Skills Earth Sciences

Structure of a research proposal

Another genre you will likely encounter during your studies is the research proposal. In contrast to scientific reports, research proposals do not have a fixed format such as the IMRAD structure6, so writing and structuring them may be a bit more challenging. Every funding organization has their own required format. When you are writing a research proposal for a course, the format will be stated in the assignment.

A research proposal is different from a scientific report of your own research in that you do not have (m)any results yet. It focuses on the framing of your subject rather than the results and their implications, and the purpose and audience that you are writing for may be different. In terms of purpose, you may have to convince your audience why your research should be funded. Doing so will require a clear problem statement including a description of the relevance and impact of your work, a convincing methodological strategy, and a presentation of previous (literature) or initial results. If applying for funding, you may also need to submit a timetable with your research plan and an indication of budget allocation. Make sure you know the requirements for your research proposal prior to starting, and ask others for example proposals if possible. In general: explain the problem without cosmetic fancy language. Do not exaggerate (“The biggest challenge ever faced by science is the age of the sandstone in my backyard”), and do not understate.