All research proposals should contain the following information:
This should be short and explanatory.
This section should contain a rationale for your research. Why are you undertaking the project? Why is the research needed? This rationale should be placed within the context of existing research or within your own experience and/or observation. You need to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and that you have knowledge of the literature surrounding this topic. If you’re unable to find any other research which deals specifically with your proposed project, you need to say so, illustrating how your proposed research will fill this gap. If there is other work which has covered this area, you need to show how your work will build on and add to the existing knowledge. Basically, you have to convince people that you know what you’re talking about and that the research is important.
Aims and objectives
Many research proposal formats will ask for only one or two aims and may not require objectives. However, for some research these will need to be broken down in more depth to also include the objectives. The aim is the overall driving force of the research and the objectives are the means by which you intend to achieve the aims. These must be clear and succinct.
For research at postgraduate level you may need to split the methodology and methods section into two. However, for most projects they can be combined. In this section you need to describe your proposed research methodology and methods and justify their use. Why have you decided upon your methodology? Why have you decided to use those particular methods? Why are other methods not appropriate?
This section needs to include details about samples, numbers of people to be contacted, method of data collection, methods of data analysis and ethical considerations. If you have chosen a less well known methodology, you may need to spend more time justifying your choice than you would need to if you had chosen a more traditional methodology. This section should be quite detailed – many funding organisations find that the most common reason for proposal failure is the lack of methodological detail.
A detailed timetable scheduling all aspects of the research should be produced. This will include time taken to conduct background research, questionnaire or interview schedule development, data collection, data analysis and report writing. Research almost always takes longer than you anticipate. Allow for this and add a few extra weeks on to each section of your timetable. If you finish earlier than you anticipated, that’s fine as you have more time to spend on your report. However, finishing late can create problems especially if you have to meet deadlines.
Budget and resources
If you’re applying to a funding body you need to think about what you will need for your research and how much this is likely to cost. You need to do this so that you apply for the right amount of money and are not left out of pocket if you have under-budgeted. Funding bodies also need to know that you have not over-budgeted and expect more money than you’re going to use. If you are a student you may not have to include this section in your proposal, although some tutors will want to know that you have thought carefully about what resources are needed and from where you expect to obtain these. Some types of research are more expensive than others and if you’re on a limited budget you will have to think about this when deciding upon your research method
What do you expect to do with the results of your research? How are you going to let people know about what you have found out? For students it will suffice to say that the results will be produced in an undergraduate dissertation which will be made available in the institution library. For other researchers you may want to produce a written report, make oral presentations to relevant bodies, produce a web site or write a journal article.