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Research Proposal


Explanations > Social Research > Initiation > Research Proposal

Write for the reader | Rationale | Objective | Methods | Plan | See also


A research proposal is a document written by a researcher who wants approval to continue with a piece of research. It may well require before funds are allocated and the body of research started.

Write for the reader

As in any form of writing, when producing a research proposal you should first and last consider the person who will read it, and what you want them to think. A research proposal often intends to change minds (or at least confirm a decision) and so needs to be clear and appropriately persuasive.


The rationale is often included in the introduction and answers the question 'why'. It justifies the research in terms of the broader benefit gained from it.


The reader will likely have a strong concern for how the research will add to the body of human knowledge and hence how it will relate to other knowledge.

Positioning indicates established subject areas into which your work will fit. Subjects often are hierarchical, for example general psychology / social psychology / social influence / normative social influence. Research may fit firmly into one area, but it often relates to several, which should be discussed.

This section should indicate a good knowledge of available literature and how your work may support or challenge previous research. you may investigate new contexts for existing theories or explore gaps that have not investigated before and for which there is little or no current knowledge.



The objective of the research describes what is intended to be achieved overall. This may be indicated in terms of outputs (what will be delivered) and outcomes (what will be achieved with these outputs).


This section may include an initial description of the hypothesis (H1 and H0).


Constraints may be indicated here, limiting the scope of what will be covered and how it will be implemented. Constraints typically include time and resource. Ethical considerations also form constraints.


The methods used in the study should be described here, including a rationale and justification for why these have been selected and are most appropriate to the study.


Describe the overall structure you will be using an the rationale for this.

In the various phases of the framework, add detail of the methods used includes those for data-gathering, sampling and analysis. Show specifically how you will prove the work will be reliable and valid.

Population and sample

The overall population and sample frame may be described, along with a description of the actual sample to be taken and the method used to select the sample.

Data collection

The use of surveys, interviews, observation and other methods need to be described. Considerations of how data will be assured in terms of reliability and validity should be included.

This will include consideration of ethics and the quality of answers, for example if you will be asking personal questions and how such cases will be handled.

Potential problems

Show consideration of problems that may be encountered and how you will avoid these. This shows you understand the limitations of various methods and practical aspects of research.

Typical potential problems include:

  • Access to subjects.
  • Willingness of subjects to engage.
  • Ability and willingness of subjects to give information and tell the truth that you need.
  • Personal bias that may be introduced, including by the subject and by you.


Ethical considerations should also be discussed as appropriate, including what such considerations will exclude, how you will get various permissions required, and what information you will be providing to subjects and others.


All of this needs to be put together into a broad plan, showing what will be done when, and by whom. An easy way to show this is with a Gantt Chart.

See also


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