A research proposal may be written as part of your dissertation or part of grant application. When submitted as part of a dissertation, a research proposal may be submitted as a separate piece of work or it may be submitted in advance.  It is important to summarize what you intend to use in your proposal to ensure that your research is on track.

What is a research proposal? It is a document that seeks to outline the reasons for undertaking your thesis or dissertation or research project. You will also use this document to outline how you are planning to carry out the task.

This document is a very useful tools which you will use to convince funder, supervisors or any other stakeholders with regard to the value of your research and likely it is that you will be able to answer the research questions on completing the research.

Contents of a research proposal

  • Title,
  • An introduction which will outline the topic as well as the questions you will be investigating, a literature review as well as theoretical framework.
  • Detailed strategy- this will explain the research methods to be employed, the type of data to be collected as well as how you plan to collect that data.
  • Timetable for completing your research. It should show key milestones as well as when you expect to accomplish them.
  • Discussion on ethical and logistical considerations
  • Possible limitations on the research process
  • A bibliography of the references that you have consulted on the topic.

Identify the topic of research

Identifying the topic of research is a very important in any research. It is important to consider areas that interests you the most and what you would like to explore.

Do further readings on your subjects of interest as you try to narrow down on the topic of research.  At this point, it would be appropriate to talk to your supervisor who will help you in narrowing down the topic.

Defining the research questions

After identifying the area of study that interests you the most, the next step involves identifying research questions that you should answer. Narrow down the question so that you will be able to cover it in details. Always remember that it is better to have a simple question that you cover in details that a broad question that you will not be able to cover comprehensively. The research question that you choose should not be one covered by previous research. You should therefore be covering a new field and therefore contributing by adding literature. To ensure that you have something to report in your literature review, you are advised to select an area with plenty of previous research as opposed to venturing in a totally new field of study.  Even in areas that have been deeply researched on, you will always find something to research about.

Think about your research topic. Ask yourself exactly what you want to find out. Frame it in the form of a question. A good research question should start with questions such as; when, who, why, where, how much and so on. Brainwash several questions related to your topic and then use the following list for considerations.

  • Do you have an interesting question?
  • Is there a practical value in knowing the answer to the question?
  • Is the scope of your question specific enough that you would answer it conclusively within the time limits allowed and cost? If not, then you will need to narrow it even further.
  • Does your question give an indication on what you need to answer and how you would go about finding that information?
  • Will it be possible to get the information you need to answer the question?

Using this checklist to interrogate your questions will lead you to having just a few questions that you will need to answer. The questions will be tight and carefully defined. They will give you a very clear area of study, the study population and also a clear picture of what one will learn after going through your research.

Choosing the title

Now that you have a topic and research questions, the next stage is to come up with the title. The title should cover the research questions and also a summary of what you are going to be doing. Circumstances may force you to continue changing the title as you continue writing your paper.

Seeking help from your supervisor

It is very advisable that you work while closely seeking directions from your supervisor. Face to face meetings with your lecturer are always better than communicating t rough emails. Your supervisor will be able to tell you if your topic is too broad and possibly give you ideas on how to narrow it down.

Outline the methodology

This section comes after you have already set out the research questions. This is where you set out your broad working plan on how you are planning to answer the questions and the reasons why.

  • The broad plan that you plan to use, i.e. are you planning to use qualitative or quantitative method or both?
  • An idea of what you are going to do with the approach you choose in terms of study population, experimental techniques you are going to use e.g. interviews, questionnaires or both. You should give good academic reasons for the method you choose.
  • Possible weaknesses in your research and how you plan to deal with it
  • Explain how whatever you are planning to do will help in answering research questions
  • The steps you will use to analyze the results and also remember to give an academic reason for each of the selection you make.

Research methodology is a very crucial part in writing your project proposal. It gives details on what you are doing and the reasons why you are doing it. Your supervisor will also be able to tell if you are doing too much or too little in your proposal at an early stage.

Ethical approval

If your study involves animals or human subjects, then you will require ethical approval from universities ethics committee. There is usually a form to complete which you will also submit as part of your research proposal.  It is therefore important to consult your supervisor so that you can know exactly what you will be required to include in your submissions.