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Proposal Writing Strategies for Effective Research Projects

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1. Understanding the Importance of Research Proposals

Research proposals are primarily focused on research and the development of an idea. They are the written notations of a research thought and are dependent on creativity. It outlines the question the research is going to answer, the methods and techniques that will be employed to arrive at a solution. It is a prospectus on a certain idea in the field of research which is a prelude to a thesis. This discussion will provide a comprehensive overview of what is needed to put together a research proposal. It is not aimed at any particular academic and will serve as a useful guide for anyone wanting to learn how to construct a research proposal. Bear in mind this is a learning tool and it is stressed that this is the author’s interpretation of what a research proposal should entail. At the end of the day, research proposals are subjective and what the author says will not necessarily ring true for everyone. But this proposed guideline is an effective tool for those who do not know where to begin when they are given the task of writing a research proposal.

2. Crafting a Compelling Introduction

This should be one of the last sections you write. In the introduction, you need to get the interest of the reader. You need to explain why your research is important. You can allude to specific results that you will explain later. But avoid being too specific. This is a general introduction to your area of research that you can develop and specify in the following paragraphs. In addition, you need to motivate the reader to read your proposal in more detail, so you need to provide a compelling argument for why your research is interesting and important. A good way to structure your introduction is to start with a general introduction to the broad area, i.e. introduce the problem you are trying to solve or the question you are trying to answer. Then you need to make this area more focused, so you need to specify what your research will be about and what you are specifically going to do in order to solve the problem. Try and set the scene for your research and make it creative and interesting. After you have done this, provide a brief roadmap to the rest of the proposal. This will make the proposal a lot easier to follow for the reader and will help them to understand it better. An introduction for a 2000-word proposal could look something like this: Wasting of food is a concern in the postharvest chain that occurs in developed and developing countries. In October 2010, it was estimated that UK households were throwing away the equivalent of 6 meals a week, totaling 8.3 million tonnes of food waste a year, with fruit and vegetables making up the biggest proportion. Therefore, there is a need for more effective solutions to reduce food waste in order to feed a growing global population. In the proposed research, an array of postharvest techniques that could potentially delay fruit senescence and rotting, and therefore reduce food waste, will be investigated. These include using genetic modification or the use of commercial chemicals or waxes. This proposed area of research is important because no one has studied fruit postharvest senescence in great detail, quickening factors, and how they can greatly affect product quality, and how it is possible to reduce food waste by avoiding senescence and microbial decay. As the area of research is quite specific, a good way of structuring it would be to compare it to putting together pieces of a puzzle. This will be considered before, in the introduction, a brief roadmap to the rest of the proposal is provided.

3. Developing a Clear Research Methodology

Individuals are entreated to familiarize themselves with the various approaches to collecting data and their associated techniques. Published literature and academic guidance can best provide this information. The method chosen should be congruent with the aims and objectives of the research. It is essential at this stage to plan the specifics, including the sample to be studied, the units or cases which will provide the information, and the actual techniques of data collection. This consideration of the specifics has further implications, and often a trade-off must be made between the quality of the study and the resources required.

There are two types of data: primary and secondary. If a researcher is generating new ideas or new knowledge (such as a new medicine, policy, etc.), then the data contains the information needed to carry out a research project to test these ideas. This could be obtained through various methods such as experiments, interviews, questionnaires, or direct observation. In this case, a qualitative method is more appropriate as you are seeking to gather an in-depth understanding of an event or phenomenon and the meaning constructed by the participants. This is best achieved by open-ended questions or inductive reasoning and can also be useful when trying to develop a research project. On the other hand, if the researcher already has a certain phenomenon they are trying to understand or evaluate, then it may be necessary to look at data which already exists and has been produced by someone else, i.e. secondary data. This can involve any form of data, e.g. policy documents, official statistics, and there are various methods of analyzing the data depending on whether it is quantitative or qualitative. The data can be used to compare to other forms of data or used to test a certain hypothesis.

One of the most important components of a research project is the methodology. A research design should include a framework or plan which explains at which stage of the research process the data is going to be acquired, how this data will then be processed or analysed, and the specific methods and strategies that will be used.

4. Presenting Strong Supporting Evidence

The proposal should seek to provide strong evidence on a number of levels. One component of this involves persuasive writing aimed at convincing the reader that the work is sound and that it has an impact. The other component involves the specific evidence of planning a research idea. This second issue is often an area where research proposals fall short. The proposal should specify both why the proposed work must be done and how it is to be done. In making the case for the former, it is helpful to provide a detailed analysis of the problem to be addressed. Often this involves contextualization of the study by clearly elaborating its relevance to an existing problem, debate, or area of inadequacy in the relevant field. It may also be important to motivate an idea by identifying a gap in a body of recent or currently ongoing research. Although it should be innovative, a research idea motivated by a recent debate or problem has the advantage of potentially having a greater impact on the field or community. A research proposal on an idea derived from an academic’s personal experience is more difficult to sell in terms of its significance. In such a case, the proposal might have to argue the importance of the research idea on the professor’s career and future contributions.

Strong proposal writing seeks to enhance the credibility of the proposal. Because the goal of a research proposal is to present and justify a research idea, it is essential to present a clear, detailed structure that highlights the strengths and significance of the proposed work. Here, presentation encompasses both the idea of clarity and that of the proposal’s orderly organization. To enhance clarity, it is often helpful to formulate the proposal around an initial outline. This allows a more efficient, less time-consuming investigation of what approach is best and which details are most critical; it also facilitates revision of the proposal. In addressing the issue of the work’s significance, it is critical to discuss “why” the proposed idea is important. Too often, researchers simply assert that an idea is important without providing information to support such a claim. A strong research proposal will fulfill this idea of significance by explicating the exploration’s potential impact on the field, community, or society.

5. Concluding with Impact: Call to Action and Next Steps

The perfect ending to a proposal maintains the audience’s interest and enthusiasm long after they have read the last sentence. Ideally, the sponsor will feel like the proponent has identified with the sponsor’s interests and has led the sponsor through a process which is in the best interest of the sponsor. The ending should be similar to a good aftertaste which causes one to seek out the item causing the taste again. Creating a lasting impression will ensure that the proposal is approved in this competitive process. One known method for concluding a proposal is to recap the proposal’s highlights in order to show the sponsor why this is the best solution for the problem or greatest opportunity. In this recap, the proponent should reiterate the main tasks in the project plan and detail the outcomes that are expected from these tasks. This will lead the sponsor to visualizing the final result of the projected work and give him an understanding of what to expect. The proponent can then explain the magnitude of these expected results on the company and show the sponsor how the results tie-in to the company’s mission. Using this method for a recap is good but it is not a great way to end. Any proposal can end with a recap and it is too easily forgotten. A lasting recap must be tied to an emotional response from the sponsor. The best way to do this is to tell a story of what the company will look like after the project has been completed and how your participation in the project has affected the course of events. This story will sit in the sponsor’s mind and likely be retold within the company.

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