Scientific Writing Tips: Outlining a Research Proposal

Writer: Nishat Raihana

Instagram: @_nishaattt_


The main goal of a research proposal is to convince grant review boards to award funding for the specific study so that scientists can further conduct their research. Most research proposals should include these key elements:

  • Title Page

  • Abstract

  • Key Words

  • Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Literature Review

  • Methodology

  • References

Title Page:

  • The title of your proposal should indicate the field of study your proposal focuses on, as well as the problem and/or solution

  • Your name must be written somewhere, preferably near the bottom of the page

  • Your supervisor’s name, and the institution/department where you are conducting your research should also be indicated. This is not necessary, however, for ENVISION’s STEM competition

  • A date of submission can also be included in the bottom of the title page


  • Your abstract should essentially be a summary of your research proposal. Include details about the problem addressed in your proposal, your proposed solution, a basic overview of the methodology you will use in your study, and a short discussion of the necessity of your proposal.

Key Words:

  • Choose 4-5 keywords that will be placed under your abstract or on your title page. These keywords should involve the main topics of your proposal. Terms closely related to the main points could also be included. By choosing the right keywords, your paper will show up in search engines more often for those who look for certain aspects of a research proposal.

  • For example, if your research proposal addresses the problem of antibiotic resistance, and proposes a solution to use bacteriophages, some keywords can include: antibiotics, bacteriophages, infection, resistance, etc.

Table of Contents:

  • If your research proposal is particularly long, it’s best to include a table of contents that lists major parts and divisions in your research proposals


  • This is the initial section of persuasion for your research proposal. Grant review boards want to see what your research is all about and why you want to conduct it.

  • The introductory paragraph(s) of your proposal should detail the problem specific to your proposal, your proposed solution, the goals of your study, and the significance of the research

Literature Review

  • This section is used to contextualize and differentiate your research study. Include details about current and past research that correlates with the field of study your proposal is based upon.

  • Show that your research proposal makes a significant impact on your field of study by highlighting weaknesses of current/past research and how your proposal addresses these weaknesses


  • This section is one of the most important parts of a research proposal as it highlights how you will approach your research question

  • It helps grant review boards to make sure that after you have received your grant, you already have a plan of action in how you will go about your research with the money given to you

  • You should make a case about how your approach to tackling your research question is the most effective method

  • You should also include a section about ethical concerns, and how you will address them. For instance, how you would protect the rights of the human subjects used in your research experiments


  • This should be a separate page of all the sources you used to identify your research problem and hypothesis. Also include any other sources you used that contributed to your research proposal

  • For research publications and proposals, always use APA style citations


McCombes, S. (2020, June 26). How to Write a Research Proposal: Guide and Template. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from

REQUIREMENTS: ENVISION: Women In STEM. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2020, from

Christopher Taylor, P. (2020, April 26). How to Write a Research Proposal. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Writing a Research Proposal. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2020, from

Sudheesh, K., Duggappa, D. R., & Nethra, S. S. (2016). How to write a research proposal?. Indian journal of anaesthesia, 60(9), 631–634.