These recommendations do not guarantee a successful research
They are intended to help you conceptualize and prepare a
research proposal, giving the process structure and a timetable
for you to develop. Good luck!
When applying for a research grant or a study scholarship, you
are expected to
hand in a "detailed and precise description of study or research
proposal as well as information on any previous study or research
projects of particular relevance to a decision of award."
The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that
the candidates have done sufficient preliminary
reading/research in the area of their interest
that they have thought about the issues involved and are able
to provide more than a broad description of the topic which they
are planning to research.
The proposal is not a fixed blueprint. One cannot predict one's
findings beforehand or mechanically stick to an argument since the
research will inevitably alter or even unseat one's initial
expectations. There is no fixed formula for writing a proposal.
However, your challenge is to convince members of the scientific
community that you
have identified a scientific problem
have a theoretical background and a methodical approach to
solve the problem
within a realistic time frame and at reasonable expenses.
With your research you will add a new aspect to the scientific
First, consult your advisor on length, layout (typeface, line
spacing, font, etc.), format, as well as a table of contents and
page numbers. Members of the selection committee may have to read a
large number of research proposals so good construction and
legibility of your proposal is to your advantage.
Personal data (name, academic title, your position at your own
university, date of birth, nationality, your contact
information, institutional contact.
(Working) Title of your planned dissertation or research
report. words in the title should be chosen with great care,
and their association with one another must be carefully
considered. While the title should be brief, it should be
accurate, descriptive and comprehensive, clearly indicating the
subject of the investigation.
In order to develop a clear title, you must also be clear about
the focus of your research! Strive for the title to be ten words
or 60 characters: focus on or incorporate keywords that reference
the classification of the research subject
Indicate a realistic time frame toward project completion,
followed by the name(s) of your supervisor(s), the university
department where you hope to do your research and, if applicable,
information about other academics with whom you plan to
Refer to successfully funded projects to determine whether
your topic fits with the granting organization's mission and to
mimic their title/proposal structure
Abstract/summary statement of the research project:
This one page summary focuses on the research topic, its new,
current and relevant aspects. Strive for clarity; your greatest
challenge might be narrowing the topic
Review of research literature A short and
precise overview about the current state of research that is
immediately connected with your research project.
Reference the most important contributions of other
Discuss the theoretical scope or the framework of ideas that
will be used to back the research.
Demonstrate that you are fully conversant with the ideas you
are dealing with and that you grasp their methodological
Indicate the open problem which then will be the motive for
your project. State clearly how your research will contribute to
the existing research.
Your history/preparation Summarize the most
important impact of your own work on the topic (if applicable).
Attach copies of your own publications that might be seen in
relation to your research project.
Objective of the research project Give a
concise and clear outline of the academic (possibly also
non-academic, e.g. social and political) objectives that you want to
achieve through your project. Your proposal needs to show why the
intended research is important and justifies the search effort.
Here you outline the significance (theoretical or practical) or
relevance of the topic. Such justification may either be of an
empirical nature (you hope to add to, or extend an existing body
of knowledge) or of a theoretical nature (you hope to elucidate
contentious areas in a body of knowledge or to provide new
conceptual insights into such
knowledge). All research is part of a larger scholarly enterprise
and candidates should be able to argue for the value and
positioning of their work.
Outline the project This is the central part
of your research outline.
Detail your research procedure within the given time.
List sources and quality of evidence you will consult, the
analytical technique you will employ, and the timetable you will
follow. Depending on the topic, suitable research strategies
should be defined to ensure that enough and adequate empirical
data will be gathered for a successful research project.
Describe the intended methods of data gathering, the controls
you will introduce, the statistical methods to be used, the type
of literature or documentary analysis to be followed, etc.
Consider your work to be a Work-in-Progress and allow yourself a
flexible planning: Stay ready to revise the proposal according to
new insights and newly aroused questions and keep on modifying
the working hypothesis according to new insights while
formulating the proposal and the working hypothesis. Once you have a
useful working hypothesis, concentrate on pursuing the project
within the limits of the topic.
Timetable Develop a time table (if possible
in table form), indicating the sequence of research phases and the
time that you will probably need for each phase. Take into account
that at this stage, it can only be estimated, but make clear that
you have an idea about the time span that will be needed for each
Selective research bibliography List
academic works mentioned in your research outline as well as other
important works to which you will refer during your research
Attachments: List other documents attached
to your proposal. References, CV, etc.
Editing: Once you have finished the
conceptual work on your proposal, go through a careful editing
Verify that the title, the abstract and the content of your
proposal clearly correspond to each other!
Maintain a clear structure, an intuitive navigational style
throughout the document with headings and summaries, enabling the
reader to quickly reference where they are for future commenting;
(Have a reader skim your document to verify)
Summarize significant issues and make no assumptions where
Keep a reasonable, clear, declarative writing style (active
verbs!) throughout the document;
Breakup the narrative with bulleted lists, visuals, etc.
demonstrating a command of abstract concepts and relationships
Use white space to highlight and emphasize important sections
Make sure your proposal does not contain any
grammatical/spelling mistakes or typos; engage a proofreader;
Request an experienced academic to proofread your proposal in
order to ensure the proposal conforms to institutional and
international academic standards.
Common rejection reasons *
The National Institute of Health (NIH) analyzed the
reasons why over 700 research proposal applications were denied.
Their findings as to the cause of rejection are worth reviewing:
Nature of the Problem (18%)
It is doubtful that new or useful
information will result from the project (14%).
The basic hypothesis is unsound
The proposed research is
scientifically premature due to the present inadequacy of
supporting knowledge (0.6%).
Approach to the Problem (38.9%)
The research plan is nebulous,
and not presented in concrete detail (8.6%).
The planned research is not
adequately controlled (3.7%).
Greater care in planning is
1. The research plan has not been carefully
2. The proposed methods will not yield accurate
3. The procedures to be used should be spelled out
in more detail (4.6%).
A more thorough statistical
treatment is needed (0.7%).
The proposed tests require
more individual subjects
than the number given (0.7%).
Competence of the
The applicants need to
acquire greater familiarity with the
pertinent literature (7.2%).
The problems to be
investigated are more complex than the
applicants realize (10.5%).
The applicants propose to
enter an area of research for which
they are not adequately trained (12.8%).
The principal investigator intends to give actual
for the direction of a complex project to an
The reviewers do not have sufficient confidence in
to approve the present application, largely
based on the past
efforts of the applicants (6.8%).
Conditions of the Research Environment (4.8%)
The investigators will be required to devote too
much time to
teaching or other non-research duties (0.9%).
Better liaison is needed with colleagues in
collateral disciplines (0.4%).
Requested expansion on continuation of a currently
supported research project would result in failure
to achieve the main goal of the work (3.5%).
Based on the above analysis, a carefully designed, well reasoned proposal will
overcome these common pitfalls. It also represents
and important credibility statement about the
The Bureau of Occupational and Vocational Education comparable study.
Based on a sample of 353 research grant applications:
18% forgot to number the pages. -- 73% forgot to include a
table of contents.
-- 81% had no abstract. -- 92% failed to
provide resumes of proposed consultants.
-- 25% had no resume for the principal
-- 66% included no plan for project evaluation.
-- 17% forgot to identify the project director
-- 20% failed to list the objectives of the
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