How to write a master's research proposal

Written by emily pate
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How to write a master's research proposal
Include time for archival research in your research timetable. (doing research image by Leticia Wilson from

Writing a research proposal is a lengthy, in-depth process. The more organised you are, the better your finished product, and the less worry you'll have throughout the process. Consult your department and supervisors often throughout the process to ensure you're writing a proposal that conforms to departmental standards and covers every pertinent detail of your proposed research. Ask supervisors or mentors to look over drafts and to give comments beforehand.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Create a title for your proposal. It should clearly indicate your research question in a concise phrase; keep it less than 20 words long. Keep titles as specific as possible. Topics that are too broad run the risk of being rejected for lack of detail.

  2. 2

    Write a statement on how your research is contributing something original to your field. Indicate whether your topic extends an idea, takes a next step or re-examines a previously studied area in a new light or in greater detail, for instance.

  3. 3

    State the purpose and goals of your research. Introduce the topic in one to two sentences, as an issue you're going to examine or problem you'll solve. Write a short background on previous research or circumstances leading to your study.

  4. 4

    Include a section on how you'll gather, present and analyse your information; this is your method. Identify which techniques you'll use throughout your research and explain why those techniques are the best choices for this study. Make references to similar research that uses the same techniques to justify your method, but highlight how your work is different.

  5. 5

    Formulate a research timetable, using the department's deadlines for proposals. In your writing stages, include research along with writing your literature review -- previous research on the topic -- and presentations, training and seminars necessary for your research, first and last chapters, collecting data and field work. Note each section's deadline next to it in your table.

  6. 6

    Note any special equipment, facilities or literature your research requires. Include where you're obtaining these resources, whether it's through the school or independently.

  7. 7

    Write a section on your research's estimated costs. Break down costs into categories like travel, equipment rental and material and supplies. Include a per-unit and total cost for each category. Write down a grand total on the bottom of the chart.

  8. 8

    Identify your supervisor and the role she will play. If you have more than one supervisor for your research, detail how each one will contribute and what role he will fulfil. Universities have different requirements, but you may have a coordinating supervisor who overlooks administrative and reporting, a co-supervisor for research advice and a secondary supervisor for a specialised area of your study. Specify how many times you'll meet with a given supervisor and what she's responsible for.

  9. 9

    Create a section regarding any issues on confidentiality in your research. Your department can provide guidelines on what constitutes this. Skip this step if those factors don't apply to your research.

  10. 10

    Prepare a proposal coversheet in accord with your department's requirements. Complete any applications and paperwork required for proposal submission.

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