Managing Research Projects

Managing Research Projects

Components of a Research Proposal


Many Research Committees look for these core elements when reviewing applications.  This is not a difinitive list of requirements, but rather a checklist of basic good practice.

  • Executive Summary – A umbrella statement of your proposal
  • Statement of Need - A clear statement about why the project is necessary
  • Project Description – The specific details regarding the implementation and evaluation of the project
  • Budget – A financial description of the project with accompanying exploratory notes
  • Organisational Information – The brief history and context of the organisation / department. Include information on the department’s primary activities, audience and previous successes
  • Conclusion – A summary of the proposal’s main points

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary of a proposal is the most important section. It should provide the reader with an overview of the information which follows. In particular, it should summarise all the key information in the document, including a statement of the problem, a description of the project, the funding requirements and the organisations expertise.

The Statement of Need

The Statement of Need should clearly set out to the reader the issue and problem under investigation. It should present the facts and evidence which supports the need for the project and should establish that the writer has appropriate knowledge and expertise to carry out the project. Project and funding proposals are usually read by multi-disciplinary committees. It is necessary for the Statement of Need to summarise the current state of knowledge in the field, while ensuring a balance of technical language and concepts.

Project Description

This section of the project proposal should include the following sections:

  • Objectives
  • Methods
  • Research team and administration
  • Evaluation

By means of the objectives, an effective project proposal will present what achievements are anticipated during the project. Following from this a proposal should present the specific activities that will take place in order to achieve these objectives. The methods section in particular will identify to the proposal reader how the project will be implemented.

Organisational Information

It is good practice in describing the project to include brief information on the team and department which will be conducting the research. This establishes both experience and credibility in the field and will present a case to the funder that the proposed contributors and suitably skilled to implement the project. It is frequently necessary to include a statement of mission for the wider department; demonstrate how the specific project fits this mission; and describe the department and institutions structure, programmes, leadership, activities and expertise.

References are also frequently required for applications and usually need to be arranged by the applicant. Sufficient time should be arranged for suitable, willing and available referees to be contacted.


The evaluation of the project should not be considered only after the project has been completed, but the anticipated evaluation criteria should be included at the proposal stage. The type of formal evaluation will vary according to the nature of the project and its objectives. Measures of productivity, process and / or strategy, and impact may all be used. It is good practice to include in the proposal the form of evaluation, the manner in which information is collected and analysed.

It is also good practice for an evaluation and / or conclusion section to include a dissemination strategy for the project. This is frequently an important aspect for funders; to identify how their funding and information generated will be utilised and disseminated. Information to include:

  • Plans to attend conferences and present academic papers
  • Plans to write up aspects of the project into journal articles, monographs, books, or published reports
  • Plans to attend and / or organise any workshops
  • Plans to receive outside academics or collaborators

Additional Points

A well-planned project proposal will allow sufficient time for preparation and submission in advance of the funding bodies deadline. There may also be a period of time within the institution, usually in Research Support Services, for the proposal to be reviewed prior to submission. It is also good practice to check the method of submission in suitable time (e.g. by post, email, electronic through a designated system).

Key points to remember include:

  • Be realistic about planning a project programme
  • Be explicit about any hypotheses or assumptions the project rests upon
  • Be clear about the focus of the research
  • Be as detailed as possible about the proposed timeline and implementation of the project
  • Be specific about the means of evaluating the data or any conclusions
  • Be sure to make the link between the research methods and research objectives clear

Most funders will also offer guidance notes on completing a request for funding on thier website.

 research process skills