Eight Useful Tips on How to Write Academic Proposals

Academic proposals are the first step a student takes towards writing a dissertation or thesis. These are extremely important documents because they aim to persuade a course supervisor that a proposed piece of research is worthwhile and useful.

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If your readers do not find your proposal convincing you will not receive approval to proceed even to the point of writing a thesis statement for your paper. The following are a few tips on how to write a successful academic proposal.   

What Purpose Does an Academic Proposal Serve?

An academic proposal tries to answer several critical questions such as:

  • Why is the research you are planning necessary?
  • What exactly will you examine in your study?
  • How do you plan on conducting your research?
  • Who will be undertaking the research?
  • Where do you plan on conducting the research?
  • What do you anticipate the cost of your project to be?
  • What is the expected duration of your project?

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Component Parts of an Academic Proposal

The three primary elements of an academic proposal are:

Section justifying the work: You must provide a clear and cohesive rationale for selecting a particular research topic or subject. In justifying your project, you should show that your research will make a valuable contribution within its field and that it will be of overall value to your academic institution and your peers. When defining the scope of your project you should also state its limitations since the expectations you set must be clear in terms of what the project will deliver and what it will not deliver.

Review of literature: The literature review section of a proposal needs to present an overview of any research or other work that has already been done about your chosen topic. However, it is not enough to just review existing works. Rather, you should explain how the work you are planning will add to or build upon existing efforts and how your work will add something new to the field it relates to.

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An outline of the proposed work: Once you have shown why you believe your research is important and how it contributes to or fits with existing work in its field, you will need to describe how you intend to approach the project. The outline of your planned approach should include an estimate of the resources, cost, and amount of time you will need to complete the proposed work. 

How to Organize an Academic Proposal

There are various ways to organize a research proposal with much dependent on the requirements of your academic institution. Just make sure you get clarification from your course supervisor with regards to what is expected of you. The following are a few pieces of general advice to help you remain focused on your main research problem or question and to help you produce a winning proposal:

  • Allow yourself enough time: A common mistake that a lot of writers make is trying to complete their proposals in as short a time as they can. It is important to bear in mind at this point that your proposal is of greater importance than the actual work you are proposing. If your proposal is not approved, then you will not be proceeding with the research. So, allow enough time to collect appropriate materials, read these materials carefully, and then start writing your proposal. You should not underestimate the length this might take.
  • Demonstrate your confidence: This means choosing positive language that indicates you expect your research to be a success.
  • Make sure the literature review you do is meticulous and thorough. You should examine and include several different sources i.e. approximately ten to fifteen sources.  

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  • Make your proposal appear professional: Your proposal should be around eight to ten pages in length and it should be typed in a standard font size i.e. a 12pt font. 
  • Leave the executive summary until the end: It is best to write your executive summary last and try to confine it to a single page.
  • Active voice is the best voice to use throughout: And, for consistency, it is also best to stick to one particular tense.
  • Resist the temptation to add your own personal opinion and avoid such phrases as “I believe,” “I think,” and so on. An academic proposal needs to come across as an objective and measured analysis about why a particular piece of research is needed.
  • When you have a first draft version of your research proposal ready, edit it carefully and proofread it meticulously. This will ensure all spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors are eliminated and that it sets out your aims and objectives in a language that is clear and easy to understand. Feel free to check out the writing and editing services offered by TopThesis.com if you think you would benefit from a little professional assistance.

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