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Develop a Research Proposal - Writing the Proposal

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Develop a Research Proposal

Writing the Proposal

Planning the Proposal | Writing the Methodology Section | Final Revision | Teacher Resources

Thats 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

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.



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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

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

Deciding my approach
Design My Project

Restatement of research tasks: hypothesis or research questions;

Study population and sampling: description of study areas, populations and the
procedures for their selection;

Choosing a Pathway

Data collection: description of the tools and methods used to collect information, and

Handling Data

Data analysis: description of data processing and analyzing procedures;

Laboratory procedures: descriptions of standardized procedures and protocols and new or

Other Elements

identification of variables;

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
Deciding My Own Approach
Start planning and writing by clicking on each of the elements in research proposal's methodology
What type of overall study design is best for my investigation and research?
There are two types of information gatheringqualitative 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, stepby-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



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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

Quantitative Approach Pathway

Qualitative Variables

Quantitative Variables

Role of the Researcher in Qualitative


Role of the Researcher in Quantitative


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

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.

There are some key ideas to consider as you

plan for your role in your research design.

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
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
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.

Data Collection
Data Analysis
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

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



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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:
A. Pagination: Each Appendix begins on a separate page.
B. 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).
C. Format: Indent the first line 5-7 spaces.
D. Example of APA-formatted Appendix:



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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 subjects 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 Wegmans Grocery (donated by the stores 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 locations 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
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

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)

Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - Literature
Chapter 3 Methodology
Chapter 4 Data Analysis

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.



Develop a Research Proposal - Writing the Proposal

Final checklist

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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/mentorrevision.
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

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?



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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

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

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

Is the methodology described appropriate for the data required?



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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?



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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.

Unit Overview for Step 4b - Writing the Research Proposal

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

Research Proposal Rubric - VA Commonwealth Unviersity

Writing a Scientific Research Proposal - Miami University of Ohio
CSUB McNair Scholars Program Research Proposal Rubric - California State University
Assessment Rubric for Research Proposal - University of Alabama
Preliminary Research Proposal Rubric
Ph.D. Dissertation Research Proposal Rubric Evaluation - University of Idaho



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Action Research - Scroll down to class schedule for the course to download the individual
Action Research Proposal Evaluation Rubric
Evaluating Your Proposal: A Simple Rubric - Urban Ministry
Research Proposal Rubric for Undergraduate Psychology Majors - Virginia Commonwealth
Tools for Creating Rubrics

Rubric Tipsheet
iRubric Online Rubric Maker
Rubi-Star Online Rubric Maker

Return to Steps in the Research Process