Research proposal difficulties: Why your proposal might get rejected

Jul 17, 2013
When you want to conduct research in an academic setting, you must begin by writing what is called a research proposal. It is very similar to a sales pitch to an institution where you "sell" your idea and ask that the community to not only back you, but in some cases, to fund your research so that you can continue. There are many guidelines that must be adhered to when writing your research proposal. If you don't follow the rules sufficiently, or include all the pertinent information in your proposal, not only will it not get the funding that you want, but it can be accepted all together.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a paper which gives the outline for the research that you want to conduct. It is an entire count of what you intend to do, and how you intend to proceed with the research project. A proposal can be written for many different purposes. There are many instances when you will need to be granted funding by an institution. For an academic institution to provide you with grant funds, you must first apply using a proposal format. If you intend to use human or animal participants in your research there are very specific requirements that need to be followed. These guidelines must be fully explained and outlined in your proposal so there is no question as to the validity, or the legality of participant treatment in your research. They can also be used to gain employment, or if you are working on a dissertation to complete your doctoral degree.

What is the structure of a research proposal?

A research proposal is something that is formal and specific. There are many rules for writing them and a strict structure that needs to be followed for it to be accepted. The different categories that need to be included in your research proposal are:
  • Background research on your particular subject
  • Literature review
  • Hypothesis statement
  • Significance
  • Methods
  • References
These sections must all be included for your proposal to be accepted. If you don't cover all the information needed, the proposal will not pass and you will not be granted permission, or in many cases, the funding that is necessary to proceed.

Reasons why a research proposal may not accepted

There are specific reasons why your research proposal will not be accepted. If you don't have a sufficient review of the current literature, there will not be a great enough background for the current research to be conducted. If the panel who is judging the proposal feels as if it is not a subject which is in need of further study, they will fail to find the relevance in it. Being sure to cover what has been done to date, and what is missing in the current literature will provide you with the credentials to proceed. It will provide relevance for the need for your research.
You must have an expert in the field to aid in the research. To conduct the research, you must have someone conducting it who is able, and qualified to conduct it. For instance, if you are conducting research in biology, you need to have a head researcher who is educated in biology. Likewise if you are going to be giving administration of medications, you must have someone who is qualified to administer medication listed as a researcher. Having the proper credentials to conduct the research is integral to it being accepted.
Having a specific and provable hypothesis statement is one of the biggest challenges, and requirements to the research project. A hypothesis statement which is not clear, or definitive will not be accepted. The hypothesis must state the intention of the research and what it is that you expect, or assume will be the result and the outcome. If it is not something which can be proven, or definitive, it will be a major reason that your proposal will not be accepted or funded.
Finding the right backers is important to getting the necessary funding. If you are looking to do research in the field of business, finding a sponsor, or institution that deals in the world of business is best to get the funding you are looking for. If you go to an institution which is not related to the research field you are looking to conduct, it most likely twill not get priority no matter how well it is written, or how well the guidelines are followed.

Things you can do to increase the likelihood of acceptance

To increase the likelihood that your proposal will be accepted the first time there are certain things that you must do:
  • Proofread your proposal to make sure that all the pertinent information is contained
  • Do a thorough literature search, and the appropriate research to find out all you can about the current findings
  • Make sure your hypothesis is provable one way or the other
  • As for help. If you haven't written one before, finding a mentor in the field will aid you immensely in getting it right the first time
  • Find credible sources for your research
  • Find a backer that has the reputation you need
  • Set your goals realistically. Don't expect to cure cancer your first time out. Starting small and building is the best way to gain the respect you need in the field to continue building your research and attaining your goals


A research proposal is the key to building a reputation in your intended field. No matter what the reason you are attempting to conduct research, if your proposal is not written correctly, or missing the key ingredients needed, you research will never happen. A professionally written research proposal is your ticket to success in any academic field. Taking the time to write your research proposal correctly the first time will save you from having to redo it over again, and gain you the respect you are looking for from the colleagues who will be judging your research after you complete it as well.
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By Kevin Demlon. Kevin writes helpful articles to share his knowledge with students in need. He enjoys writing articles on new subjects and does his best to create each post showing writing tips in a clear way.

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