Have you been given the task of writing a research paper proposal? This “Writing Research Proposals for Dummies” article might come in handy. Let us start with the research proposal meaning. The purpose of a research proposal is to demonstrate to your instructor that you have a project idea that is relevant and significant, and that you are fully prepared to work on it. In general, a research proposal should include the important steps that take place during the course of the research and contain enough background information to allow your instructor to assess you research proposal. The topic should involve a problem question that is worth investigating and one that would contribute to academia. You should also prove that you understand the major issues and are up to speed as it relates to the literature. Finally, you should be able to justify your choice of methodology. Aside from selecting a great topic, you should also demonstrate that you can write it with great clarity. If you are unable to write the proposal well, it is unlikely that your proposal will be approved. So great writing skills is an absolute must.

Components of Research Proposals

Now that you (hopefully) have a better understanding about the purpose of research proposals thanks to “Writing Research Proposals for Dummies,” here are the components of research proposals.


The research proposal should be brief, but catchy. It must succinctly describe exactly what your paper intends to accomplish. For example, “The Negative Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Academic Performance” is good whereas “Alcohol Abuse: When Students Drink Too Much Does It Have an Effect on Their Grades?” is terrible. A generic title like “Alcohol Abuse and Grades” is also not going to impress anybody.


This section of the proposal provides a short summary of your paper, typically no more than 200 to 300 words. It should discuss the problem question, the importance of the study, the hypothesis (if applicable), your methodology and the paper's findings. When discussing the methodology, you would want to highlight the design, sample size, and any other details that would provide the reader with a better understanding.


This section provides the reader with some background about your topic and why it is important or even urgent to find solutions to a particular problem. Make sure the topic is narrow enough to be worthy of investigation without being so obscure that you cannot find any information about it. At the same time, you do not want it to be too broad.

Literature Review

Here you will analyze various journals and books that contain information related to your topic. While you would want to choose research that reinforces your position, you would also want to include works that hold a spectrum of views, including those that might not necessarily support your argument.


In this section, you will explain the methods that you intend to use in order to carry out your research, such data collection and information about the participants. You will want to inform the reader about whether the research is qualitative or quantitative and explain why your method choices are appropriate for your particular research.


At this point, you will not have any results to share since this is only the research proposal. But you should nonetheless have ideas in your head about what you might potential uncover after carrying out the research.


This is the final section of the paper and should include observations about the broader implications of your research. While you would not want to exaggerate and claim that your research will be earth-shattering, you should nonetheless express the idea that your work will make a positive contribution to academia and can serve as a guide for further research on problems related to your topic. Finally, you would also identify any weaknesses or limitations that may potentially impact your results or render them less useful in other contexts.

Many students have difficulties in writing research proposals. Here is a list of a few of the most common mistakes that you should avoid:

  1. Assuming the reader understands the nature of the research problem without any need for background information.
  2. Neglecting to reference important studies that are directly related to your topic.
  3. Providing misleading information or incorrectly interpreting the cited research.
  4. Going off topic or attempting to address too many questions.
  5. Developing incoherent or suspect arguments
  6. Focusing on small, insignificant details at the expense of the major ones.
  7. Making assertions and claims without backing it up with evidence.
  8. Writing long stretches of the paper in which there are no citations.
  9. Misspelling the names of authors or organizations.
  10. Typos that your spellchecker cannot flag (i.e., mentioning Austria when you actually meant Australia).
  11. Too many or too few pages
  12. Neglecting to follow proper formatting style guidelines (MLA, APA, Harvard, etc.)
  13. Run-on sentences, using the same uninspired expressions repeatedly, and choosing the wrong words (adapt when you meant adopt, accept when you meant except).

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