A research proposal is a document that outlines a researcher's planned approach for a research project. Research proposals are submitted so that students can receive advice and feedback from their professors before spending time and energy on a project. Research proposals are drafts of research plans; therefore, they should be as comprehensive as possible in order for the student to receive as much input as possible from their instructors.
A research proposal is different from a research paper because it only outlines a possible research plan; it does not report on an executed research study. However, a research proposal does require an element of research in order to contextualize the proposed study and suggest its relevance.
Research proposals should explain the topic of the researcher's study, give an explanation of the topic and the reason it is deserving of study, present a survey of existing research regarding that topic, and explain how the researcher will approach the topic in his or her own study.
First, the document should introduce, define, and contextualize the topic. This should be done by giving an overview of the topic and highlighting its relevance through the use of valid scholarly resources. Next, the document should suggest why the researcher wishes to investigate the topic by commenting on why the research topic both deserves and needs additional research. In other words, the document should justify the reasons why the proposed research is important.
Most sound research proposals further justify the researcher's plan of study by pointing to relevant existing research on the topic. This section need not always be as comprehensive as a literature review—an exhaustive study of research in a certain topic—but it should point to the most recent and relevant studies related to the researcher's topic of interest. Each research study discussed should be clearly and thoroughly explained in its own paragraph or set of paragraphs, and should give a complete description of that study's findings.
Finally, a research proposal will give a summary of the researcher's planned approach to the topic. This summary should explain how the study will be carried out and provide an overview of any instruments, approaches to data collection, or methods of data analysis the research will use. This section must be detailed enough for the instructor to have a comprehensive understanding of the researcher's study procedures.
All reports should be written in the future tense.
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