how long should a research proposal be

how long should a research proposal be

The Ideal Length of a Research Proposal

1. Introduction

Each of these sections is addressed and discussed in this paper. By contrast with research papers, conference presentations, and PhD comprehensive exam answers, which receive little guidance and feedback, the research proposal becomes a focus for refinement and extended understanding. As a worked example/hands-on project, it may be more influential than the paper by getting students and novice researchers started on a new piece of work. This is the ultimate purpose of a research proposal and will inform the students hereafter in creating more specific and focused work on their research idea. For lecturers, this “teaching by example” is invaluable in showing exactly what is expected from a piece of student work. It can even be a recommended tool to students in showing how to plan, write, and refine their work. A common question for lecturers is whether they should provide a full example of a research proposal on the class Moodle site. This may negate the objectives of formative assessment of first getting students to attempt an unsure task, then giving feedback to help them learn from their mistakes, before finally assessing a final piece of work.

The major areas of a research proposal are: 1. Introduction 2. Literature review 3. Research methodology 4. Expected results 5. Dissemination and public engagement 6. Bibliography

2. Factors to Consider

If there is not much to say about a certain point, then don’t say much. But if a point is crucial, you should provide abundant evidence and discussion to support it. So the length should be in the happy medium where you’ve said everything you need to, but no more.

Einstein: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Quality vs Quantity: It is assumed that the proposal should be 25% of the total project time and therefore the length all depends on what you’re proposing to do. If you’re asking for a $200,000 research grant, it’s likely that the reviewers are going to want much more detail than if you were asking for a $2000 travel grant. At the highest level, a research proposal is simply a complex argument. A travel grant might ask for a short statement merely arguing that you deserve the money, whereas a grant from the National Science Foundation could have a 25-page proposal with six separate sections, beginning a total of 20 weeks to write. In this situation, you can always follow Einstein’s rule.

Efficiency: Consider the man hours. If you have a 5000 hour project, you can spend a month on a 2500 word paper and that would be OK, but it wouldn’t fly for a proposal. So in that situation you should perhaps allocate 200 hours to the proposal, because the proposal is what’s going to get you the funding for the next stage of the project. This is a rule of thumb and it’s assumed that the quality of the work is proportional to the time spent, but it’s not always the case. If you’re unsure, schedule more time instead of less.

3. Recommended Length

The recommended length of a research proposal is 2,500 – 3,500 words. Consequently, the research will be feasible to complete within the time constraints and will maximize the chance of a successful application. A more thorough review of the literature is required, more qualitative and quantitative data may need to be collected and analyzed, and more research tools and materials may be used. These all require more time and preparation to design the study properly and present a strong application for approval. Remember that the research will not only be judged on the proposed outcomes but also on your capability as a researcher. Therefore, an extensive plan is necessary to allow adequate evaluation. APAGS considers that a Master’s thesis should be completed within 6 months. Given that the word limit for postgraduate research is 50,000 words (PhD) and 20,000 words (Masters), you should allow at least one month to complete each 5,000 words (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2008). Therefore, the aforementioned word limits equate to 10 months full-time research for a PhD and 5 months full-time research for a Masters. Stepnowski (2005) writes that it will always take longer than you think to complete the research, and PhD students usually add an extra 6-12 months onto their estimated completion time. This will give you a rough idea of the duration of your entire proposed study, allowing for unexpected complications and hindrances.

4. Benefits of a Concise Proposal

A well-written research proposal clearly outlines the task at hand. The proposal is usually made up of three parts: an introduction, a section that outlines the methodology to be used, and information on the significance of the research. A stronger proposal enables a smoother thesis writing process. Generally, a scientific research proposal will include a brief introduction to the research topic, a literature review, and a methodology that will explain how the student plans to accomplish the research and a discussion of implications of the research. While many students become overwhelmed when faced with writing out their research proposal, and sometimes even procrastinate on doing so, a good research proposal is a significant part of your research and thesis process and deserves some time and thought. With a well-written proposal, the thesis or dissertation will be able to proceed with far less difficulty. Writing for success: Outlining – Writing a Paper – Academic Guides at Walden University Writing by Design Writing by Design: Writing a Scientific Research Proposal

5. Conclusion

As with the research proposal as a whole, this chapter is only a single version of how to write a good one. It is focused at a higher level and is to some extent prescriptive in that it generally provides a recipe… albeit one which should always be shaped to fit the particular research project. More detailed information can be found in the ‘Writing a Research Proposal’ Moodle course. To sum up, the ideal research proposal is the product of a good idea, the best possible expression of that idea in writing, and the commitment to review and re-review these ideas while writing. It also must be of a reasonable length. In general, the proposal should be no more than 2000 words (or 4-6 pages) long. Anything beyond that will be excessive. Most of that length should be devoted to the first four (or perhaps three) sections, and the final section should be kept very short. Note the following: The length of the proposal should be consistent with the length of the assessment weighting for research proposals in a course. If you are being marked out of 10 for your research proposal, the document should be much shorter than if you are being marked out of 50. If the marking scale is the same, a Master’s level proposal should be shorter than a PhD one. A proposal which asks a question about a general topic, requires a detailed method, and has a tight link with assessment can best make use of this format. A proposal more closely tied to an existing (or embryonic) research project in the mind of the author can deviate a long way from this format. This four-section version best suits the situation where ‘student has an idea’.

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