Develop a Research Proposal



What is a Research Proposal? Lesson 4.1

You now have an understanding of what research is, have selected a research topic, and just completed your literature review.  You have built background knowledge and have a sense of direction, but are probably wondering, "What do I do next?" Now you prepare to conduct your own primary research investigation of your problem or issue.  In order for that investigation to be productive, effective, and purposeful, you will need to plan your course of action. The document which spells out your reasons and methods is called a Research Proposal.

A research proposal is both a synopsis and plan. It gives the reader a glimpse of a problem, its significance, and the objectives, approaches, and methods of an investigation of the problem. It explains the background of the problem to the reader, describing present understandings and knowledge, as well as your proposed solution (s). It also contains the vital elements of a research investigation, and is often persuasive, as well as informative, in its purpose. The goal of the proposal writer is not only to persuade the reader to believe in the credibility of the investigation, but also to make the reader believe that solutions and methodologies are practical and appropriate.

You may be thinking: "I already know what I want to do.  Why do I need to write out a proposal?" The question is really "why would you NOT write a proposal?"  Not only is proposal writing a real-world experience, but it helps you to develop life-long organizational skills and habits. 
research proposal

The good news is that once you have written a research proposal, you will always know how to write one, no matter what type of investigation you plan to do.  Most proposals include the same sections, although the actual structure, order, and elements may vary based on the nature of the investigation, the field of study, and the overall scope. Some of the sections that are distinctly described in this module are usually combined in a variety of ways in actual proposals. There is not one absolute format for a research proposal.

In your Reflection Journal, answer the following questions in one or two paragraphs:
(1) Why is a reserch proposal important? (2) What is the point? (3) Why is there no set form for a research proposal? (4) Outside of being a professional researcher, when would you write a research proposal, as an employee or otherwise? (5) What does it take to write a proposal?

Preview the resources you will be using during Step 4 to develop your research proposal:

Problem Statement & Research Question/Hypothesis Lesson 4.2

Review the information on Key Elements of the Research Proposal: Introduction - Clear Statement of the Problem | Questions or Hypothesis

Identify some of the questions or hypotheses within studies you have read in your Literature Review to respond in your Reflection Journal:

  • How do you think that the researchers were able to determine these were sound propositions to make?
  • Are there points that you disagreed with in the questions or hypothesis, or that you would do differently?
  • What did you learn from reviewing the literature that might be helpful when you write your own paper?

Use the resources below to complete sections f. Clear Statement of the Problem and j. Thesis or Hypothesis on your Research Proposal Planning Guide.

Write and then have a peer review your thesis/hypothesis, using feedback to make any needed revisions.

Introduction/Background Lesson 4.3

Before you begin drafting the Introduction for your own research proposal, it will be useful to analyze some examples:

Review the Key Elements of a Research Proposal: Introduction.

Use the information and resources on the Planning the Introduction webpage to begin to compose your own introduction/background section, paying close attention to the components you found in the examples and guides. Complete Section 3 Introduction: Drafting My Introduction on your Research Proposal Planning Guide. When you have finished writing your introduction/background section, peer review to obtain feedback and make any needed revisions.

Research Methods & Data Collection Lessons 4.4 A & B

1. Basic vs. Applied Research
Watch the video Basic Research and Applied Research: Definitions and Differences, then respond in your Reflection Journal:

  • Explain in your own words the difference between basic and applied research. 
  • Think about your thesis statement. Which research category does your research fall into, applied or basic? Why?

2. Content-specific research methodologies: Use the Selecting Your Methodology worksheet to review various content-specific research methodologies. Think about which methodology would be most appropriate for your proposed research.

3. Writing step-by-step procedures

4. Qualitative research deals with inductive reasoning and quantitative research deals with deductive reasoning.

  • Watch the video The Differences Between Inductive and Deductive Reasoning and then complete the Quiz.
  • Based on what you have learned about content-specific research methodologies and qualitative vs.quantitative research, decide on a methodology and type of data collection for your own research.
    • Use the resources on the Qualitative or Quantitative webpages, and complete the required reflection in your journal.

5. Begin to write the Materials and Methods section of your research proposal. Be sure to consider your timeline as you write.

Additional Elements Optional Lessons 4.O A, B & C

Your teacher/librarian may have you engage in learning about one or more of the following topics if they apply to your research proposal. If not, you will proceed to the next section for Lesson 4.5, Title & Abstract.

Interviewing Techniques: Interviews


Budget Development: Key Elements: Budget

Title & Abstract Lessons 4.5 A & B

1. Examine these sample titles and abstracts (or BCPS student abstracts/titles from Research Symposium program booklets available on the Student Researchers wiki) to repond to these questions about Titles, in discussion or journal entry:

  • Does this sound like a research paper you would like to read?
  • Does the title capture the spirit of the research paper?
  • Does the title effectively description of what the paper will be about?
  • Why is it important to write an effective and engaging research paper title?

2. Now, develop a title for your own research project. You may refer to the resources below for additional guidance. Have a peer review your title. Note that researchers often revise their title throughout the research process, so this title is just starting point.

3. Review some Abstracts from previous BCPS Research Symposiums as examples. Symposium programs are available digitally on the Student Researchers wiki, or your teacher/librarian may have paper copies.

  • Label the key elements of a research proposal that are represented in the abstract (Intro, Background, Methods, etc.)

4. Refer to this Abstract Guide as you compose a draft of your own abstract. Have a peer review your Abstract.
5. Put your title and written abstract into the Abstract Template, and turn in digitally to your teacher/librarian, who will submit it on your behalf for publication in this year's Symposium program.