How to Write a Research Proposal for a Strong Application

What is a research proposal? Put simply, a research proposal is a document that suggests your research to your faculty committee in a bid to get a green light for your study. The research proposal is essential before you write a dissertation or when you are seeking funding for a research project.

This paper allows the examining committee to gauge the feasibility of your research and its relevance to yield original insight into your topic. A well-written research proposal shows that you have adequately researched the topic to establish that your research will yield results of scientific value. 

This guide on writing a research proposal will highlight various tips and elements of a research proposal to help overcome confusion along the way. 

Structure of a research proposal

Since the research proposal serves as a template for your dissertation, it should carry all relevant components to show the feasibility of your study. However, some portions may be omitted as the research is yet to be performed. Some of the key parts of a research proposal include:

  1. The cover page

The research proposal title page comprises your proposed paper title, your administrative details, your supervisor’s name, and the institution and department. Some faculties may have other demands for your title page; thus, it would be best to consult your faculty’s dissertation guide before writing a proposal. 

The APA formatting style requires these details to take a total page, whereas MLA covers this in the upper left corner of your first page. 

  1. Introduction

The introduction to your research paper highlights the background study to highlight a research gap you intend to investigate. You may also tackle the relevance of your study in this chapter, and cite what you hope to achieve at the end of your research.

Ideally, start this section with a hook that clarifies the extent of a research problem before you introduce your thesis statement. 

  1. Literature review

The literature review section shows your committee that you have duly performed the necessary research for an objective argument. Here, you should present a critique of sources related to your idea. 

When discussing a source, acknowledge the ideas you agree with and highlight knowledge gaps that are of interest in your research. This section is crucial in helping you justify your methodology and serves as a reference point for many arguments in your paper. 

  1. Research design

What’s unique about your approach? How long will your research take? What resources will you need to complete the research? These are some of the necessary questions to answer as you discuss your research design.

This chapter of your research proposal helps the committee gauge the feasibility of your approaches and check that your methods are acceptable within your field. The information in this section also helps financiers to determine the financial cost of a project before its approval. 

Ideally, if you are writing a funding proposal, including the budget and timeline of the project for a better analysis of the project milestones. 

  1. Implications 

Ideally, your paper should highlight the project aims and define the benefits your field may rip from the research. The implications are a hypothesis of your results and commentary on how the results will bridge various knowledge gaps within your field. 

  1. References list

After covering the above sections, provide at least six bibliographies of the sources you have cited in your proposal. 

How to write a research proposal


Before settling for a topic, conduct ample research to gauge a research gap in your selected field. Here, consult lists of emerging issues and find out how an idea has been investigated. 

Ideally, settle for a unique topic proposal for the research paper that allows for fresh insights. Your topic should provide ample sources to support various claims made within your proposal.

Develop a research proposal outline 

An outline is essential in developing your arguments and gauging the completeness of your research. A good outline should help you gauge how each chapter complements your paper and highlight gaps that require further investigation.

The outline also makes for easy writing as you can develop your arguments easily without the influence of new ideas. 


After outlining, write your proposal and expand the various arguments highlighted in your outline. 

Edit and proofread

Finally, eliminate all filler words and gauge the coherence of your arguments. You may consider seeking editing help to get a fresh insight on necessary changes. 

Research proposal APA format

  • Font size 12, times new roman
  • Double line spacing
  • 1-inch margin on all pages
  • Include a running head in your header
  • References on the works cited page should have a hanging indent. This implies that the first line of a reference should be flush left with all subsequent lines featuring a ½-inch indent. 

Research proposal MLA format

  • Double spacing
  • Font size 12
  • 1-inch margin on all sides of your page
  • Insert a hanging indent on all entries on your References page.

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