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When you first start writing seriously for academic purposes in college, you may be surprised by the variety of projects given to you. You know what an essay is and how to respond to readings, but when your professor says “research proposal” or “literature review,” you might have to take a second to process the information.

We’ve got your back, so chill down. At its most basic, a research proposal is just a short paper outlining the specifics of the bigger research endeavor. Your thesis advisor may request that you submit a research proposal, and if you plan to continue your education after the bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to create proposals for your master’s thesis, dissertation, and any other research you perform.

You’ll be an expert at writing research proposals by then. For the time being though, we shall address all of your concerns and provide you with the tools you need to write your first one with assurance.


The purpose of a research proposal

A research proposal aims to lay out a road map for how the author intends to carry out the research. Acquiring financial support for the study is a possible objective. In other cases, the author’s supervisor or department should give the research the go-light.

A research proposal may be required while applying to graduate school. Research proposals have the same general format regardless of the situation. The purpose of a research proposal is to show the reader why and how the proposed study is important. They prove the work is essential for the following reasons:

Addressing a knowledge gap in the literature on the topic

Adding to the body of knowledge about the topic, and/or

the process of contributing novel information to the body of knowledge in a given field of study

Research proposals also show that the author has the skills to carry out the research and make significant contributions to the status of the area. This can be accomplished by including details about your educational history and credentials and demonstrating the scholarly value of your research proposal’s recommended solutions.

The validity of your study and your skill to carry it out are important, but they aren’t enough to get your proposal accepted. These are additional points that should be included in your research proposal:

How do you want to conduct your research

Methods for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting the information gleaned from these efforts

A justification of how your research fits within the financial and time limits of your institution, division, or course of study

Our piece on literature reviews may have left you thinking that a research proposal is not all that different. A literature review, however, is an integral component of a study proposal, thus the two are more than just interchangeable.

Your sources, how you’re using them, and why they’re important are all discussed in this section. A literature review can be viewed as a miniature research proposal that serves as a supporting piece to your main project.


Guidelines for Creating a Research Proposal

Academic writing in general, and research proposals in particular, take on a stiff, dispassionate tone. Formal does not mean flowery, therefore keep in mind that brevity is essential in academic writing. The reader has seen countless study proposals and knows what to expect from yours. Your study proposal must be presented in a straightforward, well-organized fashion. Your proposal’s concluding part should address any concerns the reader may have had throughout the text.


A research proposal’s length

Proposals for undergraduates and graduates often only take a few pages to complete. It is common practice for research proposals for larger projects, such as doctoral dissertations and requests for financing, to be much lengthier and more in-depth, the count isn’t nearly as crucial as making sure all the necessary pieces and content are present; the purpose of a research proposal is to clearly define exactly what your research will entail and accomplish.



Format for Writing a Research Proposal

The format for a research proposal is simple. Almost all research proposals have the following parts to accomplish the aims outlined in the introduction:



An introduction to a research proposal should be no more than a couple of paragraphs long. The document should be brief, but don’t worry if you can’t fit what you need to say into a single paragraph. A research proposal may require an abstract and/or table of contents depending on the requirements of your school. They are inserted before the first paragraph.


Significance of the study

In this section, you will discuss the relevance of your study to previous studies on the subject and explain the need for doing your study. No matter how your work “plays with” other researchers’ work—by adding to, expanding upon, or even challenging it—you must make this clear in your study proposal. In this area, you should also identify the issues that already exist and that your research intends to address.

The methodology you’ll use to gather data should be described here as well, along with its relevance to the overall project and its significance to the background. If it’s relevant, make a note of any questions or concerns that arise but that your study won’t address.

Evaluation of Literature

The literature review is where you provide all the readings and other materials that will inform your study. This consists of books, journals, and data from significant studies. A literature review looks into the collection of sources you chose and discusses how you’re using them in your research, as opposed to simply listing the sources you used (that’s what your bibliography is for).

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Methods, timeline, and outline for the study

Your discussion on future research endeavors will follow your literature review. Please make sure you address the following in this section:

The nature of your investigation. What kind of study are you performing, qualitative or quantitative? Do you plan on using data already collected by other researchers or will you be doing your own?

Whether your study is experimental, correlational, or descriptive,

The information is at your disposal. If you’re doing social science research, for instance, you’ll need to provide a summary of the sample group you’ve assembled. You should also describe the procedures you’ll use to recruit participants and gather information from them.

Your chosen methods of information gathering.

It is not enough to simply provide an in-depth analysis of your research; you must additionally include:

An outline of the schedule for your study

Funding allotments for scientific investigation

Explain what difficulties you expect to encounter and how you intend to overcome them.

Conjectures and inferences

Although you won’t know the outcomes of your study until you’ve completed the project, you should have a good concept of what your work will add to the area before you begin. This is the most important part of your research proposal since it should explain why your study is warranted.

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You should conclude everything at this point. Like an essay’s conclusion paragraph, your conclusion section should provide a concise summary of your research proposal and reiterate its stated aim.



Including a reference in your research proposal is a must. Each reference format has its own rules on how to properly cite sources. MLA, APA, and Chicago are the three most popular academic style guides, and each has its own set of norms and criteria. Remember that every citation style has its own rules for referencing different mediums such as images, websites, speeches, and even YouTube videos.



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