How to Write a Research Proposal

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How to write a research proposal

There is no single format for research proposals. This is because every research project is different. Different disciplines, donor organisations and academic institutions all have different formats and requirements. There are, however, several key components which must be included in every research proposal. The specific research problem will dictate what other sections are required. Key components are:

• A description of the research problem.
• An argument as to why that problem is important.
• A review of literature relevant to the research problem. • A description of the proposed research methodology.
• A description of how the research findings will be used and/or disseminated. DESCRIBING A RESEARCH PROBLEM
Before your proposal can make sense to a reader, he or she must understand clearly what the proposed research will be about. Therefore, you would do well to begin this section with a clear and simple formulation of your research question. Read the following examples: • This research project explores the extent to which vigilantism is growing within different sectors of the South African population. In particular the research focuses on the factors which promote and maintain vigilantism in our society. • Many community projects in rural Mpumalanga rely on micro-enterprises (such as community gardens and spaza shops), to extend the income generating potential of communities. The following is an investigation of the extent to which these micro-enterprises do actually influence the broader economic position of these communities. Flesh out this section with some or all of the following:

• Where does this research question come from?
If it arises out of a debate in the literature, introduce that debate.

• Clarify or quantify any concepts which may not be clear.

Have a look at a very simple example:
This research project explores the extent to which vigilantism is growing within different sectors of the South African population. In particular the research focuses on the factors which promote and maintain vigilantism in our society. Recent reports in the media detailing the operation of extensive and organized vigilante groups have created public interest and concern, and there are important implications for policing policy. A "vigilante" is defined as being "a volunteer committee of citizens for the oversight and protection of any interest, especially one organized to suppress and punish crime summarily, as when the process of law appears inadequate" (Smith, 2001).

WHY THE RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT
This section, often referred to as the "rationale" is crucial, because it is one place in which the researcher tries to convince her/his supervisor/external examiner that the research is worth doing. You can do this by describing how the results may be used.

Think about how your research:

* may resolve theoretical questions in your area
* may develop better theoretical models in your area
* may influence public policy
* may change the way people do their jobs in a particular field, or may change the way people live. Are there other contributions your research will make? If so, describe them in detail. Look at the following example: In the economic example of micro-enterprises in rural communities, the researcher might argue that the research will: * provide an understanding of the economic impact of micro-enterprises * support the government's plans for start-up loans to micro-enterprises * demonstrate the usefulness of micro-enterprises as part of rural development, thereby contributing to the work of government and non-government rural development organisations. Detail regarding each of these three points should be added to produce a convincing argument as to the usefulness of the research. Literature review

The literature review presents one of the greatest challenges of the research proposal to experienced and inexperienced researchers alike. The...
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