Download a Free Research Proposal Template
What is a research proposal?
A research proposal is a document which outlines the process of a proposed research project. It is commonly used in the fields of science, business and academia.
The uses of a research proposal include:
- to apply for the funding or financing of the research project;
- for authorisation/approval of certain parts of the research project;
- to propose a college/university thesis project; and
- to propose a specific research project in response to a business issue/problem.
Research proposals are assessed on cost and the potential impact of the proposed project, as well as how solid the proposed plan for conducting the research is. It should describe the purpose of the research as well as the methods and procedures that will be utilised during each phase of the research project.
Businesses conduct research in a variety of areas; including marketing, finance, human resources management, technology management and business ethics. An example of a research proposal for a company is the proposition to conduct market research.
For a research proposal sample, see Example’s 9 Research Proposal Examples & Samples article.
Types of research proposals
The types of different research proposals include:
- Solicited research proposals: submitted in response to a request for a proposal and according to the specified requirements.
- Unsolicited research proposals: submitted without being requested.
- Preproposals: a brief abstract submitted prior to a full proposal.
- Continuation proposals: restating an original proposal and the funding requirements to ensure continuous funding.
- Academic research proposals: submitted in response to thesis or dissertation requirements.
How to write a research proposal
Academic research proposals, for a thesis or dissertation, are usually solicited and must be drafted according to specified requirements. The format of a research proposal can be as follows:
1. Cover Letter
The cover letter contains information pertaining to the review of the proposal.
2. Title Page
The title should be concise but also informative and specific.
3. The Abstract
This section provides an overview of the proposal by summarising each section in a few sentences. The abstract is the most important element of the proposal document as it can be used as a separate document to provide a first impression of the research proposal document. It should be concise and written after all the other sections are completed.
4. Table of Contents
The use of a Table of Contents is optional. Whether it is necessary or not depends on the length of the proposal and/or specified requirements.
5. The Literature Review
The core of the research proposal is the literature review. The literature review provides justification for the research project by detailing:
- the gap in theory or business practice that can be eliminated by the proposed research;
- what has previous research already accomplished and why does the research need to continue; and
- the researcher’s competence and knowledge in the field.
6. Research Objectives and Hypothesis
An explanation of what the research project will accomplish in theory – based on previous observations or common practice. A research hypothesis is a testable, focused and clear statement of the outcome objectives of the research.
This section details the activities that will be performed to achieve the research objectives. It includes a comprehensive explanation of data collection and analysis methods that will be employed, as well as the timeframe for each activity.
Any literature cited in the proposal should be correctly referenced in a bibliography.
9. Institutional Resources
This section explains the resources available for the proposed research and highlights why the researcher is the ideal choice for conducting the research.
All the expenses associated with the proposed research should be listed in the budget section. The reason for all costs should also be justified.
A brief summary of all the previous sections which emphasises the most important aspects. The conclusion should be concise, clear and informative.
Letters of endorsement, relevant articles, data tables, questionnaires, surveys, consent documents, etc.