How to Write a First Class Project Proposal or Research Proposal?

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If you are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree or a professional qualification, you may be required to write a project proposal or research proposal. This will form the basis of your research project, dissertation or thesis, which can play an integral part in your professional and academic future. Also have a look at our article, which goes into more details: How to write a dissertation proposal or contact our dissertation writing service for help.

What is a Project or Research Proposal?

The main goal of a research proposal is to convince others that your proposed research study is important enough to warrant such an investigation. Therefore, it is extremely important that you attempt to write a research proposal. Before students write a formal dissertation, they must submit a research proposal, and it must be accepted by a committee of professors or lecturers. Once the document has been approved, students can commence the actual research.

If you want to achieve the highest grade possible for your research proposal or first-class project proposal, you must follow certain guidelines. Achieving a first-class distinction, this is normally 70 per cent or higher, should be your ultimate goal. This is very important as your proposal often determines the success of your actual research project.

Criteria for a First-Class Research Proposal

Each academic institution will have its own criteria and expectations for research proposals. The specific guidelines and regulations are normally available in a document published by the university or institution. In addition, the specific procedures, forms and level of detail required for your project proposal will vary depending on your particular field of study. Regardless of the various criteria, you need to create a well-researched and concise research proposal in order to achieve a first-class grade. This academic document enables students to explore various proposal topics of interest they can later develop into projects or studies that incorporate the skills, theory and knowledge they have gained in lectures.

Consult with your Supervisors

To ensure you are on the right track, you should discuss your research proposal with your supervisors. These expert individuals should already possess the experience and knowledge for your particular subject area. Therefore, it is important to explain that you are seeking a first-class grade. Your supervisors will be able to provide you with helpful guidelines and criteria, as well as answer any questions or concerns you may have before you write your research proposal. Be sure to maintain regular contact with these individuals, as they will be the ones who end up awarding your final grade.

Recommended Structure of a First-Class Research Proposal

Report weaknesses and limitations

Your dissertation supervisors will advise you of the expected format and length of your research proposal or project proposal – most documents average 1,500 to 2000 words, which is usually three to five pages. Regardless of the actual word count, you should ensure that the content of your project proposal is succinct and relevant. If you want to achieve a first-class grade, you should ensure you meet the specific structural guidelines established by your institution. You should also adhere to the following structural guidelines, which will be discussed in further detail:

  1. Introduction – This initial section of your research proposal is very important because it will introduce the specific problem you are attempting to address. You should also clearly state your specific objectives in the introduction of your proposal. A general background section is also provided to introduce the reader to your actual proposal.
  2. Literature Review – The next part of your research or project proposal involves conducting a thorough review of all relevant literature. If you want to achieve a first-class grade, this section should include empirical research and theoretical material, and it should also identify any principal gaps in the literature currently available.
  3. Research Methodology – The third section of your research proposal is where you will present a general overview of your intended research methods. Your goal is to ensure each method meets your specific objectives, particularly if you want to earn a high final grade. You should also include your proposed timetable for the main activities, as well as any statistical tools you plan to utilise throughout your research. Last but not least, you should identify any relevant ethical issues in this section of your document.
  4. References – Every research or project proposal should include a comprehensive list of the references you have used.


Preparing the introduction of your research proposal or project proposal can often be one of the hardest tasks to complete. However, it is essential that you prepare a concise introduction that “sets the scene” for your proposed topic, so to speak, if you want to achieve a first-class grade. The main goal of any research project is to creatively and intelligently solve a problem. Therefore, you should conduct some initial research into issues and topics that interest you in order to identify problems that are actually researchable.

If you are experiencing difficulty finding a topic for the introduction of your project proposal, remember to look in as many different sources as possible for inspiration. These could include reading newspapers, journals or textbooks with a critical eye. Arranging a meeting with supervisors within your field of study is another effective method of discovering suggestions for additional research. If you have at your disposal unique data from which you can formulate specific questions, you may be able to ascertain are a searchable topic for your research proposal. In order to discover are a searchable topic, you should follow three steps:

  • Formative Thinking
  • Creating A Topics List
  • Screen and Reflection

During the initial stages, you will most likely formulate a very broad dissertation topic for your research proposal. This is perfectly acceptable, as long as you can create a specific hypothesis or research questions that you can actually manage. Performing this important step enables you to identify any gaps in the material, limitations or contradictions in any prior research that has already been conducted. Choosing questions that are too difficult for you to answer will cost you valuable marks on your final grade. The introduction will also require you to display effective reading and writing skills if you want to write a first-class project proposal or research proposal. Writing enables you to learn via presentation and summarising, whilst reading provides the material necessary to reinforce your perception.

Literature Review

A first-class research proposal will also contain a critical review of any literature that relates to the proposed objectives and goals of the research. To achieve a high grade, you should endeavour to complete a comprehensive search using solid tertiary sources. This will help you to find relevant literature that will enable you to conduct the research you are proposing to undertake.

Your academic institution will most likely grant you access to a wide variety of electronic journals. You should enquire about accessing these types of databases by contacting the library or your tutors. Electronic journals enable you to review many different types of literature, including publications that have been peer-reviewed, trade magazines, industry profiles as well as academic journals. In order to write a first-class research proposal or project proposal, you should take full advantage of these academic journals. They are crucial to the literature review section of your document, as they present the most current developments in the area of your proposed research project.

To earn a first-class grade on the literature review section of your research proposal, you should contain both empirical and theoretical research that relates to the scope of your particular project. It should also reveal a critical perspective, as this is what the individuals who will be marking your paper will be looking for. If you want to achieve a first class grade, you should ensure your research meets the following points whilst you are completing your literature review:

  • Contains a theoretical base
  • Contributes to improved analysis/evidence
  • Includes areas of professional development
  • Is necessary and of interest to the principal stakeholders

It is also very important that you emphasise any major gaps in the literature. This will help you to justify your proposed research project and identify its potential.


You should use the Kipling Test in order to emphasise the usable methods such as the what, where, when, how, who and why. This enables you to justify your reasoning for choosing each particular research method. Given that certain limitations exist for each method of data collection, you should be able to incorporate a variety of different research strategies. This concept is referred to as “triangulation” because it incorporates a minimum of three different methods. Triangulation encourages a valid and reliable design, and enables you to compare your result to others, thus providing a method of obtaining accurate and unbiased results.

Therefore, you should include at least three different methods of research within this section of your document. Presenting a solid methodological basis for your research will greatly enhance your chances of achieving a first-class grade on your research proposal. If you choose to adopt a qualitative methodology, you should also provide a theoretical framework for your analysis. On the other hand, if you utilise quantitative methodology, be sure you include the statistical tools you have used.

Gantt Chart

A first-class research proposal or project proposal will also emphasise the principal milestones and their estimated completion dates throughout this section. You can include the data in table form; however, you will normally earn a higher mark if you present the material of key activities in the form of a “Gantt Chart”.

Ethical Issues

Don’t forget to discuss any possible ethical issues that may arise from your methodology whilst you are conducting your research. You will frequently encounter ethical issues when you are in the process of collecting your primary data; they often relate to privacy issues and the consent of any referred organisations or individuals. If you want to achieve a first-class grade on your project proposal, you should mention this ethical component of your proposed methodology.

Proper Referencing

A first-class research proposal will include a detailed list of any references you have used throughout your research. You should also include a bibliography at the end of your document. If you fail to do so, you will lose marks and your final grade will suffer.

The individuals who will be grading your research proposal will be looking for a comprehensive reference list that includes the names of authors, titles of documents and page numbers for any material you have referenced within your document. The bibliography of your project proposal should include this same information for any material you have consulted, but not referred to within your actual document. If your goal is to achieve a first-class distinction, be sure to consult with your institution regarding the proper referencing system. There are many different referencing styles, and you should use the system preferred by your university.

As a recap, remember to consult with your supervisors to ensure you are on the right track before you begin writing your research proposal. You also need to ensure your document follows all of the guidelines and structural requirements established by your particular institution if you want to earn a high grade. Make sure you address the problem you are attempting to solve and clearly state your goals and objectives in the introduction of your project proposal. Conduct a comprehensive literature review, and ensure you utilise at least three different research methods. Remember to mention any ethical issues that have arisen because of your chosen research methodology. The final section of your research proposal should include a detailed list and a bibliography of all the references you have consulted or mentioned in your document. Writing a first-class research proposal is certainly possible if you follow the above guidelines.


BAUGH, L S and HAMPER, Robert J (1995) Handbook for Writing Proposals, NTC /Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc, Chicago
COLEY, Soraya M and SCHEINBERG, Cynthia A (2000) Proposal Writing, Sage Publications Ltd, London
CRESWELL, John W (2008) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, SagePublications Ltd, London
KRATHWOHL, David R and SMITH, Nick L (2005) How to Prepare A Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Syracuse UniversityPress, New York
OGDEN, Thomas E and GOLDBERG, IsraelA (2002) Research Proposals: A Guide toSuccess, Academic Press, California
PUNCH, Keith F (2006) Developing Effective Research Proposals, SAGE Publications Ltd, London
THODY, Angela (2006) Writing and Presenting Research, Sage Publications Ltd, London
Journal Articles
BAKER, Michael J. (2000), ‘Writing a Research Proposal’ Marketing Review, 1:1, 61
DEAN, Burton V andCULHAN, Robert H. (1995) ‘Contract Research Proposal Preparation Strategies, Management Science, 11:8, B187, B199
World Wide Web
Birmingham City University 2007, How to Write a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008, 2008, How to Write a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008,
Monash University 2007, Writing a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008,
OxfordUniversity and the School of Geography and the Environment 2008, Guidelines to Writing a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008,
TheUniversity of British Columbia, Writing a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008,
The University of Waterloo 2008, How to Write a Research Proposal, viewed November 13, 2008,


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