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A research proposal usually consists of the following elements:

• A title
• A problem statement/question
• A subproblem statement
• Hypotheses statement
• Demarcation of the terrain of study (assumptions, limitations and
• Definition of terminology
• Indication of the importance/significance of the study
• Review of related literature
• A careful and detailed analysis of the proposed research procedures

Before an attempt is made to start with a research project, a research proposal should be
compiled. For the beginner researcher, this is usually the most difficult part. It is,
however, the most important aspect of the research project and should be considered
carefully by the researcher. This does not only require subject knowledge, but also insight
into the problem that is going to be investigated, so as to give logic and structure to
research envisaged.

The research proposal can be envisaged as the process (step by step guidelines) to plan
and to give structure to the prospective research with the fina1 aim of increasing the
validity of the research. It is therefore a written submission to spell out in a logic format
the nature of the design and the means and strategies that are going to be used.

1 The Title

The title is usually only formulated after the research problem and subproblems have
been stated in a more or less final format. The research project title should demarcate the

• the WHO or/and WHAT is researched;

• the WHERE;
• the WHEN;
• the HOW; and
• an indication of the ENVISAGED SOLUTION or possible NEW PRODUCT.

2 Problem Statement

It was previously mentioned that research forms a circle. It starts with a problem and ends
with a solution to the problem. Problem statement is therefor the axis which the which the
whole research revolves around, because it explains in short the aim of the research.
Prospective researchers can search within their own subject field for suitable problems.
What should, however, be mentioned, is that not all identified problems within a
scientific field of study is suitable for research.
The prospective researcher should think on what caused the need to do the research
(problem identification). The question that he/she should ask him/herself is: Are there
questions about this problem to which answers have not been found up to the present?
The research problem should be stated in such a way that it would lead to analytical
thinking on the part of the researcher with the aim of possibly concluding solutions to the
stated problem.

The following aspects are important when formulating a research problem:

• The research problem should always be formulated grammatically cor rect and as
completely as possible. You should bear in mind the wording (expressions) you
use. Avoid meaningless words. There should be no doubt in the mind of the
reader what your intentions are.
• Demarcating the research field into manageable parts by dividing the main
problem into subproblems is of the utmost importance.

The following serves as an example:

• Main problem (Aim of the research project should be clearly stated)

• Subproblems (Means to reach the set goal in a manageable way contribute to
solving the problem)

The main and subproblems should, however, form a research unit. After you have stated
the research problem, you should continue to formulate the relevant hypotheses.

3 Formulating Hypotheses

From the literature it is concluded that a hypothesis is a tentative statement, that implies a
proposed answer to a problem, setting accountability and responsibility of effective
research procedure as high priority (De Wet, Monteith, Steyn & Venter 1981 :76).

It should, however, be emphasized that in no way a hypothesis statement can claim to be

the only solution to the problem. It serves only as a point of departure - the chain between
the theory and the research that leads to the broadening of knowledge (Smit 1983:19).

Hypotheses are thus tentative statements that should either be acknowledged or rejected
by means of research.

Because hypotheses give structure and direction to research, the following aspects should
be kept in mind when formulating a hypothesis:

• Hypotheses can only be formulated after the researcher has gained enough
knowledge regarding the nature, extent and intensity of the problem.
• Hypotheses should figure throughout the research process in order to give
structure to the research.
• Hypotheses are tentative statements/solutions or explanations of the formulated
problem. Care should be taken not to over-simplify and generalize the formulation
of hypotheses.
• The research problem does not have to consist of one hypothesis only. The type of
problem area investigated, the extent which encircles the research field are the
determinating factors on how many hypotheses will be included in the research

A research hypothesis is usually stated in an explanatory form, because it indicates the

expected reference of the difference between two variables. ln other words it verifies the
reference that the researcher expects by means of incorporating selected research

The research hypothesis may be stated in a directional or non-directional form.

According to Landman (1988:86) and De Wet et al, (1981:80) a directional hypothesis
statement indicates the expected direction of results, while a nondirectional one indicates
no difference or no relationship.

ln order to assist you in formulating a research hypothesis, you should ascertain the
criteria used in formulating hypotheses.

3.1 Criteria for the formulation of a hypothesis

According to Srnit (1983: 20-21 ) the following criteria are of importance in formulating
hypotheses. A hypothesis should:

• stand a test;
• be expressed in clear language;
• be in accordance with the general theme of other hypotheses statements in the
same field of study, and should be regarded as valid;
• be. co-ordinated with the theory of science;
• be a tentative answer to the formulated problem;
• be logical and simplistic;
• consider available research techniques (to be able to analyze and interpret the
• be specific; and
• be relevant to the collection of empirical phenomenons and not merely conclude
value judgements.

3.2 Hypothesis formulation

From the aforementioned it is clear that hypotheses can be formulated in more than one
Smit (1983:21) demonstrates the latter by using the words ...if and ... then when
formulating a hypothesis. The following serves as an example: If first-year students pass
through an orientation programme then they will be better equipped for study success.

You schould take note that the results after the word then, are not necessarily true, but
could be, in cases where the wording after the word if is true.

3.3 Hypothesis testing

Landman (1988:12) explains the term hypothesis testing as follows: The purpose of
testing a hypothesis is to determine the probability that it is supported by facts.

For the testing of a hypothesis, knowledge of applicable variables of the researcher is an

important assumption. An explanation of the term literature survey with regard to
research context will be explained below.

4 Demarcation of the Terrain of Study

In this section a precise indication is given of the scope of the research with indication of
the assumptions made, limitations and delimitations of the research before the research is

5 Defining of Terminology/Concepts

An indication is given of how the researcher interpreted and is going to use terminology/
concepts in the research report. This is very important, because some concepts/terms are
often used in different meanings by different authors.

6 Indication of the Importance/Significance of the Research

The researcher should indicate and defend why it is necessary to undertake the research.
The benefits that will result from the research and to whom it will be beneficial should be

7 Literature Survey

To conduct research regarding a topic, by implication means that the researcher has
obtained sound knowledge with regard to the research topic. It is therefore imperative
that the researcher, at the time of the submission of the research proposal, clearly
indicates what theoretical knowledge he possesses about the prospective research. A
literature search therefore will entail the literature the prospective researcher has already

An overview of the literature anticipates the background knowledge of the researcher and
a possible classification of the content for the purpose of stating the research problem.
This should also reveal the importance of the contemplated research. A literature search
therefore simplifies the formulation of hypotheses for the researcher.

According to De Wet et al. (1981; 40 - 41 ) the aim of a literature study is to:

• give all-round perspectives on the latest research findings regarding the topic;
• indicate the best method, scale of measurements and statistics that can be used;
• interpret the research findings in a better way; and

• determine the relevancy of the prospective research.

It should further noted that the research design must be accompanied by a preliminary list
of references consulted by the researcher during the preparation of the research proposal.
The list should include the mast recent publications on the research topic. It must
however be emphasized that this reference list by no means is sufficient to complete the
research project - it must be augmented during further literature searches as the research
process continues.

8 Analysis of the Proposed Research Procedures

The researcher supply here a careful and detailed analysis of the proposed research
procedures he/she intends to follow.

9 Reference List

The list of resources used will only include resources referred to in the research proposal.
Use the APA style. An information pamphlet is available from the library.

13 Technical Editing of the Research Proposal

Although the research proposal is considered the preliminary planning of a research

problem, it should comply with the following requirements:

• It should preferably be typed in double spacing on size A4 paper.

• A margain of 4cm is required on the left side of the paper.

The following should also accompany the research proposal:

• A front page.
• The name and surname of the researcher.

• Opening words to the effect of:

• Research proposal prepared for a project with the following title: ...................

Apart of the aforementioned format, Leedy (1987:107-108) recommends the following

guidelines to assist you in structuring your presentation logically:
• The programme and its milieu
• State the problem.
• State the subproblems.
• State the hypotheses.
• Demarcate the terrain.
• Define the terminology.
• Indicate the importance of the study.
• Review related literature

The calculation and interpretation of data:

• Relevant data.

• Research methodology.

• The proposed handling of each subproblem.

Subproblem 1

• Data required.
• Where will you find the data.
• How will you obtain the data.
• How will you calculate/interpret the data.

Subproblem 2


Framework for the prospective study

Landman (1988: 88) holds the view that preparing a research proposal is an important
task, especially when the researcher wishes to obtain funds for the research project. He
emphasizes that the research proposal format should include the following:

• The statement of the problem.

• Hypothesis formulation.

• The significance of the problem.

• Definitions, assumptions, limitations and delimitations.
• Review of related literature.
• A careful and detailed analysis of proposed research procedures.
• A time schedule.
• Budget

What should however be emphasized is the fact that the research proposal forms part of
the research project, and is not merely a means to acquire funding. If you want to obtain
funds for your research project, a definite recipe does not exist for preparing a successful
application. The basic guidelines given by Leedy (1985) and Landman (1988) should

A well prepared research proposal is characterized by an orderly logical outline. It should

be emphasized that various disciplines and different research types, requires different
approaches and methods.

Style of Reference List

De Wet, JJ; Monteith, JL de K; Steyn, HS & Venter, PA 1981 Navorsingsmetodes in die Opvoedkunde:
>n Inleiding tot empiriese navorsing. Pretoria: Butterworth.

Landman, WA 1988 Navorsingsmetodologiese Begrippe. Pretoria: Serva.

Leedy, PD 1985 Practical Research: Planning and Design. Third Edition. New York: McMillan
Publishing Co.

Smit, GJ 1983 Navorsingsmetodes in die Geesteswetenskappe. Pretoria: HAUM.