Write a research proposal, of no more than 2500 words in length, on a subject of your choice. Use the suggested structure below as a guide. The proposal should be wholly quantitative research.
It is important to present your proposal clearly, as if it were being submitted to an ethics committee (containing lay people).
A suggested structure
- 1. Title
Try to make this clear and succinct.
- 2. Aims of the investigation
It helps the reader if early on you indicate in two or three sentences what you will investigate. This makes it much easier to make sense of the material that follows.
- 3. Background and introduction
This should set out the context of your project and indicate how your study would fit in to related work. It will also provide a rationale (why is this worth studying?) and give an idea of research methods that have been used before. It should lead clearly to the next section.
- 4. Research question/hypotheses
These should be clearly stated. They do not have to be in hypothesis form (as in statistical tests) but should be tightly specified. This means that you should focus down from more general issues to specific question(s). This enables the reader to judge whether your design is appropriate to your question(s).
- 5. Design
What form does the study take? Why is this an appropriate way of giving an answer to the research question(s)? Essentially this is a brief summary of the organisation of the data to be collected – e.g. randomised controlled trial, cohort study, repeated measures on non-equivalent comparison groups, survey, etc. You need to say something about the number of groups to be studied and the number of time points at which measures are to be taken etc. Will your design rule out other plausible explanations for what you find and is it therefore a valid way of testing the hypothesis?
- 6. Participants
How is your population defined? What are the inclusion and exclusion criteria? Where will they be recruited? (and have you agreement on this?) How many subjects? How will they be recruited?
- 7. Ethical considerations
In any study it is vital to consider the issues of confidentiality, consent and coercion. You need to say how you will address these. What information will be given to participants and how will their consent be obtained? Some studies may raise particularly difficult ethical issues – e.g. exposing participants to harmful situations or the identification of patients who are deteriorating during a study – and you need to indicate how you will deal with these.
- 8. Measures
What are you going to use and why? Is there evidence that these are “good” measures and are particularly suitable for this study? If you are using new measures how will you ensure that they have desirable characteristics? This section should include details of outcome measures, covariates etc.
- 9. Procedure
Include details of any pilot studies and how you will make use of their results. The main function of this section is to indicate clearly what will happen to the participants. What will they be expected to do and in what order? Again you may need to indicate a rationale for the particular sequence of activities.
- 10. Plan of analysis
You should demonstrate that you have a fairly clear idea of how you will use the data to answer your research question(s). Given the question/hypotheses and the overall design/organisation of the data what statistical tests or other analytic methods will you use? This should help you to check that the design really is appropriate to answer your research questions. As this is a quantitative methods module, the statistical techniques you propose to use should be well described.
- 11. Timetable
You should give an idea of when the various phases of the study will be conducted. In particular, when do you expect to be collecting data? You need to plan ahead to allow enough time for analysis and writing-up. (This always takes longer than you think).
- 12. Financial aspects
You should give some thought as to what your study will cost. What resources are needed and where will they come from?
- 13. Discussion
You should give a brief evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal. (You would not need to do this for an ethics committee but it is a useful addition to this assessment).
- 14. References
Include these consistently in one of the standard formats.
Note: you may adopt a different structure if that makes more sense for the kind of study that you are proposing. However, you must make clear what you are investigating, why it is of interest, describe the methods you would use and give a rationale for the way in which they will help you to answer the research question(s).
Focus must be on:
1. Protocol writing
a) Research question
b) Research design
d) Analysis (including descriptions of the statistical techniques used)
e) Ethical considerations
f) Other (including budget and timetable)
- 2. General structure/format
b) Clarity of argument
c) Theory-practice links