how to start a research proposal

how to start a research proposal

How to Write a Compelling Research Proposal

1. Introduction

The first thing to remember is that each part of a proposal must take into account the mission of the agency to which you are submitting and be tailored to those who will read it. This means that you need to take into account your audience and write your proposal according to their specific guidelines. Wouldn’t it be terrible to do all the work on your research, only to find out that your concept does not match the agency’s mission and that your proposal does not meet the agency’s standards? Always make sure that your research is feasible within the time and funding constraints of the program. Your proposed research should directly relate to the mission of the agency to which you are applying. This might seem obvious, but time and time again, this has been violated thus resulting in the return of a proposal without review. By the end, the proposal will have gone through the hands of 15-20 peer reviewers! Remember, while peer review and exchange of ideas can consume much time, remember that submitting an un-reviewed or hastily prepared proposal will not lead to success. Given the time and stringent competition for research funds, it is wise to take the time to thoroughly plan and prepare, in order to avoid subsequent unhappiness in the form of a research project that is off track or unfunded. Also remember that before people make a judgment about the content of your proposal, the first thing that they consider is the required format and guidelines. Always structure your proposal to ensure it is in line with the instructions specified by the agency. Remember that the objectives, significance and outcomes of the research should comply with the mission and strategy of your targeted agency or organization. Always end each section of your proposal with a referencing your anticipated results, all in relation to that section’s respective objectives. A research plan is a more aspirational document. It should propose to the specific agency a well thought out plan of research which will result in a significant breakthrough for the field and to the mission of the organization.

We want to begin this introduction to proposal writing by re-emphasizing the importance of treating your written proposal as a final product. The cost of developing a proposal is small in comparison to the potential value of the research. Properly done, a research proposal takes time and often requires several iterations before the final version is approved. The iterative process in developing and revising a proposal is based on collaboration and the exchange of ideas among colleagues and with experts in the field. It is important that as you go through the proposal process, you share your plans and seek advice from your advisor and others, particularly those in your field of research. All of these efforts should be guided in accordance with the mission of your research. Remember the mission and the audience.

2. Background and Significance

The background section is meant to give readers a reason why they should read the paper. Besides being readers to understand the work, the background should make the reader interested in the study that has been conducted. Background that is too long or verbose is usually not required to explain all the things that have nothing to do with research. The point or idea is the arrangement of the right sequence to form a container, and the study plan to meet research should discuss about “state of the art” at this time which is point about: what, why, and how. Picture a map or create an outline planning of the study is one method to facilitate the preparation of the writing background. The significance aims to show that the research is worth to do. Usually significance is the answer from the background, and other findings. Around two or three paragraphs is enough to explain the significance of the study. Background and significance of the whole study plan should be allocated from the first until the final section in research arrangement. A good background and significance will show the peak and depth of research from getting to know the problem until the step of solution. Background and significance itself can be modified to the interchange, but the point is the same to get the reader interested in reading the research, interested to guide, and have a feasibility in research doing.

3. Research Objectives and Questions

A good research is driven by the method of asking questions that are known to be the objective step of formulating a research problem. A strong research question should never just be informative like a newspaper report, it must be a question that can be argued and it is something that the writer can prove with evidence. A research question should extend the boundaries of knowledge in a stated research area, and it should be the impetus to the creation of new knowledge. There are a couple of issues to be kept in mind when formulating a research question. It must be a question; it cannot be a statement. It should be clear and focused. Too broad of a question will be very time consuming and the answer will be too hard to argue and difficult to find evidence. It should not be answerable by yes or no, but it should be open-ended and provide room for discussion. A question like “will not provide adequate discussion because of the ease of which it can be answered. There are generally certain types of questions dependent on the nature of the research. If the research is of an exploratory or discovery nature, then it is synonymous with identifying a research problem and developing a hypothesis. A question will be generated to direct the investigator to the statement of the problem or a hypothesis. For research aiming to make an argument or to find an explanation there are usually two questions – a main question and a sub question. The sub question is an integral part to the main question; the question being too broad to answer in a single investigation and the sub question is a more specific question that can answer part of the main question. Now in methodological research the nature of the question might be evaluative and the writer would affirm what it is they want to evaluate and compare.

4. Methodology and Approach

Although the methodology may sound a fairly complex and daunting area for your research, it is really just a plan detailing what you need to do to answer your research questions. A good methodology should be clear and concise and written in a way that someone else could replicate your research. This is important as the NQT when completing the RDI module has to carry out a small-scale research project and the ability to see a good example can be very helpful.

It is essential to carefully consider which method of data analysis is most appropriate for the study. Some forms of qualitative research do not directly lead to data that can be used for analysis and presentation. For example, much qualitative research in UK schools has often been action research. This is primarily because the teachers/researchers spend time observing teaching and learning in the hope of finding ways to improve current educational practice. In this situation, it may be more appropriate to use qualitative methods of data analysis.

A strong methodology is the key to successful research. It is this framework that outlines the way in which research is to be undertaken, providing a clear path to obtaining answers to the research questions. There are numerous research methods that can be used in educational research. It is useful to carefully consider the various research methods and their implications before deciding upon a specific method – the aim is to select the method that will best achieve the research aims. Although it is always possible to re-evaluate the methodology after significant findings have been made, a well-planned methodology should provide a solid plan of how the research will be undertaken.

5. Expected Outcomes and Implications

When applying for a research grant or applying to a graduate program, you must have a clear plan of what you want to research. You will have to convince your sponsors or the acceptance committee that you have an important project and a good plan to carry it out. I’ve found that discussing the expected outcomes of your research is an implicit yet rarely articulated part of research proposals. This may seem like a simple, albeit minor, matter in your own mind; if you don’t know what the outcome of your research will be, how will you know where to start? However, the act of detailing potential outcomes will force you to think about your project in a comprehensive way. Implications of your research may carry more weight. Often this is your chance to say “and then the world will be a better place”. Usually reductive, this is a statement towards the significance of your research. How will your project improve the field you are working in? Will the knowledge gained affect policy making or have influence on the education of students or the practice of healthcare providers? Remember, when writing your research proposal, you must use an assertive tone and give the reader confidence that you will be able to accomplish the outcomes and implications you have described. This is the backbone to your research; without a strong plan, the execution will be shaky.

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