The Research Proposal

Your research question(s) should be ones that have not been fully answered in previous research so that you are adding to the literature.However, you want your literature review to have at least something to report, so an area where there is already plenty of research is better than a completely new topic.Whether or not you are required to submit a research proposal before your dissertation, it is good practice to summarise what you plan to do, and why, before you start as it will help to keep your research on track.

Keep a note of ideas and questions, and then send a single email to your supervisor requesting an appointment, and setting out your broad thinking, preferably with your outline research questions.

Your supervisor will soon make clear whether they think your ideas are too broad for study and will hopefully help you to narrow them down.

Your research proposal may be a part of your dissertation, submitted in advance, or submitted as a separate piece of work.

You may also be required to write a research proposal as part of a grant application.

You can and should use your dissertation supervisor as a sounding board as you develop your thinking, although beware of bombarding them with enthusiastic and/or panicky emails.

It’s usually better to ask for a meeting to discuss your ideas, rather than trying to have a discussion by email.Frame it as a question that you could ask somebody: good research questions often begin with asking words like who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much.Once you have brainstormed several questions related to your topic, look at each one individually against the following checklist of considerations.It is needed to persuade supervisors, funders and other stakeholders of the value of the research and the likelihood that it will successfully be able to answer the research question(s).A typical research proposal contains: In addition, when a research proposal is made to a funding body or when plans for communication are not implicit in the project (e.g., when the research is undertaken for a dissertation), then it is usual to include a detailed budget and a description of the communication plans in the proposal.If you are submitting a grant application, or research proposal to a university, you will probably have a maximum word count or be given an acceptable word count range. If the maximum is 2000 words, and you’ve written 500, you probably haven’t provided enough detail.On the other hand, if you’ve written twice as much as expected, then you’ll need to cut it down considerably.By the time you have finished developing your research question(s), they should be tight and carefully defined, including a clear idea of the sector or area of study, study population, and what someone will know after reading your research.Once you have a topic, and research question(s), then you can decide on a title, which should broadly cover your research question(s) and summarise what you are going to do.Then start to read around those subjects to narrow down the field of interest.Now is a good time to identify a possible supervisor and talk to them about whether they would be prepared to supervise you and help you narrow down your research topic.

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