Writing a research proposal

Writing a research proposal

You probably will be expected to generate a topic for yourself; to plan and carry out a project investigating that topic; and to write up what you did and what your findings were. Important stages in the process include:

  • choosing a topic
  • developing a research question
  • effective planning of the research
  • being organised and methodical while conducting your research
  • reporting the research
Choosing a topic

Some students come to their project with a clear research question in mind, but many others just have several ideas, but no specific question. Because of the pressure to get started fairly quickly, this can cause anxiety and even panic. It is, however, a common situation to be in. There are several ways forward:

  • Talk to others: what topics are they considering? Does this spark an interest? Don’t wait until you have a fully formed research question before discussing your ideas, as their comments and questions may help you to refine your focus.
  • Look at other writing: set aside some time to spend in the library or online, skimming through the titles of research papers in your field over the past five years, and reading the abstracts of those you find most interesting.
  • Look through the publications of previous researchers in your department: the topics may give you inspiration, and they may have useful suggestions for further research.
  • Think about your own interests: which topic have you found most interesting, and is there an element that could be developed into a research project?
  • Is there a related topic of interest to you that has not been covered on your course, but would fit with the theory or methodology you have been working with?
  • Be extra critical: is there something in your course so far that you have been sceptical about, or which you think needs further study?
  • Read about an interesting topic and keep asking the question ‘Why?’ :this may identify a research question for your study.