8 Points to include in a Research Proposal


Want to do a research? Here are some of the key points you need to include while preparing a research proposal. These points are recommended to make your research proposal comprehensive and complete. So let’s take each point one by one.

Problem Formulation

This is the introductory part of your proposal. In this section you have to identify and define the problem area which you will be addressing through your research. This can be further divided into 3 steps:

Defining the problem

In social work we usually try to study social phenomena which hampers human development or prove to be oppressive to a specific group. The aim is always to find solutions to the existing conditions like deprivation, marginalization, poverty, inequality etc. Therefore it becomes very important to choose a problem in a society and find solutions for it. For this, one problem area like drug addiction, juvenile delinquency, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy etc. is identified and its impact on the society is defined.

Identify the variables and their interrelationship

After you have defined the area of the problem you need to narrow down to more specific statements. So the next thing you want to propose is the variables which you would be focusing on. For eg. If you want to conduct a study in the area of illiteracy, then you must specify which group you will be dealing. Whether it would be female illiteracy, male illiteracy, illiteracy among children, illiteracy among tribal population etc. Suppose you want to study illiteracy among tribal population. Then your specific statement can be there is high rate of illiteracy among tribal population, they are economically weak and they lack accessibility to resources. Statements in light of theoretical framework of previous research in that particular area is to be made. Here review of literature plays an important part in this task

The significance of the particular research

It is also very important to identify the significance of a particular research which means that whether the findings would contribute to the knowledge base and up to what extent. What kind of solutions is expected from the study etc. If already such studies have been carried out in the past then there is no significance of doing it again.

Review of Literature

The next and very significant part of your proposal is the review of literature. It provides the background for problem formulation as well development of the hypothesis or research questions. It helps the researcher to understand the perspective and view points of other researchers and their findings. The researcher through literature review can also identify the gaps in previous research undertaken. Based on the review of literature the researcher formulates the hypothesis or assumptions. It will help you to finalize the topic of your research and define the objectives of the study.

In the present era there are several types of resources available from where a researcher can review literature. For instance, books are the most traditional form of source for literature. These can provide a strong theoretical base for the topic of the research. Another very important source is journals and periodicals. Journal have research articles which provide significant information about research methodologies applied and findings of other researchers. Research findings undertaken by many institutions are published in the form of reports which can be accessed for literature review. E-resources are the most vast source having a plethora of literature. One can sit at one place and access the literature at a global level. Data bases like Jstore, ProQuest, EBSCO host etc. are very commonly used E-resources by researchers. One very important aspect of literature review is the citation of the literature studied. More detail on this is provided under the “References” point.

Research Design

The next section is the description of the research design. The research design is the blueprint of the strategies and procedure to be applied for carrying out the research. There are various types of research and the researcher has to apply any one as per the requirement and nature of the research study. There are broadly three types of research carried out in social work Exploratory study, Descriptive study, Quasi-experimental research.

Exploratory research

Exploratory research is carried out to discover or explore an already existing social phenomena. The purpose is to generate hypothesis for further studies and provide a background for future research in this area. Some of the exploratory research are Survey, case study, Action research etc.

Descriptive research:

Another important type of research is the descriptive research design. Its main purpose is to provide details about a particular phenomena, community or demography. It focuses on answering what rather than why. Its mainly of two types ,i.e, longitudinal or cross-sectional.


Another very widely used research design in social work is quasi-experimental. This research design aims to establish a causal relationship between two variables. It is widely used in evaluation of social intervention programs. Types include Ex-post facto, Time series analysis etc.
You have to give a brief description and justification of whatever research design you will be choosing for your study.

Population/Universe and Sampling

Once you have explained the research design, the next step is to define the population of the study. Population or Universe is the broad set of people to whom the generalizations of the study would be applicable. For eg., if you want to study illiteracy among tribal population then you may need to specify whether your population is whole of India or is it a particular state like Chhattisgarh or Nagaland etc. Defining the population will help you to narrow down your sampling frame and the sample size.
If your population or universe is India then you will draw your sample from all over India and if your sample is one state then your sampling frame would be that particular state. Accordingly, the sampling design is decided and a short explanation is required to be given in the proposal.

Tools of Data Collection

There are various techniques for collecting the data as per the design of the study. They are broadly categorized as quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative tools are questionnaire and interview schedule whereas qualitative tools are interviews, Case study, Focus Group Discussion etc.

Data Analysis

A section on data analysis plan also needs to be included in the proposal. Various analysis tools like statistical analysis or thematic analysis need to be mentioned. These days various softwares are also available for analysis of large scale data like SPSS, STATA etc. You can propose any one as per the requirement of your study. In brief, the procedure for analysis of the data needs to be explained.

Chapter scheme

The last section would be the tentative chapter plan which you propose for your thesis. The thesis would consist of different chapters and it has to be documented in an organized manner and the chapter plan gives an idea about the sequence of your presentation of your study. Therefore, a chapter plan is a must for in your proposal.


It is a very significant part of your research proposal. Adding references gives authenticity to your work. Whatever literature you are referring to and citing, has to be mentioned in the references section as per various approved referencing style like Chicago style, APA referencing style etc.
Inclusion of the above stated points would give you clarity and a blueprint of the study which you wish to undertake and better chances of your proposal being accepted.


So these were the essential points you need to include and build upon to get your research proposal accepted by the institution of your desire.

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