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How to Write a Research Proposal

by Lily Morgen
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Writing a Research Proposal

Your research proposal is an important component of your application. Whether you are requesting a studentship or a self-funded opportunity to study at an institution, your research proposal must be of a high standard in order to be considered by the academic staff responsible for awarding places.

What Is Your Research Proposal Used For And Why Is It Important?

Your research proposal makes a case for the feasibility and relevance of your proposed research project. It sets out the problem or question that you wish to address, outlines the main findings of your research so far and explains how your project will contribute to existing knowledge in your field.

The academic staff assessing your application will use your research proposal, along with your academic record and references, to decide whether or not to offer you a place on their course. Your research proposal is therefore a very important part of your application and it is worth investing time and effort in getting it right.

What Should Be Included In A Research Proposal?

There is no set template for a research proposal but most will include the following sections:


Your introduction should make it clear what your main research question is and why it is important. It should also give an overview of your approach to answering the question and outline the main stages of your project.

Literature Review

A literature review is a critical survey of existing knowledge on your research topic. It should demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the key debates and developments in your field and show how your project will contribute to these.

Research Methodology

Your methodology section should explain the methods you plan to use to answer your research question. This might include surveys, interviews, observations or experiments. You should also justify why you have chosen these methods and explain how they will help you to achieve your objectives.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

In this section you should explain how you will analyse the data you collect and what conclusions you hope to draw from it. You should also discuss any ethical considerations relating to your research project.


Your conclusion should summarise the main points of your proposal and explain how your research will contribute to existing knowledge in your field.


You should include a bibliography of all the sources you have consulted in preparing your research proposal.

What You Need to Pay Attention In A Research Proposal?

Your research proposal should be clear and concise, 2,000 – 3,500 words. It should also be well-structured and logical, with a clear argument running through from beginning to end.

When writing your research proposal, bear in mind that it will be read by academic staff who are experts in your field but who may not be familiar with the specific research you are proposing to undertake. As a result, your proposal needs to be clear and unambiguous, painting a detailed yet accessible picture of your proposed project.

The following tips will help you to write a strong research proposal:

  • Start by clearly defining the problem or question that you wish to address. What is it that you want to find out? Why is this research important?
  • Review the existing literature in your field and identify gaps in current knowledge that your project could aim to fill. What has been done before and what remains to be done?
  • Set out a clear research methodology, detailing how you plan to collect and analyse data. What methods will you use and why have you chosen these particular approaches?
  • Discuss the implications of your findings and explain how they could be used to improve practice in your field. What difference could your research make?
  • Make sure that your proposal is well-structured and flows logically from one section to the next. Check for spelling and grammatical errors and get someone else to read it through before you submit it.

Final Thought

By following these tips, hope you can be sure that your research proposal will make a strong case for your proposed project and give you the best possible chance of being offered a place on your chosen course.

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