How to Write a Science Research Proposal

Writing a scientific research proposal requires an understanding of what needs to be said and how to say it.

Writing a science research proposal is a major part of working and studying in academia. Many inexperienced researchers, upon writing their first research proposal, write from the standpoint of their own interests and do not understand there is a protocol for writing proposals. There is a fundamental format that experienced researchers use when writing a proposal, and this format allows the researchers to increase their chances of gaining acceptance. The main parts of a scientific research proposal include an introduction, hypothesis, methodology, data analysis and importance.

Write the introduction. In the introduction you should give background that will provide the framework on which you will present your idea. By reading the introduction the reader should have a clear idea as to where your research fits into the general field. If your scientific research will be looking at a specific area, you should include a review of the pertinent literature in your introduction.

State the problem that you want to investigate. You should make sure that the stated problem is well-defined using terms from your field. In writing this section, imagine the reader is well-educated in your field but does not know anything about the problem that you wish to examine. The problem should be clearly stated before you explain why you want to investigate it.

Give the reason for your interest in this problem. In other words, tell the readers the purpose of this scientific research. Be as explicit as possible, and prepare to suggest your hypothesis.

State your hypothesis. Since you have already given your literature review, it is clear to the reader how far the research in this area has progressed. Thus, you should be able to tell the reader what the past research likely implies regarding your question of interest. Make sure you clearly specify what variables are included, and which are dependent and independent. In this section you should also include the implications of your hypothesis; assuming your hypothesis is true, state what this will mean for the future of your field.

Outline the methods your research will employ. Here you should use extreme detail to let the readers know you have fully thought your research through. List the steps your study will include, as well as how each step makes progress to confirming your hypothesis. Whether your scientific research is experimental or not, there will be sources of error and confounders that you must take into account; you will need to discuss how you plan to control such variables.

Describe your means of data analysis. You should not merely state what kind of statistical or mathematical analyses you will use, but also why you have selected them. Allow the reader to understand the reasons behind choosing your analyses; for example, if your purpose is prediction, explain why you would choose a deterministic mathematical model over a correlational one.

Testify to the importance of your study. Your proposal will ultimately receive a yes/no answer from the committee reading it. If your hope is to receive a “yes,” having a good research plan is not enough -- you must also explain why this research is important to your scientific field. You can do this by showing that your research offers something new to the field and can answer previously unanswered questions.

  • 1 "How to Prepare a Research Proposal: Guidelines for Funding and Dissertations in the Social and Behavioral Sciences"; David Krathwohl; 1988
  • 2 "Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handout"; David Silverman; 2010

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.