Tips for writing a research proposal

  1. Follow the instructions. Read and conform to all instructions found on the council website. Make sure that your proposal fits the criteria of the competition.
  2. Break down your proposal into point form before writing your first draft. Based on the total length of the proposal, decide whether you will have headings/subheadings and what they will be (e.g. Introduction, Background Material, Methodology, etc.). These headings can be selected based on the advice given in the specific award instructions. For each section, lay out in point form what you will discuss.
  3. Know your target audience.  Describe your research proposal in non-technical terms.   Use clear, plain language and avoid jargon.  It must be well-written and free of typographic and grammatical errors.  Remember, at every level, the adjudication committees are multi-disciplinary and will include researchers in fields other than your own. Therefore, follow the “KIS” principle – Keep It Simple! Reviewers like it that way. 
  4. Make an impact in the first few sentences. Reviewers are very busy people. You must excite them about your project from the beginning and make it easy for them to understand (and thus fund) your proposal. Show how your research is innovative. It is important that you show excitement for the project in order to excite reviewers.Organize your proposal so that it is tight, well-integrated, and makes a point, focused on a central question:   “I am looking at this to show . . . .”    Frequently (depending on the discipline) a tight proposal is best achieved by having a clear hypothesis or research objective and structuring the research proposal in terms of an important problem to be solved or fascinating question to ask, including the ways in which you intend to approach the solution.
  5. Have a clear title. It is important that the title of your project is understandable to the general public, reflects the goal of the study, and attracts interest.
  6. Emphasize multidisciplinary aspects of the proposal, if applicable.
  7. Show that your research is feasible – that you are competent to conduct the research and have chosen the best research or scholarly environment to achieve your goals.
  8. Clearly indicate how your research or scholarship will make a “contribution to knowledge” and address an important question in your field.
  9. Get the proposal reviewed and commented on by others.  Get feedback and edit.  Then edit some more.   And get more feedback.  The more diverse opinion and criticism you receive on your proposal the better suited it will be for a multi-disciplinary audience.
  10. Remember that the research proposal is not a binding document; it is a “proposal”.   It is well understood by all concerned that the research you end up pursuing may be different from that in your proposal.   So, look at the proposal as a way to plan an exciting, yet feasible project that you would like to pursue.