How to Write a Research Proposal – Guide

How to Write a Research Proposal – Guide

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. Your research proposal should set out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It should outline the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic, as well as demonstrate the originality of your proposed research.
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you need to write in it. Let’s define what you actually need to mention in the text that seems to be so tricky at first sight. Points and components to include in a proposal are:

  1. Title. Here, you clearly indicate the key question or proposed research method. 
  2. Background and rationale. Things to include in this part are: problems and background of the research you propose, discipline identification, and a short review of literature used.
  3. Research question. These should be clearly formulated and should explain what issues are going to be regarded in this work.

Keep in mind that the general purposes of any research proposal remain unchanged despite precise names or divisions for sections may vary depending on fields, institutions or faculties. The text below is called to guide through the overall research design, plan and structure while explaining things to mention in every of its points. 

Why to Write a Research Proposal?

This type of academic texts combines two goals in it. First of all, it is the showcase and justification of the necessity to explore a particular problem or question. At the same time, it serves to show off practical approaches towards conducting that exploration (study). The standards accepted in the predominant discipline of the problem define the elements of design and algorithms of researching, and also rule them. 

How Long Should It Be?

This parameter is widely variable depending on academic levels. A thesis proposal for a bachelor or master may fit in a couple of pages. On the other hand, those for PhD papers are mostly required to include a lot of details and gain length due to that. 

How to Write a Research Proposal (Step by Step)

1. Introduction

Think of this text “chapter” as about the “sales pitch”. This is the place to explain your plans and reasons well. Elements to include:

  • Topic Introduction
  • Context and Background Provision
  • Research Question(s) and Problem Statement Outline

In case your proposal is wordy and extended, it may be more comfortable to divide it into sections and include more details on parts like context and background, the problem itself, the goals and the critical value of the proposed research, etc.

2. Literature Review

Another crucial point is to demonstrate your familiarity with the important datum and existing knowledge on the chosen topic. A worthy literature review proves your proposed project to stand on a stable and solid ground of available information or some defined theoretical concept. Additionally, it means you don’t aim to just repeat something already known or done.  

3.Research Design and Methods

After the review of literature, it would be good to state goals once more. Try to do that in order to refocus the attention on your idea and project. The methodology part is what describes the general methods and practices to use in order to get the wanted answers. 

4. Knowledge Contribution

This is the point that finishes the proposal strongly. Try exploring potential impact points and meanings of your practice or theory on the particular scientific field. Correlate your research goals with the contribution you are planning to make, and describe it. 

5. Bibliography (Reference List)

Obviously, up-to-date and thorough citations are required in a worthy research proposal. Make sure to provide these for all the used sources with all the necessary publication formalities and details added to the list of references. 

Bibliography is something they may ask you to include in certain cases. It’s just the list of sources you checked while writing the proposal, including those not cited. Sometimes, it is even good to provide titles you are about to read. 

6. Research Schedule

The thorough and detailed project timeline may be a requirement, too. It is the point where you describe particular steps to take at every stage of the research, and estimated duration for their realization. The funding body or program requirements will define if the research schedule is wanted and critical. 


In case your research requires funding and you want to apply for it, including the costs of every project part will definitely be necessary. See the kinds of expenses the body is ready to pay for, and make sure you include only appropriate things in a budget in that case.

What Not to Do in a Research Proposal

That’s it for the structure. Now, let’s make a step aside and discuss common mistakes when writing this. Knowing what not to do is a solid backup when you need to find out how to write a research proposal, isn’t it? So, most widespread failures are:

  • Broad topic. Avoid spreading a research proposal text here and there. Give a visible and clear goal, and mention only related things. 
  • Literature review without milestone writings. Ground the proposal with substantial research to narrow the problem down and state its development.
  • No context. Just like any academic text having that “research” word in its title, the study you want to propose should provide the reader with clearly stated methods and ways of examination [e.g., people, place, time etc.]. 
  • No strong argument. This point is crucial. Do you want to know how to write a research proposal? Write it to prove why exactly they should fund your study. Period.

Proofread and Revise It!

Yes, this works for a research proposal in the same way as for any other academic text. Edit, proofread and redraft it mercilessly until it is time to conduct a submission. If possible, go in for some pro feedback from a colleague or supervisor. 

To increase your chances for success, we suggest you to think of a request for pros to assist you with the proposal. Expert writers can give you numerous hints and tips on the paper, its structuring, grammar, orthography, spelling correctness, etc. A fresh look of a skilled professional is always useful when it comes to academic texts, isn’t it?

P.S. It might be useful and in time for you to check articles on writing abstracts and reports, too.

Research Proposal Sample

‘Working At It’

An exploration of the perceptions and experiences of negotiating employment and caring responsibilities of fathers in post-divorce/separation co-parenting situations.


Despite some thirty years of social scientific research into fatherhood and masculinity, and the recent increase in the public and political ‘visibility’ of fathers, key researchers such as Lamb (2004), Morgan (2002) and Lewis (2000) continue to argue that our understanding of men’s experiences as fathers remains limited. “There are substantial gaps in our current knowledge about fatherhood” (Lewis, 2000). One such gap is in the relative lack of empirical insight into the experiences of working class fathers. In theoretical terms fatherhood is increasingly recognised as complex and dynamic, as an identity and a ‘practice’ which is played out in a range of social contexts and which is both enabled and constrained by (often-contradictory) social institutions and norms. More research is needed that attempts to chart the processes by which men perceive and negotiate their identity and activity as fathers. In addition, a growing recognition of the importance and ‘reality’ of post-divorce parenting has focused both academic and political attention on the roles, involvement and identity of fathers after divorce or separation.

My research will contribute to a growing sociology of 'family practice', building on existing fatherhood research and adding to the insightful and innovative work on post divorce parenting developed by sociologists such as Rosalind Edwards, Simon Duncan, Jane Ribbens McCarthy, Carol Smart and Judith Glover. In different ways such writers have sought to present a more accurate and grounded knowledge of family life together with a critical investigation into both contemporary parenting and, importantly, the social policy and legal frameworks which surround this. Their research emphasises the complex, often moral, dilemmas involved in making and re-making families (Ribbens McCarthy, Edwards & Gillies, 2003) and asserts the creativity of family members in such processes. Also offered is an arguably more constructive approach to divorce/separation suggesting that it may provide a catalyst for thinking and acting differently about parenting and about gender roles. In this way it could be that divorced/separated fathers, together with many lone-mothers, have the potential (not necessarily by choice) to challenge the enduring gendered model for organising earning and caring, and are therefore sociologically and politically significant. My study seeks to investigate the practice and processes of negotiating employment and caring responsibilities for divorced or separated fathers who have regular physical care of their children. It will focus on the experiences and perceptions of fathers’ in relation to their roles and identity as fathers, their relationships with their children and their working lives.

Research Questions:

In the light of the above discussion my work aims to contribute to the process of more accurately documenting what families and family members actually 'do' as a basis for more appropriate and egalitarian social policy and to offer an analysis of the experiences and practice of post-divorce/separation fatherhood. Broadly, my research questions will be organised to investigate three main areas:

1. Fathering work: How do fathers describe and experience the work of being a father after divorce/separation? What aspects of their roles and relationships with their children generate satisfaction or dissatisfaction? How does post-divorce fatherhood compare with pre-divorce experience? 

These questions will involve an engagement with, and evaluation of, current research on fatherhood and on post-divorce parenting.

2. Role adaptation/perception: How do fathers negotiate and manage carrying out the work of fatherhood after divorce/separation and what are the factors influencing such negotiations? To what extent do such processes involve questions of moral identity, rationalisation or presentation?

These questions will involve a consideration and application of theoretical and moral philosophical literature on gender, rationality, and ethics.

3. Orientation to Paid Employment: To what extent and in what ways do men negotiate their orientation to paid employment alongside their position as fathers? Is divorce or separation a catalyst for thinking/acting differently about combining paid employment and unpaid caring work?

These questions will require consideration of the impact of differing occupational positions of men together with an examination of the range of sociological and non sociological literature on 'life-work balance'. 

Data Collection:

Because insight into post-divorce/separation fatherhood is limited and because of a commitment to a grounded approach to knowledge production in policy-relevant areas, my research will be inductive and iterative. It will consist predominantly of individual semi-structured interviews with fathers in post-divorce/separation situations, in a range of occupations, who have regular physical care of their children. It will also involve more ethnographic methods, such as participant observation, informal group discussion and reflexive interviewing, as a mechanism to disseminate information about, and generate interest in, the research. An ethnographic approach offers particular opportunities to ‘get close’ to fatherhood as a routine activity and as an aspect of identity, and could provide the tools to explore father’s perspectives in some of the contexts in which they are lived.

My sample will only include fathers’ who have been divorced/separated for at least one year, in order to be attentive to the emotional distress involved in adjustment to postdivorce roles (Madden-Derdich & Leonard, 2000). Occupation, organisational culture and employment status will also be key variables in order to explore orientation to work, father identity and levels of control over organising earning and caring responsibilities. There will be a specific focus on self-employment as it applies to a wide range of occupations, with arguably different (gendered) organisational cultures, and may present particular constraints or flexibility for working life. Overall I will be developing a theoretical sample from the geographical region of East Anglia There are a number of possible contexts for obtaining participants for this research. I intend to approach a range of organisations/places of work formally, but also to try and develop a snowball sample through work-related or informal contacts. This may allow me to engage fathers via social or leisure settings.

Data Analysis:

In general terms, the three main research questions will provide an important analytical framework for studying the data collected. This will entail exploring the structural, cultural and subjective dimensions and implications of the interview material. Given that my research is largely exploratory and is committed to an inductive approach, the data analysis will require an open and reflexive engagement with existing literature in order to allow for the emergence of concepts or participant terms, rather than a ‘theory-testing’ strategy. My analytic approach then, will involve many of the processes described as ‘grounded theorising’ (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). I aim to produce an account of the personal & practical processes involved in adjusting to post-divorce/separation fatherhood, and to develop a typology of strategies and/or orientations towards earner and carer roles. Whilst I may not be able to make highly generalised claims, I will offer a model(s) for understanding post-divorce/separation fatherhood and its wider social and political significance, which could be expanded or developed. However, because of its experiential nature, I cannot treat my data only as a resource or as a reflection of an ‘objective reality’. My analysis will need to involve coding on different levels, about both the phenomenon being described (fatherhood) and the perspective(s) shaping the account given. Treating the interviews as both a resource and a topic is another aspect of a reflexive research style, which I believe to be important and valuable.