The Art of Proposal Writing for Research

What is a Research Proposal?

  • A logical presentation of a research idea
  • Illustrates the idea’s significance
  • List research activities
  • Describes resources needed

 

How does a proposal develop?

 

 

Basic Components

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction (Problem statement)
  • Justification
  • Objectives
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Budget explanation
  • Action plan
  • Appendices

Title Page

Title:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • One sentence

Avoid :

  • Jargon
  • Words with multiple interpretations
  • Controversial terms

 

Abstract

 

– Other names:

• Executive summary

• Summary

–  Purpose:

• Summarizes key information

• Research significance

• Potential contribution

 

 

Abstract: Content

  • Problem
  • Research objectives
  • Procedure and method
  • Likely outcomes and benefits
  • At least 1 sentence per topic

Introduction

Purpose

• General introductory

• Magnitude of the problem

• Significance of your research idea

• How research relates to the priorities of organization?

Problem Statement

Purpose

• Reason behind your proposal

• What you hope your research will change?

Problem Statement: Content

State problem generally

 

• Project’s contribution to theory and knowledge of the phenomenon

• Describe the value of some concrete applications of the knowledge

Problem Statement: Checklist

  • Establish the importance and significance of the problem
  • Justify why it is important
  • Feasible to solve the problem
  • Arouse the reader’s interest and encourage him/her to read further
  • State the outcome in terms of human need and societal benefits

 

Literature Review: Purpose

Purpose

• Builds further understanding of the problem

It indicates:

  • one’s grasp of the field
  • one’s methodological critiquing other’s research
  • the breadth and depth of one’s reading

Literature Review: Content

–  Review of literature

Discuss studies in sufficient detail

  • Summarize information
  • Describe how study contributes to this research
  • Indicate how this study moves beyond the past study

 

Most recent literature in content and method

– Review original work (primary sources)

» Do not use outdate sources

–  Select only relevant literature

–  Use literature from other disciplines

–  Mention current research

· Discuss theoretical basis  

  • Don’t include too many references and do too little with them
  • It is what you do with the references that is the basis for judging this section.

 

Objectives: Purpose

  • What you plan to accomplish
  • Show the reviewer that you have a clear picture
  • Assess the appropriateness of the study’s methods

Objectives: Content

  • Specify the measurable outcomes
  • Identify key study variables
  • Identify interrelationships of variables
  • State the expected Outcomes

Objectives as Hypotheses

 

State as hypotheses

• Testable

• Translated into the research operations

• Don’t state as a null hypothesis

Objectives: Format

  • Are specific, concrete and achievable
  • 1-2 sentences for each objective
  • Ordered by importance or contribution
  • Follow each major objective with its specific sub-objectives
  • Avoid unnecessary wording
  • Neatly flow

Methodology

–  Purpose

• To describe project activities

• How objectives will be accomplished

• Describe the sequences, flow and interrelationship of activities

  • Population and sample
  • Design
  • Data and instrumentation
  • Analysis
  • Work Plan
  • Expected end products

 

Population and Sample

Sampling plan:

• Nature of the plan

• If stratified, describe nature and rational

• If random sampling is not feasible

– Provide all information about the sample

Design

A description of the structure of the study

• Protects against alternative explanations

• Shows how the situation will be structured

– Least contamination

• Control variables

– What are they?

– How to control them?

• Design that efficiently uses available resources

• Give priority to the most serious alternative cause of the effect

 

Instrumentation and Data Collection

– Data collection

• Details

– Establish validity, reliability and objectivity

– Appearing to be congruent with the constructed definition

 

 

–  Types of Validity

• Content validity

• Predictive and concurrent validity

• Construct validity

 

Instrumentation and Data Collection: Reliability

Types of Reliability

• Stability reliability

• Internal consistency reliability

• Equivalence reliability

Instrumentation and Data Collection: Objectivity

– Observation scales require that all observers use them the same way so that they agree when rating the same phenomenon

 

Questionnaire Preparation

 

  • Use a participatory approach
  • Pre-test the questionnaire for logical flow and best method of asking questions
  • Train for data collection

Supervision of data collection

• Surprise Visits

• Recall the questionnaire during the supervision

– Data cleaning

Analysis

  • Consistency of methods with the objectives
  • Statistical assumptions and the data
  • New statistical techniques, computer programming or other analytical tools

 

Procedure Section: Limits

Restrain Procedure and Design to Realistic Limits

• Level of resources

• Ethical considerations

• Access and cooperation to other institutions

• Time available

Work Plan

  • Also known as a time schedule
  • Gives a perspective of the project

Format

• Flow charts or diagrams

• Statements of the operations

• Shows interrelationship between activities

– Demonstrates relative length of each activity

Dissemination of Results

– State anticipated journal articles, conference, and workshop presentations

• Give targeted dates

– Why important?

– Consider how the results will be used

– Cost of specific modes of dissemination

– Policy communication strategy

Personnel

Director of Project

• Competence

• Relevant experience

• If lacking, highlight training that might substitute

 

Other key staff members

• Qualifications

• Place 1 page CV in appendix

• Responsibilities

• Mix of expertise fits this project

Curriculum Vita

Purpose

• To tell your education and professional experiences

• To highlight unique background and qualification

Curriculum Vitea: Content

Education

• Recent degrees first

– Year conferred

– Specialty

Work history

• Relevant

• Chronologically

  • Teaching experience
  • Research experience
  • Graduate advising experience
  • Projects
  • Awards
  • Travel experience
  • Publications
  • Focused on your research capabilities

Budget

Purpose

• Statement of proposed support and expenditure

 

What it should do?

• Mirror research plan

• Credible

• Realistic

Types of costs

· Direct cost

  • Personnel
  • Subcontracts and services
  • Materials and supplies
  • Communications
  • Reports and publications
  • Travel
  • Equipment rental and purchase

· Indirect costs (overhead costs)

  • Cost of space
  • Heat/ air conditioning
  • Institutional administration
  • Accounting
  • Library
  • Basic phone service/ fax/ email

· Calculated as a percentage of direct cost

Budget: Direct Cost

Personnel

• Largest expense category

• Each key staff member is shown the % of time he/she will work on project over a year

Materials and supplies

· Expendable

  • Stationary supplies
  • Duplication supplies
  • Audiotapes
  • Videotapes
  • Surveys
  • Computer supplies

· If high cost, then break into separate categories

 

Communications

• Long-distance calls

• Postage

• Internet/ email connection

Reports and publications

  • Cost of producing final report
  • Cost of producing reports during the project
  • Include estimated page charges from journals
  • Find number of copies that can be duplicated

Travel

• In town and out of town

• Airfare

• Accommodations

• Ground transportation

• Professional conventions

• Justify foreign travel

Equipment rental and purchase

– If unable to buy, can probably rent

Appendix

Purpose

• To attach additional relevant information but is peripheral and not absolutely required

 

Content

 

Why Proposals Fail?

 

Procedure Section (Most common)

• Insufficient, vague or unclear description

• Discrepancies between the objectives and procedures

• Design flaws

 

Problem Section

• Limited Significance

• Statement is unclear

• Insufficiently limited studies

• Lack of theoretical base

Why Proposal fail? Cont

 

Personnel

• Lack of training or experience

• Unfamiliarity with the literature or methods

• Low investment of researchers’ time

• Insufficient information on personnel and their duties

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