Writing a research proposal

Writing a research proposal

Writing a research proposal

Research proposal refers to the description of  what the researcher wants to investigate, why it’s important, and how the research will be done. 
  • The format of a research proposal varies between fields and from institution to institution

Note: A research proposal is written in the future tense because it tells the reader what the researcher intends to undertake.

Read the above NOTE again Please!

Importance of Writing Research Proposals.

  1. Securing Funding: Research proposals allow nurses to request financial support or grants to conduct their proposed studies. This funding is vital for obtaining necessary resources, such as equipment, materials, and personnel, required for the research.

  2. Guiding Research: A research proposal acts as a roadmap for the researcher. It outlines the plan and steps to be followed throughout the research effort, helping nurses stay focused and organized as they conduct their studies.

  3. Meeting Certification Requirements: Research committees often require a well-structured proposal before approving studies involving human or animal subjects. Writing a research proposal ensures that the necessary ethical considerations and safeguards are in place before the research begins.

  4. Generating New Ideas: The process of writing a research proposal stimulates critical thinking. Nurses often gain deeper insights into their chosen topic and generate new ideas during the proposal-writing stage.

  5. Establishing Feasibility: A research proposal forces nurses to consider the practical aspects of their projects. It helps in estimating the time, resources, and effort required, ensuring that the research is feasible within the available constraints.

  6. Educational Requirement: Many tertiary education programs in Uganda require students to write research proposals as a prerequisite for embarking on a research project or dissertation. This prepares nurses for the rigorous research process ahead.

  7. Anticipating Limitations: Writing a research proposal encourages nurses to identify potential limitations and challenges that may arise during the study. This proactive approach allows for better planning and strategizing to overcome these obstacles.

Aims of a research proposal

A research proposal aims to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Captivating Interest: Your proposal should convince readers that your research project is engaging, original, and holds significance in the field of nursing. It should highlight the importance of your study’s contribution.

  2. Demonstrating Expertise: By showcasing your familiarity with the subject and the existing research landscape, your proposal establishes that you have a solid understanding of the current state of knowledge in the field.

  3. Validating Methodology: The proposal outlines your chosen research methodology, indicating that you have thoughtfully considered the tools, data, and procedures required for a rigorous and valid study.

  4. Practical Viability: Your proposal should confirm that your research project is feasible within the practical limitations of your program, institution, or available funding. This demonstrates that your study can realistically be conducted as planned.

How to write a research proposal

Contents/ components of a research proposal:
The proposal consists of; a title/ topic, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, reference list, and an appendix with; a budget schedule, and other relevant information such as questionnaire and map of study area.



This includes:

  • The proposed title of your research
  • Your name
  • Index number
  • The institution and department
  • The year
  • The layout varies from institution to institution




  • Title Page 
  • Declaration Page
  • Abstract
  • Copyright Page 
  • Authorization Page/Approval page 
  • Dedication 
  • Preface or Acknowledgement (if applicable)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures 
  • List of Tables 
  • Definition of terms
  • Abbreviations


  • A research proposal mainly consists of three chapters;
    1. Chapter one- Introduction
    2. Chapter two- Literature review
    3. Chapter three- Methodology

Finally, there should be REFERENCES and APPENDICES (APPENDIX)


  • Appendix I: Consent Form 
  • Appendix II: Research Work Plan
  • Appendix III: Estimated Research Budget
  • Appendix IV: Questionnaire for Participants
  • Appendix V: Sample Size Determination 


This tells us in detail what your study is all about. It intends to introduce the topic to the readers interested in your research.

It has the following sub sections;

  • 1.0 Introduction of the chapter
  • 1.1 Background to the study topic
  • 1.2 Problem statement
  • 1.3 Purpose of the study
  • 1.4 Specific objectives
  • 1.5 Research questions
  • 1.6 Justification of the study

1.0 Introduction of the chapter

  • This briefly summarises the what the chapter is all about.
  • It aims at giving the reader what he/she should find in this chapter.
  •  It provides information to prepare the minds of the readers to comprehend the problem under investigation.
  •  Describe your topic i.e. describe your dependent variable (define it & link it to the independent variables where possible).
  •  Provide evidence of the existing problem from a universal view to local (global, continental, regions, countries), highlighting the gaps.
  •  Make the reader understand the past (origin), present, and future states of affairs/problem.
  •  Introduction should not exceed 2 pages (About 600 words, Font type: Times New Roman, Font size 12; 1.5 line spacing) – Makerere Research format.
  •  Use APA (American Psychological Association) for in-text referencing in the introduction.

1.1 Background to the study topic

  • An overview of the study and what is its context/situation across different regions in the world.
  • Understand the situation of your research problem globally, regionally and locally 
  • It is an in-depth explanation of how big is the problem you are studying 
  • It aims at convincing the reader that your problem is worth studying
  • Usually it should not exceed three pages

1.2 Problem statement

The problem statement must be concise and clear, not exceeding one page. It should address the following seven questions:

  1.  To what extent is the problem manifested statistically?
  2.  What is the state of the problem in your country?
  3.  How does the problem progress over the years, for example, in 2007, in 2008, and so on (you can reference studies)?
  4.  What is the effect of the problem on the target population?
  5.  What efforts have been made to address the problem, e.g., by government ministries, organizations, etc.?
  6.  What is the existing gap? (For instance, despite…, comparing the magnitude of the problem…)
  7.  What is the proposed way forward? (e.g., therefore, I need to conduct the study”)

It therefore summarizes the following;

    • Magnitude of the problem
    • The actual problem
    • Consequences/Effects of the problem 

1.3 Purpose of the study(Aims)

  • Refers to the general intention of the research.
  • Should spell out what the research is supposed to accomplish.
  • It is usually duplicated from the topic but with an element of action in it. For example: To identify/establish the factors affecting the rate of spread of bedbugs among male students in Gaddafi hall at Mulago 😂
  • When stating the objective, make sure it is complete (indicate the target population and study area).
  • When writing the objective, do not use words with immeasurable elements such as to study, understand, or know. Use words like Evaluate, Assess, Examine, Establish, Investigate, Identify, Determine, Extent, and Magnitude.

1.4 Specific objectives

  • Not more than 4, not less than 2, Average 3 specific objects in number.
  • Objectives must be SMART:
    • SSpecific (to one thing) – meaning that it should clearly state what the researcher intends to achieve. This means to should be free from any unclear interruptions
    • MMeasurable: do not use words like to study, understand, and know. Use words like Evaluate, Assess, Examine, Establish, Investigate, Determine, Extent, and Magnitude.
    • AAchievable (Time frame and cost).
    • RRealistic (address a topic at hand) – the objective must be stated in a sensible and practical idea of what can be expected and achieved.
    • TTime-boundwhat the researcher wants to do should be set to be done in a given period of time
  • Directly related to the problem (Every objective should be answering a title/topic).
  • Relevant to a particular study.
  • Appropriately worded (Objectives must be complete (E.g. stating the target population and study area (location)).

1.5 Research question(s)

  • Research questions are like specific objectives but with question Marks (?)
  • These are directly extracted from the specific objectives of the research
  • They are stated in the questions form so that at the end of the research, we can evaluate to see if these questions have been answered

For example: 

Objective: To assess the knowledge of mothers towards oral medicine administration of there children below 5 years.

Question: What knowledge do mothers have towards administration of oral medicine to there children below 5 years?

 1.6 Justification of the study

To justify is to defend, to give reasons why or to give an explanation. Justification of the research problem is to explain to the reader why this study is worth to be done. Also known as Significance of the study.

  • Why? (Would the world collapse if this research is not conducted?)
  • Why have you chosen that specific part of the world for your study?
  • Whenever possible, use statistics to reinforce your point (e.g., “Hospital records show that observation…,” “On observation…”).
  • Should not exceed more than one paragraph.


  • Can be interconnected with the justification.
  • How does it benefit the target population, Ministries, hospitals, NGOs, etc.?
  • Significance pertains to the study’s relevance both academically and in practical applications. (For example, “Upon completion, this study’s results will prove valuable in…”)

Do the quiz below to test yourself. They are only 10 Objectives.

[quiz-cat id="7128"]
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