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How To Write A Research Proposal For A Master And PhD

phd research proposal sample







A research proposal is one of the main pieces of writing you submit to the admissions committee for a PhD and Master’s by research. The secret to getting accepted into your preferred University may lie in your ability to write beautifully.

For your Master’s and PhD degree programs, this article will offer you a summary of the process of writing a good research proposal. You should adhere to the advice below whether you’re applying for a studentship or a self-funded scholarship. 

But it’s crucial to comprehend what a research proposal is. A research proposal is a concise, well-structured document overview of the study you want to conduct.

It outlines the main problems or inquiries that you plan to tackle. It describes the broad field of study that your research comes under.


Generally speaking, a research proposal is a document that proposes a research topic, usually in the sciences or academics, and it is a request for funding for such research.

The suggested research plan’s cost, possible impact, and quality are all considered when evaluating proposals.


Research proposals may be presented in response to a request with specific specifications, such as a request for proposals, or they may be submitted voluntarily without a request. They are five types of research proposals which include:

  • Pre-Proposal

  • Renewal and Continuation Proposals

  • Solicited Proposal

  • Revised Budgets

  • Limited Solicitation

Pre-proposal: When a sponsor wants to reduce the amount of work required by the applicant to prepare a full proposal, they ask for this kind of proposal. 

They typically take your letter of intent or a concise summary of what the principal investigator (PI) intends to achieve, how the PI will carry out your project, and why the study is worthwhile. 

A pre-proposal lays the groundwork for discussion; it does not bind the principal investigator (PI) or the University in any way. 

If a budget is included in the submission, it should be sent for the relevant university signatures because these plans frequently serve as the starting point for discussions about funding. 

The pre-proposal may be used to assess how well the project fits the agency’s priorities at the sponsor’s request. 

Renewal and continuation proposal: When a project’s financing or the duration expires, a competing renewal proposal—also known as a competing continuation is made to continue funding the project. Similar to “new” ideas, these proposals must go through the same routing and approval process.

Non-competing continuation proposals: These ask for financing for the next year under a multi-year grant and often include a status report, a budget, and other pertinent documents like research findings, reprints, curriculum vitae for new hires, etc. 

A financial status report with the unobligated balance for the current year is occasionally included. Typically, sponsors need the institutional official’s and the researchers’ signatures. 

Even if a budget is unnecessary, non-competing continuation proposals are sent through Sponsored Programs Administration. Federal agencies that grant sponsored money must utilize the Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR), a consistent format for progress reports.

For non-competing continuations, RPPR is also utilized. Now, Research.gov is used to submit these reports to NSF. The RPPR module must be used, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Solicited proposal: Sponsors advertise particular program announcements to get formal offers. Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs), and other terms are frequently used to refer to these solicitations. 

The proposal is written by researchers responding to the program announcement in accordance with the sponsor’s program requirements. Deadlines may repeat annually or more than once. One kind of solicited proposal is a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). 

Most requests for proposals (RFPs) have a deadline and are one-time requests for specific needs of the sponsor that are not anticipated to reoccur. 

A response to the specified work statement in the proposal request is required in the proposed project. Prior to presenting the proposal to the sponsor, solicited bids must go through the University’s proposal routing procedure.

Revised budgets: When a sponsor wishes to fund a project at a different number than first requested, the sponsor requests that the investigator present a “revised” budget to justify the new funding level.

If the sponsor cuts the budget, the investigator must assess if the project’s intended scope and goals can still be achieved with the new spending plan. 

If not, before the University accepts the funding, the investigator and sponsor must reevaluate the scope and goals in writing. If cost share or matching were included in the initial budget, the cost share or matching amount might need to be adjusted to reflect the budget adjustments. 

Before resubmitting, these modifications require institutional approval.

Limited solicitation: Sponsors occasionally publish program funding opportunities with a cap on the number of bids any institution may submit. The UNH Research Development Office regularly emails the Research Office’s “Principal Investigators & Project Directors” list about new opportunities.

It lists all limited submission programs online at Current LSP Deadlines. Faculty who are interested in submitting proposals should adhere to the pre-proposal limited submission procedure outlined here.

Pre-proposals are primarily chosen for submission to a sponsor based on their relevance to the program selection criteria, the likelihood of success in the sponsor’s competitive process, and strategic benefit to UNH.

Following notification, those whose pre-proposals are chosen will be notified, and then they will prepare an application which will be submitted to the sponsor. 


The typical length of a research proposal is 2,500 words; however, there is no upper or lower bound. Deciding what you want to learn more about is the first step in creating a research project.


Regardless of whether you are applying for a PhD or a Master’s program, the following details should typically be included in your research proposal:

The proposal should have a brief bibliography listing the most pertinent topic to your subject.

Normally, the proposal should be between 2,500 and 3,500 words long. It is important to remember that various funding organizations may have varied word restrictions.

It should be 4–7 pages or 2,500–3,500 words.


  • Title

  • Abstract

  • Research Context

  • Research question

  • Research Method

  • Significance of research

  • Bibliography

Title: Your title should make it obvious what your main research topic or planned strategy is.

Abstract: A succinct description of your desired research, not up to 100 words, should be included in the proposal. This might be a few phrases showing the issue you want to look at or the main issue you want to tackle.

Research context: Explains the general context in which our study will be carried out. You should include a concise summary of the broad field of study within which your planned research falls, as well as the most recent discussions on the subject. 

By doing so, you’ll be able to exhibit both your knowledge of the subject matter and your ability to speak effectively and eloquently.

Research question: The major goals and issues that will direct your study should be outlined in the proposal. It would help if you thought about the main questions you want to address before starting to write your proposal. 

Reflecting on your primary research questions is a useful technique to ensure that your study is suitably limited and realistic, as many research ideas are overly wide (that is, one that will probably be finished within the typical time for a Master’s or PhD degree).

Prioritizing one or two primary research questions can help you create several subsidiary research questions. The proposal should also outline how you plan to respond to the following questions: will you use a doctrinal, empirical, etc.,

Research method: The proposal should describe your research procedures, including how you intend to conduct your study. You could employ specific library or archival visits, outdoor research, or interviews. 

Most research is done in libraries. If your suggested study is conducted at a library, you should describe where the main sources (such as law reports and journal articles) may be found (e.g., Westlaw, the Law School library).

Suppose you want to perform field research or gather empirical data. In that case, you should be specific about your plans (for instance, if you intend to conduct interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews are you planning to hold? Will there be access issues?). 

Additionally, it would be best if you described in this part how you plan to analyze the results of your study.

Significance of research: The uniqueness of your desired research should be shown in the proposal.

It would help if you thus discussed the significance of your study (For instance, by describing how your research advances or adds to the current state of knowledge in that field or by giving the reasons why your proposed topic is excellent for research.

Bibliography: The proposal should have a brief bibliography listing the books most pertinent to your subject.


Remember your study proposal’s crucial primary goal, persuasion, while you compose it. Your research proposal must convince readers that your idea is appropriate and feasible. 

So, put your efforts into creating a compelling story, and you’ll already win half the battle.

keep winning Cheers

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