Proposals can be put together in many ways, but they generally contain several set components. Always ask your supervisor about precise requirements, such as how long the proposal should be and which elements are mandatory.
This should be similar to the title page that you will eventually prepare for your dissertation. Include the following items:
- The document’s title (and subtitle, if relevant);
- The name of your school;
- Contact information for your academic supervisor(s);
- Date and place;
- Your name (and the name of any co-authors, if relevant).
Table of contents
Use Microsoft Word’s table of content tools to generate this list so that it will be automatically updated whenever you amend your document.
After reading this introduction to your topic, people should understand why you will undertake your research and want to learn more. If the proposal itself is long, you can also use this section to briefly outline how the rest of the proposal is structured.
Chapter 1 Background and context
This chapter should more thoroughly explain the problem or question you will look at. It’s particularly important to demonstrate why your research is relevant, which you can do by outlining the context of your project. Briefly explain the history, describe the current situation and highlight important recent developments. You should also introduce the organization you are looking at, if relevant.
Chapter 2 Problem statement and analysis
Use this chapter to present a clear outline of the problem or issue that you will address, including:
- Who has responsibility for the problem?
- What has already been done to try to solve it?
- What will happen if the problem is not solved?
In this chapter it’s also important to clearly state what is and is not part of your research design, as being explicit will help to avoid later conflict. Be sure to identify which part of an organization will be involved in the research, if appropriate.
Chapter 3 Objective and final outcomes
This chapter should clearly identify what will come out of your research, which ensures that you and everyone involved in your thesis have the same expectations. It will also help to clarify what you are working towards. Include the following components:
- Objective: Note any targets you aim to achieve through your research.
- Final outcomes Describe any specific end products that you will create on the basis of your findings (e.g., for the organization you are studying). Examples include a website, model or strategy.
Chapter 4 Conditions and risk analysis
Use this chapter to discuss any constraints that may be associated with your project.
Describe what you will need in order to undertake the project. For instance:
- Money: How much money do you need to conduct the research?
- Location: Are there any requirements related to where you will conduct your research (for example, a workstation)?
- Materials: What materials do you need for the research?
- Expertise: What experts do you need access to?
- Time: How much time do you need for your research?
- Expert and participant availability: Will individuals be accessible and free when you need them (e.g., to be interviewed or complete a survey)?
Identify any possible risks that may be associated with the project and the measures you will take to avoid them.
Chapter 5 Approach
This chapter should outline the steps you will take to achieve your desired objectives and outcomes. You should also include your general planning calendar, to clarify what you will do when.
|Step/Phase||Results||Deadline||Number of hours|
|1||Orientation||Structure action plan|
|2||Research design, Research concept||Methods, tools, techniques|
Be sure to identify the sources of any information you use in your plan. Most colleges require students to follow the APA style for this. Taking advantage of the free Scribbr APA Generator will ensure that your citations and reference list are formatted correctly.
A research proposal generally doesn’t have too many appendices, but you can use them if you have important items that are too long to include in the document’s main body. Examples include a market share table that helps to justify the study’s relevance and a more detailed planning calendar.
Identifying your intended contribution
Perhaps the most important function of an author's rationale is the explanation of how the project can contribute to knowledge (basic research that corrects or expands people's understanding of the world) and/or to practice (applied research that improves the conduct of some aspect of life). This function is typically performed by the author's identifying shortcomings in the existing body of knowledge or practice that could be remedied by the proposed research. As noted in Chapter 1, contributions can be of various kinds, including
Evidence about kinds of events, individuals, groups, or institutions not studied before
Outcomes derived from applying existing theories or methods of investigation to events, individuals, groups, or institutions not yet studied in such a fashion
The use of new data-gathering methods or instruments for studying phenomena
A novel theoretical view of familiar events
New interpretations of existing data
Conclusions drawn from combining the results of similar studies (meta-analysis)
The following examples illustrate two ways of wording research proposals so that they (a) specify the question to be answered, (b) locate the study in a domain of knowledge or practice, and (c) identify the study's intended contribution.