A research proposal is a document written by a researcher that describes in details the program for a proposed empirical investigation. Research proposal is aimed to convince the sponsor or the committee that the research activity being offered is worthwhile and that researcher will be able to conduct the research in an efficient manner. Consequently, this is the short summary and outline for the future research activity. When writing research proposal, the researcher should keep in mind that proposal contains the answers to the following questions (see Appendix for detailed outline): What is the purpose of the research? Is your research beneficial? Who will benefit and how? Who is going to be involved in research? What is the duration of research activity and how much cost could be incurred on it? What is the expected outcome of research study?
Often it is asked why the research proposal is important and the research study could be conducted without proposing a research. But proposal is important in the following ways: It presents the question to be researched and its importance. It discusses the research efforts of others who have worked on related questions (Literature Review). It suggests the data necessary for conducting the research and solving the research question. It gives researcher an opportunity to think through the research project carefully, and clarify and define what he wants to research. It provides researcher an outline and guides him through the research process. It lets the sponsor to know what and how researcher is going to conduct research. It helps the sponsor to choose the best researcher from the available options. It gives researcher an opportunity to receive feedback from sponsor and provide an outline for the clarification and discussion. It serves as a contract and road map between researcher and sponsor.
Mainly the research proposal can be categorized into two categories:
1. Internal Research Proposal If an organization is having its own research department for research activities the research proposal submitted by that department to the management would be the internal research proposal. Internal proposals are short and snappy; a one to threepage memo from the researcher to management outlining the problem statement, study objectives, research design, and schedule is enough to start an exploratory study. 2. External Research Proposal A proposal submitted by an outside researcher to instigate a research for an organization would be the external research proposal. The external research proposal may be solicited that is in response to the requested for proposal published by the management of the company or un solicited which is submitted by the permanent consultants of the organization in order to get approval for the potential research and to solve a potential problem. 3. Academia Research Proposal The research proposal that outlines the plans for an exploratory research and the goal of which is to contribute towards the existing knowledge on a topic. These researches do not aim at solving the specific problems of a particular organization but aim at exploring the new horizons of the knowledge or confirming the findings of an earlier research. These research proposals are submitted by the students and scholars to their supervisor. The development of research proposal requires experience and expertise and the following guidelines and step by step approach would help to structure a research proposal in a better way: Understand the problem. Understanding the research problem is very important. This understanding would lead to the clarification of research question. If problem is understood completely narrow down the core problem area. Formulate research objectives and research questions and ideas for analysis. Outline and explore the key literature in the relevant area of study. Decide research methodology, research design. Propose an approach for data analysis. Develop a timeline. Develop a budget and resources you will need. Develop a bibliography.
Writing a research proposal can be a demanding, frustrating, challenging and time consuming process - but it can also be exciting! A proposal does not permanently set what you will do. It is a starting point and throughout your research you will probably adjust and change your 2
position. You will be able to trace the development of your ideas and measure the progress you have made by referring back to your proposal. A research proposal is essentially written in a format so as to standardize the selection process and this format is given in the request for proposal if the proposal is of solicited type. The format of the research proposal contains the following components (A sample research proposal is attached with the assignment to clarify the format of the research proposal. This proposal relates to PACE Gujranwala): 1. Title: It should be concise and descriptive. For example, the phrase, "An investigation of . . ." could be omitted. Often titles are stated in terms of a functional relationship, because such titles clearly indicate the independent and dependent variables. However, if possible, think of an informative but catchy title. An effective title not only pricks the reader's interest, but also predisposes him/her favorably towards the proposal. The title was not found with the sample research proposal. 2. Abstract/ Executive Summary: It is a brief summary which provides a bird’s eye view of the overall proposal. It should include the research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any), the method and the main findings. Descriptions of the method may include the design, procedures, the sample and any instruments that will be used. The Executive summary in our sample research proposal contains 385 words. This is a succinct summary of the proposal which summarize the company information, research objective, research methodology and data collection methods and analysis techniques. 3. Introduction: The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the necessary background or context for the research problem. The primary goal of the introductory paragraphs is to catch the attention of the readers and to get them "turned on" about the subject. It sets the stage for the paper and puts your topic in perspective. The introduction often contains dramatic and general statements about the need for the study, the company background and history, its operations and core business areas. It uses dramatic illustrations or quotes to set the tone. When writing the introduction, put yourself in your reader's position - would you continue reading?
The sample research proposal contains the necessary background information which relate to the PACE and its business. 4. Research Problem: How to frame the research problem is perhaps the biggest problem in proposal writing. If the research problem is framed in the context of a general, rambling literature review, then the research question may appear trivial and uninteresting. However, if the same question is placed in the context of a very focused and current research area, its significance will become evident. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to frame research question just as there is no prescription on how to write an interesting and informative opening paragraph. A lot depends on creativity of writer, his ability to think clearly and the depth of his understanding of problem areas. However, try to place the research question in the context of either a current "hot" area, or an older area that remains viable. Secondly, you need to provide a brief but appropriate historical backdrop. Thirdly, provide the contemporary context in which your proposed research question occupies the central stage. Finally, identify key players and refer to the most relevant and representative publications. In short, try to paint your research question in broad brushes and at the same time bring out its significance. This part generally covers the following elements: State the research problem, which is often referred to as the purpose of the study. Provide the context and set the stage for your research question in such a way as to show its necessity and importance. Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing. Briefly describe the major issues and sub-problems to be addressed by your research. Identify the key independent and dependent variables of your experiment. Alternatively, specify the phenomenon you want to study. State your hypothesis or theory, if any. For exploratory or phenomenological research, you may not have any hypotheses. Set the delimitation or boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Provide definitions of key concepts.
The sample research proposal defines the research question and its scope in a clear manner by providing the attitude of the people of Gujranwala. This part is further clarified by providing a detailed diagram explaining the research scope. 4. Research Objectives: This part justifies the aim and objectives of the research in sense of what needs to be accomplished. Care to be taken in writing objectives such that they must be measurable or specifiable in some way so as to know the completion. This will facilitate the intentions clearly and it also sets useful criteria for evaluation purpose.
Each objective must be clear with indication to broad and specific measurable out put and possible to accomplish in the specified time frame. While writing the objectives try to answer the following queries:
What do you want to achieve? The objectives are valuable to whom? Are they measurable? Are they realistic in terms of time and available resources?
If there are multiple objectives, each of the objectives should have a corresponding hypothesis. The sample proposal of PACE have 6 research objective which are somewhat measureable and specific. 5. Literature Review: Sometimes the literature review is incorporated into the introduction section. However, mostly it is preferred as a separate section, which allows a more thorough review of the literature. The literature review serves several important functions: Ensures that you are not "reinventing the wheel". Gives credits to those who have laid the groundwork for your research. Demonstrates your knowledge of the research problem. Demonstrates your understanding of the theoretical and research issues related to your research question. Shows your ability to critically evaluate relevant literature information. Indicates your ability to integrate and synthesize the existing literature.
Provides new theoretical insights or develops a new model as the conceptual framework for your research. 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).
The availability of the relevant literature was limited in the sample proposal but yet the reference of the material is provided under the literature review heading. 6. Importance and Benefits of Study: This section creates a perspective for looking at the problem. It points out how your study relates to the larger issues and uses a persuasive rationale to justify the reason for your study. It makes the purpose worth pursuing. The significance of the study answers the questions: Why is your study important? To whom is it important? What benefit(s) will occur if your study is done?
In sample proposal the importance of the study is well justified by explaining the benefits associated with the study. 7. Research Design/ methodology: This section describes your basic research plan. It is the heart of research activity and outlines the data, its collection methods and the analysis techniques to be applied. It usually begins with a few short introductory paragraphs that restate purpose and research questions. Keep the wording of your research questions consistent throughout the document. The basic research paradigm for this section is: Define the population Draw a representative sample from the population Do the research on the sample Infer your results from the sample back to the population
This section typically consists of the following sections: Design -Is it a questionnaire study or a laboratory experiment? What kind of design do you choose? 6
Subjects or participants - Who will take part in your study, what kind of sampling procedure do you use? Instruments - What kind of measuring instruments or questionnaires do you use? Why do you choose them? Are they valid and reliable? Procedure - How do you plan to carry out your study? What activities are involved? How long does it take?
Our sample research proposal outlines the type of the research study and explains the methods of the data collection and technique. However, the statistical tools to be applied are not well defined in this section. 8. Qualifications of the Researcher(s): This section should begin with the principal investigator, and then provide similar information on all individuals involved with the project. Two elements are critical for this section: Professional research competence (relevant research experience, the highest academic degree held, and membership in business and technical societies, etc.). Relevant management experience.
This section let the management know about the research capabilities and experience of the researcher and answer the question: Are they capable of conducting the research? The sample proposal describes the qualifications of the researchers in terms of their qualifications and association. 9. Budget: This section provides the cost estimate of the research study. This portion is very important due to allocation of resources point of view. The cost of the study is matched with the expected value of the solution to make accept or reject decision. The budget should be presented in the form the sponsor requests. The budget statement in an internal research proposal is based on employee and overhead costs. The budget presented by an external research organization is not just the wages or salaries of its employees but the person/hour price that the contracting firm charges. The budget portion in our sample proposal is cost estimates for the completion of research study.
10. Time schedule: This part of the proposal provides the estimates about the duration of the research study. The schedule should include major phases of the project, their timetables, and the milestones that signify the completion of a phase. For example, major phase may be i) exploratory interviews, ii) final research proposal, iii) questionnaire revision, iv) field interviews, v) editing and coding, vi) data analysis, and vii) report generation. Each of these phases should have an estimated time schedule and people assigned to work. These phrases can be plotted using various scheduling techniques as Gantt Charts and PERT Network etc. The PACE proposal provides the time estimates to complete the study. No chart and graphical presentation of the schedule however, is provided. 11. Facilities and Special Resources: Research study may require special facilities or resources, for instance, a contract exploratory study may need specialized facilities for focus group sessions. Computerassisted telephone or other interviewing facilities may be required. Alternatively, your proposed data analysis may require sophisticated computer algorithms, and therefore, you need access to an adequate system. These requirements will vary from study to study. The proposal should carefully list the relevant facilities and resources that will be used. The costs for such facility use should be detailed in your budget. Our sample research proposal enlists all the possible equipment and facilities that would be required to complete the research study in an efficient manner. 12. Project Management: The purpose of this section is to show to the sponsor that the research team is organized in a way to do the project efficiently. A master plan is required for complex projects to show how all the phases will be brought together. The plan includes: The research team organization. Management procedure and controls for executing the research plan. Examples of management and technical reports. The research team’s relationships with the sponsor. Financial and legal responsibility. Management competence.
Our sample proposal provides a vague guide line as to the team organization and control but as the scope of the study is not that broad and the time duration required to complete the study is pretty short the given information would be adequate. 13. Results and Discussion: Obviously you do not have results at the proposal stage but you have to summarize what have you did or found. Discuss the findings. Do your findings support the research question? Explain why you think you found what you did. Present plausible reasons why the results might have turned out the way they did. It is important to convince your reader of the potential impact of your proposed research. 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. Our sample does not have this section. 14. Bibliography: This section contains the citation and references from where you have got help or have included some material from in the research proposal. Our sample contains the references from where help and data would be taken in order to complete the proposal. 15. Appendices: It is the last section of a research proposal which contains the glossary of concepts, constructs, and definitions, samples of the measurement instrument and other materials that reinforce the body of the proposal. Our sample proposal contains only the glossary of terms as it was limited in its scope and other things were not applicable. The research proposal is evaluated by the sponsor in terms of efficiency, cost, research expertise of researcher or any other criterion the sponsor is sensitive about and the research project is assigned to the most suitable researcher.
Researcher may commit some mistakes while writing the proposal that might lead to a rejection of his proposal. These mistakes are: Failure to understand the true problem and considering the symptom of the problem as real problem. Failure to provide the proper context to frame the research question. Failure to delimit the boundary conditions for your research. Failure to cite landmark studies. Failure to accurately present the theoretical and empirical contributions by other researchers. Failure to stay focused on the research question. Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research. Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues. Too much rambling -- going "all over the map" without a clear sense of direction. (The best proposals move forward with ease and grace like a seamless river.) Too many citation lapses and incorrect references. Too long or too short. Slopping writing.
Here are some tips and guide lines for writing an effective research proposal: Do you home work as to understanding of the real problem and collection of the required data etc. Literature review is a must for the complicated researchers and studies requiring detailed research proposals. Structure you proposal in an logical sequence of activities that would be required to complete the research. The proposal should be easy to understand. Use simple words and short self explanatory sentences. Avoid too many jargons. Provide the abstract or executive summary in a precise manner. Write and sleep on the proposal; then re-read critically. Consult with others; spend time thinking. Listen to comments with patience. Show it to a non-technical person. Try to catch errors, repetitions, and inconsistencies.