Writing the research proposal
A research proposal introduces your audience to the proposed purpose and direction of a
research project you are planning with the purpose of persuading them that the research
will be worthwhile. The process is important as it can help you determine your focus,
clarify what is involved in your project and plan its development.
It is often (but not always), written in memorandum report format, viz:
A report uses a series of headings to guide the reader through the material. The main
headings, as they would be used in a research proposal, are listed below. In terms of
punctuation, one space after a full stop, comma, question mark; press Enter twice to create a new
paragraph. Use 12 point Times New Roman font. Use white paper.
Use the following guidelines to write your proposal for the project you wish to undertake
for Communication Research. Note the use of professional decimal numbering, bold type,
font sizes and indenting:
1.0 INTRODUCTION there are 5 stages to this section but no decimal numbering
(use this section heading)
Overview (background and context)
(but no subsection headings used in real reports)
Your research topic needs to be stated and to be located in its context and
background. In sketching this background, you need to show how and why this
topic is important and why it is worth researching. This can be done by:
Contextualizing the research problem – how does it arise?
Outlining its significance – what will be the outcomes and for whom?
Referring to key issues that are associated with the topic.
The background can be provided in several ways. These might include:
A brief overview or history of the problem or issue using examples or statistics
A theoretical overview of the issue;
A brief description of the context in which the problem has occurred.
Literature review – all research should be contextualised in terms of relevant
scholarly or academic literature related to this problem or topic. The literature may
not directly refer to the problem exactly but may explore similar or related issues or
other research that shed light on the problem. The purpose of this is to do more than
simply demonstrate that you are familiar with other research around your topic.
Many researchers argue their perspectives through the lit review. The best
researchers attempt to make their hypotheses evolve out of the research.
Your literature review should consist of at least 10 references from a range of
scholarly and academic sources mainly peer-reviewed journals, and perhaps
scholarly websites and library sources. These references must be listed in
alphabetical order in a reference section at the end of your proposal in APA format
(i.e. do not use the footnoting style of referencing.)
Need for investigation – State that there is a need to do further study for a
particular reason (of yours)
Purpose (aims, objectives, research question, hypotheses) –The topic should be:
framed as a research question and hypotheses; or
framed in terms of aims and objectives; or
framed as a problem or question in need of an answer.
Value of the study given – We want you to include your opinion as to why this
study will be valuable, and to whom.
(I repeat – do not use subheadings for different sub-sections above!)
2.0 METHOD – (use this section heading)
The Method section (not Methodology) is a description of the research methods you
intend to develop or employ and a justification of why you have chosen them. You
should describe most of these points under small sub-headings using decimals:
2.1 describe the Sample chosen (people or websites), how it was chosen, why it
2.2 describe the Instrument - exactly how did you come up with these questions
you intend to use – e.g. a 20 question survey comprising a selection of open and
closed questions (make sure to place the survey in an Appendix);
2.3 describe your Procedure - a survey that will be distributed to 100 randomly
selected people between the period of x to y 2006
2.4describe the Analysis of the data – how will you analyse it;
2.5any Problems or issues that you anticipate in collecting and analysing the data;
2.6 what Ethical Issues might be encountered and how you plan to address these.
3. 0 REFERENCES - (use this section heading) Ensure all the references used
in your literature review are included and set out correctly according to appropriate
academic conventions. If you are unsure of the layout, check out the style guides at:
http://www.psychwww.com/resource/apacrib.htm. References are usually numbered
and made alaphabetical according to author.
4.0 APPENDIX - (use this section heading) In this section you should include
your ethics application form and the research instruments that you have devised i.e.
the survey. A copy of the ethics application questions may be found online at the
Comm Research website from Week 2.