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Developing Research Proposals

Developing Research Proposals

First Edition
Additional resources:

160 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Writing a research proposal is one of the most important tasks facing academics, researchers and graduate students. Yet there is a good deal of misinformation and a great lack of guidance about what constitutes a good research proposal and what can be done to maximize one's chances of writing a successful research proposal.

Pam Denicolo and Lucinda Becker recognize the importance of developing an effective research proposal for gaining either a place on a research degree program or funding to support research projects and set out to explore the main factors that that proposal writers need to attend to in developing successful proposals of their own.

Developing Research Proposals will help readers to understand the context within which their proposal will be read, what the reviewers are looking for and will be influenced by, while also supporting the development of relevant skills through advice and practical activities.

This book:

  • Explores the nature and purpose of different kinds of proposals
  • Focuses on the actual research proposed
  • Discusses how best to carry out and structure the literature review
  • Examines the posing and phrasing of research questions and hypotheses
  • Looks at how methods and methodology should be handled in a proposal
  • Discusses the crucial issues of planning, strategy and timing in developing targeted proposals

The authors draw together the key elements in the process of preparing and submitting a proposal and concludes with advice on responding to the results, successful or not, and their relevance to future proposals.


Intended Readers

Overview of the Rook

The Task Before You

What is a Research Proposal?
A Pervasive Task Defined

A Celebration of Difference

First Steps in Meeting the Needs of Your Readership

Finding out about Research Degree Opportunities

Finding out about Research Funding Opportunities

General Preliminary Explorations

Skills Inventory

When Is a Research Proposal Required and Why?

Sources of Funding

Gaining a Richer View of Funders' Requirements

Gaining Financial Awards for Study

Identifying Potential Supervisors/Advisors

Securing a Place on a Higher Degree by Research Programme

Sections Within a Proposal - What Funders or Research Degree Reviewers Are Looking for

Main Features of Proposals

What Are the Key Aspects of Proposal Preparation?

The Title, Abstract and Covering Letter

The Body of the Proposal - Audience and Style

Developing Your Proposal Draft

Language Register, Voice and Verb Tense

The Conceptual Framework

Stages in the Production of Proposal - Advance Planning

The Constraints of Time

What Should Be Included in the Introduction, Rationale and Literature Review?
Orientating Your Reader to Your Purpose

The Introduction

The Rationale

Preparing for the Literature Review

The Literature Review Itself

The Process of Searching the Literature

Constructing Your Argument

What Is the Significance of the Aims, Objectives, and Research Questions/Hypotheses?
Level of Specificity Required

Clarification of Terms - Aims and Objectives

Research Questions and Hypotheses


Why Paradigm Identification Is Important

The Link between Aims/Objectives and Research Questions/Hypotheses

What Should Be Included in the Methodology/Research Implementation Sections?
Consistency between Purpose and Procedures

Clarification of 'Shorthand' Terms

Methodology - Approach and Justification

Consistency and Justification

Research Using Positivist Approaches

Presenting and Analysing Quantitative Results

Research Using Interpretivist Approaches

Presenting and Analysing Qualitative Results

Using the Right Language

Ethical Considerations

Evaluation Plan

What Financial Considerations Are Required?
The Ground Rules of Budgeting

The Financial Demands of a Research Degree Project

Financial Considerations for All Researchers

Types and Styles of Budgets for Funding Applications

Key Elements of the Budget: Personnel

Key Elements of the Budget: Operating Costs

The Budget after Submission of the Proposal

What Planning and Organisation Details Are Required?
Establishing Goals and Deadlines

Project Planning and Time Management

Implementation Plans

Research Governance

People Management

Schedules and Timelines

Who Are the other Potential Contributors to and Referees for Your Project?
Building Professional Relationships

Building on Overviews of Requirements

Making Contacts and Seeking Help

Developing Collaborations and Partnerships

The Review Process

What Reviewers Are Seeking from Proposals

Reality Check - Grit Your Teeth!

Where Does It End? Reactions, Reflections and Anticipations
After Submission

Receiving Feedback from Reviewers

Reasons for Rejection

Responding to Feedback

Back to the Beginning

The Continuous Cycle of Proposal Writing

Appendix 1 Funding Sources

Appendix 2 Resources





Success in Research free tools

A collection of free tips, exercises and resources from all books in the Success in Research series

This is a sound introduction to proposal writing, especially for those unfamiliar with the process. It is clearly presented and written in largely jargon-free language that will appeal to the neophyte... The work is useful as an introduction to the proposal-writing process.

Maryam Nazari
Online Information Review

This book is essential reading for those writing research proposals for a PhD application as well as those writing proposals to funding bodies. It is intended for those who are writing proposals for the first time but also for those who may have written proposals before, but never succeeded in getting funding... For me, this book is perfectly pitched. It is simple, but not simplistic. It offers practical advice, but also interrogates your thinking about the actual research design...This book is an excellent addition to any newer researcher's bookshelf as well as for administrative staff and those in research offices who support academics writing proposals. You get a sense that the authors are true experts and genuinely want to support new and early academics in what is an increasingly competitive part of modern day academia.
Annika Coughlin
SRA News

Developing Research Proposals is a very accessible and authoritative guide, and part of Sage’s informative Success in Research Series... Overall, the authors have written a book providing a wealth of information and advice that would come in handy not only to those interested in maximizing their chances to get a research degree place or funding for project in a complex and demanding environment, but also to those interested in their personal development as researchers.
Andreea Moise
LSE Review of Books

This is a fabulous text that is pitched at the right level, yet accessible to all undergraduate and postgraduate level students. The information is clear and well laid out and the book is easy to navigate.

Mrs Jen Pogacic
Vocational Education, Moulton College
November 29, 2019

essential reading for part time masters students undertaking research methods module

Dr Brian Nyatanga
Health, The University of Worcester
December 19, 2017

This textbook covers well the basic elements for tailoring and designing a professional research proposal. However, it should be combined with other textbooks as it is not extensive.
Strongly recommended.

Dr Bruno Schivinski
Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University
March 28, 2017

A very clear and step-by-step approach to writing research proposals.
Very useful when undertaking research for the first time. I would recommend it to any new researcher.

Miss Karine Mangion
Management and HR, Regent's University London
March 25, 2015

Proposals are so strange to students new to research. They cannot understand the need of justification but jump straight in to wanting to do things. This text will help understand the need to plan

Mr Martyn Jarvis
Faculty of Business and Society, Department of Law, Accounting and Finance, University of South Wales
March 9, 2015

Excellent book that clearly takes the students through the process of planning a research proposal.

Miss Sharon Brooks
Faculty of Higher Education, City College Plymouth
October 15, 2015

a useful addition to research methods module reading list

Mrs Carolyn Felton
Osteopathy, NESCOT
October 8, 2014

I am recommending this as supplemental reading to PhD students in the first part of their doctoral research. It is as very helpful tool to aid thinking about exactly how to develop their proposals. I also am recommending it to colleagues seeking to become research active.

Dr David Preece
School of Education, Northampton University
September 27, 2014

Important book for classes with applied research projects for students and advanced Master's.

Mrs Claudia Seifert
Communication, Technical University of Dresden
September 3, 2014

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One

Pam Denicolo

Working across a range of disciplines (Psychology, Health & Social Care and Pharmacy), Pam Denicolo, a Professor Emerita from the University of Reading,  a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has wide-ranging experience both of using a range of research approaches and methods and of teaching how to use them well to a broad range of students and professionals world-wide. She has served on executive boards and committees of national and international learned societies and organisations devoted to research and teaching. She continues to publish widely student support... More About Author

Lucinda Becker

Lucinda Becker is Professor of Pedagogy and an award-winning lecturer and tutor at the University of Reading. She has dedicated her professional life to creating independent learners who are confident in themselves intellectually, professionally and personally. Lucinda has written numerous study guides for students and works with undergraduates and postgraduates across the university. She is also a professional trainer and consultant, helping new graduates in engineering, science and law to become successful communicators and leaders. More About Author

For instructors

Also available as a South Asia Edition.

SAGE Research Methods is a research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. SAGE Research Methods links over 175,000 pages of SAGE’s renowned book, journal and reference content with truly advanced search and discovery tools. Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. Since SAGE Research Methods focuses on methodology rather than disciplines, it can be used across the social sciences, health sciences, and more.