Skip to Main Content




This guide will aid you in writing a research proposal. 

Why Write a Research Proposal?

Research proposals are necessary for acquiring research grants. However, they are not written like typical essays. Research proposals require you to present multiple arguments. Firstly, they must demonstrate that your research problem is worthwhile. Secondly, they must argue that you can conduct the necessary research to solve it. 

How to Write a Research Proposal

Before beginning to write a research proposal, make sure you have thoroughly read the application requirements. You should also determine what voice and terminology to use, considering your audience.  

Research proposals have four main parts (listed below). However, not all research proposals will look exactly like this. It is important to structure your research proposal according to the application requirements. 

  1. The Introduction. The introduction should briefly introduce your research problem, and explain why you want to investigate it. 
  2. The Research Question. The second part of your proposal should be an in-depth look at your research problem. You should explain why your research is important and investigate similar research in the field (if any is available). You will likely find that similar research exists, but is partially incomplete. You should demonstrate what is currently missing from the scholarly conversation, and explain why your research can "patch" this hole. 
  3. The Methodology. The third part of your proposal should explain how you intend to conduct your research. Your proposal should answer the following questions:
    1. What research methods are appropriate in solving my research question?
    2. What method am I choosing and why? What are its benefits and drawbacks?
    3. What population am I testing? How am I ensuring a reliable control? 
    4. How can I ensure neutrality and consistency? How sound is my research?
    5. How does my research method applicably solve my research problem? 
  4. The Logistics. After presenting your research methods, you should commit to a timetable. You should present a reasonable schedule and budget. Then, you should explain how you intend to stay on track with these limits. 
  5. The Conclusion. Finally, you should concisely wrap up your proposal. In doing this, highlight the importance of your research once more. 

Don't forget to include a well-formatted bibliography, and to cite any referenced information!

This article, on the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website, provides more in-depth information on writing research proposals. 

Additional Tips 

1. Don't be shy of adding personal anecdotes. Research proposals are usually "sterile" texts, but it's okay to let through some personality. Oftentimes, a story can explain your interest in a research question. 

2. Be concise. Research proposals are not research papers. It's important to be well-researched, but the approval committee may be tempted to skim-read an overly-lengthy proposal. 

3. Pay attention to your bibliography. A good research proposal should draw from existing research, and cite it accordingly. Like grammatical errors, improper citations are unprofessional and they suggest that your proposal was rushed. 

Davidson College Library Research Guides are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Mailing Address: Davidson College - E.H. Little Library, 209 Ridge Road, Box 5000, Davidson, NC 28035