How to Write a Research Proposal like a Pro

This guide offers recommendations on how to approach writing a research proposal. It features information about the structure and writing style and discusses common mistakes that should be avoided.

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A research proposal is a document that justifies the significance of a research problem and presents the plan for a study. Its goal is to convince readers that there is a need for the proposed research and provides the rationale for the selected methodology.

How to Start Writing a Research Proposal

A research proposal serves several purposes, including developing the skills necessary for conducting a study, writing a literature review, critically examining information, and participating in scholarly research. Writing a research proposal can improve an individual’s evaluative skills and highlight their capacity to use various methods to collect data. All research proposals should answer the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the research?
  • Why does the author want to conduct the study? Why can the topic be considered significant?
  • What are its implications?
  • How will the research be conducted?

It is necessary to ensure that a research proposal includes all of the information that shows readers the validity and benefits of the study. A proposal should be clear and include a well-structured argument.

Structure and Writing Style of a Research Proposal

It is vital for individuals to consider the following questions at the beginning of the writing process:

  • What issue do I want to analyze? Why is this problem significant?
  • How is the question related to those discussed in my class?
  • What problems can the study address or solve?
  • How is the research related to other works in the field? What contribution can it bring to the existing knowledge?
  • What is the exact plan for writing the proposal? Is it possible to complete it on time?

Generally, a research proposal should be between ten and twenty-five pages long. As with all academic papers, the proposal should have a proper structure and include specific sections, which are presented below:

  1. Introduction
    This section is a vital part of any academic paper as it introduces readers to the issue and its significance. It is crucial for studets to demonstrate their genuine interest in the topic and excitement about possible findings of the study. An introduction should feature the description of the central research problem, present a brief discussion on the issues related to the main question, and explain the significance of the study. Moreover, information about the methodology of the research should be included. An appropriate introduction section should be convincing and show readers that the outcomes of the proposed study will be worth their attention.
  2. Significance and Background
    This part can either be included in the introduction or it can form a separate section. It should feature a discussion about the background of the studied issue, explain its significance in detail and outline the overall goals of the research. It is vital for an author to consider that readers may have little knowledge about a topic and provide them with the relevant information. The main points of this section may include:
  • A presentation of the research problem with detailed information about the objectives of the study. This is particularly significant if the topic is multifaceted.
  • A discussion of the background and rationale for the proposed research. It is necessary to ensure that readers understand why it is important to conduct the study.
  • An identification of the primary questions and issues that will be analyzed in the research.
  • A presentation of a plan for the review, including an outline of the sources that will be utilized and their potential contribution to the analysis of the issue.
  • A discussion of inclusion and exclusion criteria for literature.
  • If applicable, a clear definition of used terms and key concepts.
  1. Literature Review
    The goal of a literature review is to place the study within the existing body of knowledge while highlighting the uniqueness of the new research. It is vital to ensure that this section is structured in a way that helps readers understand the key ideas and arguments presented. The literature can be divided into categories, such as themes, publication date, or methodology; the choice of groups should be based on the research question. An individual should consider the following crucial principles while writing a literature review:
  • Sources should be cited properly.
  • Findings, methodologies, and arguments presented in the literature should be summarized and compared; the main tendencies related to the issue should be clear for a reader.
  • Contradictory viewpoints should be contrasted and analyzed.
  • Sources should be critiqued, noting which approaches and theories are the most valid and reliable, as well as whether there is bias in the authors’ arguments.
  • Findings of the literature review should be connected to the current study.
  1. Research Design and Research Methods
    This section aims to convince readers that the selected research methods are appropriate for the study by analyzing the selected methodology in detail. The research design and methods should be clearly linked to the aims of the study. This section should outline the chosen study design and provide examples from the literature review. It is vital to include the methodology, the techniques that will be used to collect information, as well as a description of how the external validity of the results will be evaluated. A student should explain what tools they will use to interpret the results and consider how they will address any potential challenges.
  2. Potential Implications
    The goal of this section is to discuss how the study will contribute to the already existing body of knowledge on the topic and how it might affect future research, policymaking, and theories. A researcher may consider the following questions while reflecting on the potential implications of their work:
  • Will the findings change existing policies and methods related to the issue?
  • How do the results relate to the theoretical framework that supports the study?
  • Why are the outcomes significant for professionals in the field?
  • What aspects related to the problem can be adjusted or changed following the study?
  • How can individuals benefit from the proposed project?
  • How can the findings help to solve economic, social, and other types of problems?
  1. Conclusion
    A conclusion is a crucial element of any research proposal as it provides a summary of the study and confirms the significance of the research. It is necessary to note that this section of the paper should not be extensive and should consist of one to two paragraphs. A conclusion should convince readers of the necessity of the research, the importance of the specific question it aimed to address, the rationale for the selected design and methodology, and the validity of its results. Authors should also summarize the potential implications of the findings and ensure that they appear significant and relevant.
  2. List of References
    Cite all sources that are used in developing a research proposal. It is vital to follow a consistent single format throughout the paper. Examples of common citation styles include Modern Language Association of America (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago, and Harvard. An individual should discuss the preferred format with their professor. This section can include a list of references for in-text citations, or a bibliography that also features any relevant sources that were not used directly in the proposal.

Common Mistakes in Research Proposal to Avoid

An author should try and avoid the following common errors when writing a research proposal:

  • Failure to cite featured studies correctly in the literature review.
  • Inability to establish a clear purpose and goals; not being concise.
  • Failure to develop a persuasive argument and present the main idea clearly.
  • Failure to identify the context of the research; for example, the field, time, or place.
  • Inability to focus on the research question; discussion of irrelevant issues.
  • Inability to use correct grammar and follow an academic writing style.
  • Failure to provide enough detail on significant topics; referring to minor questions in extensive detail.


To develop a strong research proposal, it is vital to consider a number of important aspects. A student ought to establish a proper structure, present the significance of the research, discuss the existing evidence, and explain the implications of their findings in detail. The goal of the proposal is to convince readers that the study is worth their attention and should be undertaken.

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