Develop a Research Proposal


Planning the Introduction - Explaining the Significance of the Problem

An explanation of the significance of a study may include the meaning of the research work to you personally and should include how your research benefits or impacts others in part or whole.  Discuss what people or groups of people might benefit from reading your research. Show how this project is significant to developing a body of knowledge.  If your investigation will contribute to a portion of a larger investigation, describe that larger investigation as well.  

This section, often referred to as the "rationale" is crucial, because it is one place in which the researcher tries to convince an audience that the research is worth doing and could persuade someone to support, or fund, a research project. 

One way to do this is by describing how the results may be used. This is where your purpose for research, a decision that you made earlier when you composed your research proposal statement, becomes very important.  The purpose for your research may also be incorporated into your thinking about the purpose for your investigation, too.


  • If you are doing basic research, then you are doing research to construct new knowledge for the sake of theory.  Its design is not controlled by the practical usefulness of the findings. It is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long-term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.
  •  If you are doing applied research, then you are doing research to show how the findings can be applied or summarized into some type of methodology in order to solve practical problems.
  • If you are doing practical research, then you are going one step beyond applied research and applying the findings of your research to a specific "practical" situation like an action research project or a clinical trial.

The purpose for your research is part of what makes your research significant.

Consider the following questions to help you decide what your research investigation's is:

  • Why is this work important?
  • What are the implications of doing it?
  • How does it link to other knowledge?
  • How does it stand to inform policy making?  Save money? Improve or reduce something?
  • Why is it important to our understanding of the world?
  • What new perspective will you bring to the topic?
  • What use might your final research paper have for others in this field or in the general public? 
  • Who might you decide to share your findings with once the project is complete?

Think about how your research:

  • may resolve lingering questions  or gaps in knowledge in your field of study
  • may develop better theoretical models in your area
  • may influence public policy
  • may change the way people do their jobs in a particular field, or may change the way people live.  

Are there other contributions your research will make? If so, describe them in detail.

Read the following examples to see the variety of ways in which the significance of a study can be expressed, and to use as models for your own proposal.  As you read, you may also notice how the researcher has incorporated other elements of a research proposal introduction with an explanation of significance in order to synthesize his or her ideas into one cohesive paragraph.

Example 1

Many problems in human society are often related to the interaction of environment and behavior or genetics and behavior. The fields of sociobiology and animal behavior deal with the issue of environment behavioral interactions both at an evolutionary level and a proximate level. Increasingly social scientists are turning to animal behavior as a framework in which to interpret human society and to understand possible causes of societal problems. (e.g. Daly and Wilson's book on human homicide is based on an evolutionary analysis from animal research. Many studies on child abuse utilize theory and data from studies on infanticide in animals.)   My research on chimpanzees and monkeys will illustrate the importance of cooperation and reconciliation in social groups. This work will provide new perspectives by which to view and ameliorate aggressive behavior among human beings.

Example 2

The results from this project will allow a reappraisal of the competing theories of hominid development in the Middle Pleistocene. This issue is one of the most important topics, not only in the Paleolithic archaeology of the Near East, but globally, as testified by the number papers, books and international conferences on this subject that have taken place over the last few years. Also the issue has a high profile in public awareness because of a series of magazine articles and television programs. The question of the role of Neanderthals in the development of our own species is fundamental to our understanding of human evolution, especially the relationship of 'cultural' evolution to biological evolution. Therefore it is anticipated that this project would generate a great deal of interest, not only among archaeologists, but also among the general public.

Now explain the significance of your study in your planning guide document.

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