Need help?
Call now 0207 118 0808


Writer's Profile
Derek Bond

Specialised Subjects

Civil Engineering, Construction, Engineering

I am a full-time Doctoral Researcher in the field of Occupational Health and Safety in the Construction sector. I have researched into several organisational structures of different forms of businesses and their organisational cultures in regards to their management. My background degrees include BSc Building Technology and MSc Construction Management from one of the most prestigious universities in the East Midlands region of England. I have been involved in several educational programmes including working as a Teaching Assistant and giving numerous talks and presentations at conferences, seminars and workshops. I also have experience from working in a Financial Institution and a Quantity Surveying firm.

A report is on the theory of writing a research proposal

This report is on the theory of writing a research proposal. In this report, an evaluation was done by analysing and comparing information articles from the internet and books written by renowned writers and authors to obtain an efficient way of writing a research proposal.

This report is on the theory of writing a research proposal. This report will lay emphasis on the theory of writing the research proposal and not actually writing a research proposal.

This report evaluates the process of writing a research proposal and compares books from library and articles from the internet and the library and determines contents and aims and objectives of writing a research proposal.

A research proposal has the ultimate goal of convincing a reader or a client that a proposed research is viable and, as such, worth doing. Saunders et al (2000) talks about a research proposal as convincing the audience and gaining approval and adds that the research proposal does not only clarify thoughts or intentions, but helps organise ideas.

This report also compares written articles and books and comes out with a precise and efficient way of writing research proposals.

There are two sections to this report and the first section contains the literature review where books and articles were compared to come up with an efficient way of writing a research proposal. The contents of the research proposal are carefully stated and explained with ideas from the above mentioned sources included to support statements of the report.

The second and final section of the report is a conclusion on the theory of writing a research proposal. The conclusion will evaluate the relevance of the research proposal to the whole research process.

A research proposal is the part of the research used to gain acceptance for commencement of the actual research project, either from a project tutor or a client. Saunders et al (2000) adds that a research proposal is used to convince the audience, be it the client or the project tutor. The proposal must be clear, have unambiguous statements and must not contradict itself from point to point. This is the first approach to the research, so it might need amendments or corrections. At this stage, even the title of the research is not certain and hence a provisional one is put in place until the final and suitable title is obtained. This does not happen until the final stages of the project, where the direction of the research is perfectly clear to the writer and the reader as well. This is mainly achieved through sharing ideas and coming to a compromise with the client or project tutor. A given is meant for one topic thus; it is not intended for different researches or projects. One proposal is meant for one idea or research.

Certain key points should always be elaborated in any effective proposal, making sure the message is carried across with all possible questions to be asked addressed already. Fisher (2004) puts the theory of research proposal writing in forms of questions, thereby addressing most possible questions without being asked. Ideally, according to Saunders et al (2003), a research proposal should have the reader totally convinced and intrigued in the research being proposed. It should address all doubts and questions that the reader has in mind. These key points are included to show the viability of the research. A research proposal cannot be approved if it gives the reader the notion that the actual research is going to be a “wild goose chase”. The following are the key points or features, which must be well detailed in order to reduce all doubt and thoughts of uncertainty regarding the research:

The title at this point is still uncertain, as it may change when the actual research is commenced. At this point it is advisable to use a provisional title. This is a perfectly understandable situation because certain data will be stumbled upon that will cause the writer to review the title provided. Saunders et al (2000) supports this point and goes further to add that the title must have an image of the proposal.

“A statement of why the topic is worth doing, with sufficient background information about the industry or the company in question to provide a context. A brief overview of the main authors and relevant academic concepts on which you will be drawing can also be placed under this heading” (Jankowicz 2005 pp: 41). This helps the reader to know that the viability of this research has been proven in a similar situation by a recognised author. Again, this helps the researcher’s proposal in the sense that there are possible scenarios of succession in a similar field of research.

Aims and Objectives
The aim of the proposal is to show that the suggested proposal is viable and is not going to be a waste of time, energy and resources, should they be invested in.  The aim is the problem statement of the proposal. The method statement that is suitable for the research mainly depends on the problem statement and the purpose supports this statement (Jankowicz (1991)).

The objectives of the proposal are mainly listed because a research normally has numerous sub topics, which will all be tackled before the actual completion research. The objectives are connected to each other eg. If a proposal were on the construction of skyscrapers in Nigeria; it would lead to different objectives, some being as follows:

  • to analyse the construction of skyscrapers
  • to determine the benefits of a skyscraper
  • to provide an outline of benefits obtained through building skyscrapers by South Africa
  • to determine the benefits of a skyscraper to Nigeria
  • to identify the modes of construction in Africa
  • to identify effects of the West African climate on the construction of a skyscraper, etc

The objectives are stated clearly to give the reader an idea of which method is going to be used in collecting and analysing data.

This part of the proposal clearly states all activities the researcher wishes to undertake in order to meet or achieve his objectives. Fisher (2004) puts this in a question form as “HOW” the objectives are going to be achieved. This idea is also shared by Saunders et al (2000) who add: “It will also justify your choice of method in the light of those objectives” (Saunders et al 2000, pp: 30). Obviously, this part of the research entails a lot of work and as such a lot of energy is focused in this section. The methodology is done in one of two ways, depending on the nature of the research. It is either based on the collection of quantitative data or the collection of qualitative data. The qualitative data is collected by things like observation and interviewing, but can have its analysis done in a qualitative manner as the results are interpreted in a statistical manner. Likewise, data of behaviour and social environments can be collected quantitatively and handled qualitatively (Ghauri and GrØnhaug 2005). The mode of collection and analysing data usually gets researchers confused as they often interchange the methodology.

When to use qualitative methods
“Qualitative methods are quite suitable for studying organizations, groups and individuals” (Ghauri and GrØnhaug 2005, pp: 111)
Three major elements sum up to make a qualitative research (Becker, 1970; Strauss and Corbin, 1990; Miles and Huberman, 1994; Ghauri and GrØnhaug, 2005):

  • Data: mostly gathered through interviews and observations
  • Interpretative or analytical procedure: the techniques to conceptualize and analyse to provide findings etc
  • Report: written or verbal. Whereby by the written is in the form of a theory, mainly for students.

Figure 1
Figure: Quantitative and qualitative methods and techniques Source: Based on Jankowicz (1999 pp: 159)

The above figure clearly differentiates qualitative and quantitative methods by indicating the techniques used in each one. And again, the figure shows a graph where qualitative research purely depends on historical review i.e. events that have already taken place and analysing them. The graph is in levels showing the next step being a little amount of group discussion. The graph clearly shows the quantitative method as having done best with experiments, hence statistical review. In a situation whereby there is purely case study, the end result is qualitative and quantitative analysis is applied at the same time. “In qualitative research, findings are not arrived at by statistical methods or other procedures of quantification” (Ghauri and GrØnhaug 2005 pp: 109). “Alternatives to the standard approach, like unstructured interviewing, tend to be viewed as faulted variants….I am arguing, instead, that the standard survey interview is itself essentially faulted and that it therefore cannot serve as the ideal ideological model against which to assess other approaches.” (Mishler 1986, pp: 29)

Data is analysed qualitatively or quantitatively, depending on the expected outcome and on the mode of data collection. Ghauri and GrØnhaug (2005) agree to this statement and say data can be collected quantitatively and analysed qualitatively and vice-versa.

Practical and Ethical Issues
All practical and ethical issues are addressed in the research proposal. Again, this section also deals with the subject of practicality, but this time in terms of access issues. Access to data or information can also create problems for the researcher and his research.

Fisher (2004) puts the section of practical and ethical issues in the form of questions as follows:

  • does the proposed research raise ethical issues that need addressing resolving?
  • does the research have potential problems of access in terms of information or data?
  • does the research have potential problems of access in terms of specialist databases or particular research software?

If these questions are answered correctly, there will be no doubts of practical or ethical issues in the mind of the reader.

Plan and Timescale
Plans are how the work schedule is arranged with time in order to monitor the progress of the research. “Plans are not so definitive that you can never deviate from them” (Velde et al, 2004 pp: 70). One of the numerous ways of ensuring this is by using the Gannt chart. The chart shows tasks or activities, time and duration of the research.

A Gannt Chart for a research project
Figure 2
Figure: Gannt Chart for a research project

The plan makes it easy for activities to move systematically.

“A master plan is required for large complex research projects to show how the researcher will tie together all phases and all tasks involved, the scheduled dates, the economic considerations and problems for which no precedent exists” (Murdick and Cooper 1982, pp:116).

The timescale provides a summary of the activities and phases in the entire research, Velde et al (2004) supports the statement and goes on to add that the timescale keeps track of duration, venue and persons included in the activity. “It will be helpful if you divide your research plan into stages. This will give you a clear idea as to what is possible in the given timescale” (Saunders et al 2000, pp.32). The suggested timescale proposed by researchers for the whole research process is usually longer than anticipated according to Saunders et al (2000). Researchers are bound to overlook certain obstacles in the path of the research and eventually tend to give the research a delay in the original time or duration proposed.

An in-depth financial budget is included in the research proposal as any research needs financial resources eg. Stationary, travel expenses, accommodation, office and storage expense, apparatus etc. Velde, (2004) agrees to this idea and adds that the researcher should determine whether the funding for the research can be acquired and if so, to stipulate where and how the funding can be acquired.

Since the ideas included in the proposal are not all the researcher’s ideas, there is the need to acknowledge where the data and other supporting information or literature are obtained from. This point, if neglected leads to plagiarism. Plagiarism is an academic crime of taking data from another writer or researcher’s article or book and posing as the originator of the information, making the perpetrator an “academic imposter”. Researchers tend to impress their readers, mainly research tutors, by putting up an enormous list of references which is not necessary (Robson (1993)).

In conclusion, it can be inferred from the above report that a research proposal is a very significant part of the research because it is through the research proposal’s approval that the actual research can begin. And again, the research proposal aids the researcher to organise his activities and steers the research as a whole. Finally the research proposal takes care of the feasibility of the proposed research and as such, when it is approved, the research can be carried out more smoothly from that point on.

Becker, H S. (1970) Sociological Work, Chicago IL: Aldine

Fisher, C. (2004) Researching and Writing a Dissertation for Business Students, London: PEARSON EDUCATION LTD UK

Jankowicz, A D. (1991) Business Research Projects for Students, London: Chapman and Hall

Jankowicz, A D. (2005) Business Research Projects, London: Chapman and Hall

Miles, M B. and Huberman, A M. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA Sage

Mishler, E G. (1986) Research Interviewing, London: Harvard University Press

Murdick R G. and Cooper D R. (1982) Business Research: Concepts and Guides, Grid Publishing Inc, COLUMBUS, OH

Ghauri, P. and GrØnhaug, K. (2005) Research Methods in Business Studies, London: PEARSON EDUCATION LTD UK

Strauss, A L. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA Sage

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2000) Research Methods for Business Students 2nd edition, London: Pearson Education Limited

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2003) Research Methods for Business Students 3rd edition, London: Pearson Education Limited

Velde, M., Jansen, P. and Anderson N. (2004) Guide to Management Research Methods, Blackwell Publishing