devellop a proposal

Develop a Research Proposal

Writing the Proposal


That’s a lot to do.  What should I do to get started on actually writing my research proposal?

All researchers need to plan in advance of an investigation.  You already started this process when you selected your research problem, and continued it when you investigated your sources in the literature review .  Now that you have a basic understanding of the Elements of the Research Proposal, you will need to begin to make the decisions for your own investigation. 

Let's return to the basics of the research proposal.  As you click on each link this time through, you will be asked some key questions about your decisions and thoughts.  You will also be offered some tools and resources to assist you.  As you make your decisions, you will be directed to a planning guide that you will complete, assisting you in scaffolding your research project design.  You may also use the earlier material about research methodology to help you to make your decisions.

Remember, this is a plan and that plans are meant to be changed if needed.  These are your initial ideas, but the entire document may be revised as you actually begin the research process.

Planning My Proposal
puzzle pieces

Now that you've been introduced to the Elements of the Research Proposal, you will now plan and draft your own research proposal.

Before that, however, study some actual Research Proposals to give you a basic idea of what proposals contain, what elements might be omitted for certain topics, and what elements might be combined.  Review the proposals, complete the assigned reflective journal and planning guide, and then return here.

Before you start writing your draft proposal, you need to formulate a proposal statement.  Constructing a research proposal statement will clarify your research purpose and method of investigation. 

I. Planning the Introduction Section

The first part of writing your own research proposal is dealing with the introductory material.  Use the planning guide document that you have saved to your computer to help you to track your ideas and decisions as you move through each section of the paper.   In completing this sequence of activities, not only will your research proposal be well-prepared and thought out, you will have the opportunity to apply your newly acquired knowledge of research methodology and the underlying structure of a research proposal.

The Title Page

The Introduction

Here is an excellent overall resource to assist in the research proposal writing process.

For now, you are done with your title page and your introduction section.  You may need to make changes later to make a smooth connection with your methodology section, but for now, you can move on.

Writing the Methodology Section

Deciding my approach

Design My Project

Choosing a Pathway

Handling Data

Other Elements


You are now ready to plan and compose the second piece of your proposal, the methodology section.  In it you will describe what you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it. This process is very  important; to a reviewer, your research investigation is only as a good as your proposal methodology. Generally, a research proposal should contain all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.  An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project, even if it somehow is approved, because your methods are not carefully thought out in advance.

The methodology section should describe how each specific objective will be achieved, with enough detail to enable an independent and informed assessment of the proposal. This section should include:

  • Restatement of research tasks: hypothesis or research questions;
  • Study population and sampling: description of study areas, populations and the procedures for their selection;
  • Data collection: description of the tools and methods used to collect information, and identification of variables;
  • Data analysis: description of data processing and analyzing procedures;
  • Laboratory procedures: descriptions of standardized procedures and protocols and new or unique procedures; and
  • The specific tools that will be used to study each research objective.

First, review the two types of research, qualitative and quantitative, in order to make a decision about your own methodology's procedures pathway. 

In a series of steps in a planning guide, you will outline your methodology section and craft your proposal

Deciding My Own Approach

Start planning and writing by clicking on each of the elements in research proposal's methodology section

What type of overall study design is best for my investigation and research?

There are two types of information gathering—qualitative and quantitative. Both designs, quantitative and qualitative, are said to be systematic, meaning that they have a system or follow a process. Each type of design, however has different approaches to methods of reasoning, step-by-step procedures, and research tools and strategies. Although deciding that an investigation is qualitative or quantitative directs the researcher toward a certain path, depending on what research questions still need to be answered as the investigation unfolds a combination of approaches can be used in the specific research tools used.

Now you will determine overall project design; that decision will help you to frame out your basic methodology and determine whether you will need to use inductive or deductive reasoning in making your conclusion. 

Complete Crafting a Research Proposal:  II. Approach to Research Design in order to decide which approach will best suit your research.  To answer some of the questions there, you may need to review your Reflection Journal and the material introduced earlier about methodology located on this web site.

When you are done, select the approach that you think will work best for your research and follow the pathway for your particular approach

Design My Project

Now that you know which design best suits your investigation, you will need to follow a specific pathway for the following research proposal elements in order to follow the specific reasoning and concerns of your approach.  You will also need to download and save the planning guide for your approach to methodology to your computer.

Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Qualitative)

Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Quantitative)

Different Pathways for Different Research Design Approaches

After you have downloaded and saved the file,  you will need to complete Step 1 : Designing Research Methodology.  Use the links below to help you to make decisions as you complete your planning guide.

Qualitative Approach Pathway

Qualitative Variables

Role of the Researcher in Qualitative Design

Researchers usually prefer fairly lengthy and deep involvement in the natural setting. Social life is complex in its range and variability, and operates at different levels. It has many layers of meaning and the researcher has to lift veils to discover the innermost meanings. In order to gain access to deeper levels, the researcher needs to develop a certain rapport with the subjects of the study, and to win their trust.

There are some key ideas to consider as you plan for your role in your research design.

Quantitative Approach Pathway

Quantitative Variables

Role of the Researcher in Quantitative Design

The quantitative researcher is detached and objective.  Explain whether you will be an unobtrusive observer, a participant observer, or a collaborator.  Evaluate how your own bias may affect the methodology, outcomes, and analysis of findings.

Many times this element of the research proposal will be affected by ethics.  In addition, this section is often interwoven in a narrative design explanation with other elements of the proposal.  Review sample proposals to see how other researchers with similar designs to yours have explained their roles in the research investigation.

Complete this section on your planning guide.

When you have completed  Step 1 on your planning sheet, move on to Step 2: Refining My Quantitative(or Qualitative) Investigation with Specific Methods, Tools, and Procedures.

You will need to make decisions in Step 2 for the following topics.  Use the links below, your reflection journal, and the Elements of the Proposal section of the web site to assist you as you complete this portion of your planning guide.

After you have planned the elements above, there are a few more things to decide and plan.  Use the list below and your planning guide to help you complete the rest of your research proposal

Other Elements in the Research Methodology

  • Timeline
  • Resources and Materials
  • Limitations and Delimitations
  • Final Product In the section, the researcher discusses the possible outcomes of the study, its relation to theory and literature, and its potential impact or application.  A description of the possible forms of the final product, e.g., publishable manuscript, conference paper, invention, model, computer software, exhibit, performance, etc., should be outlined.  Be specific about how you intend to share your results or project with others.  Although all of these ideas may change in light of the research process or the final results, it is always good to plan with the end product in mind.

    This section may also include an interpretation and explanation of results as related to your question; a discussion on or suggestions for further work that may help address the problem you are trying to solve; an analysis of the expected impact of the findings and product on the audience; or a discussion on any problems that could hinder your creative work.

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    • In what form will your findings be presented?
    • How will you be disseminating your findings?
    • To whom will you be disseminating your findings?
    • How will you ensure anonymity in any publications?
    • Will you need to create an abstract of your overall investigation?

    Before you write this section, you may want to go back to the sample research proposals to see how other researchers explained their ideas.  You may also want to go back to your Reflection Journal to see what your own thoughts were as you reviewed the sample proposals.  Considering your original proposal statement, where you decided if your research was going to be basic, applied, or practical, may also give you ideas about your final product.
  • References Keep a running list of all references as you work through the proposal.  You will need to have this list to avoid plagiarism and chances are you will need to go back to certain references throughout the entire research experience.  This includes all textbooks, reference books, journal articles, Internet sources, etc. 

    See the references section from your Literature Review for a comprehensive guide to completing the reference section of your proposal.  You do not need to duplicate the efforts of your Literature Review, but PLEASE remember to add any new references that you utilized for your methodology, data collection tools, etc.  Spend some time reviewing the references to ensure that they are complete and accurate - names of all the authors, correct date, full and accurate title, complete publishing information (city of publication, publishing company for books, full journal title, volume and number and pages for journal articles). Use the appropriate citation forms for your field of study. 

    Complete this section using the directions on  your proposal planning guide.
  • Appendices Adding a few appendices  to the end of your proposal allows you to show how thoroughly you have prepared your research project without obliging the reader to wade through all the details. The purpose of an appendix is to display documents which are relevant to main text, but whose presence in the text would disturb rather than enhance the flow of the argument or writing.  Results of the literature search, pilot data, data collection forms, patient information sheets, and consent forms can all be added as appendices to include documents, pilot study material, questions for interviews, survey instruments, explanatory statement to participants,etc.

    Some likely parts to incorporate in the appendices are:

    • Distribution Plan - A part of the proposal which is the plan for distributing of information about the project to the audience. It can also include financial statements for the funding agencies which want to see financial standing of the project. This section may include radio broadcasts, training programs, workshops, printed handouts, newsletters, presentations, etc.
    • Cooperating Agency Information – If references of different cooperating agencies are given, then try to give some detail about these agencies in appendices like name and address, services or product, names of important personals, etc.
    • Evaluation Tools – It is good to include the copy of evaluation tools planed to use which are used in information gathering like questionnaires, survey, interview, etc.

Appendices have a format:

    1. Pagination: Each Appendix begins on a separate page.
    2. Heading:If there is only one appendix, "Appendix" is centered on the first line below the manuscript page header. If there is more than one appendix, use Appendix A (or B or C, etc.). Double-space and type the appendix title (centered in uppercase and lowercase letters).
    3. Format: Indent the first line 5-7 spaces.
    4. Example of APA-formatted Appendix:

Most of the items that you include in your appendix will only need a Copy-Paste to be added to your proposal.  It could also be possible that they would need to be converted into a graphic or a .PDF file if they are web-based. 

Complete this section following the directions on your proposal planning guide.

After you make your decisions for above, you will have completed Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of your planning guide.  You now will need to write your methodology draft.  Use this sample methodology section as an example for explanations, language, and phrasing for this part of your proposal. 

Sample Description of Methodology

Data Gathering Plans – The two instruments and a simple instruction sheet that also asks subjects their age and gender, will be delivered to an administrator in each setting who has agreed to distribute and collect the completed instruments. Prior to their distribution an introductory letter from both the researcher and the respective administrators will be placed in each selected subject’s mailbox or mail slot asking for their cooperation. The letters will describe the research and its importance and the support of the administrator. They also will note that a $5 coupon toward any groceries at the local Wegman’s Grocery (donated by the store’s public relations office) will be available to each person completing the two instruments and signing a letter of informed consent related to the research. Finally, they will provide a telephone number for anyone with questions or who may need assistance in completing the instruments. This procedure will be pilot-tested with at least 10 volunteers from the Fayetteville Senior center to refine the data gathering plans.

Once the pilot-testing procedures have been completed, any required changes in the administration plans will be carried out. Then the administrators will be authorized to distribute the forms. Any person who has phoned needing clarification will be provided further explanation. Anyone who phones in a need for assistance in completing the forms will receive support in the form of one the location’s administrative assistants reading the forms and recording the answers. Each assistant so involved will be provided training by the researcher on how to read and record the answers in an unbiased manner.

One week after this initial delivery, a follow-up phone call will be made to either thank those who completed the forms or to remind those who have not yet completed their forms. The grocery coupons will be mailed to all who have completed the forms with a letter of thanks. If fewer than 95 people from each of the two settings complete the forms, then the random sampling and distribution will continue until at least that number of completed forms from each setting has been received. It is anticipated that all data collection efforts will be completed within one month.

Your Reflection Log and the sample proposals you studied earlier also should be excellent resources.

Through the steps  in Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology, you have planned, and maybe even completed, the first draft of your research proposal's methodology section. 

When you have completed your draft, you will need to combine all three pieces of your proposal, your introduction, your literature review, and your methodology.  Use Step 6 on your planning guide to assist you.  

Final Revision


Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - Literature Review

Chapter 3 Methodology

Chapter 4 Data Analysis

Final checklist

Before you have someone else read your paper, review it yourself and make revisions.  Use the following questions to scaffold your self-revision.

Self-Assessment of the Proposal (Version 1)

By now you have almost completed the proposal. The final step is to reflect on your proposal. You probably are very tempted to put in the final full stop and not look at it again.   However, you need to reflect and re-assess what you have written.

Remember that you have to convince an audience who might assess your proposal that you know what you are talking about, that you have given sufficient thought to the proposal and that you have devoted some effort to it.

To do this, you need to ask the same questions that they might ask when assessing your proposal:

  • Is the title clear and concise?
  • Is the research question or hypothesis appropriate and answerable?
  • Does the preliminary literature review draw on authors from both textbooks and journals?
    • Is it up-to-date?
    • Is it sufficiently detailed?
    • Is it descriptive or does it include discussion and debate?
    • Is it written in a fluent, easy-to-read style?
  • Is the proposed primary data collection reasonable at this stage?
  • Is the time plan detailed and feasible?
  • Is the bibliography correct?
  • Has the proposal been spell-checked? Is it grammatically correct?
  • Does it look professional?

These section-by-section questions might also provide prompts for self-revision, or peer/mentor-revision.

Revision Questions (Version 2)

Chapter 1: Introduction 


Is the overall style and presentation of the proposal in accordance with that specified by the instructor and field of study?


Is the title concise, coherent and appropriate?


Is the contents page clear, concise and logically numbered? Are appendices, tables, illustrations and figures listed in the contents page, if included?


Is the topic clearly stated and defined?


Has background information been provided, if appropriate?


Are all special and general terms defined?


Has the proposal been given a clear, overall purpose?


Are the aims and objectives (and research questions/hypothesis) clear, relevant and coherent?


Do aims, objectives, etc., go beyond mere description? Do they involve explanation, comparison, criticism or evaluation?


If a hypothesis is identified, is it a proper, testable hypothesis?


Is the chapter clear, logical, readable and complete?

Chapter 2: Literature Review


Has a comprehensive range of relevant literature been used? Is it pertinent to the research questions, or are you giving the impression that almost everything you have read on or around the problem has been included with little critical selection?


Is the literature firmly rooted in a theoretical base? Has the literature of any related disciplines been included, if appropriate?


Are the sources used up-to-date, where appropriate, and do they have sufficient academic weight?


Does the proposal give evidence of a critical attitude towards source material? Does it compare, contrast and criticize a number of relevant concepts/models/theories?


Are the key themes and issues surrounding the research questions clearly drawn from the literature?


Does it deal with relevant debates and controversies?


Have sources been acknowledged and referenced fairly and properly? Is the bibliography at the end of the proposal complete and in the appropriate convention?


Is the chapter clear, logical, readable and complete?

Chapter 3: Methodology


Was the data collection method review by a mentor, your instructor, and/or your peers? For example, if you used an interview or questionnaire, did someone review the questions prior to issue?


Is there a clear rationale for methodology? Have you discussed the alternatives and have you discussed the advantages and disadvantages of your chosen methods?


Is the research methodology described fully so that it could be replicated by someone reading the proposal?


Are the research instruments (for example, blank questionnaires, interview questions, etc.,) included in the appendices?


Are the research instruments well designed with all questions etc., relevant to the research aims?


Is the methodology described appropriate for the data required?


Are sampling methods described in detail? Who are the respondents, how many are there and how were they selected?


Is generalizability (or otherwise) discussed?


Are any constraints or limitations identified?


Are data analysis methods discussed?


Are reliability and validity issues addressed?


Is there evidence of care and accuracy planned for in the data collection process?


Is the chapter clear, logical, readable and complete?

Chapter 4: Data Analysis



How will you identify patterns in the data?


Are the planned analysis methods used appropriate to the data collected?


Will  the planned methods thoroughly and completely analyze the data?


Are all planned analysis supported by sound practices in the field?


Does the rationale for the analyses deal with relevant debates and controversies in the field of study?


Is the chapter clear, logical, readable and complete?

In addition:

For questionnaires:


Do the appendices contain a data collection sheet, a sample questionnaire and details of statistical analysis to be undertaken?


Has the summarizing of statistics been planned for?


Will any statistical analysis make the most of the data collected?

For observations and interviews:


Do the appendices contain material to conduct observations, such as data recording sheets?

Is the analysis plan methodical and thorough?

For other methods:


Is any qualitative analysis plan methodical and thorough?


Will the most be made of the data collected?


Is any statistical analysis possible and planned to make the most of any data collected?

Final check-list: ask yourself the following questions:


Does the research proposal have an overall coherence?


Has the full proposal been spell- and grammar-checked?


Is each page numbered?


Have you read it from start to finish?

One last thing to do is to review the rubric that your instructor will use to grade you before you submit your complete research proposal.

teacher resources

Unit Overview for Step 4b - Writing the Research Proposal

Additional resources and lesson plans are available on the Research Course wiki.

Instructor Rubric Examples

Tools for Creating Rubrics

Return to Steps in the Research Process