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How to Write a Research Proposal

How to Write a Research Proposal

When your instructor assigns a research proposal, they seek a brief summary of the research you have conducted or will conduct for their class. The proposal allows them to approve your idea or propose any necessary changes before you begin writing. It is important to understand what this assignment’s purpose is.

Writing a proposal will allow you to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge in a certain field, as it will show your ability to express complex ideas in a brief manner. The process of writing involves several steps such as brainstorming, picking a topic, drafting, and revising. At the end of the writing process, you will have a proposal that explains your research question and the purpose of your conducted study.

Table Of Contents

Picking the Best Topic

While picking a topic, it is important to you spend enough time brainstorming and thinking creatively about the pressing issues you’d like to address. Your topic needs to relate closely to what you studied in class, but it should also exhibit your findings and important nuances that you would personally find interesting to research. A good first would be to look at some examples and see how narrow the topic that they chose is. Often it will be very narrow and have relevance in the current society.

Here are some questions from our academic writer to help you narrow down your topic:

  • What are you particularly interested in researching?
  • Why is it important to you?
  • Why is it significant to the world and to the subject that you studied?
  • What problem can it solve? What question can it answer
  • How does it build upon research already conducted on the topic?
  • How do you plan to conduct this research?

After you’ve answered these questions, you should be more set to continue with narrowing your topic and assembling your template.

How to start?

How to Write a Research Proposal

To start, you must find something that interests you. You must choose a topic related to your field of study. Read on articles about recent discoveries, breakthroughs, and innovation. Find inspiration on or just ask one of our professional writers to help you. Make sure that the topic you’ll be writing on will interest you so that you’ll find it easier to write about. Take a look on the things on you believe in. Review on things that you are passionate about and ask yourself these questions.

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

Is There a Template?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ template that would suit every type of paper. However, regardless of the scope and depth of your research, you will find that most sample templates all include the following information:

  • Title of your research: You will be able to revise your title throughout your research, but it is important that the title encompasses what your paper is about.
    Example: The direct influence of Hitchcock’s Psycho on the genre of horror.

  • Abstract: This portion should be around 100 words long, consisting of the central question that you wish to address.

  • Context: Your proposal should include a brief background to which you conducted your research. This includes the area of study, any debates on the topic and the relevance of the question.

  • Research Question: The aim should be to attempt to answer a question. The question needs to be narrow and focused and reflect the objective of your essay. During your writing process, narrow your research question to two different aspects. You should elaborate on how you intend to answer the question and brief the reader on the conclusion that you made.
    Example: How did Hitchcock’s Psycho influence the way horror films were made? How has the horror genre changed in respect to the film?

  • Research Method: The research proposal should show how you conducted your research. Explain your key resources (ways you found your information) and how you collected your data. If you did interviews, brief the reader on who the people you interviewed were. Then explain how you analyzed the findings.

  • Research Significance: Explain why your work is important. In any sample, you will find a short justification for why your research is original ad how it adds something new to the field of study. You might want to list a reason why your research is pressing in the current time.
    Example: The conducted research links Hitchcock’s Psycho too many modern films that exhibit the same shock-factor qualities. Today, shock-factor is harder to achieve; this is visible on the increase of badly produced, lower-quality horror flicks that resort to shock rather than suspense to hold the audience’s attention.

  • Bibliography: Lastly, you would want to create a list of the most relevant works that contributed to your study. You can need to so in the format required by your instructor (APA, MLA, etc.). You can create an annotated bibliography, giving some insights into how each of the sources helped you with your research.


Your outline should be structured according to the template above. Prior to embarking on the proposal writing process, make sure that you have your research question narrowed down properly and a solid outline as to how you will structure your proposal.

Research proposal outline

Breaking Down the Format

A format can vary from being only a couple of paragraphs long to about 2,500 words long for things like dissertations. Specifics such as length and contents should be discussed with your instructor before the beginning of the writing process.

APA Research Proposal

The APA format itself can help you understand how to write a proposal for a research paper, since the APA guidelines require writing an abstract, an introduction, and a bibliography as part of the paper, not only in the proposal. Here is a short breakdown of the APA proposal format:

  • 12-point font Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins
  • An APA running head (limited to 50 characters)
  • A title page with the paper’s title (no more than 12 words in length), your name, and the name of your institution
  • An abstract (150-200 words)
  • In-text citations (formatted accordingly to APA guidelines)
  • References page (formatted accordingly to APA guidelines)

Research Paper Proposal Example

Here is an example research proposal of a short research paper (around 15 pages). Notice the structure of the proposal and the APA formatting.

Research Paper Proposal Example

The Don’ts

There are a couple of things that successful proposals have in common. If you look at an example, you will see that there are a couple of things in common that all of the proposals avoid:

  • Not being concise enough. Your proposal must be written with a clear purpose in mind.
  • Alleviating works cited page.
  • Forgetting to disclose research boundaries and conflicting variables (age of participants, for example)
  • An underdeveloped argument.
  • A lack of focus and unrelated tangents.
  • Poor grammar.
  • Too much detail or not enough detail.

Research Proposal Quote

Related: Research Paper Writing Service. Immediate writing help for busy students.

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

Students who take a research class are sometimes unfamiliar with what a research proposal is. However, instructors usually agree that the research paper itself is only as good as the proposal. When a proposal is bad, your instructor will dismiss your whole project. My tip for writing proposals is to build a checklist before embarking on the writing process. The checklist items should include your question (the purpose of the study), critical context points, a rationale for the study (why it’s worth the research), issues or problems, independent and dependent variables, hypothesis or theory, and lastly the limitations. After you’ve finished with that, there are a couple of questions that you can ask yourself to make your proposal stronger. I suggest you address what you plan to accomplish with your writing and why you want to do it, as well as how you are going to do it. These three questions are essentially the entirety of your essay. Remember this: a good research project can be at significant risk because of a poorly written proposal.

Prof. Catherine Owens, from EssayPro

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