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Structure and contents of a Research Proposal

Literature review

The following information is a general overview of the structure and contents of a Research Proposal and additionally summarises what should be demonstrated by the proposal and by you as a researcher. This is not a definitive structure, only a guideline that covers all the important areas in a logical manner. There is flexibility to adjust or change this structure depending on your individual needs. The following elements may form subheadings for your research proposal document. The numbers in brackets are a guide of how many words are required for each section. However, they are only a guide and not definitive.

This should capture the essence of your project, and includes information which relates to the proposed study which you wish to undertake.
Introduction (approximately 300 words) 
•    What are you exploring and why?
•    Put the research into context.
•    Why is it important to study this topic (rationale)? 
•    Clearly identify your research question/problem. 
•    What are the specific aims and objectives of the research? 

Literature review (approximately 700 words)

This section should identify and critically review the key literature that has been written on your topic. It should compare and contrast perspectives that have been gleaned from reading and investigating the subject. While this might come from textbooks, journal articles and other reports, journal articles will be your main source.

The review might also include more practitioner-based studies which are of significance. Remember, it is important to look for themes in the literature, not just describe one article after another. Make sure you reference everything clearly and be careful not to plagiarise. Also make sure you clearly show the importance of the literature you are writing about to your topic. DO NOT just put slabs of unrelated literature in your literature review. Please show the reader why it is in there. What does it mean to your project?

Methodology (approximately 900 words)

Provide a clear and justified, statement of your proposed research approach to address your research question/aim. You should provide a clear rationale for your choice of method(s), with a clear link to your research question/aim. You should also include a critical evaluation of the strengths and limitations of your proposed approach. This section could include: (a) data collection method(s) to be used with justifications, (b) participants where appropriate (population, sample size, access), (c) ethical considerations and potential limitations and ways to overcome them, (d) research philosophy which will underpin the dissertation if relevant. 

Plan (approximately 100 words) 

Assume you will be implementing your project plan during May-January, provide a realistic, detailed and practical action plan. You should provide a graphical form, for example Gant chart, including key milestones of your research against specific dates, i.e. research schedule showing target completion date for each task or activity (review of literature, data collection, data analysis, write up, first draft to your supervisor, etc.). You could also include the resources needed to undertake the proposed research.

Create a Reference List of only the sources you have cited in the body of your proposal. Please do not include anything that is not in the body of your proposal. In-text citations and the reference list should use Harvard style. Appropriate referencing is important to avoid plagiarism so please take this seriously. Please read the guidelines and regulations provided later for more specific details Any additional material should be placed here. These must be referenced in the main body of your proposal, and the source acknowledged. They should be in the order they are referred to in your text.

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