Research Methods: What Constitutes a Quality Research Proposal?


Research can be defined as an orderly and structured way of seeking answers to your inquiries (Definition of Research, n.d: Para. 1). The process makes use of a certain set of procedures and methods that are specific. It can also be said to mean a scientific inquiry of a phenomenon that is geared towards the expansion of our knowledge base. The inquiry involves both qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry. Research methods on the other hand are a variety of tools that are employed in research to establish facts about a particular phenomenon as defined by Meyer (n.d.: Para. 3). The methods are also used to determine the cause and effect relationship existing between variables (Losh, 2002: Para. 1).

Characteristics of a quality research proposal

The core purpose of a research proposal is to prove the viability of a research project and that you are fully equipped to undertake the project. A quality research proposal should thus have all the major parts that are required in the research process and should also be inclusive of adequate information to enable the reader to carry out an assessment of the proposed research. According to Wong (n.d.: Para. 3), any research proposal should address the objective of the project, the justification for carrying out the study and the procedures to be used to undertake the project. The proposal should contain enough information to convince the reader that your idea is worthwhile, that you are familiar with related literature and key issues, and the methodology that you employ is reasonable.

Research techniques and tools

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is commonly applied in the study of both social and cultural phenomena. It has largely been used over time to study those aspects of life that are not easily quantifiable such as the behavior and attitude of people. It has included among other methods action research, case study analysis, and ethnography (Myers 2009: Para. 6). The sources of qualitative data are observation of the phenomena, participant observation which is commonly referred to as fieldwork, oral interviews, and written questionnaires, existing text, and the researcher’s opinion. Qualitative research enables researchers to study people, their social and social settings within the environmental orientation or locality. The main basis of the method is that when data is fully quantified, a people’s point of view within their locality and institutional context tends to be ignored or lost in the process leading to the inaccuracy of information collected. Myers (2009) describes the following qualitative research methods:

Action research

Action research is a problem-solving method that involves coordinated efforts by people working together to address a particular issue or to improve the means of solving that issue. It addresses both the concern of people in a particular crisis in the light of goals and objectives of social science. Their ethical modalities must be acceptable by the two groups in question. Its major objective is to expand the body of knowledge of social science. The data collection techniques used here include participant observation, interviews, reports, and questionnaires.

Case study

It is the study of a particular phenomenon within its local context especially when the dividing line between a phenomenon and context is not defined clearly. It mainly involves a depth examination of an event or a case. The case study has made it possible for researchers to study a phenomenon from its real-life context which has enabled them to have a detailed grasp of the finer details. The case study mainly employs interviews and documented literature as data collection techniques.


Ethnography is an immersive type of study where the researcher integrates himself into the ways of his target group by spending a significant amount of time within the community (Myers, n.d. Para: 15). This enables him to study the phenomena of his study from the community’s point of view. The method is commonly applied by anthropologies. Participant observation and fieldwork notes are used by the researcher to collect data.

Grounded theory

It is a method that is aimed at developing theory out of scientifically collected and analyzed data. The method uses an inductive method to reach a theoretical framework by using empirically collected data to arrive at a specific conclusion. The collected data is analyzed and then summarized so as to reach a specific conclusion from generalizations. The techniques used in this method include sampling, questionnaires, and reports.

Quantitative method

This is a method of research that use systematically collected, analyzed, and summarized data that is quantitative in nature to study a phenomenon (Quantitative research, n.d.: para.4). Among its advantages over qualitative method is that it is more reliable and more objective in nature. This is because its data is easier to test and to verify the causal relationship. The method is less expensive and time saving as compared to qualitative method because its data collection mainly involves a representative sample. Its results are usually quite accurate and specific as opposed to qualitative methods that have a significant margin of error (features of quantitative methods-questionnaires and structured interviews, n.d.: Para. 1). The main disadvantage of this method is that it fails to capture the behavioral aspect of a phenomenon due to its tendency to rely heavily on numerical data. Some of the methods used to present quantitative data include: tables, graphical representations, charts, and other diagrams.

Methods of data collection include: questionnaires, census, survey, experiment, measurements and sampling. The procedures involved in collection, analyzing, and summarizing of quantitative data give rise to reliability and accuracy rates that are higher than those of qualitative methods. Due to its ability to give accurate measurement and analysis, it is considered the best approach by many researchers (Jenkin, 2009: Para. 1).

Elements of a project proposal

Introduction and theoretical framework

This is the part that gives the reader an introduction into the background information of the research proposal. It provides the initial framework of the proposal and also enables the reader to establish relationship between it and other part of the research (Pajares n.d.: Para. 1). To produce a good proposal, this part should be captivating to the leader while trying to address a particular group of audience. The part should be able to out rightly lay the basis of the study.

Statement of the problem

This describes the problem under study and also specifies the method of analysis. The problem is usually defined as the subject that raises the need for the inquiry. The problem should be of such a great magnitude that it necessitates the reason for the study. It should thus be placed in away the captures the recognition of the reader. In addition the problem should be clearly placed within a contextual framework. The research problem should also be presented in a way that it addresses the reason why the research should be conducted.

Justification for the study

This addresses the reason why the research study should be conducted. This justification should be clear enough to both the reader and the writer. The justification should be brief and to the point in order to achieve the desired effect. A brief description of the hypothesis and the significance of the study can be introduced briefly.

Literature review

This establishes the background of the issue under study. It also shows the familiarity of the researcher about the area under focus. The review also addresses the findings of other studies conducted in the area of research. It also provides a benchmark of comparing the findings with similar ones conducted in the same area. You should demonstrate your knowledge of the problem at hand.

Research methodology

The methodology of research is the engine of the proposal. It should be as detailed as possible with clear continuity of activities undertaken in the research. You should avoid errors of design in methodology so as to achieve the objective of the study. It is imperative to anticipate errors and provide for mitigation measures to address them you should be able to outline the method of sampling you propose to use, equipment to be used, data collection method, and method of data analysis.

Limitation of the study

The section identifies the possible weaknesses of the study. These could emanate from sampling, instrumentation or data analyses. The unforeseen or unavoidable factors that could affect the validity of data should be high lightened in this section.


The research idea must be well outlined in the proposal (What to Include in Proposal Documentation, n.d.: Para. 1). Quantifiable objectives should be included that will provide a bench mark for your success. Convince the reader why the proposal warrants funding. A quality proposal must be supported within the objective of research (What makes a high-quality proposal? n.d: Para. 1)

Significance of the study

The area addresses the possible benefits of contribution of the study to the scientific body of knowledge. It should also show the likely influence to the existing policies and possible solutions to the problem under study.


The section includes all the works cited in the text. Make sure that all the works inside is included in the reference page. Do not include un-cited work in the reference.

Result of a good proposal

A good proposal should be viable enough to implement. Besides, the cost of implementation will not exceed the benefit to be accrued. A good proposal will be able to attract funding by the financiers due to its viability. It also broadens the existing knowledge of subject under study. A good proposal should also be able to provide solution to the problem under study. A good proposal will have all its findings validated by the reader.(How Do You Define Proposal Quality? 2007: Para. 7).

What not to include

Personal sentiments should not be included in the proposal as this will compromise on the quality of the proposal. Do not also include unsupported findings. Only those findings that were observed should be provided for in the proposal.


Definition of Research (n.d.) 2009. Web.

Features of Quantitative Methods – questionnaires and structured interviews, (n.d.) 2009. Web.

How Do You Define Proposal Quality? (2007) Web.

Jenkins, L. (2009) Fundamentals of Quantitative Research: Considerations in Research Methodology. Web.

Losh, C. (2002) EDF 5481 methods of educational research: what methods do? Web.

Meyer, F. (n.d.) What are research methods? 2009. Web. 

Michael D. Myers, (n.d.) Qualitative Research in Information Systems. 2009. Web.

Pajares, F. (n.d.) The elements of a proposal. Web.

Quantitative research, (n.d.) 2009. Web.

What to Include in Proposal Documentation, (n.d.) Web.

What makes a high-quality proposal? (n.d.) 2009. Web.

Wong, Paul, T. (n.d.) How to Write a Research Proposal. Web.

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