Skip to Main Content

Research Proposal: Purpose & Elements

A description of the purpose and elements of a research proposal.


A research proposal describes the current state of the research on an issue, defines the problem in current research, and explains how their own research will correct that problem or fill a gap, and thus contribute to greater knowledge to the issue.


Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense in academics and in business. It is taking another's language and work without citing it and therefore claiming it as your own.  The solution to plagiarism is to cite your sources. If someone says something perfectly, put the quotation in your work inside quotation marks and cite the source of the quotation (article, book, Web page, etc.). Paraphrasing should be cited as well, though it shouldn't be in quotation marks. This makes you not only ethical but well read.

Grammar Books

Below is a list of paper and e-books that can answer your questions about correct English grammar.

Elements to the Proposal

The following areas do not require the headings specified in your paper. They used here for clarity of the discussion only.

Literature Review

To know and explain the state of the topic, you must first conduct and write up the literature review. What is the state of the research? Are there common methodologies?  Has there been a gap of time in the research, making new information available and making fresh research relevant?  You are both summarizing the state of the research and putting them into a dialogue with each other.


Having explained the state of the research on the issue, explain what the problem is that provokes the need for more research.  This may be brief or lengthy depending on the issues in the topic. You do not need to address every issue you see, if there are several; your proposal may be correcting only one problem in the literature.


How is your research design or your methodology going to address the gaps, problems, or errors you pointed out in the critique?  This is where you justify your project over someone else's.  Detail how the results from your methodology will contribute to greater clarity and knowledge in the field.


These areas may bleed into each other, so don't think they need to be utterly distinct. They are pieces of the whole that should be included.

Good Web Sites for More Help

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Lisa Bartle