The proposal checklist

Adapted from a resource developed by Professor Carolyn Webb (UWS) and Peggy Nightingale for fIRST

Table of contents

Function of this section:
  • To help the reader navigate your document
  • Make sure you to learn how to use styles if you work in Word. That will enable the creation of automatic tables of content.

Provisional title of research project

Function of this section:
  • To indicate the topic to the reader
  • To indicate the ‘point’ of the research to the reader
  • To nominate provisionally the key words which will be used for listing the final research thesis with abstracting services
  • Consider carefully the length of the title – how many words – and the main keywords that must be included.
  • Consider also whether you can indicate something of the problem to be solved, rather than simply the topic area in which the problem can be located.
  • Finally, consider carefully whether a title that is amusing or highly topical now will continue to be so in a few years.


Function of this section:
  • To establish the field of the research
  • To establish the topic within the field
  • To introduce the particular focus of interest in that topic
  • To indicate broadly the nature of present understanding within the topic area
  • To make the importance of the potential contribution clear at the outset – not what will be found but why answering questions about the topic matter.
  • Your introduction to the proposal is critical in indicating that the topic within the field you are researching is of interest – that is, you are interested and others too, whether other researchers, practitioners, employers, etc.
  • Your introduction is also a place where you can begin to define the more specific parameters within the topic area – as the introduction moving from more general to gradually more specific within the topic area.
  • The introduction is generally written last, as it summarises the proposal

Literature review

OR What did you read about it? and What is the point of doing it?

Function of this section:
  • To summarise what is known about this particular topic area
  • To critically evaluate the relevant literature
  • To show how your research projects fits in
  • To demonstrate how the research questions have emerged from extant knowledge
  • To clarify why, theoretically, there is a question to be answered
  • This section is where you will establish the conceptual framework for your research. Whilst its purpose is to critically inspect literature on your topic, the underlying goal is to justify that your own research is worthwhile. Without having established how your own research logically follows from this critical inspection of previous literature, you cannot satisfy the requirement of showing how your research will add to existing knowledge.
  • This section captures, more than anything else, the argument on which your whole research depends.
  • For most research studies, the literature review comprises the major part of a preliminary proposal for a research project.
  • By the end of literature it should be clear why there is a theoretical/practical gap which needs to be filled. It is the importance that needs to be clear – just because something has not been done does not make it interesting.

The purpose of the research

Function of this section:
  • To present the more specific questions which will drive the research
  • To present the main objectives of the research
  • Having just identified the gaps in existing literature, you have now created the justification for doing your research.
  • This section could also come before the literature review – in this case you use the literature review to support the need for your study.
  • The research objectives might be presented in a number of different ways depending on the nature of the research. For example, in experimental research, the objectives might be framed as a hypothesis to be tested and confirmed; whereas in qualitative research the objectives are more likely a set of questions.
  • You also need to position these objectives within a broader context
  • No matter what form this section takes, there should be a coherent link between the problems identified through the critical review of literature and the objectives outlined here for your own research project.

Research methodology, methods or process

OR What will you do? and How will you do it?

Function of this section:
  • To indicate the theories and principles underlying the approaches to be adopted in the research
  • To outline the methods which will be used for achieving the research objectives
  • To highlight any ethical issues or dimensions raised by the research methods or process
  • To indicate the sources of data to be used and how these will be collected and analysed
  • There must be a coherent link between the methods proposed for the study and the research objectives and questions.
  • Explain clearly what, how, where, when you will do step by step imagining that someone had to use your explanations to do what you propose.
  • Use theory to justify your choices if needed, but refer to it after you have said what you plan to do.
  • If your research involves human or animals, you need to indicate that you are aware of this and will seek approval of a UC Ethics Committee. See Do this in a separate section, do not mix it in the methods


OR When will it be done?

Function of this section:
  • To outline the overall timeframe for the project
  • To indicate the project’s main stages and deadlines
  • To indicate the concrete milestones along the way
  • Where appropriate, this section and the research methods or process section may be combined so that each step in the method can be aligned to a particular time period within the timeline.
  • However, this may be impossible with many studies.

Proposed thesis structure

Function of this section:
  • To indicate the major structural sections of the final thesis or report on the research
  • This section is often optional. Indeed, the early drafts of research proposals for most types of research could not be expected to predict the structure of the final thesis, whereas the proposal’s later drafts as the research proceeds certainly could be expected to outline chapter headings.


Function of this section:
  • To acknowledge literature referred to in the research proposal document
  • to indicate other literature expected to be drawn on for the research project
  • You need to provide a full reference for all sources referred to in the proposal.