Research Proposal

Writing Research Proposals: An Introduction

The handout is intended as a basic guide to the elements of research and grant proposals. It includes a list of hyperlinks by discipline to further assist you in more specific writing guidelines. Before you start writing any grant application, you should carefully read the specific instructions provided.

Research/Project Proposals

Research proposals are intended to convince the audience that one’s project is worthwhile, and that the author has the competence and organization to complete it. Generally, a research proposal should contain all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study. Research and project proposals vary in length; they can be from 5 to 40 pages, depending on what the department, committee chair, or funding source requires.
Regardless of the research area and chosen methodology, all research proposals must address the following questions:
What do you plan to accomplish?
Why is this research or project valuable to the field? How are you going to execute the study?
A research proposal often shares similarities to a project proposal; however, a research proposal addresses a particular project: academic or scientific research. The forms and procedures for such research are usually clearly defined by the field of study, so guidelines for research proposals are generally more exacting than less formal project proposals.
Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews and should provide convincing support of the necessity of the research study being proposed. Doctoral dissertations begin with research proposal (also called a prospectus); the proposal must be accepted by the candidate’s committee before the actual research begins. In addition to providing a compelling rational for the proposed research, the proposal must detail the methodology for conducting said research; this methodology must be consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field.
Elements of a Proposal:
Introduction Statement of the Problem Purpose of the Study Review of the Literature
Questions and/or Hypotheses Methodology Significance of the Study References
Following is a list of general criteria for evaluating research and grant proposals:
Does the proposal address a well-formulated problem?
Is the research important (e.g., will the data collected have useful effects)? Is special funding necessary to solve the problem or collect the research?
Is the research grounded in existing substance, and is this groundwork sufficiently sketched out?
Does the proposal clearly explain what work or research will be pursued? Does the applicant have experience (i.e., a good track record) with proposed
research and/or publication?

Additional Resources and Links by Discipline


Online Writing Lab (OWL) Purdue University
“Writing in the Humanities.” Dartmouth University
Brown University Writing Center– humanities.html


CHEMINFO, “Guide for Better Science Writing.” Indiana University
“Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students.” Virginia Tech.
“A Guide for Proposal Writing.” National Science Foundation
Brown University Writing Center– sciences.html

Social Sciences

“Writing in the Social Sciences.” Dartmouth University
“Paisley Currah’s Writing Guide.” CUNY
“General Advice on Social Science Writing.” Boston University
Brown University Writing Center– socsci.html
These guidelines were put together for use by the GPSA of UNLV by Heather Lusty, GPSA Vice-President 2007-2008.

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