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What is a Research proposal?

It is a plan that details a reasoned, rigorous and systematic enquiry into a topic in order to justify the need for the study and to gain a clearer understanding of the topic area.


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The Research proposal must demonstrate:

·         A worthwhile topic, that is, the findings will be of benefit to society

·         That the design, method and timeframe are feasible and appropriate

·         The risk-benefit for participants is acceptable

·         Participant privacy and safety are protected

·         Good writing skills, clarity, logic and commitment to whatever purpose for which the proposal is written.

·         Evidence of the researcher’s skills in conceptualising the problem, understanding the literature, selecting an appropriate research design, data collection methods and data analysis techniques.

Structure of the Research proposal

·         The title of the research project

·         An abstract or summary

·         A statement of the problem being investigated.

·         The significance or importance of the project

·         A literature review (knowledge so far about the subject)

·         Assumptions and definitions

·         The aims and objectives of the project

·         The Research plan (including a timeline of activities)

·         Ethical Issues (including the participant information sheet and informed consent form)

·         Dissemination of the findings

·         The budget

The title of the research proposal

·         Concise & clear explaining the purpose of the research

·         Explicit and unambiguous

·         A working title may be used

·         The title may be changed by the end of the writing of the proposal

Abstract or summary of proposal

·       Begin the introductory paragraph with the original question

·         Describe what the proposal is about

·         Describe how the issue will be addressed

·         Describe how the research question will be answered

·         Sometimes, keywords are required

The statement of the problem

·         Informs the reviewer of the nature of the problem

·         Sometimes called the ‘plain language statement’ or ‘lay person description’

·         It provides rationale and justification for undertaking the project

·         Research question again stated

·         Indication of the pragmatic value of the findings and implications of knowledge gained for the field

Literature Review

·         Reviewing literature helps conceptualise the project

·         What is known about the topic – current knowledge

·         Summarise the previous research

·         Analysis of the shortcomings of the reviewed literature

·         Provide an argument as to why the proposed research is important (in light of the shortcomings)

·         Substantiates the case for the project

·         Usually, research cited is less than 5 years old.

The aims and objectives of the project:

·         Aims are broad and are a statement of purpose

·         The aims constitute the boundaries of the research

·         The aims guide the ways in which the data are collected

·         Objectives are specific and describe the activities employed to achieve the aims

·         Both should be feasible and achievable

Assumptions and definitions:

·         Clearly stated to avoid ambiguity or confusion

·         Variables should be operationally defined where appropriate

o   Example: Administration of a plan of self-care to patients. Definitions: self-care, health status, age, education, cultural background.

o   Assumption is that people want to learn to care for themselves.

Research plan


·        Details the paradigm (research approach), design, proposed mode of study, exactly what is intended and how it will occur.

  • Method:
  • Research questions (specification of the object of the study)
  • Hypotheses (expectations concerning the research questions)

·        Sampling & sample profile

·        intervention

·        techniques to be used (interviews, tests, questionnaires etc.)

·        procedure

·        datacollection procedure

  • data analysis (including statistical procedures)
  • projected timeframe.



·         Ethical guidelines developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC)

·         Framework includes the concepts:

o   Respect for humans

o   Research merit and integrity

o   Justice

o   Beneficence (benefits).


Ethics: Informed Consent

·         Consent to participate must be voluntary.

·         It must be based on sufficient information and adequate understanding of the research and the implications of the research.

·         Consent should be obtained in writing.

·         The language of the consent form must be understandable, and at a level of comprehension suitable for the individual or group concerned.

·         There should not be coercion of participants.

·         Data cannot be collected on participants who have refused to be involved in a study.



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