Research Proposal Definition, What to Include and Types

When tasked with writing a research proposal, students encountering the assignment for the first time may wonder what it is and which crucial elements to include. A proposal in the academic field is a short description of a longer research project. Once approved, the student will get the go-ahead to start composing the proposed research.

This type of academic paper is popular in postgraduate studies. In some institutions, you have to submit a final research project that adds value to the study field. After that, you can be allowed to graduate. Therefore, the proposal has to be unique, well-structured, free of grammar errors, and plagiarism.

What to Include

When it comes to the structure, your proposal must have crucial components. Here is a checklist to help you get started.

Introduction section

Use this paragraph to state the central research question. Next, give background information on the subject. Ensure the information relates to broader issues but which are related to the topic.


Briefly explain how you intend to collect data. Is it qualitative or quantitative? Additionally, showcase the method you will use to gather and analyze data. Depending on the word count you have allocated to this section or specified guidelines, it may be necessary to why the chosen methods for gathering data are more appropriate than others.


All research proposals should have aims that it expects to achieve. Therefore, state the objectives and any predicted outcomes.

Review of Current Literature

Include books, journals, or any scholarly material that you will use to do in-depth research. Ensure the content is relevant and gives you more information on the chosen topic. This section aims to illustrate how your current research connects to previous works from other authors in that field. You must also provide an analysis of the work and its benefits to your research.


Give an estimation of how long it would take you to complete the research. Go into details and give estimates for specific sections of the proposal. For instance, including when you will start and finish a literature review.

Reference and Appendices

In the reference section, you have to list all the sources cited in the proposal. The format to use depends on the citation style you will need to use. The appendices work to give additional information that was not included in the main body. For instance, questionnaires and interview questions.

Types of Proposal

There are two main types of research proposals: Approval and funding. Just as the name implies, an approval proposal is composed and must be approved before one can begin embarking on the research project. A supervisor must see the research is worthwhile before they can accept the proposal.

On the other hand, the funding proposal is mainly submitted to donors to seek funding for the more extensive research project. This proposal type is more of a persuasive piece of writing. Hence it must be related to the organization expected to provide funding. The kind of proposal to focus on depends on the intended purpose.

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