(Last updated on: 10/12/2020)
Your research proposal comes at the beginning of your research project. Whilst you obviously won’t now all of the answers at this point, you do need to demonstrate that you have thought about all of the key areas of your research, that your ideas are valid and that they are feasible. Today I will give you some top tips on how to write an awesome research proposal.
How to write an awesome research proposal
Tip #1: Be able to justify your choice of topic
Whether you are presenting your research proposal in written, verbal or graphical format, you need to be able to provide strong justifications for your choice of topic.
Your topic should be academically suitable (i.e. at the appropriate level, related to literature etc), but it should also have some ‘real-world’ value. In other words, you need to show that your research project can be useful in the world of business. You will need to clearly demonstrate this using references, statistics, figures etc.
For example, if I was to propose a research project focussing on the receptiveness of pilot automation amongst airline passengers, I would support this by demonstrated the increased use of automation in other context such as cars or trains. I would also describe the level of automation already in practice by specific airlines. For more on what makes a research project suitable and why visit this post- ‘How to select a suitable research project topic’.
Tip #2: Know the background of your topic
Whilst you do not need to provide a comprehensive literature review at the research proposal stage, you should have a clearly organised conceptual framework. I recommend that you do some preliminary reading and start to keep an annotated bibliography to help organise your reading.
Knowing the background of your topic will help you to better justify why it is important and to provide a comprehensive rationale. It will also help you to make better decisions regarding the angle that your research may take and your methodological decisions.
Tip #3: Have a well thought-through methodology
Everything that you will cover in your final methods chapter should be briefly touched upon in your research proposal. This demonstrates that you have considered all of the methodological options available to you as a researcher and that you can justify your decisions. Things to include here are: research philosophy; ontology and epistemology; research approach (qualitative or quantitative); methods (interviews, surveys etc), sampling and ethics. Make sure that you include references here too- I also recommend that you use some of the excellent research methods books available to you- I recommend Social Research Methods by Bryman and Research Methodology: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners by Kumar.
Tip #4: Have a strong theoretical and conceptual underpinning
Many students will submit their research proposal with lots of great ideas, but it will lack theoretical and conceptual underpinning. To give your research proposal credibility (and to get the highest grades!) you will need to include lots of relevant theory.
Think about the main concepts that you will address in your literature and outline these in your proposal. Demonstrate that you can think analytically about the literature sources and content that you will use. Make sure that you have justified your methodological decisions with the appropriate citations and references.
Tip #5: Be analytical
Remember that this is a degree level piece of work or higher. As such you need to demonstrate critical thinking and analysis throughout your proposal. Think about the limitations that your research might have (in terms of size, scope, money?).
Make sure that you are analytical at all stages of your proposal, from your literature review through to your methods. Weight up the benefits and limitations along with any risks.
For more on how to write a research project you might be interested in my posts ‘How to structure a research project’ and ‘How to get inspiration for your research project topic’.