Friday, 28 December 2018

Some Research Proposal pointers

The research proposal is a scoping document that helps us - eventually, after many edits and a successful ethics application - to get permission from supervisors, ethics committee or Uni research panels to start a project. An approved research proposal means that we have produced a reasonably well-scoped, relatively clear research question, underpinned by a fairly rational, underpinning, conceptual framework. It also means that - after more in-depth work on our literature review, developing our questions and refining our method - that we can start gathering primary research project data.

A research proposal usually contains an introduction explaining the scope and rationale of the project; the potential contribution of the project; the research question, aims and operationalisation; an early literature review; the proposed methodology; and a likely timetable of the project work. Needless to say, the institution's 'normal' academic standards of writing apply.

Research proposals are commonly used for undergraduate Capstone, Master's, and PhD projects. A PhD research proposal will be around 20,000 words (NB: at some institutions, a research proposal is called a 'confirmation document'). A research proposal for an undergraduate project will be around 5-6,000 words, with a Master's somewhere in between.

Two write a quality research proposal, I suggest three things to get us started:
  1. Check our institution/department/course document format, required inclusions, preferred structure, and word counts; then 
  2. Ask our supervisor what they would like to see included; then 
  3. Use a couple of really good text resources to construct both our arguments and our documents, such as these two stellar pieces of work:
    • Maree, K. & van der Westhuizen, C. (2009). Head Start in Designing Research Proposals in the Social Sciences. Cape Town, South Africa: Juta & Company Limited
    • Punch, K. F. (2016). Developing Effective Research Proposals (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage Publishing Ltd.
Just note that some institutions call a pre-proposal a 'research proposal'. You will know if that is so because pre-proposals are short, at around 1000 words plus bibliography. They simply outline what it is that you aim to study, and are often part of your programme application form. Pre-proposals are a hook to gain the attention of a prospective supervisor, or a prospective institution.


Sam

References:
  • Maree, K. & van der Westhuizen, C. (2009). Head Start in Designing Research Proposals in the Social Sciences. Cape Town, South Africa: Juta & Company Limited
  • Punch, K. F. (2016). Developing Effective Research Proposals (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage Publishing Ltd

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