Structuring key sections

All research proposals need to cover the following three main areas:

  • what  you propose to research
  • why  the topic needs to be researched
  • how  you plan to research it.

How these three areas translate into a structure or into sections in a research proposal varies significantly.

There isn’t usually a single set structure for all research proposals, so you’ll need to check your School guidelines. There is also substantial disparity in the length required, with some Schools asking for 2 – 5 pages, some 8 – 10 pages, and others considerably longer.

The specific sections required in research proposals can also vary between Schools.

Test your knowledge


To help you work out how you went with the above activity, the table below lists sections that are always included and those that are often included in a research proposal.
Always included

  • Title
  • Background to the study
  • Literature review
  • Research questions, problems and/or hypotheses
  • Rationale for the research
  • Scope of the research
  • Research methodology
  • Milestones or timeline
  • Research significance/contributions
  • Reference list
Often included

  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Definitions
  • Statement of the problem
  • Research aims and/or objectives
  • Epistemological stance and/or theoretical framework
  • Particular needs (e.g. resources)
  • Expected preliminary outcomes
  • Ethics approval/evidence of application

For some general RMIT discipline-based guidelines, consult RMIT’s discipline based guidelines to writing research proposals (DOCX, 1 page).


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book