How to Write a Research Proposal

A long time ago, I wrote a post about how to write a research proposal. I am publishing its content here for your perusal. You can find the original article here.

Basically, a research proposal is a concise, but comprehensive, document that describes your intent and a plan for addressing a scientific, engineering or any valuable academic problem. A good research proposal has various components to it. We shall describe each one of the possible components here one by one. If you take heed of our advice, chances are that you would be able to develop a nice research proposal for yourselves within a very short time. You can evolve your research to something much better over the course of time. So, here are the components of a good research proposal.


First of all you will have to choose a nice title for your research proposal. It can be anything relevant to the contents of your proposal. Moreover, it would be nice if it is a short, simple and an elegant title. We hope that this step is self-explanatory. As a general guideline avoid choosing titles that are too technical and obscure. By the passage of time, you would be able to choose a more sensible title for your research proposal even if it is about too esoteric a subject.

Statement of Purpose (Motivation)

Here you would describe what you would really like to do. In other words, this part of your research proposal tells its readers what it would really accomplish or find. It is nice to give here an explanation of the most relevant and important aspects of the questions that the research proposal will address. Explain why it is important to conduct research in this domain. Also, introduce the specific discipline and its significance to the reader. In simple words, write this section from the point of view of why this subject motivates you to conduct research in it. That is why this may also be called a motivation section. One thing that you would have to keep in mind While writing this section, or the rest of this section, is that you would have to assume a general audience for your research proposal who have little to no expertise in the subject matter you are willing to research.

Background (Previous Work)

This section is about your personal background. Here you try to tell the reader that why you are such a good fit for this project. You should write everything about yourself and your work through which the reader can assess that why you are so suitable for this work. You should write about your previous academic qualifications. Write about salient student projects and previous research work that you have done that may have motivated you to work on this project. Do not shy away from writing about your previous achievements in this section. Actually, in this section you have to write everything about yourself that can make you appear as the most suitable person for this project. So, just toot your horn here.


Explain everything about the project here. Explain why this project is worth undertaking. Explain all the possible benefits you think that this project would provide. Answer questions like why this is an important problem to work on. Try to explain what will this research add to the existing body of knowledge and how that will be uniquely useful. How will you add to this discipline or problem?

Description of the Research Method

Describe the kinds and methods of research you would employ. List the possible tools that you will use and might need in doing this research. If your research proposal addresses a theoretical problem you might need access to a lot of books and hence a decent library. If your research proposal is about a problem that requires a lot of empirical scrutinies and applied research, you might need various engineering and mathematical tools. You may also require good Internet access. You may also require access to computing tools that may be quite indispensable for you to complete your work. List all the possible critical software that you need to do your work.


Here you will explain to your reader (possibly a person from a funding agency or a potential supervisor) that how you would deliver the promises of your research ambitions. Your methodology is your roadmap to conducting your work. Research methodology can vary for various types of work. If you plan to crack a mathematical problem, you would have to craft your methodology accordingly. You would have to divide a limited amount of time for various things. If you want to address a more practical problem from an engineering point of view, your methodology is going to be shaped quite differently.

In almost any research project you need time that you divide into various activities. First of all, you need time to perform a thorough literature review. You also need time to design your experiments, especially if you are working as an applied researcher. You would need time to read. And eventually, you would need time to write.  You would also need time to reflect on the various things that you do.

Similarly, if you work on a more theoretical problem, such as proving a critical mathematical theorem, you might not require a lot of engineering paraphernalia. You would not have to do any experiments as well. But you would need a lot more time to read and a lot more time to think. The time you would have spent on experiments in an applied field would be required to do a lot of thought experiments. And you would have to keep track of your written and mental work all the time.

So, this is pretty much all about how your methodology can vary depending on the nature of the project you undertake. Write down your methodology in terms of the time, tools and activities that may be required to complete the project successfully. In order to keep track of the time make use of an appropriate tracking tool such as a Gantt chart. Gantt charts are powerful tools for developing timelines.

In order to keep track of the tools and activities that are required, make appropriate tables and list them down.

Other Concerns

List other concerns that you think that might emerge as you undertake the project. List the problems you expect to encounter during the course of the project. For instance, if you expect to borrow too many books from the library, solicit for extra library loans. Similarly, if you would need any specialized equipment, such as more computing facilities or specialized software that may need to be bought, write them down.


It is very important to write down a bibliography. A nice bibliography in a research proposal reflects how thoroughly you have read about the problem you are trying to solve. Eventually, it reflects on the command you have about the subject matter. Since you would be developing your research proposal in Latex, you would not have to worry about editing a bibliography by hand. Latex automatically develops a bibliography if you have made proper citations and compiled the document properly. You can learn how to add a bibliography in Latex on the Internet.

That is pretty much all about writing an effective research proposal. We expect you to start writing your research proposal now. Even if you find it difficult to write, you can start with small steps. If you keep on writing even very slowly, chances are that you would end up writing a very nice research proposal in a few days. Especially, we will give you more research papers to read in the upcoming days and weeks. We hope that they would help you a lot in writing a nice research proposal. So just start writing your research proposal and keep on writing during the upcoming lessons. Take inspiration from the ideas that are presented in the next few lessons. So, for now, there are no time constraints on completing this assignment. Just enjoy as you explore new ideas, explore yourself and write.

In writing this lesson we also took help from this online sample for writing research proposals. Please also view the following presentation to grasp a gist of the contents of this lesson:


Here is a nice statement of research of research interests that you can use for inspiration.

Photo by matsuyuki

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 How to Write a Research Proposal by Psyops Prime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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