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Research Proposal writing

Geog 316
Lecture 3
J.A Yaro

Purpose of a research proposal

A research proposal describes the design, schedule and
budget for conducting a research project.
It is like a blue print of a building plan before the
construction starts
The main purpose of a research proposal is to show that:
the problem you propose to investigate is significant enough to
warrant the investigation,
the method you plan to use is suitable and feasible, and
the results are likely to prove fruitful and will make an original

In short, what you are answering is 'will it work?

Elements of a research proposal

A title
A short introduction
A problem statement/question
Objectives of Study/Specific research questions
Hypotheses statement
Definition of terminology
Indication of the importance/significance of the study
Review of related literature
A careful and detailed analysis of the proposed research procedures
A reference lists
A time schedule
A Budget

The Title
The title is usually only formulated after the
research problem and sub-problems have
been stated in a more or less final format
So use a general topic initially
The research project title should demarcate:
The WHO or/and WHAT is researched

The introduction is an abridged or shortened
version of a problem statement or a background
Provide a general statement about the issue at stake
Include a geographical analysis of the problem
showing the situation in the area, Ghana and rest of
the world
Demonstrate the major arguments/theories
State the purpose of the study
1 page

Problem Statement
The problem is the aspect the researcher worries about,
thinks about, and wants to find a solution for. It explains
in short the aim of the research
Search within your subject field for suitable problems
What caused the need to do the research
Are there questions about this problem to which answers
have not been found up to the present?
State in such a way that it would lead to analytical
thinking with the aim of possibly concluding solutions to
the stated problem.
2 pages

Your Problem should contain:

Outline the general context of the problem area.
Highlight key theories, concepts and ideas
current in this area.
What appear to be some of the underlying
assumptions of this area?
Why are these issues identified important?
What needs to be solved?

The problem statement

should answer the following
What is the problem?
Who has it? (Demographics, attributes, characteristics of
the population.)
To what degree?
Why? (This analysis provides the rationale for the
methodologies you will propose.)
For how long?
How did you come to know about the problem? (You can
address this through a personal experience, local trend
data, or school experience.)
What else has been tried?
What happens if the problem is not resolved?
What is it like to be an average person with this problem?

Objectives of Study
State the Main problem as the Aim of the research
Then translate Sub-problems into measurable objectives
of the study which are a Means to reach the set Aim/goal

Translate the research problem or and sub-problems into steplike aims that enable you provide answers to the problems.
Concretise your research problems by expressing them in clear
objectives that the study systematically resolves.
Restate the main aim of the research and then break it down to
sub-objectives which will form the activities in the research.
Definition of the objectives is simply the operationalization of
the answers

Specific research questions

Research questions translate the objectives
into questions and should include what, where,
how and why questions.

Theoretical and Conceptual frameworks

This is the argumentation and demonstration that the "question" has a
basis (grounds) for probable answer(s) and/or working hypotheses.
The theoretical framework states the investigator's reasoning and
arguments for the attempt to find the evidence that will offer an
answer to the question
Establishment of relationships between the independent variable and
the response variables: What is known, and how has it been
explained? Are the results conclusive? What are the bases of the
How are the possible answers to the question explained and defended?
What are the assumptions? What are the relationships?
Between 1 and 2 pages

What are the working hypotheses?
Your hypothesis is an educated guess to your testable
research question based on the research you have done
so far
Its often an If then because statement
If the temperature of a gas is increased then, the volume
will increase
If the length of the pendulum increases, then the period
of swing will increase

Definition of terminology
Indicate how you interpreted and are going
to use terminology/concepts
This is very important, because some
concepts/terms are often used in different
Identify key terms and concepts and provide
the definitions and interpretations
Half a page or between 3 and 6 key terms

Literature Survey
Show that you have obtained sound knowledge with regard to the
research topic
Show what theoretical and empirical knowledge you possess about
the prospective research
The aim of a literature study is to:
Give all-round perspectives on the latest research
findings regarding the topic
Indicate the best method, scale of measurements
and statistics that can be used
Interpret the research findings in a better way;
Determine the relevancy of the prospective

2 pages

Selecting Sources
Select literature that is relevant or closely related to
the problem and purpose
Emphasize the primary sources
Use secondary sources selectively
Concentrate on scholarly research articles

The literature should have an introduction, body

and conclusion
The introduction defines the framework of the
review, the body that evaluates the literature
and the conclusion summarizes the current state
of knowledge on the problem

Research Procedures: Methods of Data Collection

The methodology explains the procedures that will be used
to achieve the objectives.
Provide a detailed operational definition for the variables
used, along with the type of variables and the ways to
measure them. In addition, the methodology should
consider the study design and the techniques and
procedures used to achieve the proposed objectives.
Research design
Methods of data collection
Data analysis

Budget and Time schedule

Budget: present a detailed break down of all
Time schedule: Show the major activities and
when they will be completed. Must be within
the given time for project

Time schedule & Budget

Time schedule
A tentative timetable for
executing the research
Systematic and realistic
conceptualisation from
literature review to
presenting report

List items you would
spend money on
Expenditure on books,
articles, travel,
accommodation or
living, renting
instruments interpreters,
printing, etc

List all cited literature in the proposal in
alphabetical order
Check for Departmental recommended styles
If you are using a computer reference manager
then choose author-date style

Justification/Importance/Significance of the
Indicate and defend why it is necessary to undertake
the research
What is the geographical content of the research?
How does it contribute to theory, empirical
knowledge and policy
Indicate the benefits that will result from the research
and to whom it will be beneficial
Maximum of half a page or less

Significance of research
From the literature review, gap analysis can be
conducted in order to see how the propose research
would fill in the gap in the area of research.
How does the proposed research relate to the
existing knowledge in the area.
Explicitly state the significance of your purpose or
the rationale for your study. A significant research is
one that:

Develops knowledge of an existing practise

Develops theory
Expands the current knowledge or theory base
Advances current research methodology
Related to a current technological issue
Exploratory research on an unexamined issue

Tips for successful proposal

Make it simple
Avoid pretentious language, unnecessary
jargon, and double speak by cutting down
every unnecessary word.

Read your work loud

A sentence that is difficult to say will be difficult
to read.

Revise , revise, revise.

Put an end to it
The faster you finish the proposal and submit it
the less time you have wasted thinking about
writing it.