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How to Write Research Proposal

What is a research proposal?

• A research proposal sets out the broad topic
you would like to research (substance), what
the research would set out to achieve (aims
and objectives), how you would go about
researching it (methodology), how you would
undertake it within the time available (outline
plan) and what the results might be in relation
to knowledge and understanding in the
subject (potential outcomes)
Elements of a Research Proposal
• Abstract
• Table of Content
• Section A: Introduction
• Section B: Review of the Related Literature
• Section C: Methodology
• Section D: Ethical/ Legal Consideration
• Section E: Time Schedule
• References
• It should be concise, descriptive informative
and catchy.
• Titles should clearly indicate the independent
and dependent variables.
Good and bad titles
• Preoperative Anxiety (too brief)
• The effects of a counselling program by nurses
on preoperative anxiety in children
undergoing tonsillectomy. (concise but gives
sufficient information)
• Is a summary of the whole research;
• Main purpose is to summarize the research (particularly the
objective and the main finding/conclusion), NOT to introduce
the research area.
• Has a maximum word limit;
• An abstract should briefly:
• Re-establish the topic of the research.
• Give the research problem and/or main objective of the
research (this usually comes first).
• Indicate the methodology used.
• Present the main findings and conclusion.
Section A :Introduction
• Background of the study
• Statement of the problem
• Research Objectives
• Research questions
• Significance of the study
• Scope of the study
• Limitations of the study
• Assumptions of the study
• Definitions of key terms
Background of the study
• The introduction is the part of the paper that
provides readers with the background
information for the research reported in the
paper. Its purpose is to establish a framework
for the research, so that readers can
understand how it is related to other research.
• In an introduction, the writer should create
reader interest in the topic,
• lay the broad foundation for the problem that
leads to the study,
• place the study within the larger context of
the scholarly literature,
• and reach out to a specific audience.

The central element in any educational research is the

problem. Once the problem has been identified and
adequately defined, the systematic and scientific process of
making observation and collecting data can be more easily
carried out.

However, the large part of the solution to the problem lies

in knowing precisely what the problem is. How can you
solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is?
Statement of the Problem
• A problem statement is a clear description of
the issue(s), it includes a vision, issue
statement, and method used to solve the
• The 5 'W's can be used to spark the discussion
about the problem.
• A problem statement expresses the words that
will be used to keep the effort focused and it
should represent a solveable problem.

Problem situations can be generated from a number of

sources, among them are:




• We want all of our software releases to go to production
seamlessly, without defects, where everyone is aware
and informed of the outcomes and status. (Vision)
• Today we have too many release failures that result in
too many rollback failures. If we ignore this problem;
resources will need to increase to handle the cascading
problems, and we may miss critical customer deadlines
which could result in lost revenue, SLA penalties, lost
business, and further damage to our quality reputation.
(Issue Statement).
Research objectives
• The OBJECTIVES of a research project
summaries what is to be achieved by the study.
• Objectives should be closely related to the
statement of the problem. For example, if the
problem identified is low utilization of child
welfare clinics, the general objective of the
study could be to identify the reasons for this
low utilization, in order to find solutions.
General Objectives
• The general objective of a study states what
researchers expect to achieve by the study in
general terms.
• General or secondary objectives provide a
detailed view of the aims of the study. They
provide a general overview of the study usually,
there is one general objective in each study.
• General objectives are broken into small logically
connected parts to form specific objectives.
Specific Objectives
• The specific or broad objectives define what is the
main aim of the study. There can be many specific
objectives because every “what”, “where” and “how”
of the research should; be provided in the specific
• The specific objective is the essence of the study and
it gives the main idea since they provide focus to the
• Specific objectives are short term and narrow in
• A study into the cost and quality of home-based care
for HIV/AIDS patients and their communities in
Zimbabwe, developed at an HSR workshop, for
example, had as its general objective:
• To explore to what extent community home-based
care (CHBC) projects in Zimbabwe provide adequate,
affordable and sustainable care of good quality to
people with HIV/AIDS, and to identify ways in which
these services can be improved. (general objective)
• It was split up in the following specific objectives:
• To identify the full range of economic, psychosocial,
health/nursing care and other needs of patients and
their families affected by AIDS.
• To determine the extent to which formal and informal
support systems address these needs from the
viewpoint of service providers as well as patients.
• To determine the economic costs of CHBC to the
patient and family as well as to the formal CHBC
programmes themselves.
Definition of Hypothesis
 A hypothesis can be defined as a logically assumed
relationship between two or more variables expressed
in the form of a testable statement.
 Relationships are assumed on the basis of the network
of associations established in the theoretical
framework formulated for the research study.
 By testing the hypotheses and confirming the
conjectured relationships, it is expected that solutions
can be found to correct the problem encountered.
Statement of Hypotheses: Formats
• If–Then Statements
• A hypothesis can also test whether there are
differences between two groups (or among several
groups) with respect to any variable or variables. To
examine whether or not the conjectured relationships
or differences exist, these hypotheses can be set either
as propositions or in the form of if–then statements.
The two formats can be seen in the following two
 Employees who are more healthy will take sick leave
less frequently.
 If employees are more healthy, then they will take sick
leave less frequently.
Directional and Non-directional Hypotheses
Directional Hypotheses
• If, in stating the relationship between two variables or
comparing two groups, terms such as positive, negative,
more than, less than, and the like are used, then these
hypotheses are directional because the direction of the
relationship between the variables (positive/negative) is
indicated, as in example 1 below,
• or the nature of the difference between two groups on a
variable (more than/less than) is postulated, as in 2nd
• Example 1. The greater the stress experienced in the job,
the lower the job satisfaction of employees.
• Example 2. Women are more motivated than men.
Non-directional Hypotheses
• Non-directional hypotheses are those that do postulate a relationship or
difference, but offer no indication of the direction of these relationships or
• In other words, though it may be conjectured that there would be a significant
relationship between two variables, we may not be able to say whether the
relationship would be positive or negative,
• Likewise, even if we can conjecture that there will be differences between two
groups on a particular variable, we will not be able to say which group will be
more and which less on that variable
 There is a relationship between age and job satisfaction.
 There is a difference between the work ethic values of American and Asian
Non-directional hypotheses are formulated
either because the relationships or
differences have never been previously
explored and hence there is no basis for
Research questions
• A research question is an answerable inquiry
into a specific concern or issue. It is the initial
step in a research project. The 'initial step'
means after you have an idea of what you
want to study, the research question is the
first active step in the research project.
Research Questions
• Questions are relevant to normative or census
type research (How many of them are there? Is
there a relationship between them?).
• They are most often used in qualitative inquiry,
although their use in quantitative inquiry is
becoming more prominent.
• A research question poses a relationship
between two or more variables but phrases the
relationship as a question.
• What is the impact of a study skills program
on student achievement?
• What is the effect of teaching keyboarding
skills to sixth grade students on word
processing skills and quality of writing?
• How does an elimination of number and letter
grades throughout the year (with the
exception of quarter and semester grades?
Significance of the Study
• Indicate how your research will refine, revise, or extend
existing knowledge in the area under investigation.
• Note that such refinements, revisions, or extensions
may have either substantive, theoretical, or
methodological significance.
• Think pragmatically (i.e., cash value). This can be a
difficult section to write.
• Think about implications— how results of the study
may affect scholarly research, theory, practice,
educational interventions, curricula, counseling, policy.
Operational Definitions of Key Terms
• An operational definition is a demonstration of a
process – such as a variable , term , or object – in
terms of the specific process or set of validation
tests used to determine its presence and quantity.
• This section provides operational definition of
terms that are unusual or unfamiliar. It identifies
precisely the names of concepts, tests, or
participants introduced in the Statement of the
Problem and employed in the Hypotheses
• Corporate Social Responsibility:
Operational Definition:
CSR is about how companies manage the
business processes to produce an overall
positive impact on society.
Review of the Related Literature
• The review of the literature provides the
background and context for the research
problem. It should establish the need for the
research and indicate that the writer is
knowledgeable about the area
• The literature review accomplishes several
important things. It shares with the reader the
results of other studies that are closely related
to the study being reported.
• It “frames” the problem earlier identified.
• In a proposal, the literature review is generally
brief and to the point. Be judicious in your
choice of exemplars—the literature selected
should be pertinent and relevant (APA, 2001).
Select and reference only the more
appropriate citations.
• The methodology explains the procedures that
will be used to achieve the objectives.
• Data collection
• Data analysis
• Interpretation
Time table
• A Gantt chart is an overview of tasks/proposed
activities and a time frame for the same.
• You put weeks, days or months at one side,
and the tasks at the other.
• You draw fat lines to indicate the period the
task will be performed to give a timeline for
your research study.
• Bibliography
• Annexes