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How to Write an Impressive Research Proposal

A research proposal should answer three basic questions. It lays out the method, reasoning, and plan for a research project. This is the foundation for structuring and executing research, and a solid plan will often result in an effectively- executed project. A good proposal is well-written and will answer the questions what, how, and why.

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How are you going to accomplish it?
  • Why are you pursuing this research?

These questions will be answered in detail throughout the proposal. The information should be presented following a specific structure.

  • Title and Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Method
  • Results

Now let’s take a look at each section in a little more detail.

Title and Abstract

The title should be specific and get straight to the point. The abstract offers a short summation of the work. It should be around 300 words and include the research question, why the study is being performed, the hypothesis if there is one, methods, and major findings. The purpose of the abstract is to make it easy for other scholars to locate the proposal using academic databases.


The introduction should do just what it says: introduce your project. The main point of this portion is to present the research question, which is also sometimes referred to as the “purpose of the study,” and to provide necessary background information to the reader.

After delivering the research question, briefly explain the scholarly framework in a way that validates the question. Go on to explain why it is beneficial to pursue the research. Then you should break down important variables in the experiment or describe a phenomenon you intend to study.

Literature Review

If the literature review is not incorporated in the introduction itself, it should be presented immediately afterward. Many people prefer to separate the two as it tends to generate less confusion. The literature review should survey the scholarly literature that is relevant to your research and should also include an analysis that clearly shows why your research question is necessary.

Organize the review well, and don’t repeat information or use unnecessarily complex language. Be sure that you have included all of the major foundational articles to support your research. One of the biggest mistakes people make is leaving out important resources that lend credence to the why and what behind their research.


This section details the how of your research. It will describe how you plan to collect data, explaining any and all research procedures. If you are performing experiments, this is where you carefully explain every step of the process and how you plan to accomplish each one. Include enough detail for the reader to recreate the experiment if desired. This should include a breakdown of all the materials required to conduct the research and experiments as well as a timeframe for completing the project.

This section should also address alternative methods of research and data collection while explaining why you chose the specific methods used in your experiment.


While you won’t have results at the proposal stage, you can use this section to discuss data collection and statistical procedures that will be used to present findings once you have them.

Writing a good proposal is essential to performing a good experiment, and to getting your proposal accepted by the review board! Make sure you provide a solid framework within your field for your research question, organize the material well, and present all relevant studies and scholarly contributions.

Stay focused on your research question while you write and remember that your primary job is to clearly inform and persuade the reader as to the validity of your research.