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Why Are Research Proposals Necessary?

The purpose of research is to develop a better understanding about a particular problem by conducting an experiment, examining the issue and searching for evidence to back up the claims of the writer. If we are to progress as a society, it is necessary to constantly uncover scientific truths and make new discoveries. In order for the research to be reliable, a set of universal standards have been put in place. The processes and methods must be explained and justified. Limitations of the research must also be discussed. Ultimately, in order to develop a successful research proposal, it is important to explore an issue that will contribute to your field of research and indeed to scientific discovery more broadly speaking.

Before beginning any major project, it is necessary to draw up a plan or map that will serve as a foundation for the task ahead. This advice could not be any more applicable when it comes to your research proposal. Developing and conducting a study takes months of dedication and hard work. The process must be logical and taken seriously by the researcher.

Prior to starting the research, the student must get a green light from the adviser and in some cases the department committee. The proposed research most demonstrate that the student has put a lot of thought into their idea, has read up on the issue through a preliminary literature review, as great command of the problem and can feasibly carry out the research.

A research proposal is defined as,

“A presentation of an issue that the researcher feels is of importance.”

“A paper typically written by graduate student or scientific researcher that presents a problem for which there is gap in the research, evidence that this problem is significant and relevant, and the means in which the writer will collect the data. The purpose might be to secure funding for the study or as a requirement for graduating.”

“A paper written by researcher that provides a description of an issue or problem that is worthy of investigation. It includes an outline of the process and methods, background on the issue, and justification for the research.”

What Does a Research Project Proposal Address?

Usually, a research proposal answers three questions:

  1. What do you intend to accomplish?
  2. Why did you pick this issue?
  3. How will you carry this out?

Your research proposal is going to test your persuasive writing abilities. After all, if your adviser and/or committee fail to agree that the topic is of great importance, they will reject it and it will be back to the drawing board. Show them that you have thorough knowledge about the topic and related issues, and that your choices of methodology are well grounded.

You must also be able to convey your message properly. In many cases, when the proposal is rejected, it is not because the idea itself is a bad one, but because the student failed to put together a paper that was clear, coherent and compelling to the reader.

Types of Research Proposals

Research proposals fall into two major categories - Academic and Commercial.

Academic Research Proposals

  • Scientifically-based
  • Socially-based

Commercial Research Proposals

  • Business-based
  • Funding-based
  • Grant-based
  • Marketing-based
  • Sales-based

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Outlining and Formatting a Typical Research Proposal

While certain guidelines are determined by the adviser or department, there are certain elements that are required in all of them.

Title of Proposed Research

Every research proposal requires a title, naturally. It should be on point and informative. If the research involves dependent and independent variables, the title should reference their relationship.

Background Analysis and Information

During the introduction, you should provide some background information about your topic and explain why it is important. Discuss your personal motivates as well as the broader reasons for why others would benefit from the research. You must be able to justify your topic choice through sound evidence. You can also list the major issues that will be addressed in your research.

Review of Literature

One important way to persuade the adviser and committee about the significance of your study is through the literature review. You will be critically examining issues related to your chosen topic, including their strengths, weaknesses and evidence that there are gaps in the research that have not been properly explored. A second purpose of the literature view is to determine if, in fact, your topic is really worth studying. You could discover that your proposal already contains sufficient research. Or perhaps the review will inspire you to approach the research from an entirely different direction.

Research Questions & Objectives

Once you have completed the literature review, you will be able to narrow down your research to a few important questions. You should focus on three to five issues that you plan to explore.

Research Plan

Conducting the research requires that you have a well thought-out plan. It will generally be broken down into seven steps:

  1. Research Perspective
  2. Research Design
  3. Methods of Collecting Data
  4. Sampling Strategy
  5. Research Instruments
  6. Data Analysis
  7. Limitations of Your Research

Design and Methodology for a Scientific-based Research

Note that if your research is based on scientific research as opposed to social, there are a few additional steps that you will need to include. For instance, you will provide details about the procedural methods, lab reports, how you plan to conduct the experiment, and other information related to their scientific investigation and examination.

Ethical Considerations

Discuss any potential ethical considerations related to participants recruitment, any assurances that you need to make, etc. Issues related to how you intend to avoid plagiarism can also be addressed. 

Significance of the Research Project/Conclusion

Discuss how your research will make an important contribution to your area of study and academic knowledge in general. If you are seeking grants and other financial contributions, explain why it is necessary and how the research community will benefit.


Finish your research proposal paper by discussing how long you anticipate the research will take from start to finish. Using a table, break down each part into its own separate time frame.

Reference List

List the initial sources that you used while writing the research proposal. Once it receives approval, you will not only expand upon the number of references, you will most likely be asked to include an annotated bibliography that provides more detail about each source. Make sure to use a proper academic formatting style (i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard). Sometimes this will be determined by your adviser or academic department whereas at other times the student is free to select one for themselves. 


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