Proposal Writing

When one is applying for research degree like PhD, one is required to write a research proposal as a part of the application process. A research proposal is a proposition of what you want to explore. It includes a short introduction to the subject under study, problem statement, review or literature, and methodology.


The following are the main components of a research proposal:

  1. Introduction

This provides the background of the study. The introduction should:

  • Create reader’s interest in the given topic
  • Lay foundation for the research problem
  • Place the study within wider research literature context
  • Reach to the specific audience
  • Discuss the theoretical framework under which the study will be carried out. It must identify whether it will be carried out in positivist, interpretivist, or critical research paradigms.
  1. Statement of the problem
  • The problem for the research should be clearly states the research problem.
  • Problem statement should answer the question “Why does this research need to be conduction?”
  • For conference proposals, statement of the problem should be included in the introduction.

III. Purpose of the study

  • Should define and limit the specific area that will be researched
  • It should also foreshadow the hypothesis or the questions to be raised
  • It should also incorporate the rationale for the study
  • It should have a sentence that starts with “The purpose of this study is….”
  • Identify method of inquiry
  1. Research questions and/or hypothesis
  • This section can include either research question or research hypothesis depending on the research paradigm used.
  • Questions should be relevant to the research and should guide the data collection and analysis process
  • A research question pose a relationship between two or more variables but this relationship is expressed as a question.  On the other hand, a hypothesis is a declarative statement of a relationship between two or more variables
  • The hypothesis can be:
  • Literally null which express a “no difference” form
  • Operational null
  • Literally null
  • Operational alternative
  1. Significance of the study
  • This section should justify the study. It should indicate how the intended research will refine and extend the existing body of knowledge.
  • It should highlight implication of the research on the existing body of knowledge.
  1. Review of Literature
  • This section provides the background and context of the research problem.
  • It should be geared towards establishing gap in  existing research and hence justify the need for further research
  • It should demonstrate that the researcher has comprehensive grasp of the field and understands the recent methodological development in the field.

VII. Methodology
Research design

This states the research design that will be used in the study. This should closely follow the research paradigm. It should indicate the methodological steps to be followed. It is important to justify why a particular research design has been adopted.


Sampling involves the selection the participants for the study. This section should indicate the sampling method used and the size of sample selected. It should justify the size of the sample and the method that was used in selecting the sample. Key concern here should be the validity especially external validity in the way the findings of the study can be generalized to the whole population.


This section should outline the instruments that will be used in the study. These are data collection instruments like survey, scales, interview protocols, observation grids, and others. An appendix of the copy of instruments to be used should be included.

Administration of data collection tools

This section should outline general plan for collecting data. This will include administration of the data collection tool including the procedure that will be followed and duration it will take to administer the tools.

Data Analysis

This section should specify the produce that will be used in data analysis like ANOVA, MANOVA, HLM, ethnography, grounded theory, case study, and others. If coding procedure will be used, it should be given in details. This section should also indicate the analytical tool that will be used.

VIII. Limitations

  • This identifies potential weakness in the study.  This may include areas of analysis, nature of self report, instrumentation, sampling, threat to internal validity
  • Explain how best the limitations will be minimized
  1. Appendixes

Appendixes may be included or not. These are other materials that clarify the research. They may include:

  • Maps of data collection area
  • Questionnaires to be used
  • Sample informed consent forms
  • Official letter permitting the research
  • Verbatim of instructions that will be given to participants

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