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Advanced Research Methods

Research advice for upper division undergraduates and graduates in the social sciences and humanities.

What Is a Research Proposal?

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

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


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

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

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

Reference Books