A research proposal is an initial set of ideas for a research study which are supported by a literature review and/or pilot study. A proposal should be concise and must address the question of what you plan to achieve, why you want to and how you are going to do it. In preparing a research proposal, the first thing that you have to do is to decide what it really is that you want to know more about.

The questions that you want to research have to be viable as a research project and lead to the creation of new knowledge and understanding. As a general guide research proposals are concise, usually no more than 1500 words in length. A research protocol is a detailed set of activities for the project you propose and these activities are supported by evidence from other research and from your preliminary investigations. It is a valuable practical timetable and guide to your activities and shows some foresight into what you are trying to achieve. It shows above all, evidence of planning, including anticipation of potential problems and how you intend to deal with them.

Some tips from the Research Design Service – South West (RDS-SW) on things to consider when writing a proposal/protocol.

  1. Is it a good research idea?
  2. Does the proposal make a convincing and coherent case for the importance of issues to be studied in health, economic and societal terms?
  3. Does the proposal make a convincing and coherent argument for the need for the research to fill gaps in current knowledge?
  4. Does the research proposal frame the issues in a way that makes them amenable to research using the methodologies and design proposed?
  5. Does the research proposed address the key questions in the field?
  6. Are the aims and objectives of the study clearly described and explained?



Are the methods sound and appropriate?


  1. Are the design and methods for the proposed study fully described, explained and justified? Will the design and methods of the study deliver the aims and objectives?
  2. Are the design and methods of the proposed study the most efficient way to deliver the aims and objectives?
  3. Will the results of the study be generalisable or transferable beyond the immediate research setting?
  4. Does the proposed study design take account of issues of representativeness?
  5. Does the proposal describe and explain the approach(es) the study will take to avoid potential sources of bias?
  6. Can the proposed study meet the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements?

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