How to Write a Research Proposal: Requirements, Outline

research proposal

Let's start with a basic question: what is a research proposal? It is not just a course assignment; but rather a document that proposes a research project on a specific topic. A research paper proposal example describes the process from start to finish, lists the main problems or questions you will solve and outlines the general area of study your research encompasses, for example, in social and behavioral sciences. If you’re wondering how to write a proposal for a research paper, we described the methods of conducting the research, and substantiated the necessity of the proposed research below. Meanwhile, make sure to include the following elements in your research paper:

  • start with an introduction;
  • add literature review;
  • don't forget to discuss the objectives and general methodology;
  • add conclusion;
  • and include bibliography.

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Research Proposal Requirements

Talking about the research proposal format, we should discuss the minimal structural requirements to write a research proposal and how to format a research proposal properly.

1. Description and approach of the General Research Theme

In this phase of research proposal formatting, the discussion framework will be presented in which the concerns are expressed in the investigation. The general topic is not the title of the thesis statement.

2. State of the question

This should express the researcher's knowledge of those experiences of research that revolve around the general theme. What is sought is to demonstrate that the researcher knows the subject they want to investigate, knows the state of knowledge to which they wish to contribute, and knows the shortcomings, gaps, and contradictions they have in the research scope. 

3. Statement of the research problem

The research problem is a "construction process" that must be continuous. The research problem is an aspect of reality from which it is expected to know something. The research problem formulation is the most crucial part of the project since the rest of the aspects that make up the research depend on this.

4. Hypothesis

The hypothesis is a previous, creative and temporary answer to the central question of the Research Problem. Therefore, it is not a mandatory requirement to complete the research. However, some investigations are guided through objectives, which can replace the hypothesis depending on the approach.

5. Variables

They are the elements of the problem decomposition that will be studied in the undergraduate research proposal. The important thing is that the variables must be defined both conceptually (which will be expanded in the theoretical framework) and operationally (through the definition of indicators that will be the benchmarks for elaborating the research.

Check out our another guides: how to write a research paper or how to write a term paper at EssayHub blog.

Research Proposal Outline

What does the writer need the research proposal outline for? It’s a starting point if you’re still asking yourself how to write a research proposal example. The compelling research proposal structure should form the bulk of your written proposal. After this introduction, consider each goal individually. When writing a research proposal, it would be nice to make your goal a subheading. Within each goal, you should have three sections: description, expected results, potential pitfalls, and alternative approaches.

In the description part, you should state the hypothesis for the purpose and the experiments you will carry out, briefly specifying the number of repetitions and the experiments' conditions.

The expected results are also essential components of a good research proposal. They should indicate what results you expect if the experiments are successful and what those results will mean.


First off, how to start the research proposal? The proposal introduction is some necessary background information, or you can call it the basics of your research, including its main problem. The introduction of the research proposal cover page can start with an overview of the research area, focusing on a specific research problem. Include the following items:

  • Indicate the research problem and the purpose of the research;
  • Provide the rationale;
  • Describe the sub-objectives and main issues you will explain in your research;
  • State your hypothesis or theory;
  • Explain how you are going to carry out the proposed research;
  • Outline the boundaries for the proposed research;
  • Provide definitions of key concepts as needed.

Literature Review

Relate the basic concepts of the chosen theme with the applications to the research problem formulated; explain how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem. Start your research proposal literature review with the classic books, which are a reference area of ​​the research project, and funnel the information and results into articles in scientific journals. When reading these scientific articles, try not only to stick to the results found but also to the research procedures.

A well-written bibliographic review will provide clues about the directions that the proposal paper should follow, the appropriate procedures, and, mainly, provide information that will be used in the discussion of the results when the existing research is already in the data analysis phase. In other words: carefully reviewing the research project's bibliography can facilitate the later writing of the article or monograph.

Research Design And Methods

The methodology in the research proposal is the essential part. In the "design and methods" section, all the procedures, materials, equipment, and methods necessary to test your hypotheses and reach your objectives should be listed. In experimental areas, this part of the scholarly research paper usually follows the following script: the experimental area, experimental design, evaluated treatments, control of experimental conditions, analyzed variables, and statistical analysis.

But how do you know if the "material and methods" parts of the research proposal project are well written? Simple: hand over your research proposal template to someone outside your area and see if they can do your research precisely the way you would. If he or she has doubts about accomplishing something, your project is probably not clear enough.


Now that we have discussed the research proposal timeline let's move to another crucial point. The research grant proposal budget is nothing more than a more or less extensive summary in which we will list the resources we need to develop the research proposal idea and include their economic cost.

Regarding the budget format, each financing entity usually requires its own. The important thing is the spending chapters and it is that practically all budgets will coincide in a series of chapters:

  • Personal;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Costs;
  • Dissemination costs (of the research results).

Here are the things you need to consider when you are planning the budget for the research proposal:

  • Infrastructure;
  • Team;
  • Resources for operation;
  • Information services and obtaining documents;
  • Buying books;
  • Fieldwork expenses;
  • Reagents, materials, and consumables;
  • Equipment maintenance;
  • Animals for experimentation;
  • External services (parcel, photography, equipment rental, construction work, gas supply);
  • Editing or printing.


Every research project proposal has some things that can derail it. A section on alternative approaches and your potential pitfalls should identify what might be holding you back from achieving success. You should have at least one potential trap for every target, if not several. Then, explain what you will do if one of the potential pitfalls occurs, and write about your alternative approaches.

Overall, this framework helps you answer peer reviewers' research questions as they arise and allows you to play devil's advocate in your work. As a result, you will get a qualitative research proposal.


Whether you’re writing a research proposal example APA or MLA style, you have to include the reference list. It allows you to identify and locate the references to verify the information or supplement it if necessary. 

What are they for? To give credibility to the work that is presented. To ensure academic and scientific rigor and comply with the legislation on intellectual property, the authors must identify the sources of data, statements, and graphics of other authors used in the text.

How is a bibliographic reference compiled? First, you must collect the necessary data during the work preparation to identify the consulted documents. 

How are the bibliographic references ordered?

  • They must be arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname.
  • If you have two or more identical surnames, organize them alphabetically by the name's letters.
  • If there are several references by year – from least to most significant.
  • The references must each have a French indentation (hanging indent) of 5 spaces in the second line, with a spacing of 1.5. Free space is inserted between reference and reference.
  • The References are listed at the end of the paper proposal, after the annexes.

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Common Mistakes

If you want to know how to make a research proposal, you should consider all the possible mistakes that are usually made. One of the first mistakes made when starting to work on research proposals is to think that it is a job that must be done according to a recipe or manual, but without any reflection on why to do something first. It leads to inconsistencies between the various phases of the research and, in turn, minimal possibilities of understanding the object of study.

A second error committed during the construction of the research project was the division of the project sections among the team members, without having clarity and minimal consensus on the dynamics and objectives of the research to be carried out, leaving as a consequence the loss of time, excess effort, resources, etc. Simultaneously, the "loss of the common thread" is evident between essential elements such as the research problem, hypotheses, objectives, methods, techniques, research proposal topics, and information gathering.

Finally, a third error that can emerge when writing research proposals is the arbitrariness without prior reflection with which the research methods and techniques are selected, not being clear about what, why, and how to write a research proposal. This leads to many researchers adopting dualistic, dogmatic, and even contradictory positions in the design of the research project, thus impoverishing the construction of new knowledge. 

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In this article, we have tried to describe every aspect of research proposal writing. If you still have difficulties in answering the question "how to write a paper proposal" or desire a perfect pdf research proposal example, don't be shy and use the writing services at any time to buy research papers.

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