Research proposal may be a part of your dissertation, submitted in advance, or submitted as a separate piece of work. You may also be required to write a research proposal as part of a grant application.
A research proposal is a document in which you outline the case for undertaking the research project, your dissertation or thesis, and present your plans for carrying out the work.
It is needed to persuade supervisors, funders and other stakeholders of the value of the research and the likelihood that it will successfully be able to answer the research question(s).
A typical research proposal contains:
** A title.
** An introduction outlining the topic and questions for investigation, as well as a brief literature review and theoretical framework.
** A detailed strategy explaining what the research methods are, what data will be collected and how to do access to data sources will be obtained.
** A realistic timetable for completion, showing key milestones and when they will be accomplished. You will be working to deadlines.
** Discussion of logistical and ethical considerations.
** Limitations of the proposed research.
** An indicative bibliography of references consulted to date on the topic.
** In addition, when a research proposal is made to a funding body or when plans for communication are not implicit in the project
(e.g., when the research is undertaken for a dissertation), then it is usual to include a detailed budget and a description of the communication plans in the proposal.
Identifying your Topic
The first step in any research is to identify the topic of interest. Think about which areas have most interested you in your studies to date, and what you would most like to explore.
Then start to read around those subjects to narrow down the field of interest. Now is a good time to identify a possible supervisor and talk to them about whether they would be prepared to supervise you and help you narrow down your research topic.
Defining your Research Questions
Once you have identified your field of interest, you can then start to identify one or more research questions to answer. Again, a narrow question that you can research in detail is better than a broad one that you will not be able to cover in full. Your research question(s) should be ones that have not been fully answered in previous research so that you are adding to the literature. However, you want your literature review to have at least something to report, so an area where there is already plenty of research is better than a completely new topic. You can always find a sector, study group, or other unique element that will make the research worthwhile, even if others have done similar studies before.
Choosing a Title
Once you have a topic, and research question(s), then you can decide on a title, which should broadly cover your research question(s) and summarise what you are going to do.
Once you have defined your research questions, you need to set out broadly what you plan to do to answer them, and why. Everything that you do should have a clear reason ‘I thought it might be fun’ is not considered good enough.
Any study involving human or animal subjects will need ethical approval, which will usually be from the university’s ethics committee. There is likely to be a standard form to complete, which you may need to submit as part of your research proposal. Check the university’s requirements, and if necessary consult your supervisor about what to include.