Key Elements Of A Research Proposal
A large number of students and novice researchers do not understand what a research proposal means and why it is considered highly important.
Put simply, a research proposal is an indication of the quality of research that one is going to perform; as they say ‘your research is only as good as your proposal’. This is why it is an essential part of PhD application (in many countries, it is also a part of Master’s application).
What Is A Research Proposal And What Purpose Does It Serve?
A research proposal is the coherent summary of the research that you want to conduct. By highlighting the research problem, research questions, the gap in existing literature that you intend to fill with your research, methodology and other important aspects of your research, the proposal demonstrates the value and originality of your proposed study.
The purpose of a research proposal is to convince others that your ideas are important and your proposed research is worthwhile. Also, it is intended to convince the reviewer(s) you are competent to carry out the work that you are proposing and have a solid work-plan for it.
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Elements of a Research Proposal
As mentioned above, a research proposal is a summary of your proposed research. So, it should contain all the major elements of the research process. Also, it should provide the reader with enough information about your study that they can evaluate the significance of your work.
Following are the key elements of a research proposal:
- Title or Research Topic
A research proposal starts with the title or topic of your research. Since this is the first thing the reviewer will look at, it should be interesting and catchy. But, it should also be informative. In academic research, good research essay topics or titles are those that are highly specific and indicate a functional relationship between dependent and independent variables.
Abstract is a concise summary of about 300 to 350 words of your research problem, questions, hypothesis (if you have any), method, and the rationale for the research.
The purpose of the introduction is to provide your readers with background information and then to establish the framework for your work. Put simply, it should tell the reader about the need for your research.
Introduction is one of the most critical parts of a research proposal because it establishes the context, nature and scope of your research. It does not necessarily have to be long, but it should explain:
- Statement of research problem
- Purpose of research
- Significance of research
- Problems that you are going to address in the research
- Definitions of important terms and concepts (optional)
- Literature Review
Some people incorporate the literature review in the introduction, but most supervisors prefer a separate literature review section in the research proposal. The purpose of the literature review is to give a brief review of the work that has already been done by other researchers in the same area and how it supports your work. At the same time, you should also highlight the gap in existing literature in order to state the importance and originality of your work. The reader should get a clear idea of the contribution your research is going to make in the existing literature.
Through literature review, your prospective supervisor gets an idea about your ability to critically evaluate and analyze. It also demonstrates your understanding of the issues and theoretical work related to your research problem.
- Research Objectives
These are the goals of your research. They can be general or specific. There can be only one goal of a research or many. However, if you are a beginner, it is advised to not come up with too many research objectives.
Identifying the key variables of your research and what methods you are going to use to measure them is another important element of a research proposal. There are mainly four types of variables in research:
- Dependent variables
- Independent variables
- Intervening or confounding variables
- Background variables
- Research Questions and Hypothesis
Research questions elucidate the relationship between different variables in the form of a question. There can be one or more questions that you want to answer in your research.
Hypothesis is the tentative answer of your research question. However, not all research studies have hypothesis.
This section of the research proposal helps reviewers determine your capability to perform research. It is an explanation of the methods that you are going to use to deal with your research problem. It should explain:
- The research strategy, whether it is analytical, descriptive, experimental, or a combination of different strategies. Explain your choice in relation to your research objectives
- Subjects or participants of the research and the criteria for selection
- Ethical issues
- Information and justification of sample size
- Time and place of study
- Methods of collection of data
- Data Analysis
- Significance of the Research
An explanation of what difference your work is going to make in the field and what value it will add to the existing literature or knowledge. This section should also explain the implications of your research work.
A short bibliography, including the major and most relevant literature for your research problem, should be mentioned at the end of the research proposal.
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