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Research Proposal | Purpose, Types, Elements, Limitations, Drafting & Evaluating Research Proposal

Research Proposal
Contents :
  1. Meaning of Research Proposal.
  2. Purpose of Research Proposal.
  3. Types of Research Proposal.
  4. Elements of a Research Proposal.
  5. Drafting a Research Proposal.
  6. Evaluating Research Proposal.
  7. Limitations of Research Proposal.


When a dissertation (or thesis) is represented in a short and precise form, it is known as a research proposal. For conducting a particular research, a researcher needs to be approved from an approving or sponsoring authority. Along with permissions to conduct the research, such authorities also provide financial support to the researchers. A researcher gains such permissions by submitting his research proposal. Preparing a research proposal (or synopsis) of any thesis is considered as the most difficult task to perform.
Research proposal is the blueprint of research study, which depicts the main aspects of the research in the form of a research design. A researcher deliberately prepares a research proposal so as to represent the aims and objectives of his research study to the authorities, Its main objective is to prove the committee that the researcher has performed a useful research study, which will significantly update present banks of educational knowledge.
Research proposal is a written description of the fundamental plan for any research project. It explains the reason that why specific issues have to be resolved and what suitable research design should be chosen in order to examine them. It explains the why, what, where, when and at what cost is the researcher going to under take a research project. When a researcher performs a qualitative research, the research proposal is of flexible nature as the techniques involved in the research tend to develop and evolve.
On the other band, when a researcher performs a quantitative research study, the research proposal is comparatively inflexible as the data used for conducting the research is usually fixed and permanent.

Purpose of Research Proposal 

Purpose of Research Proposal

1) To Prevent Distraction from Actual Topic :
Often, researchers deviate from the actual topic of the research study. A thoroughly prepared research proposal binds the central idea of the research and prevents distraction from the actual research topic. It helps in synchronising the main elements of a research including research problem, purposes, sampling, research questions, date collection, data analysis, and findings.

2) Vital for Third Parties : 
Along with holding a significant importance for researchers, a research proposal is also vital for third parties, including supervisors, instructors, commissioners, granting authorities, etc.

3) To Convince Others : 
A researcher prepares a research proposal to convince other about his research study. It is often used o display the researcher's competency and skills for undertaking and completing a research study.

4) To Focus and Define Research Plans : 
Another major purpose of preparing a research proposal is to focus and define the basic plans of the research. This binds the fundamental aspects of the research study and directs it towards right direction.

5) Other Purposes : 
Various other purposes of research proposal includes :
i) To support the researcher in defining the research contents and in planning and executing his research project.
ii) To discuss the efforts of other researchers, who have contributed in related research topics.
iii) To notify research supporters and potential collaborators about the central idea and anticipated quality of the research study.
iv) To represent plans, services and competencies of the researcher in its best possible way in order to facilitate selection of the proposal over other competitors and participants.
v) To suggest and recommend the information essential for resolving research questions.


Types of Research Proposal 

There are two basic types of research proposals, which are as follows :

1) Internal Proposals : 
The proposals that are prepared within an agency or organisation and presented to its top management for funding and approval are known as internal proposals. These proposals are funded internally and are prepared as a response towards problem solving, process development, product improvement, new product development and other requirements of the management. Their main focus is to resolve existing problems of the organisation by transforming the old processes. These proposals contain an executive summary which is useful for a quick management appreciation. However, literature review and project plans methods such an critical path method, review techniques, programme evaluations, etc., are not usually emphasized.

2) External Proposals : 
External proposals are the proposals which are prepared within an agency or organisation and are directed towards external customers, funding agencies and other organisation. These proposals are usually in response to customers solicitations or advertisements and are considered as competing bids. These proposals have huge scope as they aim at obtaining funds from external sources. However, when a researcher or an organisation prepare these proposals on the basis of perceived natural requirement after a preliminary study, these proposals art unsolicited.

Elements of a Research Proposal 

Elements of a Research Proposal

1) Problem Statement : 
Problem statement is the first step towards preparing & research proposal, which describes the considered problem or issue. It consists of four main factors, which are as follows :
i) Involved company, divisions and principals;
ii) Involved symptoms;
iii) Possible reasons of involved symptoms;
iv) Anticipated and expected usages of the provided research information.
Under a research proposal, it is essential to provide the problem statement as it confirms the mutual agreement of the manager and the researcher upon the research problem.

2) Research Objective : 
Research objective is another important element of research proposal which states the pain purpose of conducting the research study. These purposes may involve testing a hypothesis, exploring answers to a problem, resolving issues, etc. The research objective represents the achievable goals of the research study and should arise naturally from the problem statement.

3) Research Design : 
It represents the technical half of the research proposal and signifies the steps or tasks involved in the research action. These tasks include size determination, data sources, sample selection, instrument design, reasons for rejecting alternate approaches, data collection methods and procedures, etc.

4) Work Schedule : 
Work schedule includes the time frame of all key processes involved in the research study. It is the time table of research processes such as literature review, pilot study, preparation of questionnaire, data collection, data generation report preparation, etc. In some cases, along with the important tasks, work schedule also explains the researcher's credentials like budget project management details, executive summary, etc.

5) Researchers' Credentials :
The credentials of the researcher include his academic qualification, positions held, experiences, fields of expertise, published papers, consultations offered, memberships, medals/honours awarded, etc. This indicates the competency level and technical skills of the researcher (and team members, if research is conducted by a group) for successfully undertaking and carrying out the research study.

6) Budget : 
Budget is an important factor for conducting research study and is also a key element of research proposal (whether internal or external). This is because every research has a budget, which is the maximum estimated cost for conducting the research.

7) Literature Review : 
Literature review is an important element of research proposal and should focus upon recent research studies, organisational data, computerised data banks, etc. A quick and proper literature review in general research areas extracts the basic information about the research topic that shows the right path for conducting the research. Literature review also notifies the information gaps and shortcomings of the current research, When a researcher performs literature review, he attaches bibliography at the end of the research report.

Drafting a Research Proposal 

A properly drafted research proposal signifies a carefully planned research project, reflects researchers' competencies, establishes project support, etc. Therefore, it becomes important for a researcher to present the quality proposal in a well-drafted form. Drafting a research proposal involves the following :

Drafting a Research Proposal

1) Developing Ideas Logically : 
All the ideas involved in a research proposal should be established logically upon each other in order to justify and support the research study. Along with the basic need of studying a particular problem, a researcher also provides appropriate methods for conducting research study within a research proposal. Developing logical ideas will not only seek support from authorities and concerned committees, but will also reflect the importance of conducting the research. Various websites have been developed by universities, central funding agencies, grant writing consultants, medical centres, etc., for facilitating researchers to write successful research proposals.

2) Determining the Depth of a Proposal : 
Several universities, funding agencies, institutions, etc., have developed guidelines which not only determine the detail or depth of the proposal's content but also provide specific directions for its growth and development. Often, misinterpretation or lapse of any guideline results in proposal's rejection. Hence, a researcher should properly follow such guidelines and should also determine the amount of data essential for clearly describing each step of the research study. These guidelines often specify page or word limits, which certainty determine the proposal's depth. Also, the proposal's content should be thoroughly explained in order to impart right information to all types of readers.

3) Identifying Critical Points : 
The important and critical points mentioned in the proposal should be highlighted in such a way that even a speedy reader can easily recognise them. For this purpose, the researcher can capitalise, bold or italicise such points. In many cases, the researchers make appropriate headings and use graphs, charts, etc. for emphasising critical aspects of the proposal. Also, important stages such as research problem, objectives, data collection, sampling, data analysis, budget, findings, etc., should be significantly emphasised upon.

4) Developing an Appealing Copy : 
A researcher must develop an appealing copy of the proposal. An appealing copy is the copy of the same content without any spelling grammatical or punctuation error. Often, a poor formatted proposal, with numerous spelling or grammatical mistakes, takes away the readers' interest, even if it has excellent quality of content. Many organisations and reviewers develop guidelines which guide the researcher in preparing error free appealing copy of the proposal. Such guidelines provide the standards and formats, which are used in typing the proposal's content. However, if no such formats or standards are provided, a researcher adopt APA (2010) format as a default.

Evaluating Research Proposal 

While evaluating a research proposal, following points should be considered :

1) Ethical Aspects : 
In most of the cases, human subjects are involved in the research process, usually while collecting primary data through experiments, interviews, observations, etc. The following three aspects should be considered when human subjects are involved in the research study :

i) Safety : 
The consideration of safety entails that no human subject should be harmed (mentally or physically), during and after any experiment, survey or interview. The participants should be clearly conveyed all the necessary details of conducting the experiment. If any type of risk is involved in the experiment, the participants should know them. Also, the personal image or professional career of the involved person should not be affected, in cases where secret observations are conducted.

ii) Confidentiality : 
The confidentiality of the data obtained from any individual, group or organisation must be maintained. Such data should be merged with the accumulated disclosed data, so that the sources of data cannot be traced by others. However, if an individual data has to be involved in the research, then it should only be included when the individual allows it with a written consent.

iii) Anonymity : 
The identity of any individual, group or organisation should not be revealed through any disclosed information. The anonymity of such units should be properly maintained.

2) Training Aspects : 
The individuals recruited for the posts of assistants and helpers should be properly trained in order to execute a successful research project. Training aspects consists of he following :

i) Orientation : 
The hired assistants should be well-explained about research objectives, types of data collection methods, data preparation techniques, data analysis, etc. Reviewing literature will also be useful for them. The nature of jobs, roles and responsibilities of the assistants should be clearly specified along with probable difficulties, restrictions and work-related problems, Also, the importance of good human relations should be emphasised.

ii) Rehearsals : 
Assistants should get rehearsed through replicate environments and real-life situations. With this, the assistants can :
a) Take interviews (with investigators and among themselves),
b) Get questionnaires filled,
c) Make scientific observations,
d) Obtain and procure information from past records,
e) Examine fictitious information.

3) Co-operation : 
Nearly all research projects require co-operation from co-investigators managers, project assistants, employees and administration. Without a proper co-operation and participation of these units, a research project cannot be successfully executed. A researcher can assure his co-operation by ensuring openness about research study, required data, sincerity and confidentiality. By minimising the manager's workload in the research project, co-operation can also be easily assured. A researcher. can also secure co-operation by makiag written request from all important members and contributors for their participation in the research project.

4) Legal Aspects : 
When the University Research committee, which is responsible for ensuring confidentiality and safety of subjects and research methods, examine a research project, then no further approval is required. The main consideration of legal aspects is to obtain individual unit's consent after disclosing the project details and its implications.

Limitations of Research Proposal 

1) Research Problem is Trivial : 
In some cases, research problem do not gains a major public interest. The findings of such research studies do not add any value to he existing pool of knowledge. Thus, the researcher should convince readers about the importance of research problem.

2) Limited Literature Review : 
Reviewing of literature is not broad, effective, and specialized. Besides, most of the past records are either misplaced or out dated. Often many organisational records and domains have restricted access.

3) Research Problem is not Well-defined : 
In most of the cases, the research problem is defined in an enormously broad sense, which makes it difficult to identify the main issue or focus paint. This clearly indicates that the researcher is unclear about the research topic or fields of investigation.

4) Aims and Expected Outcomes : 
In many cases, the probable consequences and outcomes of the research study do not rationally coincide with the research problem. Often, such outcomes are not even scientifically or technically explainable.

5) Deficient Methodology : 
Under quantitative research studies, there should be a well-explained. research methodology and design. In most of the research studies, data collection strategies, data analysis strategies, sampling methods are either unexplained or incomplete.

6) Unrealistic Budget : 
In cases where research studies are conducted by new researchers, the budget of the research is set unrealistically. They do not consider the practical expenditures and submit a budget which is either under/over budget in nature. Moreover, most of the budgets luck detailing of vital accounts such as costs of consumables, tools, etc.

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