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Research Proposals from Paper Masters

Paper Masters custom writes all research proposals and will provide a proposal on any topic and in any academic discipline. Below is an outline of how the typical research proposal is outlined.

A written Research Proposal is often a compulsory element of the Postgraduate Diploma Course and for the approval of the Master's Degree dissertation topic.

The Written Research Proposal

Student thinking about research proposal
The research proposal is a document that describes and discusses the essential features of a study to be conducted in the future, actual or hypothetical.

An effectively constructed research proposal will identify and make clear the exact nature of the assumptions, content, and approaches which need to be managed and mastered for the successful completion of the research program. It is also intended to indicate whether you are able to take the research further towards a Master's Degree dissertation.


Content of the Research Proposal

On submission the Research Proposal should be approximately 4,000 words in length and should include the following features:

  1. Provisional Title – representing the research as it stands (although it might not be the title of any completed dissertation in the future)
  2. Table of Contents - including table of figures and tables
  3. Abstract – a short synopsis of the proposal (200-300 words)
  4. Introduction/background – providing the general subject area and background of the proposed research as well as specific aspects of the topic to be investigated.
  5. Rationale with literature review - explaining the reasons for undertaking the research by relating it to a preliminary literature review dealing with the relevant theory, practice and research already existing in the field. This preliminary survey of the relevant literature should include the key sources that have helped shape the underlying ideas for the research and provide justification for the significance of the research problem.
  6. Aims and objectives – the aim will express the overall intention of the research while the objectives will express the various elements of investigation necessary to achieve this aim.
  7. Methodology and theoretical approaches– should discuss the proposed methodological, technical and theoretical approaches to be developed and applied during the research in order to address the overall aim. It should also indicate the strategies to be used to identify the literature which will provide the conceptual framework to the research and the appropriate methods of analysis.
  8. Plan of action – should outline the practical steps necessary to fulfill the stated objectives and propose a realistic work schedule identifying the stages and timescales of the research. This could be presented in the form of a Gantt chart (see appendix 1 for example)
  9. Resource Requirements – should identify and discuss essential and likely resource requirements, e.g. visits to information services, interviews, computer facilities, and sources of funds if necessary. If you intend to pursue the research at the Master level, it is essential that permission from organizations likely to be involved in your research is granted at the proposal stage.
  10. Ethical considerations –these should constitute a dedicated section where you demonstrate that you have considered potential ethical problems, particularly if you are undertaking empirical research. In order to familiarize yourself with this aspect of the research process, you are encouraged to consult youruniversity’s Research Ethics policy. Also the proposal must be accompanied by a signed and completed Ethics Review form (SPER form) which sets out any ethical considerations pertaining to the research.
  11. Conclusion - The Research Proposal may finish with a brief final statement summarizing the above points and/or adding any extra relevant information.
  12. References - It is essential that you cite the works which you have used to prepare your proposal. In line with the School’s policy citations should adhere to the Harvard format but, in certain circumstances following guidance of the supervisor, an alternative system may be used.
  13. Appendices - these may include any material which support the proposal (e.g. sample questionnaires, interview schedules, coding sheets). This is not included in the word count.

Submission of a Research Proposal to Your University

The Research Proposal should be word-processed on A4 paper, with text on one side of each sheet. It should include a formal title page and be accompanied by the completed and signed SPER form. Your work should be one-and-a-half or double-spaced, with wide margins on both sides, top and bottom. You are required to submit two unbound hard copies, as one will be kept by the supervisor for future reference during the supervision of the Masters dissertation.

Rationale/aims and objectives
Coherent discussion of key issues which have been identified through critical analysis of the relevant literature; realistic understanding of the component of the research field; clearly stated research problem; well focused aim followed by specific and realistic objectives indicating how the aim will be achieved.

Methodology/plan of action
Clear understanding of different research methodologies and the philosophy underpinning them; strong rationale for the selection of the proposed methods; when appropriate, description of the data gathering procedures and sampling of objects of study.

Coherent development of the thought process leading to a logical sequencing of the components of the proposal.

Writing style/presentation/citation
Use of grammatically correct language free of typographical errors; appropriate and consistent referencing system and citation structure; use of appropriate headings and sub-divisions.

Commitment and initiative during the research proposal stage and response and actions taken following guidance from supervisor.

Research projects will only be supervised and allowed to go forward if a research proposal has been submitted and approved. Proposals approved by the School will be passed to External Examiners for information.

It is likely that most topics prepared in fulfillment of the Research Methods module requirements, will be topics which students subsequently investigate for their Master's Degree dissertation. This is not, however, a formal requirement and you are free to undertake research for the dissertation in a different area. If you elect to do this, another short Research Proposal (approx. 2,000 words) for the new topic must be submitted for approval either to your supervisor or module leader.

Students who undertake the Master’s dissertation should appreciate that academic research at Masters level is a lengthy process which requires ongoing refinement of ideas and possible adjustment of proposed methods. It is recommended that you meet with your supervisor before the summer vacation and agree a program of drafting of chapters. Expect each chapter to go through several drafts before the final dissertation is ready for submission. It is therefore important that sufficient time is left before the final submission date for this process of re-drafting and editing to take place in order not to jeopardize chances of success.

A research proposal presents research as an important part of the repertoire of any professional, particularly in the light of recent emphasis on evidence-based practice and the reflective practitioner. The module will introduce a variety of research approaches and methods, principles of research design, and practical examples which would be as relevant in professional life as in academic research. In the context of your academic life, the research proposal also acts as underpinning for the Masters dissertation.

In the early part of your graduate program, you will have the opportunity to discuss possible topics with designated lecturers and prospective supervisor while the lectures will present ideas on appropriate methods to use. Regardless of whether students choose to continue to the Masters dissertation the Research Methods module presents a range of transferable skills and knowledge which are considered important in professional life. It is regarded as a core part of the course, and you are expected to undertake the module.

The graduate program progresses from a more general overview of the research process and design to more specific topics covering particular research methods.

We begin by examining why research and research skills are important professionally, before looking briefly at the underlying theories that shape contemporary research in the social sciences and the humanities. The module will then focus on examples of specific approaches such as:

  • experimentation
  • surveys (using quantitative and qualitative methods)
  • case studies, observations
  • content analysis and discourse analysis
  • historical research
  • hermeneutics (text-based research)

The range of research approaches listed above encompasses the different views on social research ranging from empirical and quasi-scientific approaches to more interpretive approaches. Some will be more relevant to you than others, depending on your chosen topic, the tradition of your discipline and, of course, your personal motivation behind your research.

Selection of the Research Topic

You will be asked to develop research ideas and identify a research topic at the beginning of the module and, according to their nature, you will be assigned to a suitable tutor. It is important that you choose a topic in which you have a strong and genuine interest. You are going to spend much time researching the topic you choose, and it is essential that you are enthusiastic about it.

Ideas for your research may come from previous study and experience. They may be stimulated by the topics covered in the taught parts of the course, introduced by staff in discussions and tutorials, or suggested by reading. Previous study may also have stimulated your interest. Perhaps you felt you did not have time to explore a topic in the depth you wanted to – the Masters Dissertation could be your opportunity to rectify that, and the Research Proposal is your starting point. Your choice of topic may even be influenced by your own career aspirations or personal interests as long as the research issues relate to the themes of the course. You should also bear in mind that, while you have substantial freedom in the choice of topic, your final decision should be made in conjunction with the module leader and your prospective Research Proposal supervisor. The primary constraints on the selection of the topic are:

  1. The research must be relevant to the broad area of your course
  2. The research will sustain a Masters-level investigation and be capable of treatment at a breadth and depth which will enable you meet the aims and objectives of both the Research Proposal and the Dissertation
  3. The topic can be adequately researched with the resources available to you
  4. There must be a member of staff from the University who is both willing and able to supervise the research

It is understandable that there may be a repetition of similar topics from year to year and within the same year. However, it is unlikely that your research would follow a similar methodology and exactly the same objectives even though the topic may be in a similar area to that of another student. For example it may be from a different point of view or in a different context.

Finally, if you who are undertaking the course on a part-time basis while in employment should be very careful about choosing a topic ‘for’ your employer. The most important thing about your research topic should be that it is something which will go beyond the type of ‘development project’ as the latter is likely not to fulfil the requirements of a Masters dissertation in terms intellectual input. It is also very important that the topic chosen should keep your interest for the next few months!

Group discussion in tutorials at the beginning of the semester should be helpful to generate ideas or clarify initial thoughts. However the main opportunity for clarification and refinement of the ideas will take place once the basic topic has been approved and a specific supervisor assigned to work with you on an individual basis. It is therefore in your interest not to delay the submission of your topic(s) as the allocation of tutors will work on a first come first served basis. Once the quota of individual staff is full, you may be asked to submit another topic or accept to be allocated to a tutor who is not an expert on your chosen topic.