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Writing a Research Proposal – Step-by-Step Guide

Published by at December 26th, 2022 , Revised On May 4, 2023

Start writing your research proposal immediately to leave time for reviewing and editing.

The proposal is valuable enough to warrant more time to perfect it. A clear, concise, and original idea must be developed to earn a decent grade and lay the groundwork for a strong thesis or research paper

Writing the Research Proposal

Your research proposal is a critical stage in creating your thesis as it allows your supervisor to review it to determine its viability and compliance with your institution’s standards. They will also examine whether the results are likely significant, whether you used the right approach, and whether your conclusions and suggestions align with your objectives.

research proposal

A research proposal should include the following to be accepted by your supervisor.

  • A research question or hypothesis
  • A justification for the likely significant contribution the proposed research will make
  • The proposed methodology to be adopted
  • A proposed chapter structure and indicative time-scale mapping out the research over the years
  • A bibliography of the sources you have consulted in preparing the research proposal.

1. Research Title

A unique, thoroughly researched topic that is succinct and speaks to the core of your planned research should be provided for your supervisor’s approval before you begin working on the research proposal.

For a topic to be considered original, it must either explore a body of your research area that has not received much attention in the academic literature or offer novel perspectives on an established body of the chosen field of study.

Consider using our thesis topics service if you still have not decided on a good topic or title for your research proposal.

2. Introduction

After your supervisor has approved your topic, it is time for you to start working on the introduction to your proposed research. This is where you introduce the subject of your study, give some historical context, and, most importantly, present your goal, objectives, and research questions.

In the introduction, give some background information and context. What information is necessary for the reader to comprehend your suggested questions? What is the current state of this field’s research, and what will your research work add to it?

If you include a literature review, give the reader a rough idea of the debates you’re intervening in instead of going into great depth at this stage.

3. Aims and Objective

Your research aims, objectives, and questions are the most crucial section of the introduction. In order to make them stand out from the text and be easy to identify, you may present them using bullet points or bold type.

Make sure your research questions are precise and feasible and that you can logically respond to them within the parameters of your research work. Be careful to be more specific and to ask a few diverse inquiries. Keep in mind that the purpose of a research proposal is to persuade the reader that the research is worthwhile and practicable.

4. Literature Review

It’s time to investigate previous studies that have addressed related concepts and complete the literature review section. This is crucial since it identifies gaps in the literature and guarantees that you are not posing an issue that has previously been addressed. Since your topic is now more clearly defined, you should analyse and evaluate the most relevant sources in your literature study in-depth.

In this section, you should summarise previous studies’ findings and note any gaps or issues. Use paraphrasing to write succinctly because there may be a lot of research to discuss.

Findings and theories that will inform your study have to be identified, as are any gaps and constraints in earlier studies that your research can fill.

5. Methodology

Next, you’ll outline your suggested approach, including the particular outcomes you intend to achieve, the layout of your study, and the techniques you’ll employ to collect and analyse data.

You should be specialised in this area since you must persuade your supervisor that you’ve carefully considered your research strategy and can carry it out. Depending on your area of study, this section will have a distinct appearance and variable length.

You can be working on more theoretical research, creating a new conceptual model or refining an existing one, or more empirical research, concentrating on gathering data and learning new facts.

There are numerous approaches to pursuing the methodology for your research. Below is a list of several typical ones (more than one may be used).

6. Researching Emerging and Novel Issues

You can look at recently developed doctrines or reform ideas that haven’t received much attention in the literature. These theses frequently provide a theoretical underpinning for your research framework while critically analysing it. Examining sources and secondary published sources is typically required for this type of doctrinal work.

  • Theoretical Research

Theoretical research concentrates primarily or entirely on exploring theoretical perspectives concerning a particular area of study, such as a feature of jurisprudence. As a result, rather than focusing on a doctrinal analysis of the subject, it is exclusively concerned with offering reasonable theoretical reasons for a particular state of events.

  • Empirical Research

The goal of empirical research is to gather data, make judgements about it, and conclude about its importance to the investigated field. The methodology frequently entails data gathering using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Institutional ethical approval and participant agreement from people may be needed.

In your research proposal, you must detail the purpose of your intended empirical research, its importance, as well as the research methodologies you plan to employ and why they are acceptable for your proposed study. Any research involving human beings must have ethical approval following the School and University’s regulations on research ethics.

  • Presenting Fresh & Insightful Viewpoints on Established Fields

When there is a lack of academic research in a domestic environment, for instance, a study project may be related to an established topic but contain fresh insights or a deeper dive than has previously been done.

As a result, the theory can potentially progress knowledge and technology. In this situation, your research proposal must demonstrate that you know how the issue has already been treated and how your thesis would significantly advance the field.

  • A Comparative Analysis

In their thesis papers, many students incorporate a component of comparative study. This could entail contrasting different theories and concepts of several carefully chosen issues. Suppose you plan to conduct comparative legal research.

In that case, you should think about how to defend your choice of comparator jurisdictions, what you can learn from them, and how you will get access to relevant primary and secondary sources.

It must be emphasised that solely descriptive work that only summarises the legal systems of other countries will not, by itself, constitute a unique contribution. Consequently, a lesson must be learned from comparisons or attempts to compare things.

7. Bibliography

Your research proposal must accurately cite all the sources you consulted, just like any other academic document. A suitably formatted reference list or bibliography must be included at the end of your proposal.

Different institutions advise using different referencing formats; the Harvard, Vancouver, APA, and Oscola formats are among the most popular ones. If your department has no guidelines, pick a style and stick with it.

Only the sources that you cited in your proposal are included in the reference list. On the other hand, a bibliography is a little different because it can list all the sources you used to prepare the proposal, even if you didn’t explicitly name them in the text.

A bibliography for a research proposal may include pertinent materials you haven’t read yet but plan to consult when conducting the research. Consult your supervisor on what kind of bibliography or reference list you should include.

8. Thesis

Due to inadequate consideration of “key informant” access and availability during the proposal stage, some theses papers are noticeably more challenging than others. Always keep in mind that everything you accomplish for “proposal” purposes can be included in your thesis paper.

Extend the proposal you have already written by adding more relevant content. Discuss the details of the most critical points you have highlighted in your proposal to add weight to it.

Add two more chapters to the proposal after you are done extending the length of the chapters completed for the proposal already.

A thesis paper typically includes five chapters which are as follows;

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature review
  3. Methodology
  4. Results and discussion
  5. Conclusions and outcomes

Since the proposal has already laid the base for the first three chapters of your thesis or research paper, how you should go about them is already discussed. Let’s move ahead with the additional effort required to complete the remaining chapters.

9. Results and Discussion

The display of data from your results will typically include information that was not previously or readily available from other published sources. In other words, information that may need to be argued that it did not already exist before you created it. The results chapter and the data must be the sole source of the knowledge required to “solve” the issue under investigation.

The literature should also be used in this chapter to examine and interpret the primary data in light of its importance and relation to the “research objectives.” The results and discussion chapter essentially offers “the facts” from which the conclusions and results are deduced. Insufficient data would lead to insufficient “outcomes.”

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10. Conclusion and Outcomes

The purpose of this chapter is to give the reader a “summary” of what has been “achieved” in the previous chapters. The most crucial information from earlier chapters is frequently summarised in this chapter. You can combine the information from the previous chapters into a synthesised “final” whole in this chapter.

As a result, the “conclusions and outcomes” chapter must be a stand-alone chapter that adds significantly more to the thesis than merely summarising earlier chapters. Many would contend that this chapter is the most crucial because it offers a solution to the issue under investigation, while other chapters only contribute to the chapter on results.

Whether the study was effectively completed should also be covered in this chapter, along with, in the student’s judgement, the reasons for the success or failure. Additionally, it is perfectly acceptable for you to “disclose” to the reader any vital turning points in their comprehension, awareness, or appreciation.

In other words, you should examine and discuss the advantages of starting and finishing a research project or thesis paper for yourself.

Some Useful Tips

Be assertive

Emphasise the key points of your research and keep mentioning them throughout the thesis paper,
use the “say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you’ve said” strategy.

Be Suggestive

Point out that any assertion you make may not be 100% accurate. Use words like “this suggests
that,” “it would seem,” “the probability is,” “the existing information shows,” “it may be
argued that,” and other similar expressions.

Time Management

Unfortunately, even the most meticulously planned work schedule is rarely followed. In fact,
worrying unnecessarily and ineffectively about the implications of “falling behind” can happen.
A thesis or research paper cannot simply be “planned.”

It is uncommon for knowledge acquisition and understanding to follow set work routines. However,
students must be committed to finishing their thesis by the deadline. You’ll likely give up
before you reach the finish line without this “determination.” The amount of time you have
remaining will be used up on the thesis.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Research Proposal

Consider using our topics and titles service if you still have not decided on a good topic or title for your research proposal or browse our library for a free topic database for thousands of unique research topic ideas.

We have several experts and practising doctors on our team who will suggest 100% original, unique and innovative topics and complete the proposal for you. Our research proposal writing service is ideal for anyone struggling to start their research and only has limited time to submit their proposal.

The length of a research proposal is unspecified, but it is often between 10 and 15 pages. While drafting a brief proposal can give the impression that not all requirements have been followed, a very long proposal may occasionally contain repetitions that make the work uninteresting.

In order to resolve the question of how many words should be in the research proposal, be sure to follow these guidelines.

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