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Research Proposal Template

Starting out on your dissertation or thesis proposal and not sure how to structure it, or how to craft a smooth-flowing document? Our free research proposal template is exactly what you need to get your research proposal moving forward.

Download Grad Coach's free research proposal template

What’s Included In The Proposal Template

Grad Coach’s free research proposal template covers the core essential ingredients for a strong dissertation or thesis research proposal. It includes clear explanations of what you need to address in each section, as well as straightforward examples and links to further resources.

The research proposal template covers the following core elements:

  • Title page
  • Introduction & background (including the research problem)
  • Literature review
  • Research design/methodology
  • Project plan, resource requirements and risk management
  • References
  • Appendix

The cleanly-formatted Word document is fully editable, so you can use it for your proposal, copy over the contents to a fresh document, or convert to LaTeX.

PS – you can also download Grad Coach’s free dissertation & thesis template here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What topics will this proposal template work for?

The template is flexible enough to use across most fields of study and/or research topics. While it closely reflects a typical research proposal within the social sciences, it can be tailored to fit pretty much any research topic. You may just need to add a section or two, depending on your university's requirements.

Can this template be used for research proposals that are not for a dissertation or thesis?

Yes, it can be used for research projects or even research grants. If you need to produce a proposal for a research grant, you'll need to cover the same content. However, you will need to go into more detail regarding your budget, funding requirements and resource requirements.

How long should my research proposal be?

This varies depending on the university, the degree and the level of study (i.e. undergrad, Masters, PhD).  As a rough guide, a research proposal at Masters-level generally ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can range from 5000-8000 words. It's best to check with your university what their requirements are before you start writing your proposal. 

How long should each section of my research proposal be?

There's no set formula or word count allocation for this. However, generally speaking, the introduction and background section (which includes the research problem), along with the literature review section will make up the bulk of your word count in a research proposal.

Do I need to provide a full literature review in my research proposal?

Generally, you don't need to provide an extensive, in-depth literature review at the proposal stage. However, you need to show that you are familiar with the key literature in your research area and that you have identified a clear research gap. That said, requirements vary between universities and degrees, so check with your university what level of depth they expect from you at this stage of the research.

Do I need a detailed methodology for my research proposal?

Generally speaking, you don't need to outline every possible detail of your research design and methodology at the proposal stage. However, you do need to show that you have a decent understanding of what methodology you will apply, what data you'll collect, how you'll collect it and how you'll analyse it. So, don't cut corners here - make sure you have a firm understanding of whichever methodology you plan to use before you propose a design. Within the research proposal template you will find more info about what you need to cover.

Can I share this research proposal template with my friends?

Yes, you're welcome to share the Grad Coach research proposal template as you wish. If you want to post about it on your blog or social media profiles, please reference this page.

I'm lost. Where can I get help with my research proposal?

Within the research proposal template, you will find clear explanations of what needs to go into each section, as well as links to additional resources. If you still need help with your research proposal, you're welcome to consider our dissertation and thesis coaching services.

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.

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