What is a Research Proposal?

research project proposal definition

Definition of A Research Project Proposal

A research proposal is defined as,

“A document that is typically written by a scientist or academic which describes the ideas for an investigation on a certain topic. The research proposal outlines the process from beginning to end and may be used to request financing for the project, certification for performing certain parts of research of the experiment, or as a required task before beginning a college dissertation.”


“The presentation of an idea that you wish to pursue.”


“A document written by a scientist that describes in details the program for a proposed scientific investigation. It is like an outline of the entire research process that gives a reader a summary of information discussed in project.”

Significance and Purpose of Research Proposal

Generally, a research is a quest for knowledge through experimentation, investigation and diligent search. It is aimed at discovery and interpretation of new knowledge or at resolving debatable existing knowledge. There are systematic procedures and methods for explorations, targeted at obtaining new knowledge. At the level of professional education, we have a pursuance for learning more and looking beyond what is written, and contributing a little to the field we plan to dedicate our lives to. The starting point of a research is to think of a good idea. Your research is as good as your idea.

Before starting any long term or complicated task, it is wise that we make a rough plan or a map which will guide us throughout the course of the job. In the same way, before the commencement of our research, we need to devote time and think logically on the area of our research and how we are going to go about it.

Professional universities demand that before carrying out the research project or dissertation, the researcher submits a research proposal. The purpose of the research proposal is to convince the research committee that the researcher has chosen the topic after great consideration, carried out sufficient preliminary reading on the topic, possesses sound information of the issues involved and is capable of providing broad details of the area under investigation.

What Does a Research Project Proposal Address?

Typically, a research proposal must answer three questions:

  1. What do you plan to accomplish?
  2. Why do you want to do it?
  3. How are you going to do it?

The research proposal must contain ample information to persuade the readers that your research idea is important and that you have a good grasp of the topic and major issues involved, and your methodology is sound.

The quality of the research proposal conveys a lot about your project. Many a times, researchers run the risk of rejection, not because their research idea is irrational but because the research proposal is poorly written. Therefore, the tone of the proposal must be compelling, clear and coherent.

Types & Kinds of Research Proposals

Research proposals can be broadly categorized into the following types:

Academic Research Proposals
  • Social research proposal
  • Scientific research proposal
Commercial Research Proposals
  • Sales proposal
  • Grant proposal
  • Business proposal
  • Funding proposal
  • Marketing research proposal

Outline & Format of a Standard Research Proposal

Although, there is no universal format for research proposal but following are the standard elements which must be present in a proposal to earn it acceptance by the academic board:

Title: Statement of the Research Hypothesis

    The title of the research must be clear and succinct, indicating the problem area around which the research work will be undertaken. Mostly, the titles are expressed in functional relationship forms because this highlights the dependent and independent variables. The titles can also be in the form of informative statements.

Background Analysis and Information

    Under the caption of background, you need to describe the research problem under investigation. Explain why you think the research topic you have chosen is worth doing. Give both personal and business reasons to support your argument. The reasons you provide must be scientific and logical and supported by evidences. You may also write down the major issues the research topic will be addressing.

Literature Review

    The proposal must include a critical review of the literature you have studied for carrying out the research. In this section, you acknowledge the researchers whose works have formed a foundation for your research.

    The literature review may lead you to the formation of a hypothetical statement, conceptual framework and identification of dependent and independent variables. The literature review must also explain the need for research on your topic.

Research Questions & Objectives

    In this section, you must write down the key research questions as they emerge from reviewing the literature. Narrow down the objectives of your research in three to five pointers. Use higher level verbs here such as:

  • Propose
  • Evaluate
  • Distinguish
  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Appraise
  • Predict
  • Construct
  • Generate
  • Compare
  • Compile
  • Justify
  • Validate
  • Identify

Research Plan

    Your proposal must present a brief research plan that you will be undertaking. The research plan is typically divided into seven phases:

  1. Research Perspective
  2. Research Design
  3. Data Collection Methods
  4. Sampling Strategy
  5. Research Instruments
  6. Data Analysis
  7. Limitations of Your Research
Design and Methodology for a Scientific Research Proposal

A scientific research proposal differs from a social research proposal since the former includes procedural methods, lab information, experiment methodology and other technical details which the researcher intends to implement for his/her scientific investigation and analysis.

Ethical Considerations

    Mention any ethical issues the research will give rise to and how you intend to handle them. Also write how you would be avoiding plagiarism.


    In the end, mention how much time you will take to complete the research. Provide a brief chronological illustration, explaining what amount of time is allocated to what research tasks.

    Resources, Citation and Bibliography

    List down any special help or resources that you will be requiring or plan to consult. In case of acceptance of your research proposal, you will be working on a detailed bibliography but you can give a brief idea of the resources that you are attempting to begin with. Preferred formats for citation are APA, Chicago and MLA.

    Significance of the Research Project

    Mention the importance and rationale of the research topic which you have undertaken. Explain the significance of the project in terms of its contribution to existing studies. If you are applying for financial funding then you need to elaborate on reasons which justify financial help.


    While your introduction, literature review and significance of the study has already justified your research project, a conclusion explicitly states the importance and implication of your coursework.

    Check conclusion writing tips to help you draft an effective conclusion for your research proposal.