By Emmanuel K. Hammond, 2009

An academic research proposal is usually made up of three main parts: the Introduction, Literature Review, and the Methodology.


Generally, the introduction of an academic research proposal is made up of the following sections; it might differ depending on the type of research, department or supervisor.
  • Background to the Study
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Objectives of the study
  • Research questions
  • Statement of hypotheses
  • Significance of the study
  • Definition of terms
  • Organization of the study
Background to the Study

This is a brief introduction which presents background information about the problem area, in the form of a discussion. It sets the stage for discussion of the specific problem. It also sets the stage for the entire study and puts your topic in perspective. The introduction often includes spectacular/salient and general statements about the need for the study. It uses dramatic illustrations or quotes to set the tone.

Statement of the Problem

This is a clear statement of the specific problem to be investigated. This should in a way indicate why the particular problem is of importance. It should outline the basic rationale on which the study derives. This section should be specific and backed by evidence. The statement of the problem is the focal point of your research. It is just one sentence but with several paragraphs of elaboration. Here, you are looking for something wrong, something that needs close attention. Present information (data/statistics and opinions of other writers or professionals) to show how the problem is affecting business, social or political trends and why it is important enough to study. After writing this section, make sure you can easily identify the single sentence that is the problem statement. Clue: the problem statement is a statement about the "primary problem" that actually creates a "secondary" problem (e.g. effects of gender on job performance). The research problem in this gender instance is the lack of insight in organizational behaviour as a result of rare research/literature on the subject, so the need for such a research.

Objectives of the Study
The aims or objectives of the study is a paragraph or two that explains what the study intends to accomplish. This is a brief outline of what the researcher wants to find out. It has the general and specific objectives of the study. The general objective is stated in a general statement giving the major purpose of the study. Specific objectives derive from the general, are more specific and numbered.

Research questions
This section lists the research questions. These are specific questions derived from the research objectives, which can also be numbered. No elaboration is included in this section.

Statement of Hypotheses
The use of hypotheses is optional. It depends on the supervisor or the student, sometimes on the nature of the study. Hypotheses must derive from the literature review and the theoretical framework.

Significance of the Study
This section shows the contributions the study will make to the field of study. This can be theoretical or practical contributions. These can also be numbered. This section points out how your study relates to the larger issues and justifies the reason for your study. It makes the purpose worth pursuing. The significance of the study answers the questions why is your study important (i.e. to whom is it important, and what benefit(s) will occur if your study is done)

Definition of Terms
This section gives the definition of important terms and concepts that are usually stated in the objectives, hypothesis, and research questions. This section should also include the “Operational definitions”. These are definitions that you have formulated for the study. It is stated in ways that make the variable or term measurable. In other words it is operationally defined.

Organization of the Study
This shows how the final report will be organized. It indicates the number of chapters and what each chapter will cover. The wording should be in the future tense.

This entails giving an overview (but somewhat lengthy) of concepts and work related to your study. This can be a summary of various research findings and methods used. Research objectives, questions and hypotheses (that is if using one) should derive from the literature review. Sections can include the definitions, concept and theory, the related studies and the theoretical /conceptual framework. The theoretical framework is an outline of the theory or model on which the study is based. Hypothesis should emerge logically from the theory. Theories or models can be more than one. But not all studies require a theoretical framework.

This section shows how the researcher will carry out the research. Sections are made up of the following:
  • Research design
  • The study area
  • The study population
  • Sampling procedures
  • Sources of data
  • Data collection instruments
  • Pretest/pilot study
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Scope of the study
  • Limitations of the study

All books, newspaper articles, journal articles etc used in writing the proposal should be stated in this section. APA format of referencing is the most preferred.

This section consists of the time table and budget

Contact me for the following compilations from different sources:

How to Write a Research Project
How to Write Sections of the Methodology
How to Write Sections of the Literature Review
How to Select the Right Tests for Data Analyis
How to Write Sections of the Data Presentation and Interpretation
How to Write Sections of the Discussions, Conclusions and Recommendations

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