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What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

Need a helping hand?

definition of business research proposal

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Webinar - How to write a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics, content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

You Might Also Like:

Research Proposal Essentials: 5 Critical Dos & Don'ts


Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.


I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

Christopher Makuvaza

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.


Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful:

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again


thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you


I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂


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Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified


Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.


Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

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thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties


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I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.


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Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

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Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

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I need any research proposal


Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation


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Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

Andrea Eccleston

This article was most informative and easy to understand. I now have a good idea of how to write my research proposal.

Thank you very much.

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Wow, this literature is very resourceful and interesting to read. I enjoyed it and I intend reading it every now then.


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Thank you. Very helpful.


Thank you very much for this essential piece. I need 1o1 coaching, unfortunately, your service is not available in my country. Anyways, a very important eye-opener. I really enjoyed it. A thumb up to Gradcoach

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on June 13, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:


Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

definition of business research proposal

See editing example

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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McCombes, S. & George, T. (2023, June 13). How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved August 29, 2023, from

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, how to write a problem statement | guide & examples, writing strong research questions | criteria & examples, how to write a literature review | guide, examples, & templates, mila kwiatkowska.

Hello Shona,

Thank you for a great template and explanations. I've been searching for a long time to find a good example of a research report for my students. Your guidelines and explanations are exceptionally clear. I'm teaching technical aspects of data and databases, and the students will work on research projects in data science. I would like to use your template as an example of a project proposal. Please let me know if this is OK with you and what credentials should I include?

All the best, Mila

Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)

That's completely fine; feel free to use any of the materials from our site in your teaching. They can just be credited to Scribbr. Glad you find this a useful example!

Thank you very much. I really appreciate your materials. :) Mila

Very useful thank you. Do you have a template for the Research Paper beyond the proposal?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)

There are many different ways to structure a research paper, but we do provide templates for research paper formatting in APA, MLA, and Chicago style, as well as a full guide to writing a research paper . I hope these are helpful to you!

I'm grateful for such a comprehensive structure of the proposal. I have learned a lot, and I have questions considering the research proposal. There is given ready-made template, at the 1st page of it, I have to write my name and scientific adviser's, departure, institution and etc. Should I write my current institution of the one that I have chosen for funding?

You should usually give the name of your current institution. If you are applying to conduct the research at a different institution, I'd recommend checking with your (potential) supervisor what to include on the title page.

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What Is Proposal Writing?

Business and Academic Publications

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

As a form of persuasive writing, a proposal attempts to convince the recipient to act in accordance with the writer's intent and at the same time, it outlines the writer's goals and methods. There are multiple types of business proposals and one type of academic proposal—the research proposal. As different as these may be, they all follow a certain set of guidelines.

What Is a Proposal?

In the book "Knowledge Into Action," Wallace and Van Fleet remind us that "a proposal is a form of persuasive writing; every element of every proposal should be structured and tailored to maximize its persuasive impact."  

In  composition , especially in  business and technical writing , a proposal is a document that offers a solution to a problem or a course of action in response to a need.

On the other hand, in academic writing , a research proposal is a report that identifies the subject of a forthcoming research project , outlines a research strategy, and provides a bibliography or tentative list of references. This form can also be called a topic proposal.

Common Types of Business Proposals

From Jonathan Swift's satiric " A Modest Proposal " to the foundations of the United States government and national economy put forth in Benjamin Franklin's "An Economical Project," there is a wide variety of forms a proposal can take for business and technical writing. The most common are the internal, external, sales, and grant proposals.

Internal Proposal

An internal proposal or justification report is composed for readers within the writer's department, division, or company and is generally short in the form of a memo with the intention of solving an immediate problem.

External Proposal

External proposals, on the other hand, are designed to show how one organization can meet the needs of another. They may be either solicited, meaning in response to a request, or unsolicited, meaning without any assurance that the proposal will even be considered.

Sales Proposal

A sales proposal is, as Philip C. Kolin puts it in "Successful Writing at Work," the most common external proposal the purpose of which "is to sell your company's brand, its products, or services for a set fee." Regardless of the length, a sales proposal must offer a detailed description of the work the writer proposes to do and can be used as a marketing tool to entice potential buyers.

Grant Proposal

Finally, a grant proposal is a document or an application completed in response to a call for proposals issued by a grant-making agency. The two main components of a grant proposal are a formal application for funding and a detailed report on what activities the grant will support if funded.

Structure of a Business Proposal

Business proposals are somewhat similar to business plans , in that they outline your business's mission and vision and provide concrete steps towards your goals. The proposals may be formal and informal, but they tend to follow one type of structure and should be tailored to your product and your customer's needs

If you find yourself writing an informal business proposal, you can skip the research-exhaustive steps outlined below and simply stick with a comprehensive overview of your points without necessarily backing them up with research. If your task is to write a formal business proposal, you can omit or adjust certain parts, but you need to include a lot of research.

Sections of a Typical Business Plan

  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Statement of the Problem/Customer's Needs
  • Proposed Solution (With Methodology)
  • Your Bios and Qualifications
  • Terms and Conditions

Suggestions for a Successful Proposal

  • Proofread your writing multiple times and even have someone else read it for you.
  • Your executive summary should be extremely strong. Think of it as an extended "elevator pitch," where every sentence and every word are loaded with meaning.
  • Make sure you show that you understand and restate your audience's needs accurately and completely.
  • Sell your project on both logical and psychological levels. Be clear about the steps of your methodology and align your solution and your overall mission with your audience's values.

Research Proposals

When enrolled in an academic or writer-in-residence program, a student may be asked to write another unique form of proposal, the research proposal.

This form requires the writer to describe the intended research in full detail, including the problem the research is addressing, why it's important, what research has been conducted before in this field, and how the student's project will accomplish something unique.

Elizabeth A. Wentz describes this process in "How to Design, Write, and Present a Successful Dissertation Proposal," as "your plan for creating new knowledge . " Wentz also emphasizes the importance of writing these in order to provide structure and provide focus on the objectives and methodology of the project itself.

In "Designing and Managing Your Research Project," David Thomas and Ian D. Hodges also note that the research proposal is a time to shop the idea and project out to peers in the same field, who can provide valuable insight into the project's objectives.

Thomas and Hodges note that "colleagues, supervisors, community representatives, potential research participants, and others can look at the details of what you are planning to do and provide  feedback ," which can help solidify methodology and importance as well as catch any mistakes the writer may have made in their research.

Best Practices for Writing Research Proposals

When undertaking a large project such as writing an academic proposal, make sure you familiarize yourself with your university's guidance and consult your advisor. Similarly to the business proposals, research proposals also tend to follow a certain template, such as the one outlined below.

With research proposals, too, you have the flexibility of excluding certain parts. However, some sections need to be included no matter what, and as such, they have been bolded for you.

Sections of a Typical Research Proposal

  • Purpose of a Research Proposal
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Research Design and Methods
  • Implications and Contribution to Knowledge
  • Reference List or Bibliography
  • Research Schedule
  • Revisions and Proofreading

Key Questions

No matter whether you decide to write a comprehensive research proposal and devote yourself extensively to every section mentioned above or if you simply address a few of them, you should always make sure you answer the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish?
  • Why do you want to do the research?
  • How are you going to conduct the research?
  • Wallace, Danny P., and Van Fleet Connie Jean.  Knowledge into Action: Research and Evaluation in Library and Information Science . Libraries Unlimited, 2012.
  • Kolin, Philip C.  Successful Writing at Work . Cengage Learning, 2017.
  • Wentz, Elizabeth A.  How to Design, Write, and Present a Successful Dissertation Proposal . SAGE, 2014.
  • Hodges, Ian D., and David C. Thomas.  Designing and Managing Your Research Project: Core Knowledge for Social and Health Researchers . SAGE, 2010.
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Business proposal

Last updated: 30 May, 2023

What is a business proposal?

Types of business proposals, customer request types.

  • How to write a business proposal?

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“How to make a business proposal?” — a question that, perhaps, any B2B startup has faced at least once.

Successful selling consists of many components, with the quality product or service being just one of them. Sometimes, a sales presentation or business proposal can boost a customer’s sales funnel movement and increase the number of successfully closed deals. 

Here, we’ll explain the differences between types of business proposals and give some valuable tips on how to write them.

A business proposal is aimed at attracting potential clients with what a company sells.

It’s a document in either digital or printed form that explains product or service features, taking into consideration the lead’s needs and wants. In other words, business proposals show how a company can help solve a customer’s specific problem. 

Business proposals can be solicited and unsolicited.

A solicited proposal is sent upon customer request and can be formal or informal. An unsolicited proposal is sent out as a base test and, in this sense, is similar to a cold email .

Consider these business proposal examples:

Informally solicited proposal

Company A has discovered Company B and got interested in its products. As the result of an informal conversation between the two, Company A asks for a document to learn more details about the product’s quality, shipping terms, pricing options, etc. It isn’t obliged to respond to the offer.

Formally solicited proposal

Company A is a regular client of Company B and has already figured out what it needs. It’s willing to place an order and wants to double-check the terms before paying.

Company A asks Company B to send a business proposal, containing item names, prices, shipping details, etc. After receiving an offer, it’s obliged to respond during an agreed period. In case Company A agrees to the terms, the offer will turn into a legally binding purchasing agreement.

Unsolicited proposal

Company B runs a lead gen campaign and wants to inform Company A about services offered. It creates a general proposal that contains an introduction of Company B, its expertise, terms for cooperation, partnership programs, and other business-related information.

Email drip campaigns

Although solicited business proposals are made upon the request from a prospect , clients’ requests may differ, depending on the number of details included:

Request for information

RFI is a request that buyers issue for discovery purposes, e.g., to compare products, services, or vendors present on the market.

Request for proposal

This is an in-depth document that asks for a formally solicited business proposal. A buyer may send RFPs to several vendors and then choose the best offer.

Request for quotation

Also known as the Invitation for Bid, RFQ is issued when a customer wants to purchase a specific service or product and compares prices on the market. Unlike RFPs where clients consider time estimates, provider’s experience, and other terms, RFQs are issued to make a choice based on the price. 

It’s also issued in case of a prolonged deal registration process. To reduce financial or currency risks, the company requests a quote (as a sort of a promise) from a supplier to assure the right to buy the product at a specified price in the future.

How to write a business proposal in 8 steps

There is no conventional design or structure you should use for the proposal, so you may either compile it by yourself or pick up a fitting business proposal template, for example, on PandaDoc , Jotform , or Canva and adjust it to your case.

Still, there are some common elements to include in your business proposal: 

1. Title Page: Present your company name, client’s name, and proposal date.

Here you should put your name, your company’s name, and a proposal title, say “Web design proposal” or “App software development.” You can also add the proposal’s starting date, your company’s registered address, phone, email, logo, and the name of the prospect.

Example of business proposal title page (Source: PandaDoc)

2. Table of Contents: Provide an overview of the sections in your proposal

If your proposal isn’t a single-page document, it’s a common courtesy that you list all chapters and specify pages. Besides, you can add hyperlinks to the document to make it easier to navigate.

3. Executive Summary: Summarize your proposed solution

This is a separate-page chapter where you briefly describe who you are, what you do, and the purpose of contacting. You can also list how the customer will benefit if they choose your company, for example, “turnkey service provision,” “insurance coverage,” “dedicated manager or consultant,” and so on.

4. Main Body: Detail the problem, solution, implementation plan, and outcomes

Here you should list initial requirements from the client and precisely describe how you’re going to meet them, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. 

For example:

To deliver marketing automation for Company A, we will carry out several works:

  • Gathering data — [Date completed]
  • Setting up CRM — [Date completed]
  • Transferring the existing customer database to CRM — [Date completed]
  • Testing CRM’s work — [Date completed]
  • Connecting CRM with marketing automation tools — [Date completed]
  • Test tools’ work  — [Date completed]
  • Training consultation  — [Date completed]
  • Training deliver — [Date completed]

The level of precision is up to you and your client; however, it’s better to be as specific as possible. If you respond to RFPs or RFQs, you can add a correspondence matrix — a table where customer’s requirements are matched with the proposal’s page numbers or chapters.

Example of business p

5. Additional Clauses: Include any special terms or conditions

If some details may vary, e.g., you predict that some additional costs can occur during the agreement execution, mention them in this chapter.

6. Pricing and Billing: Detail the costs, payment schedules, and methods

Specify the exact sum and payment details. You can also include shipping terms, in case there’s goods delivery.

7. Terms and Conditions: Define the rules of the agreement

Wrap up your offer — mention the expected duration, payment methods, and schedule.

8. Acceptance Page: Provide space for the client to confirm agreement

This is a page for approval signatures. The client can either send you the letter of acceptance or sign the initial proposal, depending on the prior agreement with you.

definition of business research proposal

And here’s one more tip!

If you want to learn how to create a business proposal in a particular niche, write an RFI and mail it to competing companies. This doesn’t oblige both parties to proceed with some further actions, and you can check out the document’s general structure, length, word choice, and so on.

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Research Proposal: Definition, Purpose, & Writing Steps

Few students fully get the meaning and the importance of a research proposal. If you have a good research proposal, it means that you are going to carry out adequate research. A low-quality research proposal may be the reason your research will never start.

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The main purpose of a research proposal is to convince the reader of your project’s value . You will have to prove that you have a plan for your work and that your project will be successful. Your reader has to be sure that it is not another useless piece of writing, but a profound research work that will be extremely important for science.

The main purpose of a research proposal is to convince the reader of your project's value.

Want to learn more about the reasons why it is important to have a research plan? Continue reading this article by experts!

  • 🔤 Definition
  • ❗ Purpose & Importance
  • 👣 Writing Steps

🔗 References

🔤 research proposal: definition.

A research proposal is a document that proposes a particular research project, usually in academia or sciences, intending to get funding from an institution. A typical research proposal addresses a range of points:

  • A research question(s) that the proposed research seeks to answer
  • The data & methods that will be used to answer the questions
  • The time and financial costs for the research
  • The prior research in the field
  • Potential benefits for the sponsoring institution

Research proposals are usually required when one plans to write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper. The format is similar to that of a research paper, with an introduction, a literature review, a methods section, and a conclusion.

❗ Research Proposal: Purpose & Importance

The primary goal of any research proposal is to convince a sponsoring institution that a particular research project is worthwhile. The document usually aims to cover the aspects below.

👣 Making a Research Plan in 10 Steps

Research proposal topics.

  • A research proposal on staff attitudes to physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) . 
  • Research the aspects of corporate social responsibility integration for multinational companies. 
  • Explore the efficacy of speaker recognition technology for the crime rate reduction.  
  • Analyze the peculiarities of Nigeria’s healthcare system and the problems it faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • Marketing research proposal : study the skill deficiencies of the students of the current occupational training programs and their influence on the job perspectives.  
  • Write a research proposal on the examination of asthma risk factors for African immigrants.  
  • Research proposal on the connection between hypertension and chronic kidney disease .  
  • Conduct research on cyber terrorism as a political weapon.  
  • Explore the effective programs for asthma education among adolescents .   
  • Research proposal on the controversy of the second amendment .  
  • Examine the impact of Nokia’s marketing strategy on its product popularity and the company’s share price.  
  • Analyze the current situation of VEGA medical center and the necessity to implement sustainable change.  
  • Formulate a research proposal on the sustainable innovation strategy implementation methods for logistics companies.   
  • Research proposal on homeland security in the United States .  
  • Study the most efficient ways to implement a harm reduction approach in healthcare practice.  
  • Research the efficacy of current procedures of early ventilator-associated pneumonia diagnostics.  
  • Explore and compare the consumer behavior of generation Y in the USA and China.  
  • Research proposal on the usefulness of the mobile app English at Hands implementation in educational establishments’ curricula.  
  • Justice in healthcare: a research proposal . 
  • Analyze whether watching movies can be considered an effective method of foreign language practice. 
  • Examine the most widespread reasons for medical personnel shortage in low-income countries.  
  • Research proposal on the current state of McDonald’s company . 
  • Study the effect of lowering high-calorie food consumption on human health and life quality.  
  • Write a research proposal on the effect of technology on human health and living conditions.  
  • Explore the connection between congestive heart failure and air travel. 
  • Study the role of government in enhancing the sustainable innovation strategy implementation rates. 
  • Research the use of BMP in improving e-government security.  
  • Analyze the necessity of health teaching to middle-aged women.  
  • Research proposal on the online buying site ViaBela .  
  • Examine the current methods of suicide prevention among geriatric patients.  
  • Write a research proposal on the investigation of the COVID-19 lockdown on people with mental health issues .  
  • Explore and compare consumers’ corporate social responsibility awareness in different countries.  
  • Study the use of the national DNA database for law enforcement.  
  • Research the specifics and the ways to eliminate narcoterrorism in Mexico .  
  • Examine the contemporary ways to prevent Clostridium difficile infection .  
  • Research proposal on the advantages and disadvantages of skin-to-skin contact after labor .  
  • Explore the reasons for inadequate nurse staffing and its impact on the level of healthcare service.   
  • Anasarca and acute renal failure: a research proposal . 
  • Analyze whether telephone follow-ups will help to improve the satisfaction and life quality of diabetic patients. 
  • Write a research proposal on the safety and efficiency of fad diets .  
  • Research proposal on capital punishment application .  
  • Examine the benefits and drawbacks of wireless technologies for modern business organizations.  
  • Research the reasons that influence the participation rates of African Americans in clinical trials . 
  • Study how motivational interviews can reduce childhood obesity rates.  
  • Research proposal on the role of e-marketing strategies in business development.  
  • Analyze the connection between critical thinking and mass media literacy .  
  • Explore the benefits of medicine computerization .  
  • Research proposal on green supply chain management . 
  • Examine the impact of computer technology development on criminology . 
  • Conduct intersectionality research on prejudices against Asian American women.  
  • Writing a Research Proposal (USC Library Guides)
  • Writing a research proposal – Research & Learning Online
  • How to write a research proposal? – NCBI
  • How to Write a Research Proposal – University of Birmingham
  • How To Write an Academic Research Proposal
  • How to write a research proposal (Yale College)
  • How to write a research proposal for a strong PhD application (University of Sydney)
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Sup guys! I need definitions about research defined by scholars and year of publication plz🙏

Very informative, as for social science student. 😍

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We are so grateful for your feedback! Much appreciated.

Thanks a lot dear!! Many information gained

Glad you liked it! Thank you for your feedback!

Thanks it’s so much easier and helpful who are work first time in research proposal like me It’s interesting but I can’t decided what topic I researching for my collage project or which topic is better 🙂 so I need a guide line or instructions for choosing a good topic

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This is informative and inspiring paper for me👏👏

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