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This report will be examining “the constituents of a quality research proposal”,

however before advancing into the elemenets of a quality research proposal it is

critical to understand what research is.

Research (Roger Bennett 1991 p67) is a systematic, careful inquiry or examination to

discover new information or relationships and to expand or verify existing knowledge

for some specified purpose. From this definition you can draw that a research

proposal is a document constructed based on a study conducted in order to gain

insight on an issue / problem.

This report gives insight on how to get started with creating a research proposal,

which is rare as more sources are directed at guiding individuals in executing the

research project. The report consists of two main sections, the first gives regard to

how a research proposal should be structured while the second explains both the

features of a research proposal and the skills required to create one.

A general framework for topics and their order need to be considered before a
proposal can be designed. The structure of a research proposal will vary depending on
the topic and the methodology adopted. However for the purpose of this report a
standard format for a research proposal has been constructed. With help from various
literatures I have adapted a series of sections that should be present in a research
proposal, and they are as follows.

• Introduction (title, aim and background)

• Research problem and purpose
• Literature review
• Research design and methodolology
• Time scale
• References.

2.1 Introduction
The introduction section of the research proposal should contain three main elements
which are
• The title
• The aim of the research
• The back ground
The title - of the research proposal should be a reflection of its content, and is subject
to change as the research progresses.
The aim of the research - should contain the hopeful research outcomes in a
simplistic fashion (e.g. bullet points). This part of the proposal is very important
because it can be referred to after the research has been constructed to check if the
research aims have been accomplished. The aims can also be updated after the
research has been completed if it has produced more or less outcomes than forecasted.
The background – of the proposal should tell the reader why you feel the research
that you are planning is worth the effort (Saunders et al 2009 p42). The background
section can either be focused on explaining why the problem that the researcher is
addressing in the proposal needs to be addressed or how the topic has sparked the
interest and curiosity of the researcher. This background section should also evidence

that the researcher’s proposal matches debates in the literature. This part of the
proposal should be concluded with the research question.

2.2 Research problem and purpose.

The research problem is the primary reason that the research has been undertaken.
This part of the proposal should give insight on why the problem is meaningful
enough to be researched. The problem must be defined precisely so that the reader can
see that the research scope has been limited for feasibility (Berman brown 2006 p33).
According to Saunders et al (2009) for the research purpose / objectives to become
significant they should be guided by the following.
• Organising your ideas
• Convincing readers

2.3 Literature review

The literature review is used to prove that the researcher can analyse and criticize the
literature. The main purpose of the literature review is to provide proof of scholarship
(Collins and Hussey 2009). Gabott Mark’s article undertaking a literature review in
marketing suggests three elements which are helpful in guiding an individual
construct a literature view, they are as follows.
• Sourcing of literature
• Interpretation and critical understanding of what has been collected
• Preparation and writing the literature review
When sourcing the literature the researcher will have to familiarize their self with the
library and available resources for information. Defining in detail what you are
researching makes the process of sourcing literature less stressful.
Understanding literature collected entails identifying key terms, sighting conflict
issues and knowing the main authors. When writing the literature review it is
imperative to give your argument direction, indicate your position and maintain an
academic or practioneer tone. To summarize, the main things to be aware of when
constructing a literature review are as follows.
• Use only relevant sources / material
• Identify key terms

• Search for aspects that have not been covered in the available literature, that
is using the existing literature to draw up new analysis
• Criticize the literature. Rather that just explaining what is contained in the
literature; the researcher should point out their strengths and weaknesses.
• The hypothesis should be included at the end of the literature review.

2.4 Research design/ methodology

The first task the researcher has when designing this section of the proposal is making
sure that the hypothesis which will be tested has been properly defined. After doing
this the next step is to select a design to use for the research. Research designs are
plans and procedures for research that span the decisions from broad assumptions to
details, methods of data collection and analysis (John Creswell 2009 p3). The
researcher can select one of the following kinds of research designs.
• Quantitative research – Measures variables, uses a deductive method and
takes a scientific approach to research (positivism). An example of
quantitative research is a questionier.
• Qualitative research – Focuses on peoples understanding and experiences on
the research question, uses an inductive method, and takes an ethnographic
approach. An example of qualitative research is an interview.
• Mixed methods research – This style is a combination of qualitative and
quantitative data collection.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to ensure that the selected research design is
appropriate for the problem analysed, for instance it will be reasonable to adopt a
quantitative approach if researching how much fringe benefits motivate managerial
staff. The philosophical approach should guide the selection of a methodology. The
philosophical approach covers ontology, epistemology and axiology (Reva Brown
• Ontology – These are assumptions about what we consider real.
• Epistemology – This encompasses assumptions about the nature of
• Axiology- Most research proposals are classified under applied research
which makes them dependent on the values of the researcher and this is what
axiology is about.

The following part of the design and methodology section should accommodate
information on the sample utilized for the research. A sample is made up of some
members of a population; however the entire population can be used as the sample
depending on its size (Collins and Hussey 2009). A sample must posses the following
for it to be of good quality.
• Sizable enough for the research
• Sizable enough to provide results which can be generalized
• Provide every member of the population with an equal chance of being
According to an article titled design, size and validation of samples, there are three
main aspects to consider when creating a sample which include designing the sample,
validation of the sample design, and determining the size of the sample.
Data collection procedures should also be stated in this section.

2.5 Time Scale

Time scale involves working out the time frames for the research. The research plan
should ideally be divided into stages. The time scale is used as proof that the
researcher knows what he / she needs in order to complete the research. Most time
scales turn out to be inaccurate; however they are only supposed to provide the
researcher with guidance in constructing the research.

2.6 References
The key sources that have been used for the research proposal are required in this
section. The referencing should also be done in accordance with the style that has
been specified to the researcher e.g. Harvard referencing.

Different research proposals take different styles and forms however for the proposal
to be considered as one of good quality it should posses some key traits. These
features can be used as a guide by an individual writing a research proposal, some of
them are as follows.
• The proposal must be original, that is it must have a fresh outlook on an
existing topic.
• The research should allow the researcher demonstrate his / her academic or
managerial ability.
• It should have an outlined focus which is aligned with the field which the
researcher is based.
• The methods used should be appropriate for the problem.
• A core hypothesis should be formed for testing in the proposal.
• The aims and objectives of the proposal should be clearly stated.
• The components of the proposal should fit together considerably.
• The proposal should not contain preconceived ideas.
(McMillan & Weyers 2002)
There are skills required in order to ensure that a research proposal is of good quality
(Reva Brown 2009), these skills include the following.
• Data collection skills – The researcher will have to know how to either
conduct interviews, create effective questionaires est. depending on the chosen
• Analytical skills – Interpreting data that the researcher receives is one of the
most important skills for a researcher. As data is not useful if an individual is
unable to gather information from it.
• Designing research – To help with designing the proposal the researcher
should consult literature that provides guidelines on writing a research
• Developing research instruments – This entails organising tools for data

• Writing research – the researcher will have to have the skills necessary to
write the report.

• Saunders, M., Lewis, P., Thornhill, A. (2009) Research methods for business
students. 5th ed. Essex: Pearson.
• Collins, J., Hussey. (2009) Business research.: a practical guide for
undergraduate and postgraduate students. 3rd ed., Basingstoke: Palgrave
• Brown, R.B. (2007) Doing your dissertation in business and management .
London: Sage.
• McMillan, K., Weyers, J. (2007) How to write dissertations & project reports.
Essex: Pearson.
• Creswell, J.W. (2009) Research design : Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed
Methods Approaches. London: Sage.
• Bennett, R. (1991) What is management research: The management research
handbook. London: Routledge.
• Anon. (1942) Design size and validation of sample for market research:
Journal of Marketing (online) Vol 10, Issue 3, p221-236 (Accessed 20th
October 2009).
• Baker, M.J. (2000): Writing a research proposal: The Marketing review
(online).Vol 1, Issue 1, p61. (Acessed 27th September 2009).
• Gabott, M. (2004) Undertaking a literature review in marketing: The
Marketing review. Vol 4, Issue 4, p411-429. (Accessed 20th October 2009)