The Key Elements of a Research Proposal

Posted Time & Date - 6:20 am - August 19, 2020

A research proposal is a brief but comprehensive summary of the research which is yet to be done. It sets out the central issue for the research. It is a detailed description of the raised issue and how will it be solved. It contains all the key elements of the process of the proposed research study as it is the most important document for the candidate which has to be approved by the university committee to approve, to proceed further on the research.  The proposal has to be well-structured in chronological order of the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, hypothesis, methodology, timeline, resources required (if any), result, and references. 


The title has to be concise and should direct the reader to know about the research. It should be like a mini-introduction for the reader to know what he is going to read. The title should be precise and crisp for the reader to get a definite idea of the research proposal. The title should be specific with the correct choice of words and should serve the committee with the complete idea of the research which is to happen. It should evoke the reviewer’s interest to look forward to the details of the proposal. You can even title it after completing the whole proposal to be as precise as possible.


An abstract should follow the title of the proposal. The abstract is a summary of the whole proposal. It builds the first impression of the reviewer to review the proposal. The abstract should provide the objective, summarizing the need for this research, with a summary of the hypothesis in the proposal. It shouldn’t be long but it should have a clear picture of the proposal in a maximum of 2 sheets. If the abstract doesn’t capture the attention of the committee then you might fail to get approval for the research.


The introduction of your thesis proposal is something that sticks with the reviewer until the end. It has to be captivating enough for the reviewer to stay with him throughout the proposal. The introduction is the detailed version of the abstract as it summarizes the proposal outlining the literary history of the research topic. It includes a clear statement of the problem presenting the nature, context, and the scope of the investigation. The candidate should begin the introduction with a relevant phrase/quote or stating an apt example on the topic to hold the reader’s attention. Although, the statement of the problem should be clear enough for the reader to point out. The only function of this paragraph is to build the reader’s interest with the proper relevance of the historical background. The candidate should keep his audience in his mind while beginning the introduction as to not lose their interest at the beginning of the proposal. The next part of the introduction should state the topic and the sociological strata of the audience. The formulation of the research question should be stated as clearly as possible and not get lost in the flow of detailing the topic. The introduction should end with the need for the research. The conclusion of the introduction should show the significance and the need for the research and how this research will impact society.


The literature review is the recent background of the research problem or topic. It develops a broad idea of the field, exhibiting the previous and the recent history of the topic focusing on the research question. The literature review narrows the details for the reader as well as the researcher to work on the topic. It helps the reader to give a history of the field if he is not from the same academic background. This process assures the committee for the candidate to work on the project and further narrows down the problem of the investigation. It should reflect the knowledge of the candidate and should be critical as well as completely detailed.


A hypothesis is a declarative statement showing the cause-effect of the two variables without a proper explanation or evidence. The terms should be uniform in nature and although the hypothesis is a scientific method, it should be general for the reader to not have a scientific background. It has to be as specific as it could be without being unrealistic for the reviewer as well as the researcher himself.


Another key element of the research proposal is the methodology of the research. It could either be qualitative or quantitative depending on the nature of the research problem. The research method could either include both of these methods too which would result in mixed-method research. Though the candidate has to be clear with the questions of the research for the mass to answer them, the methodology outlines the strategy for conducting the investigation giving a clear vision to the committee as to how the candidate would work on the research and how would he yield a clear answer to his question of the statement. The candidate should also support the chosen methodology with apt evidence and arguments to assure the committee that the research would be effective with this methodology. Either of the methods is reliable yet how the candidate functions with it plays a major role in the whole research. The methodology in the proposal should not let the reviewer question the effort which the researcher will make in the future to complete his research. 


The candidate should also mention his timetable in his proposal to give a transparent view of his research process to the committee. A timeline helps the researcher to stay focused on the aim and to finish the research in that span of time. The methodology gives a blurred picture to the committee as to how the research would be conducted and hence the timeline should match it. The candidate must estimate a proper time to complete his research since it has to be done in the limited time frame or else it would be of no use if it doesn’t give a result by the end of your program. In order to estimate an accurate timeline, the candidate must map out the whole process of the investigation keeping the goal and objective in his mind.


The candidate must inform about the resources required to conduct the entire research. The mentioning of required resources would help the candidate with the availability of the resource. The candidate must figure out the resources before starting the research to be clear with the needed material. A proposal should not neglect the required resources because it portrays the need for material and tools for the candidate to do a clear research.


The result discusses the possible outcome of the research and its potential impact. It clarifies the reviewer of the mentioned goal and impacts the research would have on society. The result is the picture with which the research is carried forward. It may end with a different result but it is helpful for the candidate to do the research. 


A list of references is the most important thing to include in the proposal as it keeps the scope of plagiarism away. The candidate should cite the appropriate references and sources used for developing the research proposal.