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Proposal writing

Dr. Sara Lavinia Brair

Associate Professor, Community Medicine
Al Neelain University
Lecture outlines

Defining thesis or dissertation

Determine the main steps for proposal writing

Identify purpose of a proposal

Identify a few tips to reduce anxiety while

preparing the proposal

Identify the structure of a proposal

Lecture outlines
Describe method for writing the methodology

Discuss Gantt chart

Discuss budget calculation

Discuss what to include in the appendix/annex

A thesis is
A dissertation or thesis is a document submitted in
support of candidature for an academic degree or
professional qualification presenting the author's
research and findings.

In some countries/universities, the word "thesis" or a

cognate is used as part of a bachelor's or master's
course, while "dissertation" is normally applied to a
doctorate, while in others, the reverse is true.
Research proposal
The first part of the thesis will be the research proposal

In order to continue on with the thesis, the research

proposal has to be approved by your supervisor and then
submitted to the research ethics committee for approval

The Research Ethics committee (REC) or institutional

review board (IRB) will review the proposal for ethical

Only after IRB approval will you be able to start the

Writing Proposals
The proposal describes the proposed plan of work:

What you intend to study (scope and research questions)

How you intend to study your topic (methodology)

Why this topic needs to be studied (significance)

When you will complete this work (timeline)

How much will it cost to conduct this work (budget)

Writing Proposals
Justify and plan a research project
Show how your project contributes to existing research
Demonstrate that you understand how to conduct
discipline-specific research in an acceptable time-frame

Supervisor and research ethics committee
Proposal Writing and Anxiety
General Advice

Establish a writing schedule

Begin by free-writing
Keep a small notebook with you to write down
relevant thoughts
Compose different parts in different computer files
or on different index cards
Start with more clear cut sections first
Proposal Writing and Anxiety
Proposal-specific Advice
Understand that the proposal will be negotiated,
therefore be prepared to revise!
Think of the proposal as an introduction to your
thesis or dissertation
Remember that the proposal is not a binding
Remember that your proposal is not meant to limit
ideas, but to help you think practically
Ask colleagues to form a writing group and revise
each others work
Talk to your supervisor!
Steps in development of a
research proposal
Step 1
Decide on the problem for research
(problem statement)

Step 2
Do some literature search
and review other studies

Step 3
Formation of objectives
Step 4
Decide your research method

Step 5
Discuss and decide your
Work plan

Step 6
Plan for project administration

Step 7
Calculate the Budget
Structure of the research Proposal
Cover page

Student Declaration page

Chapter 1: Introduction
1. Background
2. Problem Statement
3. Justification
4. Objectives
5. Hypothesis (if any)

Chapter 2: Literature Review (depends on institutional

guidelines this chapter is not a requirement in the proposal
in some universities)
Structure of the research Proposal
Chapter 3: Methodology
Study Design

Study Population
Inclusion & exclusion criteria

Study Area/Study Setting

Sample size
Sampling technique
Structure of the research Proposal
Data collection:
Data collection tool
List of variables
Data Analysis

Ethical consideration
Ethical approval from the university, hospital
Permission from area where research is conducted
Consent from patients
Structure of the research Proposal
Work Plan (Gantt chart)

Budget justification
Project administration


Submission of the proposal
Prepare a letter of intent that clearly summarizes your
research proposal and the estimated resources required, to
send to potential funding agencies when needed.

Some universities might require a presentation to the

research ethics committee
1. Cover Page
Cover page will depend on the institutional guidelines,
therefore always read those guidelines before embarking
on your proposal

This page should not be paginated

All wording should be single-spaced and in uppercase

The title at the cover page to be bold and font-size is 14

Cover Page
Items will be arranged in the following sequence:

Name of the institution

Title: which should be focused, informative and not more

than 16 words (some institutions have different number of

For Masters
A Research Proposal submitted in partial fulfilment of the
Requirements for the Award of the Degree of (specify, e.g.
Master of Science) in the School of Medicine
Cover Page
For PhD
A Research Proposal submitted in fulfilment of the Requirements
for the Award of the Degree of (specify, e.g. PhD) in the School of

Full names of student followed by highest qualification in

standard abbreviation in brackets

Registration number of student below the name

Name of supervisor followed by highest qualification in standard

abbreviation in brackets

Month and year of submission comes immediately after (Centred)

2. Declaration Page

To have the following writings in font 12, Times New

Roman ( check institutional guidelines)

A. Student declaration:
This Proposal is my original work and has not been
presented for a Degree in any other University. Then
the student signs above his/her name and registration
number, followed by the date. E.g.:
Signature: Date:
Declaration Page
B. Supervisor declaration:
This proposal has been submitted for review with our
approval as University supervisors

Then the supervisors, sign above at least two of their

names written in full, together with their respective

The name of the main supervisor should appear at the

top and the other(s) below it. e.g.:
Signature: Date:
Prof. Department
Al Neelain University
Title of the study
You can finalize the title of your study after you
have chosen your problem for study and decided
what your objectives for the study were

The title should be in line with your general

The Title
A good title is defined as the fewest possible
words that adequately describe the contents of
the paper

The title is extremely important and must be

chosen with great care as it will be read by
thousands, whereas few will read the entire paper

Indexing and abstracting of the paper depends on

the accuracy of the title. An improperly titled
paper will get lost and will never be read
Title of the study
Criteria for the title:
1. Aim specific:
(What is the research about?)
2. Place specific:
(Where the research will be implemented?)
3. Time specific:
(When the research is planned to be implemented?)

NOT: A study on home management of dehydration

BUT: Cost and quality of home management of

dehydration in Khartoum state during the year 2010"
The Title
Titles should neither be too short nor too long as
to be meaningless (16 18 words)

Remove empty phrases (studies on, investigations


Words like on, a, an, the etc. should not be used

unless needed

Be careful with Joining words like (and, with)

Word order must be very carefully considered

The Title
It should contain the keywords that reflect the
contents of the paper

It should be meaningful and not general

It should be concise, specific and informative

Subtitles can be used Exercise and Coronary

Heart Disease: Framingham Offspring Study
How to Prepare the Title
Make a list of the most important keywords
Think of a title that contains these words
The title states subject not conclusion of the paper
The title should be in line with your general
The title NEVER contains abbreviations, chemical
formulas, proprietary names or jargon
Think, rethink of the title before submitting the
Be very careful of the grammatical errors due to
faulty word order
Chapter 1: Introduction
The introduction should start with an introduction which
specifies the subtitles of content covered.

Four important things to include:

What is the problem
Why is it important
Highlight the gap
Your research aim

1. Background to the Study what is the problem?

2. Problem Statement and Justification why is it
important, highlight the gap
3. Purpose of the study your research aim
Chapter 1: Introduction
1. Background to the Study
Introduces subject area under study and current situation
The topic is introduced comprehensively

The research topic strengthened with the relevant literature

and appropriate statistical data (international, regional &local

Information such as back ground information about the

research topic, problem definition, description & statement

Introduction should systematically move from the known

information to the unknown information and knowledge gaps
to the hypothesis and research questions ending with
Chapter 1: Introduction
2. Problem Statement
A Problem is discrepancy between what should be and what is
existing problem under study should be stated clearly, (to be
precise and focused)

3. Justification
The justification/rationale -this is the logical reasoning to show why
the research topic is important and the need to conduct the
research project

Justification should be precise and focused on important aspects of

the research topic which are convincing for acceptance

Significance - explain the benefits and the beneficiaries of the

findings of the study
4. Research objectives

The Objectives of a research project summarize

what is to be achieved by the study

The objective answers three main questions

what, where and why?
Why should the objectives be
Objectives will help to:

Focus the study (narrowing it down to essentials)

Avoid collection of unnecessary data
Organize the study in clearly defined parts or
Select the right type of design
Orient the collection, analysis, interpretation and
utilization of data
Properly formulated specific objectives will
help in the following
1. Selection of the right type of study design
2. Orientation of data collection
3. Evaluation of the study

When the research project is evaluated the results will be

compared to the objectives

If the objectives have not been spelled out clearly, the

project cannot be evaluated
Structure of the research proposal
Chapter 2 : Literature Review (optional) - will be discussed in
the write up of the research

Chapter 3: Methodology
1. Study Design

2. Study Population
Inclusion & exclusion criteria

3. Study Area/Study Setting

4. Sampling
Sample size
Sampling technique
Structure of the research proposal
5. Data collection:
Data collection tool
List of variables
Data Analysis

6. Ethical consideration
Ethical approval from the university, hospital
Permission from area where research is conducted
Consent from patients
1. Study designs
A study design is a specific plan or protocol for conducting
the study, which allows the investigator to translate the
conceptual hypothesis into an operational one

The study design of the research should be described in


You should describe both the study design and where it will
be conducted (facility or community)

A cross sectional community based study
Analytic - case control, facility (or hospital) based study
2. Study population
The general characteristics of the study population:

The health status

Demographic data
Census of the population
Social and cultural data
Inclusion & exclusion criteria if present (not all
studies need an inclusion and exclusion criteria)
3. The study area/study setting
The geographical location and land marks of the study area

The geographical and administrative borders

A map of the study area could be included in the annex

You are trying to set the scene for the reader regarding the
area where you are conducting your research; whether
community or facility

If study is conducted in a community we say study area

If study is conducted in a facility we say study setting

4. Sample size and sampling technique

5. Data collection
Data collection tool:
1. The method for data collection are to be
Focused group discussions
Check list
Review of documents, reports
2. Number of questions, domains on the method
of data collection are to be specified
List of variables
A Variable is a characteristic of a person, object or
phenomenon which can take on different values. These may
be in the form of numbers or non-numerical characteristics

Variables are:
Qualitative (categorical)
Nominal e.g.: red, blue
Ordinal e.g.: severe, moderate, mild
Quantitative (numerical)
Continuous e.g.: temperature
Discrete e.g.: number of children

List of variables are obtained from the specific objectives, and

the list of variables yield question on the questionnaire
Data analysis
The data analysis plan:
By an appropriate computer program
Write the version of the program

SPSS version 16

Type of analysis:
Uni-variate analysis
Bivariate analysis
Multivariate analysis
6. Ethical consideration
Ethical approval from the university, hospital
Permission from area where research is conducted
Consent from participants
Privacy and confidentiality as well as the right to
withdraw was explained to participants
Work plan
A work plan is a schedule, chart or graph that summarizes
the different components of a research project and how
they will be implemented in a coherent way within a
specific time-span

It may include:
The tasks to be performed
When and where the tasks will be performed
Who will perform the tasks and the time each person will
spend on them training of data collectors

The Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a planning tool that depicts graphically the
order in which various tasks must be completed and the
duration of each activity
The Gantt chart
Work Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Pre test

Data entry

Gantt chart
Check this website for a free Gantt chart template download

Why do we need to design a budget?
A detailed budget will help you to identify which resources
are already locally available and which additional resources
may be required

The process of budget design will encourage you to consider

aspects of the work plan you have not thought about before
and will serve as a useful reminder of activities planned, as
your research gets underway

When should budget preparation begin?

A complete budget is not prepared until the final stage of
project planning, the use of locally available resources
increases the feasibility of the project from a financial point
of view
How should a budget be prepared?
a) It is necessary to use the work plan as a starting

b) Specify, for each activity in the work plan, what

resources are required

c) Determine for each resource needed the unit cost

and the total cost

This is a link for a yearly budget calculator:

Budget justification
a) It is not sufficient to present a budget without explanation

b) The budget justification follows the budget as an

explanatory note justifying briefly, in the context of the
proposal, why the various items in the budget are required

c) Make sure you give clear explanations concerning why

items that may seem questionable or that are particularly
costly are needed and discuss how complicated expenses
have been calculated

d) If a strong budget justification has been prepared, it is less

likely that essential items will be cut during proposal
Project administration
Project administration: is the term for all the
activities involved in managing the human,
material, financial and logistical resources of a

Presenting the research proposal to the relevant

Before a research project can be implemented, the
research proposal has to be approved by the
relevant health authorities. In addition, the
researchers may be requested to make a brief
verbal presentation or defend the proposal in
References will be discussed separately
Only important documents supporting the content of the
text should be appended to the thesis

Each appendix must be referred to in the body of the text

Example: see template 1 for map of the area

The appendices are listed in the table of contents

Title of the study

A brief description of the problem, why the study is needed, what

information is needed and how such information will be used

Objectives of the study

A brief statement on the type of study design, sample(s) and
methods of data collection

A summary of how and when the study will be implemented

(where, by whom, when, etc.)

A summary of how data will be analyzed to provide the required


A summary of the main resources required (e.g.: manpower,

budget, transport)

A brief summary of ethical considerations, and plan for project

administration, monitoring and utilization of results