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Activity 16.1: Investigating research proposals

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Activity 16.1: Investigating research proposals

A research proposal should be as specific and focused as possible. If the research is being driven by gaps in the existing literature, which of these gaps will you attempt to address? If your research is being driven by theoretical or policy debates, which specific points of these debates are you going to focus on?

Use a contents list and plan carefully so that each sentence follows logically from the one before and the reader knows what to expect.  A well written text is a "chain of ideas" following "verbal signposts" in the text.

Key components are:


Concise and descriptive


Approximately 300 words. Include the research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any) and the method.


• A description of the research problem

A clear and simple formulation of the research question followed by where the idea came from, clarifying any concepts need explaining.

• An argument as to why that problem is important

Does the research aim to resolve theoretical questions; develop better theoretical models; aim to influence public policy; or aim to change the way people do their jobs in a particular field?

Describe context, showing necessity and importance.

Set delimitations of research and define key concepts.

Literature Review

This needs to provide an integrated overview of the field of study showing your awareness of the relevant theories, models, studies and methodologies. It provides a conceptual framework for the reader and demonstrates that the researcher is aware of the breadth and diversity of literature relating to the research question.

You need to demonstrate the manner in which your research questions emanate from gaps in the existing empirical literature or apply a theory to a specific context.

Convinces your reader that your proposed research will make a significant and substantial contribution to the literature (i.e., resolving an important theoretical issue or filling a major gap in the literature).

A description of the proposed research methodology

Demonstrate your knowledge of alternative methods and make the case that your approach is the most appropriate and most valid way to address your research question


Research Design

Sampling techniques and how they represent population (vital to validity)

When particular measurement instruments are used, important to explain how those instruments were developed, where they have previously been used, and to what effect.

Data collection procedures

Data analysis

A description of how the research findings will be used and/or disseminated

You need to communicate a sense of enthusiasm and confidence without exaggerating the merits of your proposal. That is why you also need to mention the limitations and weaknesses of the proposed research, which may be justified by time and financial constraints as well as by the early developmental stage of your research area.


Birmingham City University guidelines: http://www.ssdd.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.07.htm

University of Nottingham Business School:


Trinity Western University




Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 June 2011, 21:47)
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