Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to determine that the research problem has not been adequately addressed or has been answered ineffectively and, in so doing, become better at locating pertinent scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of conducting scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those findings. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your proposal is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to investigate.
  • Why do you want to do the research? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of in-depth study. A successful research proposal must answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to conduct the research? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having difficulty formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here for strategies in developing a problem to study.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise . A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review . Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem.
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research . This is critical. In many workplace settings, the research proposal is a formal document intended to argue for why a study should be funded.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar . Although a research proposal does not represent a completed research study, there is still an expectation that it is well-written and follows the style and rules of good academic writing.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues . Your proposal should focus on only a few key research questions in order to support the argument that the research needs to be conducted. Minor issues, even if valid, can be mentioned but they should not dominate the overall narrative.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal.  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing most college-level academic papers, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. The text of proposals generally vary in length between ten and thirty-five pages, followed by the list of references. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like, "Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Most proposals should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea based on a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Answer the "So What?" question by explaining why this is important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This is where you explain the scope and context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.

To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care?].
  • Describe the major issues or problems examined by your research. This can be in the form of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain the methods you plan to use for conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will be excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts, theories, or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while at the same time, demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations. Also pay attention to any suggestions for further research.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in relation to the arguments put forth by other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you review more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

NOTE: Do not shy away from challenging the conclusions made in prior research as a basis for supporting the need for your proposal. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. Highlighting the problematic conclusions strengthens your proposal. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

To help frame your proposal's review of prior research, consider the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: describe what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate among scholars?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, and methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that you have a plan worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used, but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results obtained in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is a deliberate argument as to why techniques for gathering information add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method applied to research in the social and behavioral sciences is perfect, so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your professor!

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications . The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy making. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.   When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to challenging the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions that support the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace, organization, or community?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented and what innovations or transformative insights could emerge from the process of implementation?

NOTE:   This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence . The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.

ANOTHER NOTE : This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations because the study has yet to be conducted, you still must tell the reader where and in what form impediments may arise and how you plan to address them.

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study . This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done;
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer;
  • The decision for why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options;
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem; and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used . In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- a list of only the sources you actually used in creating your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- a list of everything you used in creating your proposal, along with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to ensure the project will complement and not just duplicate the efforts of other researchers. It demonstrates to the reader that you have a thorough understanding of prior research on the topic.

Most proposal formats have you start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences , Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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  • Last Updated: Jun 3, 2024 9:44 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/assignments

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Writing a Research Proposal

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Is it Peer-Reviewed?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism [linked guide]
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper

The goal of a research proposal is to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting the research are governed by standards within the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, so guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and/or benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to ensure a research problem has not already been answered [or you may determine the problem has been answered ineffectively] and, in so doing, become better at locating scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of doing scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those results. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your writing is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to research.
  • Why do you want to do it? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of study. Be sure to answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to do it? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having trouble formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here .

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise; being "all over the map" without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual boundaries of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.].
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research.
  • Failure to stay focused on the research problem; going off on unrelated tangents.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal .  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal . Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal . International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal . University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing a regular academic paper, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. Proposals vary between ten and twenty-five pages in length. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like--"Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

In general your proposal should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea or a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in one to three paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Why is this important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. This is where you explain the context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is relevant to help explain the goals for your study.

To that end, while there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to address some or all of the following key points:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing. Answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care].
  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Set the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you will study, but what is excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, where stated, their recommendations. Do not be afraid to challenge the conclusions of prior research. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your study in relation to that of other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you read more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

To help frame your proposal's literature review, here are the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.] .
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that it is worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of these operations in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that a methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method is perfect so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your reader.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal . Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal . The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal . International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal . University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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  • Next: Types of Research Designs >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 8, 2023 12:19 PM
  • URL: https://guides.library.txstate.edu/socialscienceresearch

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Drawing on guidelines developed in the UBC graduate guide to writing proposals (Petrina, 2009), we highlight eight steps for constructing an effective research proposal:

  • Presenting the topic
  • Literature Review
  • Identifying the Gap
  • Research Questions that addresses the Gap
  • Methods to address the research questions

Data Analysis

  • Summary, Limitations and Implications

In addition to those eight sections, research proposals frequently include a research timeline. We discuss each of these eight sections as well as producing a research timeline below.

Presenting The Topic (Statement of Research Problem)

The research proposal should begin with a hook to entice your readers. Like a steaming fresh pie on a windowsill, you want to allure your reader by presenting your topic (the pie on the sill) and then alluding to its importance (the delicious scent and taste of the cooling cherry pie). This can be done in many ways, so long as you are able to entice your reader to the core themes of your research. Some suggestions include:

Highlighting a paradox that your work will attempt to resolve e.g., “Why is it that social research has been shown to bring about higher net-positive outcomes than natural scientific research, but is funded less?” or “Why is it that women earn less than men in meritocratic societies even though they have more qualifications?” Paradoxes are popular because they draw on problematics (see Chapter 1) and indicate an obstacle in the thinking of fellow researchers that you may offer hope in resolving.

  • Presenting a narrative introduction (often used in ethnographic papers) to the problem at hand. The following opening statement from Bowen, Elliott & Brenton (2014, p. 20) illustrates:

It’s a hot, sticky Fourth of July in North Carolina, and Leanne, a married working-class black mother of three, is in her cramped kitchen. She’s been cooking for several hours, lovingly preparing potato salad, beef ribs, chicken legs, and collards for her family. Abruptly, her mother decides to leave before eating anything. “But you haven’t eaten,” Leanne says. “You know I prefer my own potato salad,” says her mom. She takes a plateful to go anyway,

  • Provide an historical overview of the problem, discussing its significance in history and indicating how that interrelates to the present: “On January 23rd, 2020, tears were shed as cabbies heard the news of Uber’s approval to operate in the city of Vancouver.”
  • Introduce your positionality to the problem: How did it come of concern? How are you personally related to the social problem in question? The following introduction by Germon (1999, p.687) illustrates:

Throughout the paper I locate myself as part of the disabled peoples movement, and write from a position of a shared value base and analyses of a collective experience. In doing so, I make no apology for flouting academic pretentions of objectivity and neutrality. Rather, I believe I am giving essential information which clarifies my motivation and political position

  • Begin with a quotation : Because this is an overused technique, if you use it, make sure that it addresses your research question and that you can explicitly relate to it in the body of your introduction. Do not start with a quotation for the sake of.
  • Begin with a concession : Start with a statement recognizing an opinion or approach different from the one you plan to take in your thesis. You can acknowledge the merits in a previous approach but show how you will improve it or make a different argument, e.g., “Although critical theory and antiracism explain oppression and exploitation in contemporary society, they do not fully address the experiences of Indigenous peoples”.
  • Start with an interesting fact or statistics : This is a sure way to draw attention to the topic and its significance e.g. “Canada is the fourth most popular destination country in the world for international students in 2018, with close to half a million international students” (CBIE, 2018)
  • A definition : You may start by defining a key term in your research topic. This is useful if it distinguishes how you plan to use a term or concept in your thesis.

The above strategies are not exhaustive nor are they only applicable to the introduction of your research proposal. They can be used to introduce any section of your thesis or any paper. Regardless of the strategy that you use to introduce your topic, remember that the key objective is to convince your reader that the issue is problematic and is worth investigating. A well developed statement of research problem will do the following:

  • Contextualize the problem . This means highlighting what is already known and how it is problematic to the specific context in which you wish to study it. By highlighting what is already known, you can build on key facts (such as the prevalence and whether it has received attention in the past). Please note that this is not the literature review; you are simply fleshing out a few pertinent details to introduce the topic in a few sentences or a paragraph.
  • Specify the problem by describing precisely what you plan to address. In other words, elaborate on what we need to know. For example, building on your contextualization of the problem, you can specify the problem with a statement such as: “There is an abundance of literature on international migration. In fact, the IOM (2018) estimates that there are close to 258 million international migrants globally, who contribute billions to the global economy. However, not much is known about the extent of intra-regional migration in the global south such as within the African continent. There is, hence, a pressing need to study this phenomenon in greater detail.”
  • Highlight the relevance of the problem . This means explaining to the readers why we need to know this information, who will be affected, who will benefit?
  • Outline the goal and objectives of the research.
  • The goal of your research is what you hope to achieve by answering the research question. To write the goal of your research, go back to your research question and state the results you intend to obtain. For example, if your research question is “What effect does extended social media use have on female body images?”, the goal of your research could be stated as “The goal of this study is to identity the point at which social media use negatively impact female body images so that they can be informed about how to use it responsibly.
  • The objectives of your study is a further elaboration on your goals i.e., details about the steps that you will take to achieve the goal. Based on the goal above, you probably will study incidents of depression among female social media users, changes in self-esteem and incidents of eating disorders. These could translate into objectives such as to: (1) compare the incidents of depression among female social media users based on length of use (2) assess changes in female social media users’ self esteem (3) determine if there are differences in the incidents of eating disorder among female social media users based on extent of use. Notice that in achieving those objectives, you will be able to reach the goal of answering your research question.

In summary, you should strive to have one goal for each research question. If your project has only one research question, one goal is sufficient. Your objectives are the pathways (or steps) that will get you to achieve the goal i.e., what will you need to do in order to answer the research question. Summarize the steps in no more than two or three objectives per goal.

Brief Literature Review

After the problem and rationale are introduced, the next step is to frame the problem within the academic discourse. This involves conducting a preliminary literature review covering, inter alia, the history of the phenomena itself and the scholarly theories and investigations that have attempted to understand it (Petrina, 2009). In elaborating on the history of the concepts and theories, you should also attempt to draw attention to the theories which will guide your own research (or which will be contested by your research). By foregrounding the major ways of perceiving the problem, you will then set the stage for your own methodology: the major concepts and tools you will use to investigate/interpret the problem.

While in graduate research proposals the literature review often composes a section of its own (Petrina, 2009), in undergraduate research this step can be incorporated into the introduction. However, you should avoid, as Wong (n.d.) writes, framing your research question “in the context of a general, rambling literature review,” where your research question “may appear trivial and uninteresting.” Try to respond to seminal papers in the literature and to identify clearly for your reader the key concepts in the literature that you will be discussing. Part of outlining the scholarly discussion should also focus on clarifying the boundaries of your topic. While making the significance concrete, try to hone in on select themes that your research will evaluate. This way, when you go to outline the methods you will use, the topic will have clearly defined boundaries and concerns. See chapter 5 for more guidance on how to construct an extended literature review.

Box 2.1 – Tips for the Literature Review

  • Summarize : The literature in your literature review is not going to be exhaustive but it should demonstrate that you have a good grasp on key debates and trends in the field
  • Quality not quantity : Despite the fact that this is non-exhaustive, there is no magic number of sources that you need. Do not think in terms of how many sources are sufficient. Think about presenting a decent representation of key themes in the literature.
  • Highlight theory and methodology of your sources (if they are significant). Doing so could help justify your theoretical and methodological decisions, whether you are departing from previous approaches or whether you are adopting them.
  • Synthesize your results. Do not simply state “According to Robinson (2021)….According to Wilson (2021)… etc”. Instead, find common grounds between sources and summarize the point e.g., “Researchers argue that we should not list our literature (Bartolic, 2021; Robinson, 2020; Wilson 2021).
  • Justify methodological choice
  • Assess and Evaluate: After assessing the literature in your field, you should be able to answer the following questions: Why should we study (further) this research topic/problem?
  • Contribution : At the end of the literature, you should be able to determine contributions will my study make to the existing literature?

As you briefly discuss the key literature concerning your topic of interest, it is important that you allude to gaps. Gaps are ambiguities, faults, and missing aspects of previous studies. Think about questions that you have which are not answered by existing literature. Specifically, think about how the literature might insufficiently address the following, and locate your research as filling those gaps (see UNE, 2021):

  • Population or sample : size, type, location, demography etc. [Are there specific populations that are understudied e.g., Indigenous people, female youth, BIPOC, the elderly etc.]
  • Research methods : qualitative, quantitative, or mixed [Has the research in the area been limited to just a few methods e.g., all surveys? How is yours different?]
  • Data analysis [Are you using a different method of analysis than those used in the literature?]
  • Variables or conditions [Are you examining a new or different set of variables than those previously studied? Are the conditions under which your study is being conducted unique e.g., under pandemic conditions]
  • Theory [Are you employing a theory in a new way?]

Refer to Chapter 6 (Literature Review) for more detail about this process and for a discussion on common types of gaps in social research.

Box 2.2 – Identifying a Gap

To indicate the usefulness and originality of your research, you should be conscious of how your research is both unique from previous studies in the field and how its findings will be useful. When you write your thesis or research report, you will expound on these gaps some more. However, in the body of your proposal, it is important that you explicitly highlight the insufficiency of existing literature (i.e. gaps). Below are some phrases that you can use to indicate gaps:

  • …has not been clarified, studied, reported, or elucidated
  • further research is required or needed
  • …is not well reported
  • key question(s) remains unanswered
  • it is important to address …
  • …poorly understood or known
  • Few studies have (UNE, 2021)

Research Questions & Research Questions that Address the Gap

The gaps and literature you outline should set the context for your research questions. In outlining the major issues concerning your topic, you should have raised key concepts and actors (Wong, n.d.). Your research question should attempt to engage or investigate the key concepts previously stated, showing to your reader that you have developed a line of inquiry that directly touches upon gaps in the previous literature that can be concretely investigated (ie. concepts that are operationalized). After indicating what your research intends to study, formulate this gap into a set of research questions which make investigating this gap tangible. Refer to the previous chapter for more advice about devising a solid research question. Remember, as McCombes (2021) notes, a good research question is:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis (i.e., not answerable with a simple yes/no)
  • Provide scope for debate Original (not one that is answered already)
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly.

Methods to Address Research Questions

By the time you begin writing your methodology section, you would have already introduced your topic and its significance, and have provided a brief account of its scholarly history (literature review) and the gaps you will be filling. The methods section allows you to discuss how you intend to fulfill said gap. In the methods section, you also indicate what data you intend to investigate (content: including the time, place, and variables) and how you intend to find it (the methods you will use to reveal content e.g., qualitative interviewing, discourse analysis, experimental research, and comparative research). Your ability to outline these steps clearly and plausibly will indicate whether your research is repeatable, possible, and effective. Repeatable research allows other researchers to repeat your methods and find the same results (Bhattacherjee, 2012), thereby proving that your findings were not invented but are discoverable by all. Your descriptions must be specific enough so that other researchers can repeat them and arrive at the same results. It is important in this section that you also justify why you believe this specific methodology is the most effective for answering the research question. This does not need to be extensive, but you should at least briefly note why you think, for instance, qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods (and your specific proposed approach) are appropriate for answering your research question. For more details about writing an immaculate methodology, refer to Chapter 7.

This short section requires you to discuss how you intend to interpret your findings. You will need to ask yourself five critical questions before you write this section: (1) will theory guide the interpretation of the results? (2) Will I use a matrix with pre-established codes to categorize results? (3) Will I use an inductive approach such as grounded theory that does not go into an investigation with strict codes? (4) Will I use statistics to explain trends in numerical data? (5) Will I be using a combination of these or another strategy to interpret my findings?This section should also include some discussion of the theories that you intend to use to possibly explain or understand your data. Be sure to outline key notions and explain how they will be operationalized to extrapolate the data you may receive. Again, this section also does not have to be extensive. At this point, you are demonstrating that you have given thought to what you intend to do with the data once you have collected it. This may change later on, but make sure that the proposed analytical strategy is appropriate to the data collected, for example, if you are evaluating newspaper discourse on the coronavirus pandemic, unless you intend to code the data quantitatively, you would not be expected to use statistics. Content, thematic or discourse analysis might be more intuitive. See the Data Analysis (Chapters 9 and 10) for more details.

Summarize, Engage with Limitations, and Implicate

After you have outlined the literature, the gaps in the literature, how you intend to investigate that gap, and how you intend to analyze what you have found, it is important to again reiterate the significance of your study. Allude to what your study could find and what this would mean . This requires returning to the significant territory that began your proposal and linking it to how your study could help to explain/change this understanding or circumstance. Report on the possible beneficial outcomes of your study. For instance, say you study the impact of welfare checks on homelessness. Then you could respond to the following question: How could my findings improve our responses to homelessness? How could it make welfare policies more effective? Remember you must explain the usefulness or benefits of the study to both the outside world and the research community. In addition to noting your strengths, also reflect on the weaknesses. All research has limitations but you need to demonstrate that you have taken steps to mitigate those that can be mitigated and that the research is valuable despite the weaknesses. Be straightforward about the things your study will not be able to find, and the potential obstacles that will be presented to you in conducting your study (in research that is conducted with a population, be sure to note harms/benefits that might come to them). With this in mind, try to address these obstacles to the best of your ability and to prove the value of your study despite inevitable tradeoffs. However, do not finish with a long list of inadequacies. End with a magnanimous crescendo –with the impression that despite the trials and limitations of research, you are prepared for the challenge and the challenge is well worth overcoming. This means reiterating the significance, potential uses and implications of the findings.

Box 2.3 – Seven Tips for Getting Started with Your Proposed Methodology

  • Introduce the overall methodological approach (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, mixed)
  • Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design (e.g., setting, participants, data collection process)
  • Describe the specific methods of data collection (e.g., interviews, surveys, ethnography, secondary data etc.)
  • Explain how you intend to analyze and interpret your results (i.e. statistical analysis, grounded theory; outline any theoretical framework that will guide the analysis; see below ).
  • If necessary, provide background and rationale for unfamiliar methodologies.
  • Highlight the ethical process including whether institutional ethics review was done
  • Address potential limitations ( see below )
Table 2.2- Common Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis Methods
Qualitative Content Analysis
Discourse Analysis
Thematic Analysis
Grounded Theory (Inductive)
Narrative Analysis
Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis
Descriptive Statistics
Mean, median, standard deviation, skewness
Inferential Statistics
T-tests, ANOVA, Correlation, regression, chi-square

Bhattacherjee, Anol. (2012). Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices Textbooks Collection. https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1002&context=oa_textbooks

Bowen, S., Elliott, S., & Brenton, J. (2014). The joy of cooking? Contexts , 13(3), 20-25.

CBIE [Canadian Bureau for International Education] (2018, August). International students in Canada . https://cbie.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/International-Students-in-CanadaENG.pdf

Germon, P. (1999). Purely academic? Exploring the relationship between theory and political activism. Disability & Society, 14(5), 687-692.

International Organization on Migration. (2018). “Global Migration Indicators.” global_migration_indicators_2018.pdf (iom.int)

McCombes, S. (2021, March 22). Developing Strong Research Questions: Criteria and Examples. Scribbr . https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-questions/

UNE (2021). Gaps in the literature. UNE Library services. https://library.une.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Gaps-in-the-Literature.pdf

Petrina, Stephen. (2009). “Thesis Dissertation and Proposal Guide For Graduate Students.”

https://edcp-educ.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2013/08/researchproposal1.pdf

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How To Write A Research Proposal – Step-by-Step [Template]

Table of Contents

How To Write a Research Proposal

How To Write a Research Proposal

Writing a Research proposal involves several steps to ensure a well-structured and comprehensive document. Here is an explanation of each step:

1. Title and Abstract

  • Choose a concise and descriptive title that reflects the essence of your research.
  • Write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. It should provide a brief overview of your proposal.

2. Introduction:

  • Provide an introduction to your research topic, highlighting its significance and relevance.
  • Clearly state the research problem or question you aim to address.
  • Discuss the background and context of the study, including previous research in the field.

3. Research Objectives

  • Outline the specific objectives or aims of your research. These objectives should be clear, achievable, and aligned with the research problem.

4. Literature Review:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of relevant literature and studies related to your research topic.
  • Summarize key findings, identify gaps, and highlight how your research will contribute to the existing knowledge.

5. Methodology:

  • Describe the research design and methodology you plan to employ to address your research objectives.
  • Explain the data collection methods, instruments, and analysis techniques you will use.
  • Justify why the chosen methods are appropriate and suitable for your research.

6. Timeline:

  • Create a timeline or schedule that outlines the major milestones and activities of your research project.
  • Break down the research process into smaller tasks and estimate the time required for each task.

7. Resources:

  • Identify the resources needed for your research, such as access to specific databases, equipment, or funding.
  • Explain how you will acquire or utilize these resources to carry out your research effectively.

8. Ethical Considerations:

  • Discuss any ethical issues that may arise during your research and explain how you plan to address them.
  • If your research involves human subjects, explain how you will ensure their informed consent and privacy.

9. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

  • Clearly state the expected outcomes or results of your research.
  • Highlight the potential impact and significance of your research in advancing knowledge or addressing practical issues.

10. References:

  • Provide a list of all the references cited in your proposal, following a consistent citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

11. Appendices:

  • Include any additional supporting materials, such as survey questionnaires, interview guides, or data analysis plans.

Research Proposal Format

The format of a research proposal may vary depending on the specific requirements of the institution or funding agency. However, the following is a commonly used format for a research proposal:

1. Title Page:

  • Include the title of your research proposal, your name, your affiliation or institution, and the date.

2. Abstract:

  • Provide a brief summary of your research proposal, highlighting the research problem, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes.

3. Introduction:

  • Introduce the research topic and provide background information.
  • State the research problem or question you aim to address.
  • Explain the significance and relevance of the research.
  • Review relevant literature and studies related to your research topic.
  • Summarize key findings and identify gaps in the existing knowledge.
  • Explain how your research will contribute to filling those gaps.

5. Research Objectives:

  • Clearly state the specific objectives or aims of your research.
  • Ensure that the objectives are clear, focused, and aligned with the research problem.

6. Methodology:

  • Describe the research design and methodology you plan to use.
  • Explain the data collection methods, instruments, and analysis techniques.
  • Justify why the chosen methods are appropriate for your research.

7. Timeline:

8. Resources:

  • Explain how you will acquire or utilize these resources effectively.

9. Ethical Considerations:

  • If applicable, explain how you will ensure informed consent and protect the privacy of research participants.

10. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

11. References:

12. Appendices:

Research Proposal Template

Here’s a template for a research proposal:

1. Introduction:

2. Literature Review:

3. Research Objectives:

4. Methodology:

5. Timeline:

6. Resources:

7. Ethical Considerations:

8. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

9. References:

10. Appendices:

Research Proposal Sample

Title: The Impact of Online Education on Student Learning Outcomes: A Comparative Study

1. Introduction

Online education has gained significant prominence in recent years, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This research proposal aims to investigate the impact of online education on student learning outcomes by comparing them with traditional face-to-face instruction. The study will explore various aspects of online education, such as instructional methods, student engagement, and academic performance, to provide insights into the effectiveness of online learning.

2. Objectives

The main objectives of this research are as follows:

  • To compare student learning outcomes between online and traditional face-to-face education.
  • To examine the factors influencing student engagement in online learning environments.
  • To assess the effectiveness of different instructional methods employed in online education.
  • To identify challenges and opportunities associated with online education and suggest recommendations for improvement.

3. Methodology

3.1 Study Design

This research will utilize a mixed-methods approach to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. The study will include the following components:

3.2 Participants

The research will involve undergraduate students from two universities, one offering online education and the other providing face-to-face instruction. A total of 500 students (250 from each university) will be selected randomly to participate in the study.

3.3 Data Collection

The research will employ the following data collection methods:

  • Quantitative: Pre- and post-assessments will be conducted to measure students’ learning outcomes. Data on student demographics and academic performance will also be collected from university records.
  • Qualitative: Focus group discussions and individual interviews will be conducted with students to gather their perceptions and experiences regarding online education.

3.4 Data Analysis

Quantitative data will be analyzed using statistical software, employing descriptive statistics, t-tests, and regression analysis. Qualitative data will be transcribed, coded, and analyzed thematically to identify recurring patterns and themes.

4. Ethical Considerations

The study will adhere to ethical guidelines, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of participants. Informed consent will be obtained, and participants will have the right to withdraw from the study at any time.

5. Significance and Expected Outcomes

This research will contribute to the existing literature by providing empirical evidence on the impact of online education on student learning outcomes. The findings will help educational institutions and policymakers make informed decisions about incorporating online learning methods and improving the quality of online education. Moreover, the study will identify potential challenges and opportunities related to online education and offer recommendations for enhancing student engagement and overall learning outcomes.

6. Timeline

The proposed research will be conducted over a period of 12 months, including data collection, analysis, and report writing.

The estimated budget for this research includes expenses related to data collection, software licenses, participant compensation, and research assistance. A detailed budget breakdown will be provided in the final research plan.

8. Conclusion

This research proposal aims to investigate the impact of online education on student learning outcomes through a comparative study with traditional face-to-face instruction. By exploring various dimensions of online education, this research will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness and challenges associated with online learning. The findings will contribute to the ongoing discourse on educational practices and help shape future strategies for maximizing student learning outcomes in online education settings.

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:

Introduction

Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal aims
Show your reader why your project is interesting, original, and important.
Demonstrate your comfort and familiarity with your field.
Show that you understand the current state of research on your topic.
Make a case for your .
Demonstrate that you have carefully thought about the data, tools, and procedures necessary to conduct your research.
Confirm that your project is feasible within the timeline of your program or funding deadline.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

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As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

Building a research proposal methodology
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To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

Example research schedule
Research phase Objectives Deadline
1. Background research and literature review 20th January
2. Research design planning and data analysis methods 13th February
3. Data collection and preparation with selected participants and code interviews 24th March
4. Data analysis of interview transcripts 22nd April
5. Writing 17th June
6. Revision final work 28th July

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
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  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
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Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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  • Writing a Research Proposal

This InfoGuide assists students starting their research proposal and literature review.

  • Introduction
  • Research Process
  • Types of Research Methodology
  • Data Collection Methods
  • Anatomy of a Scholarly Article
  • Finding a topic
  • Identifying a Research Problem
  • Problem Statement
  • Research Question
  • Research Design
  • Search Strategies
  • Psychology Database Limiters
  • Literature Review Search
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Writing a Literature Review

Writing a Rsearch Proposal

A  research proposal  describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.  Your paper should include the topic, research question and hypothesis, methods, predictions, and results (if not actual, then projected).

Research Proposal Aims

Show your reader why your project is interesting, original, and important.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:

Literature review

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Proposal Format

The proposal will usually have a  title page  that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

Introduction The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.. Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your  topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and  research questions To guide your  introduction , include information about:  
  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights will your research contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong  literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or  synthesize  prior scholarship

Research design and methods

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your project. Next, your  research design  or  methodology  section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions. Write up your projected, if not actual, results.

Contribution to knowledge

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Lastly, your research proposal must include correct  citations  for every source you have used, compiled in a  reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use free APA citation generators like BibGuru. Databases have a citation button you can click on to see your citation. Sometimes you have to re-format it as the citations may have mistakes. 

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  • What is a Research Proposal?
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Information on Writing a Research Proposal

From the Sage Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement and Evaluation:

Research proposals are written to propose a research project and oftentimes request funding, or sponsorship, for that research. The research proposal is used to assess the originality and quality of ideas and the feasibility of a proposed project. The goal of the research proposal is to convince others that the investigator has (a) an important idea; (b) the skills, knowledge, and resources to carry out the project; and (c) a plan to implement the project on time and within budget. This entry discusses the process of developing a research proposal and the elements of an effective proposal.

For a graduate student, a research proposal may be required to begin the dissertation process. This serves to communicate the research focus to others, such as members of the student’s dissertation committee. It also indicates the investigator’s plan of action, including a level of thoroughness and sufficient detail to replicate the study. The research proposal could also be considered as a contract, once members of the committee agree to the execution of the project.

Requirements may include:  an abstract, introduction, literature review, method section, and conclusion.  A research proposal has to clearly and concisely identify the proposed research and its importance. The background literature should support the need for the research and the potential impact of the findings.

The method section proposes a comprehensive explanation of the research design, including subjects, timeline, and data analysis. Research questions should be identified as well as measurement instruments and methods to answer the research questions. Proposals for research involving human subjects identify how the investigators will protect participants throughout their research project. 

Proposals often require engaging in an external review either by an external evaluator or advisory  board consisting of expert consultants in the field. References are included to provide documentation about the supporting literature identified in the proposal. Appendixes and supplemental materials may also be included, following the sponsoring organization’s guidelines. As a general rule, educational research proposals follow the American Psychological Association formatting guidelines and publishing standards. If funding is being requested, it is important for the proposal to identify how the research will benefit the sponsoring organization and its constituents.

The success of a research proposal depends on both the quality of the project and its presentation. A proposal may have specific goals, but if they are neither realistic nor desirable, the probability of obtaining funding is reduced. Similar to manuscripts being considered for journal articles, reviewers evaluate each research proposal to identify strengths and criticisms based on a general framework and scoring rubric determined by the sponsoring organization. Research proposals that meet the scoring criteria are considered for funding opportunities. If a proposal does not meet the scoring criteria, revisions may be necessary before resubmitting the proposal to the same or a different sponsoring organization.

Common mistakes and pitfalls can often be avoided in research proposal writing through awareness and careful planning. In an effective research proposal, the research idea is clearly stated as a problem and there is an explanation of how the proposed research addresses a demonstrable gap in the current literature. In addition, an effective proposal is well structured, frames the research question(s) within sufficient context supported by the literature, and has a timeline that is appropriate to address the focus and scope of the research project. All requirements of the sponsoring organization, including required project elements and document formatting, need to be met within the research proposal. Finally, an effective proposal is engaging and demonstrates the researcher’s passion and commitment to the research addressed.

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Drafting a Research Proposal

A research proposal informs the reader (your advisor) about the scope and scale of the issue or idea that you wish to explore in your project.  Your proposal should include the following sections:

1. THE PROBLEM:  provide a succinct statement (one paragraph)

Research is not a summary of what is available on a given topic but an original analysis of a specific problem.  A research problem is distinct from a topic in that it is more specific and orients research toward an analysis or solution. 

Research questions have to be complex.  If you already know the answer to the question, or if it can be obtained through a few simple inquiries, it is not an adequate research problem.  It should be a puzzle, a mystery that you want to solve.    It should also require you to look at multiple sources.  In introducing your problem in a research proposal, you should provide a succinct statement which will help you to remain focused on the issue that you are addressing and how the information you will be discussing is related to that issue.

2. BACKGROUND: create a common ground of understanding

In order for the reader to understand the issue you are presenting, it is necessary to provide a context.  In a proposal, that section provides a brief overview of the larger issues and ideas of your topic, and how this specific research problem relates to these larger issues.  Whatever you choose to highlight, the reader should be convinced that your research will contribute to our understanding of broader social, historical or cultural issues.  

3. LITERATURE REVIEW: enter into the scholarly conversation

A research project should be original, rather than reproducing existing literature on the topic.  Yet it is helpful to consider any current research as part of a scholarly conversation.  The literature review section of your proposal is an opportunity to begin that conversation by reviewing the research to date, indicating what aspects of it your project will build upon and the ways that your proposed research differs from what has already been done.  You should be able to identify themes that emerge from the existing research as well as its shortcomings.  Or, you may find that what exists on the topic is truly excellent, but that it doesn’t account for the specific problem you have identified.  In this section, you should also clarify the theoretical orientation of your project and identify specific sources from which you will draw.  

4. OBJECTIVES: preliminary arguments

In order to build an argument, you must begin to lay out for the reader the claims you are making and the basis on which you are making them.  You should also indicate, even in a preliminary fashion, the “solution” or interpretation you anticipate will result from your analysis of the problem.  It’s likely (perhaps inevitable) that once you’ve completed your research and are writing your final paper, your “solution” will be rather different than you anticipated.  That, in fact, may become a useful point for you to discuss in the conclusion to your work.  But having some sense of the result you expect will help keep your work focused on the relevant issues and will keep you alert to information which may lead to conclusions other than what you expected.

Keep in mind that this is an initial proposal for your research.  You have not fully worked out the argument you intend to present.  The objectives you are presenting in the proposal are based on your initial research into the problem.  Experienced researchers understand that the objectives of their problem get refined as their work progresses.  Yours will, too.

5. METHODS: how the research will be conducted

Once you have provided a context for your research, you should be able to outline for the reader the specific steps you will take to address the problem you have identified.  This will include a discussion of research methods.  In this section, it is important to be clear about how each step, or how each specific method you will employ, will help you get at the problem that guides the research.  In other words, if you say you will be doing focus groups, provide a rationale.  Why is a focus group a better way to collect data for your research than a few in-depth interviews? 

You should include a timetable for your research in this section.  This is not set in stone, but can be helpful as your work progresses.

6. CONCLUSION

This is similar to the conclusion of any written piece.  You should restate the gist of the problem, its relationship to larger issues, the information you will use to address this issue and what you anticipate you will discover. 

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How to write a research proposal

You will need to submit a research proposal with your PhD application. This is crucial in the assessment of your application and it warrants plenty of time and energy.

Your proposal should outline your project and be around 1,500 words.

Your research proposal should include a working title for your project.

Overview of the research

In this section, you should provide a short overview of your research. You should also state how your research fits into the research priorities of your particular subject area.

Here you can refer to the research areas and priorities of a particular research grouping or supervisor.

You must also state precisely why you have chosen to apply to the discipline area and how your research links into our overall profile.

Positioning of the research

This should reference the most important texts related to the research, demonstrate your understanding of the research issues, and identify existing gaps (both theoretical and practical) that the research is intended to address.

Research design and methodology

This section should identify the information that is necessary to carry out the analysis and the possible research techniques that could deliver the information.

Ethical considerations

You should identify and address any potential ethical considerations in relation to your proposed research. Please discuss your research with your proposed supervisor to see how best to progress your ideas in line with University of Manchester ethics guidance, and ensure that your proposed supervisor is happy for you to proceed with your application.

Your research proposal will be used to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, whether you are able to think critically and whether you have a grasp of the relevant literature. It also gives us important information about the perspectives you intend to take on your research area, and how you fit into the department's research profile overall. This is helpful when assigning a supervisor.

If you are applying to study an Economics postgraduate research programme, our advice and requirements are slightly different:

  • How to write an economics proposal

Supervisors

We encourage you to discuss your proposal informally with a potential supervisor before making a formal application to ensure it is of mutual interest.

Please note that we cannot guarantee that we will be able to allocate you to the supervisor you initially contact and that we may allocate you to another expert in the area.

  • Find a supervisor

Flexibility

You will not be forced to follow the proposal exactly once you have started to study. It is normal for students to refine their original proposal, in light of detailed literature review, further consideration of research approaches and comments received from your supervisors (and other academic staff).

Pitfalls to avoid

We sometimes have to reject students who meet the academic requirements but have not produced a satisfactory research proposal, therefore:

  • Make sure that your research idea, question or problem is very clearly stated and well-grounded in academic research.
  • Make sure that your proposal is well focused and conforms exactly to the submission requirements described here.
  • Poorly specified, jargon-filled or rambling proposals will not convince us that you have a clear idea of what you want to do.

The University uses electronic systems to detect plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice and for assessment. All Humanities PhD programmes require the submission of a research proposal as part of the application process. The Doctoral Academy upholds the principle that where a candidate approaches the University with a project of study, this should be original. While it is understandable that research may arise out of previous studies, it is vital that your research proposal is not the subject of plagiarism.

Example proposals

  • Philosophy - Example 1
  • Philosophy - Example 2
  • Politics - Example 1
  • Politics - Example 2
  • Social Anthropology - Example 1
  • Social Anthropology - Example 2
  • Social Statistics - Example 1
  • Social Statistics - Example 2
  • Sociology - Example 1
  • Sociology - Example 2

Further help

The following books may help you to prepare your research proposal (as well as in doing your research degree).

  • Bell, J. (1999):  Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education & Social Science , (Oxford University Press, Oxford).
  • Baxter, L, Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (2001):  How to Research , (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
  • Cryer, P. (2000):  The Research Student's Guide to Success , (Open University, Milton Keynes).
  • Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. and Parry, O. (1997):  Supervising the PhD , (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
  • Philips, E. and Pugh, D. (2005):  How to get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors , (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).

If you need help and advice about your application, contact the Postgraduate Admissions Team.

Admissions contacts

University guidelines

You may also find it useful to read the advice and guidance on the University website about writing a proposal for your research degree application.

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What Is a Research Proposal?

Reference books.

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When applying for a research grant or scholarship, or, just before you start a major research project, you may be asked to write a preliminary document that includes basic information about your future research. This is the information that is usually needed in your proposal:

  • The topic and goal of the research project.
  • The kind of result expected from the research.
  • The theory or framework in which the research will be done and presented.
  • What kind of methods will be used (statistical, empirical, etc.).
  • Short reference on the preliminary scholarship and why your research project is needed; how will it continue/justify/disprove the previous scholarship.
  • How much will the research project cost; how will it be budgeted (what for the money will be spent).
  • Why is it you who can do this research and not somebody else.

Most agencies that offer scholarships or grants provide information about the required format of the proposal. It may include filling out templates, types of information they need, suggested/maximum length of the proposal, etc.

Research proposal formats vary depending on the size of the planned research, the number of participants, the discipline, the characteristics of the research, etc. The following outline assumes an individual researcher. This is just a SAMPLE; several other ways are equally good and can be successful. If possible, discuss your research proposal with an expert in writing, a professor, your colleague, another student who already wrote successful proposals, etc.

  • Author, author's affiliation
  • Explain the topic and why you chose it. If possible explain your goal/outcome of the research . How much time you need to complete the research?
  • Give a brief summary of previous scholarship and explain why your topic and goals are important.
  • Relate your planned research to previous scholarship. What will your research add to our knowledge of the topic.
  • Break down the main topic into smaller research questions. List them one by one and explain why these questions need to be investigated. Relate them to previous scholarship.
  • Include your hypothesis into the descriptions of the detailed research issues if you have one. Explain why it is important to justify your hypothesis.
  • This part depends of the methods conducted in the research process. List the methods; explain how the results will be presented; how they will be assessed.
  • Explain what kind of results will justify or  disprove your hypothesis. 
  • Explain how much money you need.
  • Explain the details of the budget (how much you want to spend for what).
  • Describe why your research is important.
  • List the sources you have used for writing the research proposal, including a few main citations of the preliminary scholarship.

how to write a research proposal in social work

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How to write a research proposal?

Department of Anaesthesiology, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Devika Rani Duggappa

Writing the proposal of a research work in the present era is a challenging task due to the constantly evolving trends in the qualitative research design and the need to incorporate medical advances into the methodology. The proposal is a detailed plan or ‘blueprint’ for the intended study, and once it is completed, the research project should flow smoothly. Even today, many of the proposals at post-graduate evaluation committees and application proposals for funding are substandard. A search was conducted with keywords such as research proposal, writing proposal and qualitative using search engines, namely, PubMed and Google Scholar, and an attempt has been made to provide broad guidelines for writing a scientifically appropriate research proposal.

INTRODUCTION

A clean, well-thought-out proposal forms the backbone for the research itself and hence becomes the most important step in the process of conduct of research.[ 1 ] The objective of preparing a research proposal would be to obtain approvals from various committees including ethics committee [details under ‘Research methodology II’ section [ Table 1 ] in this issue of IJA) and to request for grants. However, there are very few universally accepted guidelines for preparation of a good quality research proposal. A search was performed with keywords such as research proposal, funding, qualitative and writing proposals using search engines, namely, PubMed, Google Scholar and Scopus.

Five ‘C’s while writing a literature review

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Object name is IJA-60-631-g001.jpg

BASIC REQUIREMENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer.[ 2 ] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about the credibility, achievability, practicality and reproducibility (repeatability) of the research design.[ 3 ] Four categories of audience with different expectations may be present in the evaluation committees, namely academic colleagues, policy-makers, practitioners and lay audiences who evaluate the research proposal. Tips for preparation of a good research proposal include; ‘be practical, be persuasive, make broader links, aim for crystal clarity and plan before you write’. A researcher must be balanced, with a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. Being persuasive implies that researcher must be able to convince other researchers, research funding agencies, educational institutions and supervisors that the research is worth getting approval. The aim of the researcher should be clearly stated in simple language that describes the research in a way that non-specialists can comprehend, without use of jargons. The proposal must not only demonstrate that it is based on an intelligent understanding of the existing literature but also show that the writer has thought about the time needed to conduct each stage of the research.[ 4 , 5 ]

CONTENTS OF A RESEARCH PROPOSAL

The contents or formats of a research proposal vary depending on the requirements of evaluation committee and are generally provided by the evaluation committee or the institution.

In general, a cover page should contain the (i) title of the proposal, (ii) name and affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators, (iii) institutional affiliation (degree of the investigator and the name of institution where the study will be performed), details of contact such as phone numbers, E-mail id's and lines for signatures of investigators.

The main contents of the proposal may be presented under the following headings: (i) introduction, (ii) review of literature, (iii) aims and objectives, (iv) research design and methods, (v) ethical considerations, (vi) budget, (vii) appendices and (viii) citations.[ 4 ]

Introduction

It is also sometimes termed as ‘need for study’ or ‘abstract’. Introduction is an initial pitch of an idea; it sets the scene and puts the research in context.[ 6 ] The introduction should be designed to create interest in the reader about the topic and proposal. It should convey to the reader, what you want to do, what necessitates the study and your passion for the topic.[ 7 ] Some questions that can be used to assess the significance of the study are: (i) Who has an interest in the domain of inquiry? (ii) What do we already know about the topic? (iii) What has not been answered adequately in previous research and practice? (iv) How will this research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this area? Some of the evaluation committees, expect the last two questions, elaborated under a separate heading of ‘background and significance’.[ 8 ] Introduction should also contain the hypothesis behind the research design. If hypothesis cannot be constructed, the line of inquiry to be used in the research must be indicated.

Review of literature

It refers to all sources of scientific evidence pertaining to the topic in interest. In the present era of digitalisation and easy accessibility, there is an enormous amount of relevant data available, making it a challenge for the researcher to include all of it in his/her review.[ 9 ] It is crucial to structure this section intelligently so that the reader can grasp the argument related to your study in relation to that of other researchers, while still demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. It is preferable to summarise each article in a paragraph, highlighting the details pertinent to the topic of interest. The progression of review can move from the more general to the more focused studies, or a historical progression can be used to develop the story, without making it exhaustive.[ 1 ] Literature should include supporting data, disagreements and controversies. Five ‘C's may be kept in mind while writing a literature review[ 10 ] [ Table 1 ].

Aims and objectives

The research purpose (or goal or aim) gives a broad indication of what the researcher wishes to achieve in the research. The hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study. The objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

Research design and method

The objective here is to convince the reader that the overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the research problem and to impress upon the reader that the methodology/sources chosen are appropriate for the specific topic. It should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

In this section, the methods and sources used to conduct the research must be discussed, including specific references to sites, databases, key texts or authors that will be indispensable to the project. There should be specific mention about the methodological approaches to be undertaken to gather information, about the techniques to be used to analyse it and about the tests of external validity to which researcher is committed.[ 10 , 11 ]

The components of this section include the following:[ 4 ]

Population and sample

Population refers to all the elements (individuals, objects or substances) that meet certain criteria for inclusion in a given universe,[ 12 ] and sample refers to subset of population which meets the inclusion criteria for enrolment into the study. The inclusion and exclusion criteria should be clearly defined. The details pertaining to sample size are discussed in the article “Sample size calculation: Basic priniciples” published in this issue of IJA.

Data collection

The researcher is expected to give a detailed account of the methodology adopted for collection of data, which include the time frame required for the research. The methodology should be tested for its validity and ensure that, in pursuit of achieving the results, the participant's life is not jeopardised. The author should anticipate and acknowledge any potential barrier and pitfall in carrying out the research design and explain plans to address them, thereby avoiding lacunae due to incomplete data collection. If the researcher is planning to acquire data through interviews or questionnaires, copy of the questions used for the same should be attached as an annexure with the proposal.

Rigor (soundness of the research)

This addresses the strength of the research with respect to its neutrality, consistency and applicability. Rigor must be reflected throughout the proposal.

It refers to the robustness of a research method against bias. The author should convey the measures taken to avoid bias, viz. blinding and randomisation, in an elaborate way, thus ensuring that the result obtained from the adopted method is purely as chance and not influenced by other confounding variables.

Consistency

Consistency considers whether the findings will be consistent if the inquiry was replicated with the same participants and in a similar context. This can be achieved by adopting standard and universally accepted methods and scales.

Applicability

Applicability refers to the degree to which the findings can be applied to different contexts and groups.[ 13 ]

Data analysis

This section deals with the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis including sample size calculation. The researcher is expected to explain the steps adopted for coding and sorting the data obtained. Various tests to be used to analyse the data for its robustness, significance should be clearly stated. Author should also mention the names of statistician and suitable software which will be used in due course of data analysis and their contribution to data analysis and sample calculation.[ 9 ]

Ethical considerations

Medical research introduces special moral and ethical problems that are not usually encountered by other researchers during data collection, and hence, the researcher should take special care in ensuring that ethical standards are met. Ethical considerations refer to the protection of the participants' rights (right to self-determination, right to privacy, right to autonomy and confidentiality, right to fair treatment and right to protection from discomfort and harm), obtaining informed consent and the institutional review process (ethical approval). The researcher needs to provide adequate information on each of these aspects.

Informed consent needs to be obtained from the participants (details discussed in further chapters), as well as the research site and the relevant authorities.

When the researcher prepares a research budget, he/she should predict and cost all aspects of the research and then add an additional allowance for unpredictable disasters, delays and rising costs. All items in the budget should be justified.

Appendices are documents that support the proposal and application. The appendices will be specific for each proposal but documents that are usually required include informed consent form, supporting documents, questionnaires, measurement tools and patient information of the study in layman's language.

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your proposal. Although the words ‘references and bibliography’ are different, they are used interchangeably. It refers to all references cited in the research proposal.

Successful, qualitative research proposals should communicate the researcher's knowledge of the field and method and convey the emergent nature of the qualitative design. The proposal should follow a discernible logic from the introduction to presentation of the appendices.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Social Work Research Topics & Tips on Finding and Distinguishing Good Ones

Updated 01 Jul 2024

social work research topics

Social work research is the systematic investigation of problems pertaining to the social work field. Alternatively, it can be defined as the application of research methods for addressing/solving problems confronted by social workers in their practice.

Major research areas include studying concepts, theories, principles, underlying methods, employees’ skills and their interaction with individuals and groups as well as internal processes, functioning principles within social entities. For a more specific selection of social work research topics, go to the appropriate section within this article.

Social work is ultimately focused on practical application, hence, the ultimate goal of social work research is understanding the efficacy of various intervention methods aimed at alleviating the conditions of people suffering from social deprivation – this highlights the importance presented by both the field and its associated research. For such difficult topics, you may ask yourself "can I pay someone to write my research paper " - and our professional team is here to help you.

Signs of Good Research Topics

Of all social work research questions, how could one distinguish the ones holding the greatest value or potential? Considering these signs could increase the chances of picking higher quality or more productive social work topics:

  • Chosen topics are backed up by one or more published studies by research teams from the US or from abroad with solid article-related citation metrics, typically published in prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals (journals with high impact factor).
  • Social work research topics in question are related to practice – theoretical research is very important, but nothing beats practical knowledge and efficient practical intervention methods and strategies. However, this aspect might depend on other circumstances as well (for students, for instance, theoretical topics are fairly acceptable). To ensure a successful research proposal in the field of social work, consider utilizing research proposal writing services .
  • Social work research topics are breaking certain stereotypes. People are inclined towards topics that break preconceived notions – such topics naturally receive greater attention. If they bring solid evidence and reasonable arguments while providing/promising real benefits, such topics can simply revolutionize the field.
  • Chosen social work research topics match current trends. Don’t understand us wrong – not everything that is trendy deserves attention (many things are overhyped). However, trends do have a sound reason for emerging (there is normally value behind the forces driving them). Moreover, delving into a field/topic that has only been recently established often gives significant advantages (career-wise). So watch out for trends in your research field closely, but always scrutinize them for what they are worth.

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Where Can You Find Perfect Topics?

When exploring education research topics or searching for social worker research topics, it might prove useful to follow a few proven strategies (which are equally valid for many other occasions):

  • Skim through your study literature (e.g. handbooks, course notes) – this is material you already studied, but going through it might help you to systematically visualize all studied topics or subtopics (these can suggest new ideas).
  • Brainstorming. Access your knowledge base – chances are you have a few interesting topics stored in mind that you’d like to explore in greater detail.
  • Browse through published article titles in social work journals or, even better, study newsletters/highlights on journal websites. Alternatively, one could search on platforms aggregating field-related news from multiple journals.– while some articles/topics might be overly complicated or specific, these still offer an immense choice.
  • Browse online for ready research topics for a custom research paper from our  research paper writing service  – skimming through such lists would bombard you with topics of appropriate complexity and scope /broadness or would inspire new related ideas (e.g. by combining elements from different topics).

Yet another way to pick a good topic is to get research paper writing help from our professional writers – they would manage all aspects, including that of choosing an original and solid topic (obviously, you might be willing to confirm it, before proceeding with your writing project).

Need more writing assistance?

Connect with our top writers and receive a paper sample on social work crafted to your needs.

100 Social Work Research Topics

Below is a comprehensive social work research topics list to help get you started with your project.

50 Controversial Research Topics

  • Group therapy vs individual therapy for increasing autistic children adaptability
  • Impact on parents having children with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Role play vs group discussion efficiency in increasing knowledge regarding drug abuse among high-school students.
  • Addressing the stigma associated with depression.
  • Measures to counteract condemning stereotypes with regard to depression (explaining and highlighting the biological mechanisms underlying it)
  • Identifying individuals with suicide predisposition serving in military units.
  • Life events role in PTSD onset in veterans.
  • Strategies to prevent PTSD onset in US army veterans.
  • Social inclusion measures for war veterans.
  • Most efficient strategies for suicide prevention in academic setting.
  • Categories are most vulnerable to drug abuse.
  • Most efficient educational measures to prevent future drug abuse in children
  • Myths about substance abuse among adolescents.
  • Family support importance for alcohol addicts rehabilitation.
  • Workaholics – new type of addicts. Impact on personal and family lives.
  • Mental retardation in Alzheimer’s disease – how to cope with it as a family member?
  • Promoting integration for children with Down syndrome.
  • General considerations for working with children with developmental disabilities.
  • Educating society with regard to dyslexic children (all target groups could be considered: parents, classmates, teachers, etc.)
  • Dyslexia cases combined with ADHD – how to approach it?
  • Dismounting common myths about dyslexia.
  • Counteracting bullying aimed at dyslexic children.
  • Early intervention benefits to address language difficulties in case of dyslexic children.
  • What role should educators, parents, schools, mental health centers, private practice have in addressing dyslexia?
  • Key prerequisites for building resilience to adverse life events in children
  • Strategies for building resilience in welfare workers.
  • Who is responsible for developing resilience in social workers?
  • Self-help guidelines for social workers to become resilient.
  • Most common problems encountered by LGBT youth in US schools.
  • Arming LGBT individuals with coping strategies to face discrimination.
  • The situation with juvenile delinquents across various US states.
  • Rationale behind separating juvenile delinquents from adult delinquents.
  • Factors contributing to high youth incarceration rate in certain US states (Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota).
  • Most efficient reeducation strategies for juvenile delinquents.
  • Society inclusion measures for people that served in prison.
  • Coping with the stigma of having served in prison.
  • Attitudes of welfare workers towards incarcerated individuals.
  • Attitudes of correctional officers towards mental health of incarcerated individuals.
  • Gender differences relevance when working with incarcerated people.
  • Factors increasing the risk of recidivism in released prisoners.
  • Incarceration impacts on parent-child relationships.
  • Incarceration effects on mental health.
  • Social inclusion role and family support in preventing recidivism by former prisoners.
  • Circumstances associated with the highest risk of becoming a human trafficking victim.
  • Ethical rules important when working with human trafficking victims.
  • Trauma characteristic depiction for human trafficking victims.
  • What is considered neglecting a child in child welfare?
  • Prerequisites of a safe childhood and a functional family.
  • Dealing with child abuse in orphanages.
  • Types of child maltreatment/abuse.

50 Hot Research Topics for Social Work Students

  • Difference in approaching children vs adolescents suffering from domestic violence.
  • Success stories in preventing child abuse in certain regions/states.
  • Strategies to encourage women to report domestic violence cases.
  • Damage to families with ongoing domestic violence.
  • Healing steps for victims of domestic violence.
  • Effects of child neglect on later academic performance and career.
  • Removing a child from a setting – when is it justified?
  • Guidelines on providing testimony in court as a social worker
  • Peculiarities of social work in health care assistance.
  • Grief counseling for families that lost a loved one.
  • Understanding the symptoms of grief.
  • Risk factors for dangerous grief.
  • Conduct/communication rules with persons in grief.
  • Types of elder abuse. Which are the most common ones?
  • Predictors of elder abuse (related to relationships within families, financial, status).
  • The integrative concept of human services.
  • The utility of mentoring programs in social care.
  • Work with elders experiencing cognitive impairment.
  • Peculiarities of working with immigrants in social care.
  • Considerations for working with HIV positive people.
  • Social research topics about homeless people.
  • Primary factors contributing to homelessness.
  • Challenges faced by social care assistants in working with sexually exploited clients belonging to the opposite gender.
  • Meeting unique needs of sexually exploited children.
  • Compassion fatigue experienced by welfare worker.
  • Challenges experienced by single parents and support strategies
  • Problem of getting medical help when belonging to vulnerable categories
  • Is there place for spirituality in welfare worker?
  • Religious beliefs obstructing welfare worker.
  • Support strategies for low-income families having children with impaired development.
  • Retrospective views and youth opinions on foster care facilities they have gone through.
  • Key wishes/demands expressed by foster care facility residents
  • Strategies employed by welfare worker to avoid burnout.
  • Importance of building emotional intelligence as welfare worker.
  • Discussing sexual health with mentally ill or retarded clients.
  • Spirituality and faith as an essential element in many addiction rehabilitation programs.
  • Attitude towards older people among welfare workers.
  • Factors responsible for reluctance to benefit from mental health services among certain population groups.
  • Differences in working with adolescent and adult drug abusers.
  • Factors affecting foster youth that impact their higher education retention rate.
  • Language barrier as an obstructing factor for minorities in benefiting from mental health services.
  • Cultural competence as social work research topic
  • Pre and post birth assistance to surrogate mothers. Evaluating impact on mental health.
  • Challenges and issues arising in families with adoptive children.
  • Play therapy interventions effectiveness in school-based counseling.
  • Mental health in hemodialysis patients and corresponding support strategies.
  • Importance presented by recreational activities for patients with Alzheimer’s.
  • Intimacy impact on the outcome of group therapy practices for alcohol addiction.
  • Mental health care outcomes in pedophilia victims.
  • Alternative practices in social work.
Read also: Get excellent grades with the help of online research paper maker. 

Found Topic But No Time For Writing?

We truly hope that by providing this list of social work topics for research papers we’ve addressed an important challenge many students encounter. Nevertheless, choosing suitable social work research topics is not the only challenge when having to write a paper.

Fortunately, Edubirdie website has a number of other tools like a thesis statement generator, a citation tool, a plagiarism checker, etc. to help with related aspects of writing a research paper. Besides, you can directly hire our professional paper writers to assist you with writing the paper according to instructions, creating a detailed outline, an annotated bibliography, but also with editing, proofreading, creating slides for presentation, etc.

Clients can choose their preferred writers freely by evaluating their ranking and performance on the platform. Later, they can communicate with these writers as their projects progress, being able to request intermediary results and providing feedback, additional guiding. If results are not satisfying and don’t match provided instructions, you can request unlimited revisions – all for free. In the unlikely situation in which revision attempts fail, you are guaranteed to get your money back. Given these low risks and guaranteed outcome, you should definitely give it a try!

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How to write a Research Proposal: Explained with Examples

At some time in your student phase, you will have to do a Thesis or Dissertation, and for that, you will have to submit a research proposal. A Research Proposal in its most basic definition is a formally structured document that explains what, why, and how of your research. This document explains What you plan to research (your topic or theme of research), Why you are doing this research (justifying your research topic), and How you will do (your approach to complete the research). The purpose of a proposal is to convince other people apart from yourself that the work you’re doing is suitable and feasible for your academic position.

The process of writing a research proposal is lengthy and time-consuming. Your proposal will need constant edits as you keep taking your work forward and continue receiving feedback. Although, there is a structure or a template that needs to be followed. This article will guide you through this strenuous task. So, let’s get to work!

Research Proposal: Example

[ Let us take a running example throughout the article so that we cover all the points. Let us assume that we are working on a dissertation that needs to study the relationship between Gender and Money. ]

The Title is one of the first things the reader comes across. Your title should be crisp yet communicate all that you are trying to convey to the reader. In academia, a title gets even more weightage because in a sea of resources, sometimes your research project can get ignored because the title didn’t speak for itself. Therefore, make sure that you brainstorm multiple title options and see which fits the best. Many times in academic writing we use two forms of titles: the Main Title and the Subtitle. If you think that you cannot justify your research using just a Title, you can add a subtitle which will then convey the rest of your explanation.

[ Explanation through an example: Our theme is “Gender and Money”.

Insider’s Info: If you are not confident about your title in your research proposal, then write “Tentative Title” in brackets and italic below your Title. In this way, your superiors (professor or supervisor) will know that you are still working on fixing the title.

Overview / Abstract

Existing literature, difference between “literature review” and “existing literature”.

A literature review is a detailed essay that discusses all the material which is already out there regarding your topic. For a literature review, you will have to mention all the literature you have read and then explain how they benefit you in your field of research.

Whereas, an existing literature segment in your research proposal is the compact version of a literature review. It is a two to three-paragraph portion that locates your research topic in the larger argument. Here you need not reveal all your literature resources, but only mention the major ones which will be recurring literature throughout your research.

To find the existing literature on this topic you should find academic articles relating to the themes of money, gender, economy, income, etc. ]

Research Gap

As you read and gather knowledge on your topic, you will start forming your own views. This might lead you to two conclusions. First, there exists a lot of literature regarding the relationship between gender and money, but they are all lacking something. Second, in the bundle of existing literature, you can bring a fresh perspective. Both of these thoughts help you in formulating your research gap. A research gap is nothing but you justifying why you should continue with your research even when it has been discussed many times already. Quoting your research gap helps you make a place for yourself in the academic world.

[ Explanation through an example: Now we know that our topic is: Our theme is “A study of “Gendered Money” in the Rural households of Delhi.”

Insider’s Info : If you are unable to find a research gap for your dissertation, the best hack to fall back on is to say that all the research done up to this point have been based on western notions and social facts, but you will conduct research which holds in your localized reality.

Research Question / Hypothesis

Some of the research questions you can state can be,

Insider’s Info: If you are confused about your research question, you can look at the questions taken up by the other authors you studied and modify them according to your point of view. But we seriously recommend that the best way to do your research is by coming up with your research question on your own. Believe in yourself!

Research Methodology / Research Design

This part of the research proposal is about how you will conduct and complete your research. To understand better what research methodology is, we should first clarify the difference between methodology and method. Research Method is the technique used by you to conduct your research. A method includes the sources of collecting your data such as case studies, interviews, surveys, etc. On the other hand, Methodology is how you plan to apply your method . Your methodology determines how you execute various methods during the course of your dissertation.

Your methodology should explain where you are conducting the research and how. So for this research, your field will be rural Delhi. Explain why you chose to study rural households and not urban ones. Then comes the how, some of the methods you might want to opt for can be Interviews, Questionnaires, and/or Focused Group Discussions. Do not forget to mention your sample size, i.e., the number of people you plan to talk to. ]

This will not even be a section, but just 2 lines in your proposal where you will state the amount of time you plan to complete your dissertation and how you will utilize that time. This portion can also be included in your “Research Methodology” section. We have stated this as a separate subheading so that you do not miss out on this small but mighty aspect.

Aim of the Research

The aim of the research is where you try to predict the result of your research. Your aim is what you wish to achieve at the end of this long process. This section also informs your supervisor how your research will be located in the ongoing larger argument corresponding to your selected topic/theme. Remember the research questions you set up for yourself earlier? This is the time when you envision answers to those questions.

Insider’s Info: The aim you write right now is just a prediction or the expected outcome. Therefore, even if the result of your research is different in the end it doesn’t matter.

Bibliography

Example: Tichenor, Veronica Jaris (1999). “Status and income as gendered resources: The case of marital power”. Journal of Marriage and Family . Pg 938-65 ]

Learn: Citation with Examples

https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/

  • Department of Sociological Studies

Writing a research proposal

Guidelines on preparing a thesis proposal to support your application.

Student in seminar typing on laptop

These guidelines are intended to assist you in developing and writing a thesis proposal. Applications for admission to a research degree cannot be dealt with unless they contain a proposal.

Your proposal will help us to make sure that:

  • The topic is viable
  • That the department can provide appropriate supervision and other necessary support
  • You have thought through your interest in and commitment to a piece of research
  • You are a suitable candidate for admission

The process of producing a proposal is usually also essential if you need to apply for funding to pay your fees or support yourself whilst doing your research. Funding bodies will often need to be reassured that you are committed to a viable project at a suitable university.

The research proposal – an outline

Your proposal should be typed double-spaced, if possible, and be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Your PhD proposal can be added under the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System .

Your proposal should contain at least the following elements:

  • A provisional title
  • A key question, hypothesis or the broad topic for investigation
  • An outline of the key aims of the research
  • A brief outline of key literature in the area [what we already know]
  • A description of the topic and an explanation of why further research in the area is important [the gap in the literature - what we need to know]
  • Details of how the research will be carried out, including any special facilities / resources etc. which would be required and any necessary skills which you either have already or would need to acquire [the tools that will enable us to fill the gap you have identified]
  • A plan and timetable of the work you will carry out

For more detailed information on each element of your research proposal, see our extended guidance document .

Three additional points:

  • Try to be concise. Do not write too much – be as specific as you can but not wordy. It is a difficult balance to strike.
  • Bear in mind that the proposal is a starting point. If you are registered to read for a PhD you will be able to work the proposal through with your supervisor in more detail in the early months.
  • Take a look at the Department’s staff profiles, research centres, and research clusters. Can you identify possible supervisors and intellectual support networks within the Department?

Examples of Successful PhD Proposals

  • PhD sample proposal 1
  • PhD sample proposal 2
  • PhD sample proposal 3
  • PhD sample proposal 4
  • PhD sample proposal 5
  • PhD sample proposal 6
  • PhD sample proposal 7
  • PhD sample proposal 8

Related information

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Social Work Research Proposal Writing Guide

Even established academics find writing a good Research Proposal a difficult task. You have not conducted the research yet, so encapsulating the background of the subject and detailing how you are going to write it is hard. Often you have to summarize a great deal of research into a very short paragraph. Research Proposals can vary depending on the length of study: they can be made for everything from a 5,000 word undergraduate dissertation to a full-scale Ph.D Thesis. However, the basic elements of a Research Proposal are the same across the board and the following steps can act as a guide that should help you create a good one. Generally a Research Proposal should tend towards a three-part structure: introduction, methodology and conclusion; or more roughly, what the problem is, how you are going to deal with it, and how your research contributes to solving the problem.

First , you need a good question to focus your research. It is a good idea to write the Research Proposal around this. It allows you to work out exactly where the boundaries of your study will be. Remember, it often helps to be specific rather than too ambitious: for almost everything up to Ph.D level it is generally better to focus on a small area of Social Work such as a case studies rather than any overarching theoretical study. For many proposals a simple and straightforward title is best: it tells the reader exactly what you are doing and leaves no room for confusion.

Second , you need to introduce the subject. This ideally needs to be written with the non-expert in mind: you need to consider someone reading this part that has no idea what the subject is about and by the end of the paragraph, at least has a handle on what the issues are. Consider structuring it by beginning with the general, focusing the issues sentence by sentence, until by the end of the paragraph you have pinpointed exactly where the research is lacking and where you will fit in the grand picture.

Third , the next paragraph should detail how you are going to approach the subject. Methodology is most important here; don’t waste time talking about the first few chapters of your study, go straight for the elements in which you will be conducting the research. Often at this point you need to provide a projected timetable and sometimes a cost of your research. Ethical considerations may also need to receive a short paragraph showing awareness of such issues. This will receive the most scrutiny of the proposal and so you must make sure your research considerations are realistic, cost-effective and you are able to complete the research in the time allotted, with enough for preparation and writing-up.

Fourth , you need to show how your research will fit into the whole subject. It is almost as if you have begun with a large map of Social Work in the first sentence of your proposal and increased the resolution until the hole in the currently available research is visible. Then you have shown how you are going to fill in that hole. Now you want to pan out again, to show the big picture of Social Work and with your completed research slotted into place, ideally showing how much better the picture is now.

Finally, you should make sure you have a full bibliography and proofread your proposal repeatedly to make sure it reads well. The bibliography will show that you have a strong grasp of your subject area and that your preliminary research has been thorough. This will give the reader confidence in your aims as a researcher as it will show you have a strong foundation on which to build when you complete the full-scale research.

A good Research Proposal should be concise. You normally have to fit in a great deal of information into a very small space and so you should make use of as much of the word-count allocated as you possibly can. You should be prepared for making several drafts and gradually honing the meaning over a longer period of time. Unlike an essay, you should complete a Research Proposal long before you need to hand it in so that you can re-read it again and again to make sure it is clear and concise. Have others read it for you to check your meaning: if your friend with no experience of Social Work can understand it then you know you have done it properly. Take recommendations from professors and other students who know the subject area well. Be as thorough and as diligent as you can.

  • View research proposal examples here .
  • View example social work essays here .

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Social Work Literature Review Guidelines

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Literature reviews are designed to do two things: 1) give your readers an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic or idea and 2) demonstrate how your research fits into the larger field of study, in this case, social work.

Unlike annotated bibliographies which are lists of references arranged alphabetically that include the bibliographic citation and a paragraph summary and critique for each source, literature reviews can be incorporated into a research paper or manuscript. You may quote or paraphrase from the sources, and all references to sources should include in-text parenthetical citations with a reference list at the end of the document. Sometimes, however, an instructor may require a separate literature review document and will have specific instructions for completing the assignment.

Below you will find general guidelines to consider when developing a literature review in the field of social work. Because social work is a social science field, you will most likely be required to use APA style. Please see our APA materials for information on creating parenthetical citations and reference lists.

1. Choose a variety of articles that relate to your subject, even if they do not directly answer your research question. You may find articles that loosely relate to the topic, rather than articles that you find using an exact keyword search. At first, you may need to cast a wide net when searching for sources.

For example: If your research question focuses on how people with chronic illnesses are treated in the workplace, you may be able to find some articles that address this specific question. You may also find literature regarding public perception of people with chronic illnesses or analyses of current laws affecting workplace discrimination.

2. Select the most relevant information from the articles as it pertains to your subject and your purpose. Remember, the purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate how your research question fits into a larger field of study.

3. Critically examine the articles. Look at methodology, statistics, results, theoretical framework, the author's purpose, etc. Include controversies when they appear in the articles.

For example: You should look for the strengths and weaknesses of how the author conducted the study. You can also decide whether or not the study is generalizable to other settings or whether the findings relate only to the specific setting of the study. Ask yourself why the author conducted the study and what he/she hoped to gain from the study. Look for inconsistencies in the results, as well.

4. Organize your information in the way that makes most sense. Some literature reviews may begin with a definition or general overview of the topic. Others may focus on another aspect of your topic. Look for themes in the literature or organize by types of study.

For example: Group case studies together, especially if all the case studies have related findings, research questions, or other similarities.

5. Make sure the information relates to your research question/thesis. You may need to explicitly show how the literature relates to the research question; don't assume that the connection is obvious.

6. Check to see that you have done more than simply summarize your sources. Your literature review should include a critical assessment of those sources. For more information, read the Experimental Psychology - Writing a Literature Review handout for questions to think about when reading sources.

7. Be sure to develop questions for further research. Again, you are not simply regurgitating information, but you are assessing and leading your reader to questions of your own, questions and ideas that haven't been explored yet or haven't been addressed in detail by the literature in the field.

  • News & Updates

NEW REPORT: The People's Guide to Project 2025

The People’s Guide to Project 2025

how to write a research proposal in social work

Project 2025 is among the most profound threats to the American people.

We read Project 2025’s entire 900+ page “Mandate for Leadership” so that you don’t have to.

What we discovered was a systemic, ruthless plan to undermine the quality of life of millions of Americans, remove critical protections and dismantle programs for communities across the nation, and prioritize special interests and ideological extremism over people.

From attacking overtime pay, student loans, and reproductive rights, to allowing more discrimination, pollution, and price gouging, those behind Project 2025 are preparing to go to incredible lengths to create a country only for some, not for all of us.

If these plans are enacted, which Project 2025’s authors claim can happen without congressional approval, 4.3 million people could lose overtime protections, 40 million people could have their food assistance reduced, 220,000 American jobs could be lost, and much, much, more. The stakes are higher than ever for democracy and for people.

These threats aren’t hypothetical. These are their real plans.

The Heritage Foundation and the 100+ organizations that make up the Project 2025 Advisory Board have mapped out exactly how they will achieve their extreme ends. They aim to try and carry out many of the most troubling proposals through an anti-democratic president and political loyalists installed in the executive branch, without waiting for congressional action. And, while many of these plans are unlawful, winning in court is not guaranteed given that the same far-right movement that is behind Project 2025 has shaped our current court system.

To combat the threats posed by Project 2025, we have to first understand them.

What follows are some of the most dangerous proposals that make up Project 2025, specifically those that they plan to implement through federal agencies and a far-right executive branch.

The majority of Americans share the same values and priorities, but Project 2025 wants to push an extreme, out-of-touch agenda on all of us . By reading this guide and sharing it, we can begin to address these threats and go on offense towards building a bold, inclusive democracy for all people.

Download PDF

What is Project 2025?

The Project 2025 Presidential Transition Project is a well-funded (eight-figure) effort of the Heritage Foundation and more than 100 organizations to enable a future anti-democratic presidential administration to take swift, far-right action that would cut wages for working people, dismantle social safety net programs, reverse decades of progress for civil rights, redefine the way our society operates, and undermine our economy.

A central pillar of Project 2025 is the “Mandate for Leadership,” a 900+ page policy playbook authored by former Trump administration officials and other extremists that provides a radical vision for our nation and a roadmap to implement it.

Project 2025 Snapshot

Proposals from Project 2025, discussed in detail throughout this guide, that they claim could be implemented through executive branch action alone — so without new legislation — include:

  • Cut overtime protections for 4.3 million workers
  • Stop efforts to lower prescription drug prices
  • Limit access to food assistance, which an average of more than 40 million people in 21.6 million households rely on monthly
  • Eliminate the Head Start early education program, which serves over 1 million children annually
  • Cut American Rescue Plan (ARP) programs that have created or saved 220,000 jobs
  • Restrict access to medication abortion
  • Push more of the 33 million people enrolled in Medicare towards Medicare Advantage and other worse, private options
  • Expose the 368,000 children in foster care to risk of increased discrimination
  • Deny students in 25 states and Washington, D.C. access to student loans because their state provides in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants
  • Roll back civil rights protections across multiple fronts, including cutting diversity, equity, and inclusion-related (DEI) programs and LGBTQ+ rights in health care, education, and workplaces

Explore Project 2025's Plans:

Cut wages, create unsafe workplaces, and destabilize our economy.

Project 2025 would enable corporations to cut overtime pay, relax worker safety rules, allow workplace discrimination, and more.

Make It Harder for Americans to Make Ends Meet

A strong democracy is one where people have the resources they need to thrive, not worry about how they will make ends meet. Project 2025 proposals would only make daily life harder for people – with fewer people able to access food assistance and affordable early education, less support for veterans with disabilities, and cuts to support for farmers.

Restrict Reproductive Rights and Access to Health Care

Despite the majority of Americans supporting comprehensive health care and reproductive freedom, Project 2025 would prefer a far different reality. Their attacks would undermine Medicare, keep prescription drug prices high, and restrict access to reproductive care.

Enable Discrimination Across Society

Threatened by decades of progress in advancing civil rights and equality for all, the authors of Project 2025 want to create a country that allows for more discrimination where we live, study, work, and play — and roll back hard-fought victories by our movements for progress.

Set Polluters Loose and Undo Climate Action

We’ve waited decades for meaningful and robust federal action to combat climate change and protect people from the harms of pollution. Project 2025 couldn’t care less about these threats — and now they want to destroy our hard-fought gains.

Make Education Unaffordable and Unwelcoming

Our public schools are foundational to our democracy. When special interests undermine public schools, they undermine the ability of students from all backgrounds to learn, feel safe in their community, and develop skills and knowledge that enable students to thrive. If Project 2025 has their way, our public schools could be stripped of funding, protections for students, and high-quality curricula.

Undermine Government’s Ability to Deliver for People

Civil servants are federal employees who work and live in all 50 states — the more than 2 million people who keep our air clean, water safe, consumers protected, and mail delivered. Attacks on the nation’s civil service are attacks on the government’s ability to work for the people.

The threats from Project 2025 do not end here.

This  People’s Guide only begins to catalog the people and communities who would be harmed if a future presidential administration began to implement Project 2025’s proposals. Businesses and industry across the country could be harmed not just from the lack of data collection discussed above, but also from proposals to politicize the Federal Reserve or to restrict free trade. Our country’s national security itself, too, is threatened by proposals to concentrate military decisionmaking, further undermine our intelligence agencies, or promote isolationist policies.

We continue to analyze these policies and their harms to people, and expect to release updated versions of the  People’s Guide  with reports on the threats that would make it harder to run a business, put our security at risk, and more. Click here to sign up to receive the updated reports directly in your inbox.

We cannot let Project 2025 write the next chapter of our nation’s story.

To learn more about how we can confront the threats presented in this guide head-on and begin to build a bold, vibrant democracy for all people, visit  democracyforward.org/join-2025 .

Our three pillars to advance a bold, vibrant democracy for all people:

Defending democracy and policies that propel progress through public education, regulatory and legal support.

Disrupting unlawful, regressive, and anti-democratic activity through litigation, investigations, and public education.

Building coalitions, supporting communities, and creating a more democratic and just future through the law.

Join us in this generational fight for people and democracy.

New york times: “the resistance to a new trump administration has already started”.

As first reported in The New York Times : Democracy Forward is “ensuring that people and communities that would be affected by a range of policies that we see with respect to Project 2025 know their legal rights and remedies and are able to access legal representation, should that be necessary.”

how to write a research proposal in social work

What's Project 2025? Unpacking the Pro-Trump Plan to Overhaul US Government

For several months, we received a flood of reader inquiries asking if project 2025 was a real effort to “reshape america.” here’s the answer., nur ibrahim, aleksandra wrona, published july 3, 2024.

  • Project 2025 is a conservative coalition's plan for a future Republican U.S. presidential administration. If voters elect the party's presumed nominee, Donald Trump, over Democrat Joe Biden in November 2024, the coalition hopes the new president will implement the plan immediately.
  • The sweeping effort centers on a roughly 1,000-page document  that gives the executive branch more power, reverses Biden-era policies and specifies numerous department-level changes.
  • People across the political spectrum fear such actions are precursors to authoritarianism and have voiced concerns over the proposal's recommendations to reverse protections for LGBTQ+ people, limit abortion access, stop federal efforts to mitigate climate change — and more.
  • The Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank operated by many of Trump's current and former political allies — is leading the initiative. President Kevin Roberts once said  the project's main goals are "institutionalizing Trumpism" and getting rid of unelected bureaucrats who he believes wield too much political influence.
  • The Trump campaign's goals and proposals within Project 2025 overlap. However, the former president has attempted to distance himself from the initiative. In a July 5, 2024, post on Truth Social , he wrote: " I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they're saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them."
  • In other words, it's unknown if, or to what extent, Trump's campaign is talking to leaders of the initiative. Many political analysts and the Biden administration believe Project 2025 is a good indication of Trump's vision for a second term.
Here at Snopes, the internet's premiere fact-checking site, we believe in unbiased, fact-driven reporting to help guide people's everyday lives. And when it comes to voting in elections, we hold that responsibility high. We call out candidates' mistruths, contextualize campaign claims and pull back the curtain on efforts shaping political parties' agendas. Our hope is to give voters the knowledge they need to mark ballots without any distorted sense of reality. Below is an example of that work — a months-long analysis of an all-encompassing effort to reshape the American bureacracy following the 2024 U.S. presidential election. If you'd like to support this type of journalism,  we'd love your help .   —  Jessica Lee ,  senior assignments editor,  snopes.com

As the U.S. 2024 presidential election nears, U.S. President Joe Biden's reelection campaign has been sending foreboding emails to supporters, invoking "Trump's Project 2025" to tap into anxieties over another four years with Donald Trump in the White House and to raise campaign money.

According to some of the emails, "Project 2025" calls for proposals that would separate "mothers away from their children," a reference to border policies during Trump's administration, or result in "higher housing costs and rampant discrimination."

The Biden campaign is not alone in its concern over the policy initiative. Critics including legal experts and former government employees have described Project 2025 as a precursor to authoritarianism — albeit a difficult one to implement — and a wave of social media  posts  are expressing  fear over the initiative, calling it a " fascist " and " extremist " plan for Trump to " reshape America." Numerous reports have also called this conservative effort to reshape the government unprecedented in its scale. 

But what exactly is Project 2025? Are the messages from critics rooted in fact or fear-mongering? What should people know about the alleged policy plan? Over the past year, Snopes has received a flood of inquiries from readers asking if Project 2025 was real and what it entails, and if American politicians plan to implement it.

Under the leadership of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Project 2025 is indeed a real, all-encompassing initiative to transform the American bureaucracy if, or when, a conservative president takes over the White House. Project leaders are hoping to put it into motion as early as November 2024 if voters elect former President Donald Trump. 

Politico once described the policy initiative as an effort to make a "MAGA" conservative government by reshaping how federal employees work, and the  creators themselves have framed it as a push to institutionalize " Trumpism " —  that is,  Trump's political agenda — at every level of federal government. On Truth Social, a Trump-owned social media platform, users have described it as a return to "constitutional" values.

In June 2024, House Democrats launched a task force to make plans for a potential future in which Project 2025's recommendations could become reality.

The growing interest in Project 2025 coincided with the progression of Trump's presidential campaign. A  June 2024  NPR/PBS News/Marist poll found the presidential race to be extremely tight, with Biden and Trump almost tied, echoing a months-long trend of national surveys. ( Historically , polls at this stage of campaigns are not indicative of actual election outcomes.)

Leaders and supporters of the initiative declined to be interviewed for this story or did not respond to Snopes' inquiries.

What is Project 2025?

Project 2025 has four parts, according to its website : 

  • A roughly 1,000-page document titled " Mandate for Leadership 2025: The Conservative Promise ."  That report details supporters' proposals for federal departments, as well as their overall agenda for a conservative government.
  • A purported transition plan for federal departments. Project 2025 leaders say they have a 180-day transition plan for each federal agency to quickly adapt to a Trump presidency should he win in November. As of this writing, the contents of that plan were unknown.
  • A new database that aims to fill federal jobs with conservative voices. Spencer Chretien, associate director of Project 2025, once called the online system to screen potential new hires the " conservative LinkedIn ." It's currently active on the Project's website.
  • A new system to train potential political appointees . Called the " Presidential Administration Academy ," the system aims to teach skills for "advancing conservative ideas" as soon as new hires join the administration. The lessons touch on everything from budget-making to media relations and currently consist of 30- to 90-minute online sessions. Project 2025 leaders say they will host in-person sessions as the election nears. 

There's reportedly another facet to Project 2025 that's not detailed on its website: an effort to draft executive orders for the new president. According to a November 2023 report by The Washington Post that cites anonymous sources, Jeffrey Clark (a former Trump official who sought to use the Justice Department to help Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election results) is leading that work, and the alleged draft executive orders involve the Insurrection Act — a law last updated in 1871 that allows the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement. Speaking to the Post, a Heritage spokesperson denied that accusation. (We were unable to independently corroborate The Washington Post's reporting due to its anonymous sourcing and our unsuccessful attempts to interview members of The Heritage Foundation.)

While many of Project 2025's proposals simply need the president's executive order to become reality, others would need Congressional approval, even as the Project seeks to expand presidential authority. In other words, lawmakers would need to write and approve legislation that details the changes to the government's existing structure, or establishes new systems. Come November, voters will choose who will fill  435 seats in the Republican-led House and 34 positions  in the Senate.

Key Points of The Roughly 1,000-Page Document

Speaking to Politico , Russell Vought, who served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Trump and is now a leading adviser for Project 2025, once described the effort as "more systematic than it is just about Trump," adding, "We have to be thinking mechanically about how to take these institutions over" in reference to federal departments.

Project 2025's document lays out in great detail how supporters want to do that. As of early June 2024, about 855,000 people had downloaded the document, The New York Times reported . 

Among its numerous recommendations, it calls for the following (in no particular order):

  • Changing how the FBI operates. According to the plan, the agency is "completely out of control," and the next conservative administration should restore its reputation by stopping investigations that are supposedly "unlawful or contrary to the national interest." Also, the document calls for legislation that would eliminate term limits for the FBI's director and require that person to answer to the president. 
  • Eliminating the Department of Education. The plan explicitly proposes, "Federal education policy should be limited and, ultimately, the federal Department of Education should be eliminated." The report also calls for bans on so-called " critical race theory" (CRT) and "gender ideology" lessons in public schools, asking for legislation that would require educators who share such material to register as sex offenders and be imprisoned. 
  • Defunding the Department of Justice. Additionally, the document proposes prosecuting federal election-related charges as criminal, not civil, cases. Otherwise, the document says, "[Voter] registration fraud and unlawful ballot correction will remain federal election offenses that are never appropriately investigated and prosecuted." 
  • Reversing Biden-era policies attempting to reduce climate change. The document's authors call for increasing the country's reliance on fossil fuels and withdrawing from efforts to address the climate crisis — such as "offices, programs, and directives designed to advance the Paris Climate Agreement ." 
  • Stopping cybersecurity efforts to combat mis- and disinformation. The document recommends the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to stop its efforts to curtail online propaganda campaigns, arguing the federal government should not make judgment calls on what's true and what isn't.
  • Changing immigration policies. Authors want the federal government to deprioritize DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the program that temporarily delays the deportation of immigrants without documentation who came to the U.S. as children; phase out temporary work-visa programs that allow seasonal employers to hire foreign workers; impose financial punishments on so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not follow federal immigration laws, and divert tax dollars toward security at America's border with Mexico. (While the Biden campaign claims Project 2025 calls for "ripping mothers away from their children" at the border, there's no explicit mention of separating families. Rather, it calls for stronger enforcement of laws governing the detainment of immigrants with criminal records and restricting an existing program that tracks people in deportation proceedings instead of incarcerating them. In some cases, those changes could possibly play a role in border control agents detaining a parent while their child continues with immigration proceedings.)
  • Restricting access to abortion. The plan wants the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stop promoting abortion as health care. Additionally, Project 2025 recommends the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to stop promoting, and approving, requests for manufacturing abortion pills. "Alternative options to abortion, especially adoption, should receive federal and state support," the document states.
  • Removing LGBTQ+ protections. The plan calls for abolishing the Gender Policy Council , a Biden-created department within the White House that aims to "advance equity in government policy for those who face discrimination." Also, the proposal wants the federal government to remove terms such as "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from records and policies, as well as rescind policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status, and sex characteristics."
  • Cutting ties completely with China. For instance, the document advocates for restricting people's access to TikTok because of its China-based parent company; prohibiting Confucius Institutes, cultural institutions at colleges and universities funded by the Chinese government, and blocking other Chinese entities from partnering with U.S. companies. 
  • Reversing protections against discrimination in housing. The Biden campaign emails reference a portion of the document that calls for repealing a decades-old policy—strengthened under Biden—that attempts to prevent discrimination and reduce racial disparities in housing. Project 2025 also recommends making it easier to sell off homes used for public housing — a benefit to real estate developers — but result in fewer cheap housing options for poor and low-income families. 

Here's a PDF of the full report :

(www.project2025.org)

Changing Federal Job Classifications 

To execute the above-listed objectives, the roughly 1,000-page document calls for a federal government operated by political appointees equipped to "carry out the President's desires." 

Put another way, Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said in a July 2023 interview with The New York Times that Project 2025 leaders want to dismantle independent federal agencies that do not answer to the president. Then, they want to fill positions with people who subscribe to conservative politics — including jobs that are currently merit-based hires, not politically appointed.

Under the current system, the federal government's administrative sector is made up of two employee groups: political appointees and career civil servants. When a new administration takes over the Oval Office, it selects similarly minded people to fill high-ranking positions (political appointees), and those people leave the jobs when a new president takes over. According to the Brookings Institution , a public policy think tank, around 4,000 political appointees run the executive branch.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of positions that run day-to-day operations are hired through a merit-based system — that is, a hiring process that is designed to prioritize applicants' specialized expertise or experience , not their personal beliefs or affiliations. Those people are career civil servants. 

Project 2025 proposes turning up to 50,000 career civil servant jobs into politically appointed positions. 

To do that, Project 2025 wants the president to reissue Schedule F, a Trump-era executive order that Biden rescinded when he became president. Generally speaking, the order would recategorize career civil servants into at-will employees, giving higher-level workers the ability to terminate employment for any reason without warning and fill those jobs with new people.

Additionally, Project 2025 recommends revamping the existing appeals process for employee dismissals, arguing the current system prevents managers from firing or hiring the right employees. 

The plan also proposes a freeze on hiring top-career civil service positions at the beginning of the administration. By doing so, the plan argues, the new administration will prevent today's administration's leaders (later on "outgoing" political appointees) from "burrowing-in"— that is, hiring left-leaning career bureaucrats across federal agencies for the purpose of undermining the next president. 

Keeping Track of Potential Employees' Opinions

In addition to expanding government leaders' abilities to hire and fire at will, Project 2025 calls for a new federal database to gather information on potential new hires. The database contains people's answers to questions on social issues , such as abortion and immigration, allowing for department leaders to easily fill job vacancies with applicants who lean conservative.

"Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies," John  McEntee , who is leading Project 2025's personnel database project, told The New York Times in mid-2023, citing then-U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (who was a Democrat) 1930s New Deal as the last major reorientation of the government. "There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It's not enough to get the personnel right. What's necessary is a complete system overhaul." 

By submitting resumes and answering questionnaires , applicants sign up to be vetted by Project 2025 leaders. According to the questionnaire , participants answer whether they "agree" or "disagree" with statements such as, "Life has a right to legal protection from conception to natural death," and "The U.S. should increase legal immigration."

If the participants pass that screening, Project 2025 intends to recommend them to department leaders for hiring. (We are unable to determine what would happen with applicants' data if Trump does not win the 2024 election, or if his potential administration does not want to use it.)

Project 2025 leaders partnered with technology company Oracle to set up the system, according to The New York Times . Several thousand potential recruits had applied, as of April 2023. 

Former presidents have established similar systems, including Barack Obama, according to Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right public policy think tank. "They [The Obama administration] created a massive online jobs bank , where you could apply."

Also, during Obama's first term (January 2009 - January 2017), his administration required extensive vetting of applicants for high-ranking, politically appointed positions. Like Project 2025's program, that process included a questionnaire. That form asked participants to elaborate on past public statements, social media posts and potential conflicts of interests, as well as share things about their personal lives , like whether they own guns. (We found no evidence of the Obama administration circulating a similar questionnaire during his second term.)

Asked about that Obama-era questionnaire, a Biden aide said it was not comparable to Project 2025's system. The latter was a "loyalty test" to Trump, the aide said, while Obama's survey was more of a background check.

Trump Hasn't Publicly Endorsed Project 2025

Many former Trump administration members and current allies are working on the initiative. 

For example, the Center for Renewing America (CRA) — a think tank that formed in 2021 with ties to Trump through its founder, Russell Vought — is a "coalition partner." Vought was the director of the Office of Management and Budget when Trump was president. Should Project 2025 be a part of the next presidential administration, Vought will be in charge of implementing  its proposals, according to Politico. (In November 2023, The Washington Post reported he was in regular contact with Trump and could be a candidate for a high-ranking position in his potential future administration.) Also, Vought is policy director for the 2024 Republican National Convention's Platform Committee.

Reportedly , some people affiliated with Project 2025 are assisting Trump's reelection campaign behind the scenes.

how to write a research proposal in social work

(The groups that conceptualized, or are currently pushing, Project 2025 include a number of former Trump administration members and current allies.)

However, in terms of public-facing actions, Trump hasn't officially connected himself to the initiative. In speeches at campaign rallies and interviews, he hasn't mentioned Project 2025, and, on July 5, 2024 , he attempted to publicly distance himself by posting on Truth Social (his social media site):

I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they're saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.

Trump's campaign is at the very least aware of the initiative. Campaign officials once told Politico Project 2025's goals to restructure government, which are outlined in a publicly available document , indeed align with Trump's campaign promises.

But in a November 2023 statement, the Trump campaign said: "The efforts by various non-profit groups are certainly appreciated and can be enormously helpful. However, none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign." Without naming Project 2025, they said all policy statements from "external allies" are just "recommendations."

Concurrently, in an interview with the conservative outlet The Daily Wire , a Project 2025 representative said the Trump campaign and Project are separate "for now."  McEntee , a former Trump staffer and leader of Project 2025's personnel database project, said : 

I think the candidate and the campaign need to keep their eye on the ball. They need to be totally focused on winning. We're totally focused on what happens after [...] Obviously, there will need to be coordination and the president and his team will announce an official transition this summer, and we're gonna integrate a lot of our work with them. 

That said, given overlap between Project 2025's proposals and the Trump campaign's agenda , political analysts and the Biden campaign believe the coalition's effort is a good indication of Trump's vision for a second term. Among the similarities are proposals to change how the administration fills tens of thousands of government jobs and overhaul  the DOJ. According to The Heritage Foundation's own reporting, Trump adopted and seriously considered about two-thirds of the organization's policy prescriptions in 2018, for example.

In an interview with Snopes, James Singer, a Biden campaign spokesperson, said:

Project 2025 is the extreme policy and personnel playbook for Trump's second term that should scare the hell out of any American voter. The Trump team's pathetic denials fall flat when Project 2025 staff and leadership are saying they are connected to the Trump team, leading the RNC policy platform and part of Trump's debate prep, campaign, and inner circle.

But the extent to which Project 2025 leaders and Trump campaign officials are communicating is unclear. According to Kosar, at the American Enterprise Institute, no one outside of the two circles knows how closely they're working together. "[What] is the level of coordination? We have no idea." 

From the view of Cecilia Esterline, an immigration research analyst at the Niskanen Center, a think tank  with libertarian-right roots, Project 2025 is a good indicator of Trump's plans for a potential second term. "Given the people involved putting their names on this and the author portions of this report, and the success of [past] implementation, it's a good indicator of where Trump is at."

The Forces Behind Project 2025

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts launched Project 2025 in April 2022, a few months before Trump officially announced his reelection campaign.

Since then, the number of groups backing the initiative has grown. As of now, Project 2025's advisory board and so-called "coalition partners" include: the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a nonprofit that aims to connect conservative applicants to congressional jobs and is led by Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows; Turning Point USA, a far-right student advocacy group that is led by Charlie Kirk; America First Legal , a legal advocacy group that supports conservative-backed lawsuits and is led by Trump stalwart Stephen Miller. (According to a June 2024 Politico report, Miller was part of private meetings with Trump to help him prepare for upcoming televised debates against Biden.) 

Furthermore, in May 2024, Reuters interviewed what the news outlet described as unnamed Trump allies working on a plan to restructure the Department of Justice (DOJ) and fill currently nonpartisan jobs there with people who identify as conservatives. While the allies group wasn't named, Reuters reported it was tied to Project 2025. 

Lastly, many authors of the roughly 1,000-page document outlining Project 2025's policy proposals have connections to Trump. They include Ben Carson , William Perry Pendley , Jonathan Berry , Diana Furchtgott-Roth , Rick Dearborn , Adam Candeub , Ken Cuccinelli , Mandy Gunasekara , Dennis Dean Kirk , Gene Hamilton , Christopher Miller , Bernard L. McNamee , Mora Namdar , Peter Navarro , Roger Severino , Paul Dans , Kevin Roberts , among others. 

These Types of Pre-Election Efforts Aren't Uncommon

In the months or years before U.S. presidential elections, it's routine for nonprofit research groups to prepare plans for a potential presidential transition, according to Landon Storrs, a political history professor at the University of Iowa. 

And, according to Kosar, numerous think tanks want Trump's ear as he plans his potential return to the White House. "Whenever there is a new executive coming into the White House, [many] groups are trying to get in there."

According to the Heritage Foundation's website , the organization mostly operates on individual donations and does not take money from the government. However, how exactly it divvies up its money for Project 2025 was unclear. The New York Times reported Project 2025 was a $22 million operation.

Project 2025 authors built their proposals on an idea popular during former President Ronald Reagan's time: the "unitary executive theory." That's the belief that Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the president complete power over the federal bureaucracy and all levels of government report to him. 

In 1980, the Heritage Foundation developed similar policy prescriptions for Reagan, who was a presidential candidate at the time. Some of the organization's recommendations aligned with Reagan's campaign promises , and, when he later assumed office, he put the ideas to action. Heritage once described its effort as putting "the conservative movement and Reagan on the same page."

However, according to Politico , the present-day initiative by the Heritage Foundation was more "ambitious" than any other such proposal. The New York Times  said Project 2025 was operating at "a scale never attempted before in conservative politics." Its efforts are a contrast to the 1930s Democrat-led New Deal under then-U.S. President Roosevelt, which gave the federal government an unprecedented role in social and economic affairs on the belief that it would get the country out of the Great Depression.

Critics' Logistical Concerns, Worries

If some of Project 2025's ideas turn into formal policy recommendations or laws, experts in government and history have concerns over how they could be implemented. Such drastic changes would come with big logistical hurdles and have a ripple effect on agencies overseeing day-to-day governance, several such experts said. 

For example, Project 2025's proposal to reclassify tens of thousands of federal workers' positions — that is, change career bureaucrats into jobs that can be politically appointed — would have widespread effects, according to Storrs, of the University of Iowa. She said:

When [Project 2025's] intention is to install officials based on their loyalty to the president rather than on their qualifications, [the result] is even more damaging to effective administration. [...] The President already has authority over who heads the agencies. But below them, people are simply trying to collect taxes, get social security checks out — there is a lot that shouldn't be disrupted.

Kosar, of the American Enterprise Institute, expressed concern over skills required for jobs that aren't currently appointed. "These positions have a serious degree of expertise attached. You can't just plug in a private sector businessman into the department of transportation. It's going to be a challenge to match the people and the competencies and the expertise." 

Esterline, the Niskanen Center analyst, said with presidential administrations changing every four to eight years, government agencies rely on the expertise of continually employed civil servants — employees with institutional knowledge — to make the transitions as smooth as possible. "[If] we suddenly disrupt that balance of political appointees to civil servants, it will be a much rougher transition." 

Among other aspects of Project 2025, Esterline is attempting to raise the alarm on its prescriptions for specific regulatory changes. "[Project 2025] is a meticulous outline of how they will crumple the system simultaneously through minute changes."

Meanwhile, some former government officials are particularly concerned about the initiative's plans for the DOJ and FBI. For instance, in an interview for The Guardian , Michael Bromwich, a former DOJ inspector general, said the proposals to turn the departments into "instruments" to fulfill Trump's political agenda "should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about the rule of law."

Overall, critics including legal experts and former government employees have zeroed in on Project 2025's goal to give the executive branch more power, describing it as a precursor to authoritarianism.

However, the initiative's push to increase executive power may be part of a deeper trend in American politics, Peter Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said in a  lecture  on Faculti, a research video platform. He said momentum to increase executive authority has been steadily increasing over many presidential administrations: 

We have seen in the United States a steadily expanding presidential claim of authority to control not only tenure but also ordinary acts of government. This has been happening at least since the presidency of Ronald Reagan and it reached a peak with President Trump and his first term, and he's promised that he's going back there. 

Our Reporting

For this report, we repeatedly tried to interview representatives of the Heritage Foundation — the conservative think tank that conceptualized Project 2025 — as well as the Trump campaign and other supporters of the effort. All either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to our inquiries. 

For example, we reached out to dozens of groups on Project 2025's advisory board — a collection of groups under the Heritage Foundation's oversight that have co-signed the effort, given feedback on its proposals or promoted it to government officials. The groups include Center for Renewing America , Turning Point USA , The American Conservative , and  American Cornerstone Institute . We asked the organizations about the nature of their involvement in the initiative, proposals they support, and more. As of this writing, none has responded.

After we initially reached out to the Heritage Foundation for this story, a spokesperson responded asking for more specifics on our reporting. We responded with key points, including requests to comment on project leaders' communication with former U.S. President Donald Trump, concerns from legal experts about the initiative's proposed changes and general criticism. The Heritage Foundation did not respond to that message. Later, after informing the organization of our writing deadline, a spokesperson said no one was available.

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July 5, 2024: This post was updated to include Trump's July 5, 2024, post on Truth Social.

By Nur Ibrahim

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

By Aleksandra Wrona

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.

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    Like any other genre of writing, a good research proposal takes time, multiple drafts, and a clear understanding of the task at hand. The purpose of a research proposal is a) to persuade your reader of the value of your research. question, b) to show you have a clear idea of where your research sits in existing knowledge, and c) to demonstrate ...

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    The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews.

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    In general your proposal should include the following sections: I. Introduction. In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation.

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    Drawing on guidelines developed in the UBC graduate guide to writing proposals (Petrina, 2009), we highlight eight steps for constructing an effective research proposal: Presenting the topic. Literature Review. Identifying the Gap. Research Questions that addresses the Gap. Methods to address the research questions.

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    Here is an explanation of each step: 1. Title and Abstract. Choose a concise and descriptive title that reflects the essence of your research. Write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. It should provide a brief overview of your proposal. 2.

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    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management".

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    The research proposal could also be considered as a contract, once members of the committee agree to the execution of the project. Requirements may include: an abstract, introduction, literature review, method section, and conclusion. A research proposal has to clearly and concisely identify the proposed research and its importance.

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    In introducing your problem in a research proposal, you should provide a succinct statement which will help you to remain focused on the issue that you are addressing and how the information you will be discussing is related to that issue. 2. BACKGROUND: create a common ground of understanding. In order for the reader to understand the issue ...

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    Make sure that your research idea, question or problem is very clearly stated and well-grounded in academic research. Make sure that your proposal is well focused and conforms exactly to the submission requirements described here. Poorly specified, jargon-filled or rambling proposals will not convince us that you have a clear idea of what you ...

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    A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer. [ 2] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about ...

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    50 Hot Research Topics for Social Work Students. Difference in approaching children vs adolescents suffering from domestic violence. Success stories in preventing child abuse in certain regions/states. Strategies to encourage women to report domestic violence cases. Damage to families with ongoing domestic violence.

  14. How to write a Research Proposal: Explained with Examples

    The overview, also known as abstract and/or introduction, is the first section that you write for your proposal. Your overview should be a single paragraph that explains to the reader what your whole research will be about. In a nutshell, you will use your abstract to present all the arguments that you will be taking in detail in your thesis or ...

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    Your proposal should be typed double-spaced, if possible, and be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Your PhD proposal can be added under the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System. Your proposal should contain at least the following elements: A provisional title. A key question, hypothesis or the broad topic ...

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