Research proposal is selling the research ideas that a problem exists and the significance in filling the knowledge gap. Through proposal writing, it ensures the researcher have done sufficient thinking and reading in preparation. Proposal itself will be used in applying permission for ongoing research and grant application. It is a requirement for graduation but also helps speeding up thesis writing. Therefore, we discuss what the proposal components are and how to ensure the clarity and quality of a good proposal. There is short discussion about the preparation for proposal writing. This essay will enhances your understandings and guides you through the proposal writing process.
Nursing research generates knowledge to improve patient outcomes, refine health care policy and validate the nurse roles. Research proposal reflects the thinking and planning of a research. It articulates the abstract ideas of a worthwhile project and convinces others we have the ability to complete the project.
All research requires a written proposal before it is undertaken. Because the process of proposal writing ensures the researcher has thought about the topic and done sufficient preliminary reading. The researcher is able to provide all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.
The proposal is presented to the reviewing committee safeguarding the protection of human subjects for approval, so it is a ticket for ongoing research. It is a must for any research grant application to sustaining research work. Practically, we need to submit the proposal to our supervisors at the end of the course for graduation criteria. In return, they will judge if the research approach is reasonable and likely to yield the anticipated results, which help us complete our thesis in a timely fashion.
Proposal also serves the basis for a thesis and the article for publication if the research implementation and analysis do not deviate from the original proposal. An easy way is to change the future tense to past; update the background with additional references; make changes to the methodology for any actual changes; enter the results, discussions and conclusions.
With such attractive multi-functions, there is no reason not to learn about research proposal and how to write a good one at the beginning. In coming paragraphs, we will discuss about the proposal components and the strategies for ensuring clarity and quality of a good proposal. Due to word limitation, the discussion will mainly focus on quantitative research.
Major components of the proposal
The proposal title is a straightforward sentence addressing the research project and is brief, descriptive and informative.
The abstract, usually just follows the title, is a concentrated section giving the reader know more about the research plan in little time and effort.
As the first portion of proposal, it introduces the research problem, the rationale for selecting the problem and the direction of the study. The reader can know exactly what it is all about without hunting for the topic.
The problem statement lays the foundation the research proposal and persuades the reader that a worth researchable problem exists, which is significant filling the knowledge-practice gap. It is more effective in explaining the why particular events, attributes or possible relationships are being singled out and clarifying the population of interest.
The purpose statement states the intention answering the problem and its goal. It consists of an action verb, the variables and the target population.
It is a summary providing comprehensive picture and critical analysis of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. This supports the arguments for the worthiness of research project. Another function of literature review is facilitating the development of study’s methodology and the discussion of findings.
An integrated literature review demonstrates the skills in broad information seeking and critical appraisal to valid sources. Quantitative research requires focusing and in-depth reading in that well-studied area. After profound reading, the literature is integrated, synthesized and organized from global peripheral issues to central issues targeting the research question. A strong literature review should use various sources characterized with primary researches and gives critical evaluation. The unknown or controversial areas should be identified which help formulating further research questions.
Purpose of the study
It further delineates the dimensions of research problem and purpose statement addressed in the study, and thus guiding the research design and analyses. Regardless of format, they should clearly and concisely identify the variable(s), the relationship (association or causality), and the target population. Objectives and questions are appropriate in descriptive and exploratory approaches. Hypotheses only can appear in quantitative research, because they are applied in predictive approach and theory testing that based on abundant preexisting knowledge.
Definitions of terms
It defines variables, terms and concepts used in the study that might be unfamiliar to readers or might have ambiguous meanings. A conceptual definition conveys the abstract, theory-based meaning of a variable. For clarity of the quantitative research proposal, it is necessary to include all the operational definitions which describe how a variable will be measured or determined.
It is the blueprint that guides the action and direction. Another similar term ‘research approach’ refers to theoretical guidance in understanding the phenomena and addressing problems of a study. Research designs can be categorized according to the degree of structure into experimental or non-experimental designs, and time dimension into cross-sectional or longitudinal study. Experimental designs include true experiments, quasi-experiments, and factorial designs; while non-experimental designs include descriptive and correlational studies. Others are meta-analysis, randomized clinical trial, and so on. There should be an explanation why such design is appropriate for the study. The independent and dependent variables, as well as control strategies incorporated should be clearly identified. This is the ways for maintaining internal validity. External factors such as environment, research setting and time should be controlled, while intrinsic factors could be controlled by randomization, homogeneity, matching and statistical control.
It should begin with an identification of the target population who is focus of the study for later on generalization. It includes the discussion of who they are and where they are located (research setting). The study population represents a subset of target population accessible for sample taking and fulfills the selection criteria.
The probability sampling techniques, that individuals have an independent chance of being selected, are more ideal with representativeness and having less sampling error. However, they are more time consuming and inconvenient in implementation. It is better to give reasons for the choice (especially non-probability sampling), sample size, percentage of the population the sample represents. Adequate sample size ensures meaningful and credible findings without posing unnecessary cost. Statistical power analysis and literature review help justification. Because of the nonparticipation and dropouts, a plan for recruiting more subjects for replacement should be discussed along with rationale for the decision.
Proper sampling will yield strong evidence to support the external validity accounting for generalizibity of the study across people and setting.
Data collection methods commonly used for quantitative research are questionnaires, surveys, observation and experiments. The data-collection instruments and the administration procedures should be described thoroughly. It is important to provide rationales for choosing such method and instruments. For the instruments, their strengths and weaknesses, tests of reliability and validity done and the populations they have been used should be mentioned. The discussion of reliability and validity is a critical issue for quantitative study, because they are the methods used to eliminate error. Tests for reliability focus on test-retest, internal consistency and inter-rater reliability. Validity for the instruments are content, construct, and criterion-related.
When using ‘borrowed’ instruments, researchers must gain a copyright permission and acknowledge the original author as well as honoring the requests.
Data analysis procedures depend on sampling and data collection techniques used. The numerical information of quantitative research requires statistical analyses, and the précised steps and analytical tools should be described. General statistical procedures are differentiated into descriptive, inferential and multivariate. The procedures for handling missing values are also established.
To ensure research quality, it is helpful to seek consultation for the appropriateness of data analysis before carrying out the research. Again, statistical conclusion validity is affected by research design and sample size.
The research benefits are maximized and outweigh any possible risk. The exact procedures in protecting human rights must be well written, which include full disclosure with veracity, obtaining witnessed informed consent with understanding and self-determination, protection of privacy through anonymity and confidentiality.
The application of ethical approval and permission form certain organizations such as educational institutions and hospitals should be mentioned.
Any limitations from research design, sampling, to data collection and analysis should be addressed. They may be future perspectives for nursing research.
It should be a realistic timetable that guides the research schedule. Time is a limiting factor in research feasibility.
The estimated expenses of whole project on administrative personnel, equipment, facilities, consumable materials and other resources should be included. It should demonstrate a justified budget with tight control. It is used to assess the feasibility of the project and grant application.
All the references should be cited accurately. Giving proper credit avoids being accused of plagiarism. The format and style for the references should follow particular proposal requirement. We will use APA format.
Ensure clarity and quality
The sections mentioned above appeared in the proposal should flow logically form previous one with connection and organized manner.
The writing is kept brief and to the point. Sometimes, tables and diagrams can help presentation. For example, a diagram shows the research design with its groupings and sample size.
The proposal should be checked for any grammatical, spelling and typo mistakes, language and style. The problem statement should be written in present tense, the literature review in past tense, and the methodology in future tense. It is important to set it aside and then proofread it for clarity.
Sometimes, it is helpful to read it aloud in order to detect any awkward wordings.
By having a friend to review the draft, the critique will tell if the proposal is clear and logic. Revising the entire proposal might be needed.
A strong piece of research proposal should start with a strong research problem. It is worth concentrating on writing the best possible problem targeting high usability.
A qualified proposal should demonstrate scientific research method and with knowledge basis. Scholarly and pertinent background, as well as previous work done is required.
A high quality research attempts to ensure both reliability and validity (internal, external, statistical conclusion and construct validity) in planning phase. It is demonstrated form the detailed and precise methodology documented in the proposal.
It is a must to address ethical issues sincerely to ensure the quality of the proposal and the whole research. Also, if the proposal cannot gain the ethical approval, it will results ‘no quality’ without the implementation of the research.
In addition, seeking advice form competent reviewers and supervisors can ensure high quality study.
Limitations of this essay
Since we will have a chance conducting qualitative research, the details in methodology are not applicable. But the general outline of a proposal and other components can still be kept as references.
Preparation for proposal writing
We should better equip ourselves with knowledge of research method and the contextual situation through continuous reading and critical thinking. The process of seeking and selecting relevant sources is one of the skills. Instead of simply reading the papers, we should try research critique using some provided checklists. These techniques can be only learned through frequent practice.
If we do not know enough, we should look it up. No one else can do this for us. Besides, we should be well prepared physically and psychological to embrace the challenge of proposal writing.
We have talked about the purposes and functions of a proposal, the major components and the considerations for ensuring clarity and quality. Proposal is the written form of research plan that shows the development of idea form question to answer, communicates with the reader the train of thought and guides the whole research process. It is worth the effort to build a high quality proposal. We have also discussed the preparation for coming proposal writing. Overall, we gain better understanding about a research proposal. Therefore, this essay will definitely serve as a guide for the quantitative research proposal writing in the coming semester, rather than stacks of notes and books.