For an assignment of this nature the key words are clarity and conciseness. You should ensure that the methods and design chosen match your aims and objectives. In other words, your research design/methodology should flow logically from your research aims/objectives/hypotheses and/or questions.
1. Title page
Try to choose a title that captures/describes the essence of the study, and avoid the use of 'tabloid-like' titles: this can either be descriptive or declarative (i.e. incorporate the conclusion in the title), but should give a one-line overview of your study.
2. Contents page
It is good practice to include a contents page, and one that will stand you in good stead for your dissertation. The contents page should not be included in the overall word count. There are some useful video guides on how to format long documents in Word on University Skills this includes how to generate an automatic Contents page for example.
3. Abstract (approximately 200 words)
An abstract is a brief summary of what the researcher did and found; however, as you will be not collecting data and performing any analysis at this stage, you will not have a results or conclusion section in your abstract.
The abstract for you research proposal should contain the following headings:
Background: What is the issue, and how important/big is it? What is already known on the issue? What is the purpose of your study?
Aims and/or objectives: describe precisely what your project is aiming to do in no more than two sentences
Methods: this section should include the design of the study (e.g. survey, case-control study), the number of participants, the length of study, what measures you are going to use, and what statistical analysis will be used
Please make sure that you review your abstract after you have written your research proposal; the abstract section is easier to write after you have completed the whole proposal.
4. Introduction (approximately 500 words)
You should include a statement or two to describe the significance and originality of your study, and rationalise your particular position/theory on the issue(s) to be addressed. Try to address the following questions:
• Why is it an important problem/issue?
• What is the issue that demands further investigation?
• What is the scale of the problem area (i.e., how many people are affected by it)?
• How will/may society, patients, practitioners or policy be influenced by/benefit from the
results? How will your study contribute to the body of knowledge?
It is important that statistics used in your introduction (e.g., to describe the scale of the problem) are up to date, and relevant to the country you are proposing to carry out your research in.
This section 'sets the scene' prior to the presentation of the theoretical basis that underpins the study (i.e. the literature review). Your introduction should lead up to, and end with, the aims and specific objectives. Your aims and objectives set out what you hope to achieve from your study – for help with writing these see
5. Literature review (approximately 1000 – 1500 words)
This section should contain a critical review of the scientific/theoretical literature relevant to the specific aims/research question(s) you wish to study; remember don't just summarise the literature – it is important to critically appraise and to be able to synthesise the literature. Try to address such questions as:
• What is already known about the problem?
• What is not known? What are the gaps in the literature?
• What are some of the problems or shortcomings of previous work in the area?
• What approaches to investigate the problem/issue should have, but have not yet been tried?