How to write a research proposal?
What should be in it? Whether it is a research proposal for a bachelor’s study, or a master’s or a PhD, roughly speaking, the general steps of writing a research proposal are similar and the main components are more or less the same. So in this video, let’s talk about general stuff in a research proposal, roughly speaking… First, a very obvious question, what is a research proposal? What does a research proposal do? When we are writing a research proposal, we are essentially just proposing to do a research study, we need to tell the reader what is it that we want to research. What is the question that we want to have answered, and how this question will be investigated and answered. That is what a research proposal does for us to clearly propose our research ideas to the supervisor, or the professor, or the manager, or whoever it is that is gonna read and hopefully approve the research proposal. That’s why we need to write a research proposal before doing a research study.
What’s the first step in designing a study?
If we look at how we start writing a research proposal, most students will probably start with a topic in mind. Usually, when I meet my students for the first time and I ask them what they want to research about, they would normally have an idea, which is good. they might have a topic in mind, they have some ideas in which they are interested, or they may have some personal story or anecdote which represents a general research topic that they want to go into; and this is a great starting point.
Steps for writing a great research proposal:
So, really, the first step in writing a research proposal is to have or to choose a topic which is of interest to you. But having a topic for a research proposal in mind is really not enough. nobody can do a research study on a topic. A topic is too general; it’s too broad, too wide, and too non-specific. How can we collect and analyze empirical data to address something so general and broad? We have to take this broad, general topic and narrow it down into a researchable question. How can we do that? The best way and maybe the only way to do that is to read about it before writing your research proposal.
The idea behind academic empirical research is that no matter what topic we are thinking of for our research proposal, chances are there have been plenty of people who wrote and researched about it. So it is our job as the researcher to read about it. It is only through reading relevant literature on our research proposal topic AND RELATED TOPICS that we know what’s been done on this research proposal topic already; it is only through reviewing relevant literature can we decide on a specific area to focus on, or a particular direction to go into from within this general topic we are interested in for our research proposal. After we’ve conducted our lit review or preliminary lit review for the research proposal, we can decide on what specifically this proposed study is going to investigate. In other words, at this point, we are going to define our research study in our research proposal.
Research definition can come in different forms, sometimes it is formulating a problem statement and a bunch of research questions, or maybe your professor will ask you to develop a central research question and a number of investigative questions, or maybe conceptualizing a model for testing, or developing hypotheses so that they can be empirically tested; or maybe your professor asks you to do a combination of the things I just mentioned. But regardless, the idea is to clearly define what your proposed study is going to investigate in your research proposal – be it in the form of questions or hypotheses or models, or any other way shape or form. You will notice here that research definition, or the formulation of main research questions, is generally done AFTER the lit review, which means your central research questions should not be answered by the lit review, they should be answered through the collection and analysis of empirical data. If your research questions in your research proposal can all be perfectly answered just by reading some text books and articles, then what’s really the point of conducting empirical research? All right, Now that we know WHAT our proposed study is going to investigate, next we need to decide on HOW this investigation can be carried out.
In other words, we need to make various methodological decisions for this proposed study. In this method or methodology section of the research proposal, most universities and colleges would probably ask for the following aspects to be clarified – research design, data collection instrument, sample, procedure, planned data analysis, ethical considerations, and maybe budget. Let’s take a look at them all. Under research design in a research proposal, you are expected to explain which type of research your proposed study is going to fall under is it exploratory, descriptive, correlational, causal, etc.? There are different kinds of research typologies and research designs. For those of you who are interested, I have several other videos on the topic of research design, check out the links in the description box. Usually, as we propose a study in our research proposal, we need to able to determine what type research it is and motivate why it is so. That’s why many times research design needs to be clarified as the first element of the method. Because after all, the type of research may indicate or even dictate, to a large extent, what methodological approaches are required. Next, we need to indicate in the research proposal what kind of empirical data is needed for this study and how we are going to collect those data. For most business, management, economics, and social sciences programs, students are required to collect some empirical data in their thesis research. In other words, most of the time, we cannot just do a big lit review and then call it our research thesis. So, in the research proposal, we need to clearly say whether we need qualitative data or quantitative data or both and why that is. And with that, of course, we need to describe how we are going to collect these data will we create a survey, or are we going to interview people, or conduct observation, or perform experiments, or use other data collection instruments. Not only we need to decide on what instrument to use, we also need to preliminarily develop this instrument so that the reader can see that this developed data collection instrument can indeed collect all the necessary data to address our research questions in our research proposal.
We also need to indicate in this methodology section from whom we are going to collect data. In other words, who’s going to be the sample. Generally speaking, we are expected to describe the population, the sample, and the sampling procedure. For instance, we might say that our population is all employees of a certain organization while a portion of this population will be taken as the sample via a stratified sampling procedure. Many times, we are also required to motivate or justify why that is – so why this sample is proper and why this sampling procedure is the correct one to use in this situation. I spoke about various sampling procedures in another video, I will link it on the screen. We also need to describe the data collection procedure in other words, how will the instrument be used on the sample. For instance, what is the time frame for the data collection? How will the respondents be approached? In what kind of settings will the data collection be administered? What are the different steps involved in this process? And then, we need to describe in the proposal how we plan to analyze the collected data. For quantitative data – what kind of statistical software and analytical procedures will be used? For qualitative data, what types of coding is required and how will the data be interpreted? In planned data analysis section, we need to clearly describe what we are going to do to analyze the data and to convince the reader that we are capable of handling the data properly. After that, we talk a little bit about research ethics. Once again, depending on the university, there may be different requirements to address ethical issues. This can be sometimes just a simple formality; or this can be a real key consideration for the research proposal. For example, for my own undergrad research, this was just a couple of small paragraphs that I promised I would treat the data confidentially; that participation in the study was strictly voluntary; no payment would be made to the respondents, things like that.
But for my doctoral research, this was a big deal. I had to sign a scientific researcher ethical code of conduct; my research proposal had to be reviewed and approved by an ethics committee; so ethics was much bigger a deal for my doctoral research project. But in general, if you are writing a research proposal for your own bachelor’s or master’s thesis, this section wouldn’t be too difficult, just follow the instructions given by the faculty and most likely, you’ll be fine. Then budget: this is also something that’s more of a formality. for most bachelor’s and master’s dissertations, you are the one who’s going to have to pay the costs involved in carrying out the research, so it is your own budget for everything really. Although it is good that you list everything out and calculate how much money you might need to spend. obviously, for commercial or governmental research project proposals, this budget section will have a lot more practical value. Sometimes, you might also need to put in the research proposal a ‘planning’ chapter in which you indicate a clear time planning for various steps involved in the research project. And usually this will come with some kind of visual illustration, maybe a Gantt chart or something like that, to show that all the main components and steps are carefully and clearly planned out. So, these are the main sections of a research proposal.
Various research journals to look for papers online:
Various great research journals such as Global Research Letters are a great option and way to help you look up research papers to understand the process of writing research proposal and the commitment of a research scholar. With the help of which you will be able to read the papers and understand the commitment needed to write your research proposal correctly. Here, you will find a number of various research papers that are provided and made available to you in the journal.
You can very easily find various kinds of researches by a number of scholar practitioners recorded in a number of research papers at Global Research Letters. This will help you with your own research work and understanding of what research proposal asks of a researcher. With access to so many amazing research papers, you can practice and learn the process of writing research proposal.
Good luck with writing your own! Thanks for watching this video, please like and subscribe, see you next time.