Use this sheet to help you:
understand the main elements that comprise a research proposal •
prepare a well-structured and well-written research proposal
5 minute self test
1. How long should a research proposal be?
a. 1 – 3 pages
b. 3 – 7 pages
c. 7 – 15 pages
d. 15 – 20 pages
2. Which of the following is NOT needed in a research proposal? a. a research question
b. a list of references
c. a detailed literature review
d. a research timetable
3. How can proposed research be justified?
a. a gap in the literature needs to be addressed
b. an unusual or improved methodology is to be used
c. the research may benefit policy and practice
d. all of the above
4. The research plan:
a. should commit you to a plan of action
b. should be a substantial part of the proposal
c. should show your project is well organised and achievable d. is the same as the research timetable
Check your answers on Page 8
© The University of Melbourne 2010.
These materials were produced by the Teaching and Learning Unit, University of Melbourne. The University of Sydney has reproduced these materials under licence from the University of Melbourne.
The importance of the research proposal
A research proposal is a document of usually three to seven pages that informs others of a proposed piece of research. This proposed research is usually a Masters or Doctorate by thesis, but it can also be work for a corporate purpose. University students usually write research proposals for academics who may eventually supervise the work based on the proposal.
A research proposal can be rejected as unsuitable or poorly designed and on the basis of this, a piece of research can be rejected. The proposal is, therefore, an important document; one that is worth spending some time on to get right. Another reason to get the proposal right is that this can save you time in the long run. If the proposal is well-designed, it can form an outline of the thesis to follow, and ideally, can be mapped onto various parts of the final thesis.
The elements of the research proposal:
The following elements must be included in any proposal:
1. Introduction or background to the research problem or issue, including an identification of the gap in the current research
2. Research question and, if possible, a thesis statement answering the question 3. Justification for the proposal research, i.e., why the research is needed 4. Preliminary literature review covering what others have already done in the area 5. Theoretical framework to be used in the proposed research 6. Statement of the contribution of the research to the general area 7. Proposed research methodology
8. Research plan and outline
9. Timetable of proposed research
10. List of references used in preparing the proposal
The following elements may also be included in the proposal:
Limitations of the research (what the research is not intended to do, i.e., the •
scope of the research)
Resources to be used in the research, e.g., equipment
Statement of the means by which the research will be evaluated or tested Statement of where and how results of the research will be disseminated Background of the researcher and their suitability for the task
This helpsheet addresses the main elements listed above.
The elements of the research proposal: detail
The introduction should be as brief as possible (a paragraph or two). Whatever you do, don’t ramble on for pages; you need to make this part of the proposal clear and crisp. In the introduction, you need to give a sense of the general field of research of which your area is a part. You then need to narrow to the specific area of your concern. This should lead logically to the gap in the research that you intend to fill. When the gap is identified, a research question can then be...
References: McLeay, F. J. and Zwart, A.C. (1993), Agricultural marketing and Farm marketing
Strategies Australian Agribusiness Review Volume 1 No 1
Perry, C. (2003). Research Proposal Structure Keyed into the Thesis Structure, Accessed
Sekaran, U. (1992). Research Methods for Business: A Skills Building Approach. New York:
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