Steps to writing a research proposal for PhD/ Post Doc

If you are looking for assistance in writing a research proposal, then you are at the right place. In this blog post, we will be sharing the steps required to write a good research proposal for PhD or Post Doc. Moreover, you will also be able to download the samples of research proposals.

Also read the Best tools, and websites for Ph.D. students/ researchers/ graduates.

Writing a Research proposal

Writing a research proposal is an art. It requires rigorous research. Research proposals are very important documents in any academic field. Nowadays, every institution or university is asking for submitting research proposals. These have become an important part of the application procedure, which is required during admission to Ph.D. degrees. A well-written and organized research proposal helps in seeking funding, and scholarships for carrying out the research activities. Research proposals should contain all the necessary information about the proposed project/Ph.D. work. It can be written for different research areas and topics including Sciences, Engineering, Commerce, Arts, and Management.

A good research proposal must answer the following questions.

  1. What is the research problem of your study?
  2. Why do you want to do it?
  3. How are you going to solve the problem?
  4. What is the time frame for the completion of the project?
  5. What are the possible outcomes of the study?

Research Proposal Format

Before writing the research proposal, it is important to know the format of a research proposal. Any research proposal should contain the following key elements:

  1. Title
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature Review
  4. Methodology
  5. Plan/Time Frame/Gantt Chart
  6. Budget

1. Title

The title of the research proposal should be very attractive, appealing, innovative, and clear. It should not exceed 20- 25 words. The title of a research proposal should be very informative and descriptive in nature. It increases the readers’ interest in reading the remaining part of the proposal.

2. Introduction

The main aim of the writing introduction is to give an overview or summary of the research study. It basically provides background information. It explains the importance of writing a proposal. It describes the research problem and methodologies in a brief manner. The introduction is usually written in 800-1500 words in 1 -2 pages. It is written in simple language so that any common people from any field can understand. It should also include the objectives of the research study. The objectives can be written in the following way:

  • It should be measurable and observable
  • It should be feasible/ achievable.
  • It can be general or specific
  • It should be clearly defined.

3. Literature Review

This is the most important part of the research proposal. It helps in finding the research gaps from past publications. An extensive Literature review helps in the identification of the research problem. It also gives the status of any topic in our interesting research area. It basically explains the following things:

  1. What has been done so far in our subject?
  2. What are the challenges in current technologies/ Methods?

 Through a literature survey, one can give credit to the previous researchers. It increases knowledge and develops the ability of a researcher to think logically. It helps in a better understanding of the research problem/question.

4. Methodologies

This is another important section for writing a research proposal. It explains how we are going to solve the research problem. It gives details of the research plan which are as follows:

  1. Sample Preparation Techniques
  2. Methods of Data Collection
  3. Details of the Field Study
  4. Data Analysis and Interpretation Techniques
  5. Description of the machines/instruments/equipment used in the study.
  6. Use of any software/ computational Data.

The methodologies in the proposal should also include the research design. It should clearly indicate what type of research we are going to do (Quantitative/Qualitative). Quantitative research is usually carried out by performing experiments or surveys. It helps in developing hypotheses, mathematical models, theories, etc. On the other hand, Qualitative research is mainly done for understanding human behavior, emotions, attributes, and symbols. The data for qualitative research can be obtained by conducting group discussions and interviews. The research methodology helps us to find the correct method for doing the experiment. It basically tells or gives an idea/knowledge about how researchers can answer a research question.

5. Timeframe/ Plan

The most effective way of planning research is through the Gantt chart. These charts can be drawn either in the form of tables or in the form of pie charts. In order to complete the proposed Ph.D. topic, one must give an approx./tentative schedule or deadline. The time needed to write a detailed report for publication can also be mentioned. Time frame helps in good monitoring of the project.

The researcher should make a time frame as follows:

  • How much time it will take to collect the data?
  • How many times we must repeat the experiments?
  • How much time it will take for designing and developing the research method?
  • How much time it will take to order the instruments/pieces of equipment?

6. Budget

The research proposal must contain the estimated direct or indirect costs needed for the project. The direct costs may include the cost required for the purchase of equipment, raw materials, instruments, chemicals, samples, etc. The indirect costs may include the costs for attending the conferences, travel grants, and repairs of any instruments. The estimated costs should not be too high or too low. It should not cross the budget of the project. It should be prepared strictly as per university guidelines. Usually, some of the universities/ research institutions provide contingency costs required to carry out the research activities. If there is any need for costly equipment required for the research study, one must give a proper explanation/justification for its use.

The research proposals give a detailed plan for our research study. It can be modified in the later stages also. It plays an important role in deciding our applications for acceptance/rejection. So, it should not be written in a hurry or unplanned manner. It should be written systematically, including all the above aspects. The choice of methodologies may differ from researcher to researcher, subject to subject, and problem to problem. But overall, a brief description of the methodology in the research proposal is very important. Apart from these, specific ethical considerations are required for medical/clinical researchers. They need to take permission from the hospitals or diagnostic labs to collect the data from the patients in the hospitals and do research. Research proposals also help in improving writing skills. These skills can be later used for writing a research paper or for preparing research reports.

Research proposal examples/ samples

Research proposal examples/ samples

When writing your proposal it is important to:

  • Highlight its originality or significance
  • Explain how it develops or challenges existing knowledge of your subject
  • Identify the importance of your proposed research
  • Demonstrate why you are the correct person to undertake this research project

Check examples of research proposals

Thanks for visiting PhDTalks. We hope that the provided steps for writing a research proposal will help you.

More blog posts to read:

How to start a Ph.D. research program in India?

Tips to choose good Ph.D. research topics/ problems

8 important Tips for New Ph.D. students

Best tools, and websites for Ph.D. students/ researchers/ graduates

Steps to writing a research proposal for Ph.D./ Post Doc

10 Tips to finish a Ph.D. degree fast and easy

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