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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Examples of research proposals

How to write your research proposal, with examples of good proposals.

Research proposals

Your research proposal is a key part of your application. It tells us about the question you want to answer through your research. It is a chance for you to show your knowledge of the subject area and tell us about the methods you want to use.

We use your research proposal to match you with a supervisor or team of supervisors.

In your proposal, please tell us if you have an interest in the work of a specific academic at York St John. You can get in touch with this academic to discuss your proposal. You can also speak to one of our Research Leads. There is a list of our Research Leads on the Apply page.

When you write your proposal you need to:

  • Highlight how it is original or significant
  • Explain how it will develop or challenge current knowledge of your subject
  • Identify the importance of your research
  • Show why you are the right person to do this research
  • Research Proposal Example 1 (DOC, 49kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 2 (DOC, 0.9MB)
  • Research Proposal Example 3 (DOC, 55.5kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 4 (DOC, 49.5kB)

Subject specific guidance

  • Writing a Humanities PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
  • Writing a Creative Writing PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
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Research Proposal Examples for Every Science Field

Looking for research funding can be a daunting task, especially when you are starting out. A great way to improve grant-writing skills is to get inspired by winning research proposal examples.

To assist you in writing a competitive proposal, I have curated a collection of real-life research proposal examples from various scientific disciplines. These examples will allow you to gain inspiration about the way research proposals are structured and written.

Structure of a Research Proposal

A research proposal serves as a road-map for a project, outlining the objectives, methodology, resources, and expected outcomes. The main goal of writing a research proposal is to convince funding agency of the value and feasibility of a research project. But a proposal also helps scientists themselves to clarify their planned approach.

While the exact structure may vary depending on the science field and institutional guidelines, a research proposal typically includes the following sections: Problem, Objectives, Methodology, Resources, Participants, Results&Impact, Dissemination, Timeline, and Budget. I will use this structure for the example research proposals in this article.

Research Proposal Example Structure including the description of a project outline:  Problem: The knowledge gap that should be filled  Objectives: The objectives that will help solve the identified problem  Methodology: The approach that leads to reaching the objectives  Resources: The resources needed to accomplish the objectives  Participants: The research team’s qualification for implementing the research methodology and their complementary value  Results & Impact: The new knowledge that will be created and its real-world impact  Dissemination: The proper target audience and how you will reach them  Timeline: The time required for performing each part of the research project  Budget: The cost items and the distribution of funding between participants  On the side a PhD student is carrying a money bag.

Here is a brief description of what each of the nine proposal sections should hold.

A concise and informative title that captures the essence of the research proposal. Sometimes an abstract is required that briefly summarizes the proposed project.

Research Proposal Problem description

Clearly define the research problem or gap in knowledge that the study aims to address. Present relevant background information and cite existing literature to support the need for further investigation.

Research Proposal Objective description

State the specific objectives and research questions that the study seeks to answer. These objectives should be clear, measurable, and aligned with the problem statement.

Research Proposal Methodology description


Describe the research design, methodology, and techniques that will be employed to collect and analyze data. Justify your chosen approach and discuss its strengths and limitations.

Research Proposal Resources description

Outline the resources required for the successful execution of the research project, such as equipment, facilities, software, and access to specific datasets or archives.

Research Proposal Participants description


Describe the research team’s qualification for implementing the research methodology and their complementary value

Research Proposal Results and Impact description

Results and Impact

Describe the expected results, outcomes, and potential impact of the research. Discuss how the findings will contribute to the field and address the research gap identified earlier.

Research Proposal Dissemination description


Explain how the research results will be disseminated to the academic community and wider audiences. This may include publications, conference presentations, workshops, data charingor collaborations with industry partners.

Research Proposal Timeline description

Develop a realistic timeline that outlines the major milestones and activities of the research project. Consider potential challenges or delays and incorporate contingency plans.

Research Proposal Budget description symbol

Provide a detailed budget estimate, including anticipated expenses for research materials, equipment, participant compensation, travel, and other relevant costs. Justify the budget based on the project’s scope and requirements.

Consider that the above-mentioned proposal headings can be called differently depending on the funder’s requirements. However, you can be sure in one proposal’s section or another each of the mentioned sections will be included. Whenever provided, always use the proposal structure as required by the funding agency.

Research Proposal template download

This research proposal template includes the nine headings that we just discussed. For each heading, a key sentence skeleton is provided to help you to kick-start the proposal writing process.

social science proposal sample

Real-Life Research Proposal Examples

Proposals can vary from field to field so I will provide you with research proposal examples proposals in four main branches of science: social sciences, life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering and technology. For each science field, you will be able to download real-life winning research proposal examples.

To illustrate the principle of writing a scientific proposal while adhering to the nine sections I outlined earlier, for each discipline I will also provide you with a sample hypothetical research proposal. These examples are formulated using the key sentence structure that is included in the download template .

In case the research proposal examples I provide do not hold exactly what you are looking for, use the Open Grants database. It holds approved research proposals from various funding agencies in many countries. When looking for research proposals examples in the database, use the filer to search for specific keywords and organize the results to view proposals that have been funded.

Research Proposals Examples in Social Sciences

Here are real-life research proposal examples of funded projects in social sciences.

Here is an outline of a hypothetical Social Sciences research proposal that is structured using the nine proposal sections we discussed earlier. This proposal example is produced using the key sentence skeleton that you will access in the proposal template .

The Influence of Social Media on Political Participation among Young Adults

Research Proposal Problem description symbol

Social media platforms have become prominent spaces for political discussions and information sharing. However, the impact of social media on political participation among young adults remains a topic of debate.

Research Proposal Objectives description symbol

With the project, we aim to establish the relationship between social media usage and political engagement among young adults. To achieve this aim, we have three specific objectives:

  • Examine the association between social media usage patterns and various forms of political participation, such as voting, attending political rallies, and engaging in political discussions.
  • Investigate the role of social media in shaping political attitudes, opinions, and behaviors among young adults.
  • Provide evidence-based recommendations for utilizing social media platforms to enhance youth political participation.

Research Proposal Methodology description symbol

During the project, a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews will be used to determine the impact of social media use on youth political engagement. In particular, surveys will collect data on social media usage, political participation, and attitudes. Interviews will provide in-depth insights into participants’ experiences and perceptions.

Research Proposal Resources description symbol

The project will use survey software, transcription tools, and statistical analysis software to statistically evaluate the gathered results. The project will also use project funding for participant compensation.

Research Proposal Participant description symbol

Principal investigator, Jane Goodrich will lead a multidisciplinary research team comprising social scientists, political scientists, and communication experts with expertise in political science and social media research.

Research Proposal Results and Impact description symbol

The project will contribute to a better understanding of the influence of social media on political participation among young adults, including:

  • inform about the association between social media usage and political participation among youth.
  • determine the relationship between social media content and political preferences among youth.
  • provide guidelines for enhancing youth engagement in democratic processes through social media use.

Research Proposal Dissemination description symbol

We will disseminate the research results within policymakers and NGOs through academic publications in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at relevant conferences, and policy briefs.

Research Proposal Timeline description symbol

The project will start will be completed within two years and for the first two objectives a periodic report will be submitted in months 12 and 18.

The total eligible project costs are 58,800 USD, where 15% covers participant recruitment and compensation, 5% covers survey software licenses, 55% are dedicated for salaries, and 25% are intended for dissemination activities.

Research Proposal Examples in Life Sciences

Here are real-life research project examples in life sciences.

Here is a hypothetical research proposal example in Life Sciences. Just like the previous example, it consists of the nine discussed proposal sections and it is structured using the key sentence skeleton that you will access in the proposal template .

Investigating the Role of Gut Microbiota in Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome (GUT-MET)

Obesity and metabolic syndrome pose significant health challenges worldwide, leading to numerous chronic diseases and increasing healthcare costs. Despite extensive research, the precise mechanisms underlying these conditions remain incompletely understood. A critical knowledge gap exists regarding the role of gut microbiota in the development and progression of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

With the GUT-MET project, we aim to unravel the complex interactions between gut microbiota and obesity/metabolic syndrome. To achieve this aim, we have the following specific objectives:

  • Investigate the composition and diversity of gut microbiota in individuals with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
  • Determine the functional role of specific gut microbial species and their metabolites in the pathogenesis of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

During the project, we will employ the following key methodologies:

  • Perform comprehensive metagenomic and metabolomic analyses to characterize the gut microbiota and associated metabolic pathways.
  • Conduct animal studies to investigate the causal relationship between gut microbiota alterations and the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The project will benefit from state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, including advanced sequencing and analytical equipment, as well as access to a well-established cohort of participants with obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Research Proposal Participants description symbol

Dr. Emma Johnson, a renowned expert in gut microbiota research and Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of PeerRecognized, will lead the project. Dr. Johnson has published extensively in high-impact journals and has received multiple research grants focused on the gut microbiota and metabolic health.

The project will deliver crucial insights into the role of gut microbiota in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Specifically, it will:

  • Identify microbial signatures associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome for potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
  • Uncover key microbial metabolites and pathways implicated in disease development, enabling the development of targeted interventions.

We will actively disseminate the project results within the scientific community, healthcare professionals, and relevant stakeholders through publications in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at international conferences, and engagement with patient advocacy groups.

The project will be executed over a period of 36 months. Key milestones include data collection and analysis, animal studies, manuscript preparation, and knowledge transfer activities.

The total eligible project costs are $1,500,000, with the budget allocated for 55% personnel, 25% laboratory supplies, 5% data analysis, and 15% knowledge dissemination activities as specified in the research call guidelines.

Research Proposals Examples in Natural Sciences

Here are real-life research proposal examples of funded projects in natural sciences.

Here is a Natural Sciences research proposal example that is structured using the same nine sections. I created this proposal example using the key sentence skeleton that you will access in the proposal template .

Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity Dynamics in Fragile Ecosystems (CLIM-BIODIV)

Climate change poses a significant threat to global biodiversity, particularly in fragile ecosystems such as tropical rainforests and coral reefs. Understanding the specific impacts of climate change on biodiversity dynamics within these ecosystems is crucial for effective conservation and management strategies. However, there is a knowledge gap regarding the precise mechanisms through which climate change influences species composition, population dynamics, and ecosystem functioning in these vulnerable habitats.

With the CLIM-BIODIV project, we aim to assess the impact of climate change on biodiversity dynamics in fragile ecosystems. To achieve this aim, we have the following specific objectives:

  • Investigate how changes in temperature and precipitation patterns influence species distributions and community composition in tropical rainforests.
  • Assess the effects of ocean warming and acidification on coral reef ecosystems, including changes in coral bleaching events, species diversity, and ecosystem resilience.
  • Conduct field surveys and employ remote sensing techniques to assess changes in species distributions and community composition in tropical rainforests.
  • Utilize experimental approaches and long-term monitoring data to evaluate the response of coral reefs to varying temperature and pH conditions.

The project will benefit from access to field sites in ecologically sensitive regions, advanced remote sensing technology, and collaboration with local conservation organizations to facilitate data collection and knowledge sharing.

Dr. Alexander Chen, an established researcher in climate change and biodiversity conservation, will lead the project. Dr. Chen is a Professor of Ecology at the University of Peer Recognized, with a track record of three Nature publications and successful grant applications exceeding 25 million dollars.

The project will provide valuable insights into the impacts of climate change on biodiversity dynamics in fragile ecosystems. It will:

  • Enhance our understanding of how tropical rainforest communities respond to climate change, informing targeted conservation strategies.
  • Contribute to the identification of vulnerable coral reef ecosystems and guide management practices for their protection and resilience.

We will disseminate the project results to the scientific community, conservation practitioners, and policymakers through publications in reputable journals, participation in international conferences, and engagement with local communities and relevant stakeholders.

The project will commence on March 1, 2024, and will be implemented over a period of 48 months. Key milestones include data collection and analysis, modeling exercises, stakeholder engagement, and knowledge transfer activities. These are summarized in the Gantt chart.

The total eligible project costs are $2,000,000, with budget allocation for research personnel, fieldwork expenses, laboratory analyses, modeling software, data management, and dissemination activities.

Research Proposal Examples in Engineering and Technology

Here are real-life research proposal examples of funded research projects in the field of science and technology.

Here is a hypothetical Engineering and Technology research proposal example that is structured using the same nine proposal sections we discussed earlier. I used the key sentence skeleton available in the proposal template to produce this example.

Developing Sustainable Materials for Energy-Efficient Buildings (SUST-BUILD)

The construction industry is a major contributor to global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing this issue requires the development of sustainable materials that promote energy efficiency in buildings. However, there is a need for innovative engineering solutions to overcome existing challenges related to the performance, cost-effectiveness, and scalability of such materials.

With the SUST-BUILD project, we aim to develop sustainable materials for energy-efficient buildings. Our specific objectives are as follows:

  • Design and optimize novel insulating materials with enhanced thermal properties and reduced environmental impact.
  • Develop advanced coatings and surface treatments to improve the energy efficiency and durability of building envelopes.
  • Conduct extensive material characterization and simulation studies to guide the design and optimization of insulating materials.
  • Utilize advanced coating techniques and perform full-scale testing to evaluate the performance and durability of building envelope treatments.

The project will benefit from access to state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, including material testing equipment, thermal analysis tools, and coating application setups. Collaboration with industry partners will facilitate the translation of research findings into practical applications.

Dr. Maria Rodriguez, an experienced researcher in sustainable materials and building technologies, will lead the project. Dr. Rodriguez holds a position as Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Peer Recognized University and has a strong publication record and expertise in the field.

The project will deliver tangible outcomes for energy-efficient buildings. It will:

  • Develop sustainable insulating materials with superior thermal performance, contributing to reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.
  • Introduce advanced coatings and surface treatments developed from sustainable materials that enhance the durability and energy efficiency of building envelopes, thereby improving long-term building performance.

We will disseminate project results to relevant stakeholders, including industry professionals, architects, and policymakers. This will be accomplished through publications in scientific journals, presentations at conferences and seminars, and engagement with industry associations.

social science proposal sample

The project will commence on September 1, 2024, and will be implemented over a period of 36 months. Key milestones include material development and optimization, performance testing, prototype fabrication, and knowledge transfer activities. The milestones are summarized in the Gantt chart.

The total eligible project costs are $1,800,000. The budget will cover personnel salaries (60%), materials and equipment (10%), laboratory testing (5%), prototyping (15%), data analysis (5%), and dissemination activities (5%) as specified in the research call guidelines.

Final Tips for Writing an Winning Research Proposal

Come up with a good research idea.

Ideas are the currency of research world. I have prepared a 3 step approach that will help you to come up with a research idea that is worth turning into a proposal. You can download the Research Idea Generation Toolkit in this article.

Research project idea generation in three steps: 1. Generate many ideas 2. Refine the best ones 3. Rate and select the winner

Start with a strong research outline

Before even writing one sentence of the research proposal, I suggest you use the Research Project Canvas . It will help you to first come up with different research ideas and then choose the best one for writing a full research proposal.

Research Proposal Template in the middle between a Research Project Canvas and a Full Research Proposal

Tailor to the requirements of the project funder

Treat the submission guide like a Monk treats the Bible and follow its strict requirements to the last detail. The funder might set requirements for the topic, your experience, employment conditions, host institution, the research team, funding amount, and so forth. 

What you would like to do in the research is irrelevant unless it falls within the boundaries defined by the funder.

Make the reviewer’s job of finding flaws in your proposal difficult by ensuring that you have addressed each requirement clearly. If applicable, you can even use a table with requirements versus your approach. This will make your proposed approach absolutely evident for the reviewers.

Before submitting, assess your proposal using the criteria reviewers have to follow.

Conduct thorough background research

Before writing your research proposal, conduct comprehensive background research to familiarize yourself with existing literature, theories, and methodologies related to your topic. This will help you identify research gaps and formulate research questions that address these gaps. You will also establish competence in the eyes of reviewers by citing relevant literature.

Be concise and clear

Define research questions that are specific, measurable, and aligned with the problem statement.

If you think the reviewers might be from a field outside your own, avoid unnecessary jargon or complex language to help them to understand the proposal better.

Be specific in describing the research methodology. For example, include a brief description of the experimental methods you will rely upon, add a summary of the materials that you are going to use, attach samples of questionnaires that you will use, and include any other proof that demonstrates the thoroughness you have put into developing the research plan. Adding a flowchart is a great way to present the methodology.

Create a realistic timeline and budget

Develop a realistic project timeline that includes key milestones and activities, allowing for potential challenges or delays. Similarly, create a detailed budget estimate that covers all anticipated expenses, ensuring that it aligns with the scope and requirements of your research project. Be transparent and justify your budget allocations.

Demonstrate the significance and potential impact of the research

Clearly articulate the significance of your research and its potential impact on the field. Discuss how your findings can contribute to theory development, practical applications, policy-making, or other relevant areas.

Pay attention to formatting and style guidelines

Follow the formatting and style guidelines provided by your institution or funding agency. Pay attention to details such as font size, margins, referencing style, and section headings. Adhering to these guidelines demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail.

Take a break before editing

After preparing the first draft, set it aside for at least a week. Then thoroughly check it for logic and revise, revise, revise. Use the proposal submission guide to review your proposal against the requirements. Remember to use grammar checking tools to check for errors.

Finally, read the proposal out loud. This will help to ensure good readability.

Seek feedback

Share your proposal with mentors, colleagues, or members of your research community to receive constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Take these seriously since they provide a third party view of what is written (instead of what you think you have written).

Reviewing good examples is one of the best ways to learn a new skill. I hope that the research proposal examples in this article will be useful for you to get going with writing your own research proposal.

Have fun with the writing process and I hope your project gets approved!

Learning from research proposal examples alone is not enough

The research proposal examples I provided will help you to improve your grant writing skills. But learning from example proposals alone will take you a rather long time to master writing winning proposals.

To write a winning research proposal, you have to know how to add that elusive X-Factor that convinces the reviewers to move your proposal from the category “good” to the category “support”. This includes creating self-explanatory figures, creating a budget, collaborating with co-authors, and presenting a convincing story.

To write a research proposal that maximizes your chances of receiving research funding, read my book “ Write a Winning Research Proposal “.

Book Cover for "Write a Winning Research Proposal: How to Generate Grant Ideas and Secure Funding Using Research Project Canvas" by Martins Zaumanis. Includes research project examples.

This isn’t just a book. It’s a complete research proposal writing toolkit that includes a  project ideation canvas, budget spreadsheet, project rating scorecard, virtual collaboration whiteboard, proposal pitch formula, graphics creation cheat sheet, review checklist and other valuable resources that will help you succeed.

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Hey! My name is Martins Zaumanis and I am a materials scientist in Switzerland ( google scholar ). Being the first person in my family with a PhD, I have first-hand experience of the challenges scientists face in academia. With this blog, I want to help young researchers make a name in academia. I call the blog “Peer Recognized”, because peer recognition is what lifts academic careers and pushes science forward. I have also written the Peer Recognized book series and created the Peer Recognized Academy offering interactive online courses.

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17 Research Proposal Examples

research proposal example sections definition and purpose, explained below

A research proposal systematically and transparently outlines a proposed research project.

The purpose of a research proposal is to demonstrate a project’s viability and the researcher’s preparedness to conduct an academic study. It serves as a roadmap for the researcher.

The process holds value both externally (for accountability purposes and often as a requirement for a grant application) and intrinsic value (for helping the researcher to clarify the mechanics, purpose, and potential signficance of the study).

Key sections of a research proposal include: the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, research design and methods, timeline, budget, outcomes and implications, references, and appendix. Each is briefly explained below.

Research Proposal Sample Structure

Title: The title should present a concise and descriptive statement that clearly conveys the core idea of the research projects. Make it as specific as possible. The reader should immediately be able to grasp the core idea of the intended research project. Often, the title is left too vague and does not help give an understanding of what exactly the study looks at.

Abstract: Abstracts are usually around 250-300 words and provide an overview of what is to follow – including the research problem , objectives, methods, expected outcomes, and significance of the study. Use it as a roadmap and ensure that, if the abstract is the only thing someone reads, they’ll get a good fly-by of what will be discussed in the peice.

Introduction: Introductions are all about contextualization. They often set the background information with a statement of the problem. At the end of the introduction, the reader should understand what the rationale for the study truly is. I like to see the research questions or hypotheses included in the introduction and I like to get a good understanding of what the significance of the research will be. It’s often easiest to write the introduction last

Literature Review: The literature review dives deep into the existing literature on the topic, demosntrating your thorough understanding of the existing literature including themes, strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the literature. It serves both to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and, to demonstrate how the proposed study will fit alongside the literature on the topic. A good literature review concludes by clearly demonstrating how your research will contribute something new and innovative to the conversation in the literature.

Research Design and Methods: This section needs to clearly demonstrate how the data will be gathered and analyzed in a systematic and academically sound manner. Here, you need to demonstrate that the conclusions of your research will be both valid and reliable. Common points discussed in the research design and methods section include highlighting the research paradigm, methodologies, intended population or sample to be studied, data collection techniques, and data analysis procedures . Toward the end of this section, you are encouraged to also address ethical considerations and limitations of the research process , but also to explain why you chose your research design and how you are mitigating the identified risks and limitations.

Timeline: Provide an outline of the anticipated timeline for the study. Break it down into its various stages (including data collection, data analysis, and report writing). The goal of this section is firstly to establish a reasonable breakdown of steps for you to follow and secondly to demonstrate to the assessors that your project is practicable and feasible.

Budget: Estimate the costs associated with the research project and include evidence for your estimations. Typical costs include staffing costs, equipment, travel, and data collection tools. When applying for a scholarship, the budget should demonstrate that you are being responsible with your expensive and that your funding application is reasonable.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: A discussion of the anticipated findings or results of the research, as well as the potential contributions to the existing knowledge, theory, or practice in the field. This section should also address the potential impact of the research on relevant stakeholders and any broader implications for policy or practice.

References: A complete list of all the sources cited in the research proposal, formatted according to the required citation style. This demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the relevant literature and ensures proper attribution of ideas and information.

Appendices (if applicable): Any additional materials, such as questionnaires, interview guides, or consent forms, that provide further information or support for the research proposal. These materials should be included as appendices at the end of the document.

Research Proposal Examples

Research proposals often extend anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 words in length. The following snippets are samples designed to briefly demonstrate what might be discussed in each section.

1. Education Studies Research Proposals

See some real sample pieces:

  • Assessment of the perceptions of teachers towards a new grading system
  • Does ICT use in secondary classrooms help or hinder student learning?
  • Digital technologies in focus project
  • Urban Middle School Teachers’ Experiences of the Implementation of
  • Restorative Justice Practices
  • Experiences of students of color in service learning

Consider this hypothetical education research proposal:

The Impact of Game-Based Learning on Student Engagement and Academic Performance in Middle School Mathematics

Abstract: The proposed study will explore multiplayer game-based learning techniques in middle school mathematics curricula and their effects on student engagement. The study aims to contribute to the current literature on game-based learning by examining the effects of multiplayer gaming in learning.

Introduction: Digital game-based learning has long been shunned within mathematics education for fears that it may distract students or lower the academic integrity of the classrooms. However, there is emerging evidence that digital games in math have emerging benefits not only for engagement but also academic skill development. Contributing to this discourse, this study seeks to explore the potential benefits of multiplayer digital game-based learning by examining its impact on middle school students’ engagement and academic performance in a mathematics class.

Literature Review: The literature review has identified gaps in the current knowledge, namely, while game-based learning has been extensively explored, the role of multiplayer games in supporting learning has not been studied.

Research Design and Methods: This study will employ a mixed-methods research design based upon action research in the classroom. A quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test control group design will first be used to compare the academic performance and engagement of middle school students exposed to game-based learning techniques with those in a control group receiving instruction without the aid of technology. Students will also be observed and interviewed in regard to the effect of communication and collaboration during gameplay on their learning.

Timeline: The study will take place across the second term of the school year with a pre-test taking place on the first day of the term and the post-test taking place on Wednesday in Week 10.

Budget: The key budgetary requirements will be the technologies required, including the subscription cost for the identified games and computers.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: It is expected that the findings will contribute to the current literature on game-based learning and inform educational practices, providing educators and policymakers with insights into how to better support student achievement in mathematics.

2. Psychology Research Proposals

See some real examples:

  • A situational analysis of shared leadership in a self-managing team
  • The effect of musical preference on running performance
  • Relationship between self-esteem and disordered eating amongst adolescent females

Consider this hypothetical psychology research proposal:

The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Stress Reduction in College Students

Abstract: This research proposal examines the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on stress reduction among college students, using a pre-test/post-test experimental design with both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods .

Introduction: College students face heightened stress levels during exam weeks. This can affect both mental health and test performance. This study explores the potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions such as meditation as a way to mediate stress levels in the weeks leading up to exam time.

Literature Review: Existing research on mindfulness-based meditation has shown the ability for mindfulness to increase metacognition, decrease anxiety levels, and decrease stress. Existing literature has looked at workplace, high school and general college-level applications. This study will contribute to the corpus of literature by exploring the effects of mindfulness directly in the context of exam weeks.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n= 234 ) will be randomly assigned to either an experimental group, receiving 5 days per week of 10-minute mindfulness-based interventions, or a control group, receiving no intervention. Data will be collected through self-report questionnaires, measuring stress levels, semi-structured interviews exploring participants’ experiences, and students’ test scores.

Timeline: The study will begin three weeks before the students’ exam week and conclude after each student’s final exam. Data collection will occur at the beginning (pre-test of self-reported stress levels) and end (post-test) of the three weeks.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: The study aims to provide evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in reducing stress among college students in the lead up to exams, with potential implications for mental health support and stress management programs on college campuses.

3. Sociology Research Proposals

  • Understanding emerging social movements: A case study of ‘Jersey in Transition’
  • The interaction of health, education and employment in Western China
  • Can we preserve lower-income affordable neighbourhoods in the face of rising costs?

Consider this hypothetical sociology research proposal:

The Impact of Social Media Usage on Interpersonal Relationships among Young Adults

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effects of social media usage on interpersonal relationships among young adults, using a longitudinal mixed-methods approach with ongoing semi-structured interviews to collect qualitative data.

Introduction: Social media platforms have become a key medium for the development of interpersonal relationships, particularly for young adults. This study examines the potential positive and negative effects of social media usage on young adults’ relationships and development over time.

Literature Review: A preliminary review of relevant literature has demonstrated that social media usage is central to development of a personal identity and relationships with others with similar subcultural interests. However, it has also been accompanied by data on mental health deline and deteriorating off-screen relationships. The literature is to-date lacking important longitudinal data on these topics.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n = 454 ) will be young adults aged 18-24. Ongoing self-report surveys will assess participants’ social media usage, relationship satisfaction, and communication patterns. A subset of participants will be selected for longitudinal in-depth interviews starting at age 18 and continuing for 5 years.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of five years, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide insights into the complex relationship between social media usage and interpersonal relationships among young adults, potentially informing social policies and mental health support related to social media use.

4. Nursing Research Proposals

  • Does Orthopaedic Pre-assessment clinic prepare the patient for admission to hospital?
  • Nurses’ perceptions and experiences of providing psychological care to burns patients
  • Registered psychiatric nurse’s practice with mentally ill parents and their children

Consider this hypothetical nursing research proposal:

The Influence of Nurse-Patient Communication on Patient Satisfaction and Health Outcomes following Emergency Cesarians

Abstract: This research will examines the impact of effective nurse-patient communication on patient satisfaction and health outcomes for women following c-sections, utilizing a mixed-methods approach with patient surveys and semi-structured interviews.

Introduction: It has long been known that effective communication between nurses and patients is crucial for quality care. However, additional complications arise following emergency c-sections due to the interaction between new mother’s changing roles and recovery from surgery.

Literature Review: A review of the literature demonstrates the importance of nurse-patient communication, its impact on patient satisfaction, and potential links to health outcomes. However, communication between nurses and new mothers is less examined, and the specific experiences of those who have given birth via emergency c-section are to date unexamined.

Research Design and Methods: Participants will be patients in a hospital setting who have recently had an emergency c-section. A self-report survey will assess their satisfaction with nurse-patient communication and perceived health outcomes. A subset of participants will be selected for in-depth interviews to explore their experiences and perceptions of the communication with their nurses.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including rolling recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing within the hospital.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the significance of nurse-patient communication in supporting new mothers who have had an emergency c-section. Recommendations will be presented for supporting nurses and midwives in improving outcomes for new mothers who had complications during birth.

5. Social Work Research Proposals

  • Experiences of negotiating employment and caring responsibilities of fathers post-divorce
  • Exploring kinship care in the north region of British Columbia

Consider this hypothetical social work research proposal:

The Role of a Family-Centered Intervention in Preventing Homelessness Among At-Risk Youthin a working-class town in Northern England

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effectiveness of a family-centered intervention provided by a local council area in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth. This case study will use a mixed-methods approach with program evaluation data and semi-structured interviews to collect quantitative and qualitative data .

Introduction: Homelessness among youth remains a significant social issue. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in addressing this problem and identify factors that contribute to successful prevention strategies.

Literature Review: A review of the literature has demonstrated several key factors contributing to youth homelessness including lack of parental support, lack of social support, and low levels of family involvement. It also demonstrates the important role of family-centered interventions in addressing this issue. Drawing on current evidence, this study explores the effectiveness of one such intervention in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth in a working-class town in Northern England.

Research Design and Methods: The study will evaluate a new family-centered intervention program targeting at-risk youth and their families. Quantitative data on program outcomes, including housing stability and family functioning, will be collected through program records and evaluation reports. Semi-structured interviews with program staff, participants, and relevant stakeholders will provide qualitative insights into the factors contributing to program success or failure.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Budget: Expenses include access to program evaluation data, interview materials, data analysis software, and any related travel costs for in-person interviews.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in preventing youth homelessness, potentially informing the expansion of or necessary changes to social work practices in Northern England.

Research Proposal Template

This is a template for a 2500-word research proposal. You may find it difficult to squeeze everything into this wordcount, but it’s a common wordcount for Honors and MA-level dissertations.

Your research proposal is where you really get going with your study. I’d strongly recommend working closely with your teacher in developing a research proposal that’s consistent with the requirements and culture of your institution, as in my experience it varies considerably. The above template is from my own courses that walk students through research proposals in a British School of Education.


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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6 thoughts on “17 Research Proposal Examples”

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Very excellent research proposals

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very helpful

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Very helpful

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Dear Sir, I need some help to write an educational research proposal. Thank you.

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Hi Levi, use the site search bar to ask a question and I’ll likely have a guide already written for your specific question. Thanks for reading!

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very good research proposal

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Complete Proposal Samples

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Cover Page Samples

Biographical sketches.

NSF implemented a revised version of the Biographical Sketch format for consistency with the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) ( NSF 23-1 ). The requirement to use the revised format is effective for proposals submitted or due on or after January 30, 2023. 

The revised format is now available in SciENcv and on the NSF Policy Office website . As a reminder, the mandate to use SciENcv only for preparation of these senior personnel documents (to include Current & Pending Support) will go into effect for new proposals submitted or due on or after October 23, 2023. 

NSF recommends both Mac and Windows users open and fill in the blank PDF document using Adobe Acrobat Reader for an optimized experience. The completed and saved PDF can then be uploaded via or 

NSF Fillable PDF - Current NSF Fillable PDF - Effective for proposals submitted or due on or after January 30, 2023

Current & Pending Support Descriptions

NSF implemented a revised version of the Current and Pending (Other) Support format for consistency with the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) ( NSF 23-1 ). The requirement to use the revised formats is effective for proposals submitted or due on or after January 30, 2023. 

The revised format is now available in SciENcv and on the NSF Policy Office website . As a reminder, the mandate to use SciENcv only for preparation of these senior personnel documents (to include the Biosketch) will go into effect for new proposals submitted or due on or after October 23, 2023. 

Facilities & Equipment Descriptions

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Data Management Plans

Data Management and Open Access Storage (at USF) blurb :

A long term (indefinite) data preservation plan will be used to store the data beyond the life of the project, using Digital Commons Data, a USF Libraries supported, accessible, data management repository.

Digital Commons Data adheres to FAIR principles of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse. All data is "archived in perpetuity for long-term availability, with Data Archiving and​ Networked Services" ( ). To support open data, all published datasets will have a clear license and a DOI for ease of citation.

Digital Commons Data is a module of Digital Commons, an institutional repository system used by the USF Libraries. In use since 2007, the USF Libraries has supported persistent access and preservation to scholarly works and datasets created at USF with Digital Commons. The datasets created as a result of this project align with key library research collections, notably the Florida Environment and Natural History Collections Initiative ( ).

See our guide on how to use the repository:

  • NSF DMP (Biological Sciences - DBI)
  • NSF DMP (Geosciences - DEB)
  • NSF DMP (Physical Sciences - DUE - IUSE)
  • NSF DMP (Social Sciences - HRD - Core Research)

NSF CAREER Post-Doctoral Mentoring Plans

  • NSF CAREER Post-Doctoral Mentoring Plan

Graphics & Captions

  • Samples that demonstrate how graphics and captions propel proposals forward.

USF CAS Core Facilities Descriptions & Available Equipment

  • CAS Core Facilities Descriptions & Available Equipment



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