Research Proposal Functions and its Elements

Research Proposal, its Functions and its Elements
By Saeeda Ina

A: What is Research Proposal?

The research proposal is a blue print of the proposed project. It can be compared with the blue print of a building, which is prepared by an architect before the bids are let and the construction is started. It is also called the outline or the synopsis of the study.

The research proposal is a plan of action and a strategy to be carried out according to the objectives of the study. It is the plan or the strategy, which counts more than it could, carried out in mechanical fashion.

The preparation of a research proposal is an important step in the research process. All research institutions require that a proposal must be prepared and submitted for approval before work is started on the project. Improving procedures in a research activity are important, but it is not sufficient if they are not carefully planned and systematically carried out. A worthwhile research project is likely to result only form a well-designed proposal. The initial draft proposal is subjects to modifications in the light of analysis by the student himself and his project adviser, and other members of the advisory committee.

B:      Functions of the Research Proposal

As can be derived form its concept, the research proposal may serve the following functions:

1.               It provides guidelines to the researcher for adopting the systematic approach towards the solution of the problems.

2.               It provides a basis for the evaluation of the proposal by researcher’s. it makes aware the researcher of the problems and difficulties he/she will have face in his study

3.               It restores confidence in researcher about the feasibility and worth of his investigations.

4.               It stimulates the researcher and moves him to the goal of completing his project

5.               It also enables the adviser to assess the progress of work of his advisee at regular intervals   

C:      What is not a good proposal

What is a good proposal or what is not a good proposal is an important question to be looked into by the research student and his adviser. It is in the interest of the research student to understand the characteristics of a good proposal and to avoid certain unsuitable subject for inquiry. It is not easy for a research student to find a problem suitable for research if he/she has not developed a clear concept of the system or a thorough understanding of the area he has specialized in his programme and intends to undertake a related problem. The soundness of a project depends more on the nature of the problem. As a general rule, if a problem is formulated any of the following terms, it would be unsuitable for research, and therefore, so framed, would not provide clear guidelines and direction to the researcher.  

a.                If the problem is too broad and complex to be handled in one inquiry

b.               If the problem is too subjective and is based on personal opinion or whims of the researcher or of others which cannot be supported by facts

c.                If the problem is of highly controversial because of the nature of the material one’s own pre-conception

d.               If the problem is too familiar and does not lead to some unknown domain of knowledge

e.                If the problem is too technical and of complex nature for which the researcher has no theoretical background

Major elements of the proposal  

It is, now, interrelated to discuss briefly the important parts of the research proposal. This discussion is confined to the place and the adviser of a research student can perceive role of each element as.

1.              Problem of the Study

One of the most difficult problems for a research student is the selection of a suitable problem. How it can be identified? What are its resources? What are suitable problem areas from which a problem could be picked up? The answers of such questions are not in the purview of this paper. The advisor’s main concern is to look into the suitability and feasibility of the problem selected by him/her for inquiry. In proposal, the adviser has to see that the problem selected for investigation by the researcher is:

a.                Significant in view of the educational theory an practice,
b.               Appropriate to the effectively solved through the process of research,
c.                Feasible to the carried through a successful conclusion
d.               Opens doors for future investigation
e.                Possess practical value to the evolutionists, students, parents and community
f.                 Enjoys the characteristics of originality and novelty
g.                Enjoys the characteristics of interest and desire of the researcher

2.       Statement of the problem

The selection of the problem ultimately leads to the analysis of the problem. After singling out relevant facts, explanation, causing the difficulty and tracing their relationship, the researcher then state them in to a formal descriptive statement. The quality of such statement is that it gives a unified picture of the problem in all its dimensions.

The basic issue is to be considered in the proposal is that how far the statement of the problem has been thoroughly viewed through a logical, theoretical or conceptual frame work and passed through the process of selection and execution and finally reduced to manageable size.  Other attributes expected of a good problem statements are that;

a.                It has been expressed in simple terms
b.               It has been expressed in clear and unambiguous terms
c.                It relates to general incedents
d.               It justifies its significance
e.                It indicates possibilities of empirical testing

3.    Objectives of the study

When a problem for a research purpose is selected and its conceptual framework is determined for sharpening its focus, the third essential step is to state its objectives. The problem of the study and the objectives of the study are not the same. If a problem signifies the relationship of variables, the objectives are how to eliminate such factors in future. Thus the objectives are the product, which are perceived by the student to be accomplished through his study. While checking the research proposal, the advisor has to see that objectives so framed, for investigations are,

a.                Not free- floating
b.               Realistic enough to be realized
c.                Significant in the sense that they add to new knowledge already known
d.               Evolved from the conceptual frame
e.                Contributing to the social utility
f.                 Contributing to the enhancement of scientific interest

4.    Hypothesis/questions

 Statement of the hypotheses or questions is the fourth essential element of the study and of the proposal. After the problem is identified, statement is sharpened and objectives narrow down to the ultimate end, hypotheses are formulated in two step process

a.                Selecting key question to be persuaded
b.               Operationalizing the definitions that will be employed for the major variables in the study 

In research the term hypothesis implies deviation within a hypothetical-deductive theoretical system of a particular assertion or prediction. In simple words hypotheses are tentative answers to the questions. They are shrewd educated guesses. They are subjected to test for confirmation or dis-conformation on empirical grounds. They are usually stated in positive or literary from; however, the statistical hypotheses are stated in negative or null form.

Hypotheses are to be developed when the degree of sophistication of conceptual framework is high approximating that of a hypothetical- deductive theory, while questions are more appropriate when the degree of sophistication is low and rigorous deduction are either not required or possible.

The guide of a research student is interested to see that he has formulated major hypotheses and several other minor hypotheses in his proposal. They are expected to establish clearly the nature of the problem and the logic underlying it. Hypotheses so formulated or questions so framed are expected to possess some other characteristics such as:

a.                They are reasonable
b.               They are consistent with objectives
c.                They are stated in simple possible terms
d.               They can tested and found accepted or rejected
e.                They are verifiable
f.                 They have been inferred from the theory or conceptual framework in straightforward deductive manner.
g.                They are limited in scope
h.                They are consistent with known facts
i.                 They posses the validating quality

5.    Review of the related literature

As mentioned earlier, in a theoretical framework clarification and isolation are important decisions to be logically taken by the researcher, but these decisions depend upon the insight imagination and rationality of the researcher. If the researcher is unable to develop such understanding, this conceptual framework on which the entire research rests, will remain vague and confused. This is one of the reasons that the study of the related literature is emphasized. It helps the researcher to realize how many facts of the problem exist and what other logical framework has been applied to solve the same problem earlier.

A researcher which is not based on the review of the related literature, may remain in isolated study, having, at least, only accidental relevance to what has gone before. Synthesis of major studies helps the researcher to outline the problem area and suggests answers for further research.

While studying the related literature a researcher may come to know what has been done? And what is still to be done? It helps him/her to eliminate the repetition or duplication of what has already been investigated. It also provides useful hypotheses.

In the proposal, the researcher is required to chalk out a plan of what is most important to be reviewed.

Such review should include:

a.                Reported problem or closely related problems
b.               Research designs of various nature
c.                Designs of studies used, including procedures, instruments etc.
d.               Population have been studied
e.                Variables that could have affected the findings
f.                 Weaknesses that were apparent in the previous studies
g.                Suggestions for further studies provided in the research reports
h.                Policy statements of the Government related to the area of the study
i.                 Special reports prepared by national or international agencies on the subject

6.    Research Procedure/design

This part of the proposal outlines the entire research plan to be carried out. It mainly describes

a.                What must be done?
b.               How it will be done?
c.                What data will be needed?
d.               What data-collecting device will be used?
e.                How sources of data will be located?
f.                 How data will be organized?
g.                How data will be analyzed and conclusions drawn?

7.    Time Schedule

The time schedule will be the last element of the proposal. It indicated perhaps of the project activities. It should be prepared in advance so that the researcher could budget his time and energy effectively. Dividing the project into phases and assigning each phase deadline for its completion helps to synthesis and regularize the research work and minimizing the natural tendency to procrastinate. In view of the critical time limitation, time scheduling is not only essential but also it would stimulate the researcher towards the completion of his work well in time


1.         Best, W.John                                       Research in Education
                                                                        Prenticc Hall INC 1970 New Yark

2.         Hassan                                                 Development of Research Proposal
Allam Iqbal Open University Islamabad,1982(pp.1-100, 18-22, 24-27

3.         Zaki. W.M                                           Educational Research
                                                                        Manza-printing corporation Islamabad 1984
                                                                        (pp. 7-9, 35-71)

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