idea that someone must be know and I would like to say thank you. Thank you so much

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