Guide to Research Proposal

Writing a Research Proposal: A few Guiding Questions

What is a Research Proposal?

Based on Punch (1998, p. 268), a research proposal comprises answers to three basic questions:

• What is the purpose of this research? What are we trying to find out?

• How will the proposed research answer these questions?

• Why is this research worth doing? Or, what will we learn, and why is it worth knowing?

Punch, K. (1998). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. London, UK, Sage.

At the Center for Preparatory Studies, SQU, we do not stipulate a specified length for a

research proposal in terms of page numbers. We do however recommend that research proposals include as much of the detail suggested below as possible in order to enable readers to form a comprehensive picture of what the proposed research intends to do. One guiding measure is to double space your proposal and have the following face font and size specifications (Times New Roman, 14pt for Title, and 12pt for other parts).


What General Questions can guide the writing process?


These guiding questions are not exhaustive, but they aim to present a basic description of the contents expected per section in a research proposal.




General Guiding Questions


  • What is the title of your proposed study?
  • Is it concise and simple?
  • Is it clear and straightforward?


  • What is the research problem you are trying to investigate?
  • Why is the study important to do?
  • What are the aims of the research?
  • What is the context of the proposed study?
  • Who are your participants? How many?
  • What methods of collecting data are you planning to use?
  • How are you going to analyze the data?

  Literature review

  • What is the literature guiding your proposed study?
  • What empirical studies are you using to review the general area of your interest?
  • How is your proposed study different from and similar to existing theory?
  • Are you doing the study to test or to generate theory?

  Research   goals/objectives

  • What do you aim to achieve from conducting the study?
  • How are the aims going to inform theory, policy and/or practice?
  • How will theory, policy and/or practice benefit from this research?

  Research questions

  • What are your general/specific research question(s)?
  • How are they aligned to the research goals/objectives above?
  • How are they going to address the problem(s) you set to explore at the outset?

  Data collection

  • What is your overall research approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), and why?
  • What is the context?
  • Who are the participants? How is sampling done, and why?
  • What kind of data (interview, observational and/or documentary) will best address your research question(s), and why?
  • What kind of instruments will help you address the RQs, and why?
  • How can the research gathering instruments be sequenced to maximize answering the RQs?
  • What is your procedural plan/design for carrying out data collection (who, when, how, where, why)?

  Data analysis

  • What approach are you going to use to analyse the gathered data (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), and why?
  • What kind of techniques will help you do so, and why?
  • What means are you going to use to carry out the analysis (manual, electronic or both), and why?
  • How are you going to make sure that your analysis is valid, credible and dependable?

  Ethical issues

  • What is your chosen setting (the context of the research), and why?
  • How are you going to negotiate access to the setting?
  • How are you going to negotiate access to participants?
  • How are you going to convince participants to partake in your research study?
  • What means are you going to use to record data?
  • What issues arise in terms of storing the gathered data and honouring participants’ anonymity?
  • To what extent can this protection of anonymity be guaranteed?
  • How long do you intend to keep the data for, and with what secure means?


  • What is the list of works that you have relied on to present your proposal?
  • What referencing system are you going to use to list the references?


Prepared by: Faisal Said Al-Maamari, PhD (2013)

Revised & updated by the Central Research & Conference Committee (September, 2021)