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Significance of the Study – Examples and Writing Guide

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Significance of the Study

Significance of the Study

Definition:

Significance of the study in research refers to the potential importance, relevance, or impact of the research findings. It outlines how the research contributes to the existing body of knowledge, what gaps it fills, or what new understanding it brings to a particular field of study.

In general, the significance of a study can be assessed based on several factors, including:

  • Originality : The extent to which the study advances existing knowledge or introduces new ideas and perspectives.
  • Practical relevance: The potential implications of the study for real-world situations, such as improving policy or practice.
  • Theoretical contribution: The extent to which the study provides new insights or perspectives on theoretical concepts or frameworks.
  • Methodological rigor : The extent to which the study employs appropriate and robust methods and techniques to generate reliable and valid data.
  • Social or cultural impact : The potential impact of the study on society, culture, or public perception of a particular issue.

Types of Significance of the Study

The significance of the Study can be divided into the following types:

Theoretical Significance

Theoretical significance refers to the contribution that a study makes to the existing body of theories in a specific field. This could be by confirming, refuting, or adding nuance to a currently accepted theory, or by proposing an entirely new theory.

Practical Significance

Practical significance refers to the direct applicability and usefulness of the research findings in real-world contexts. Studies with practical significance often address real-life problems and offer potential solutions or strategies. For example, a study in the field of public health might identify a new intervention that significantly reduces the spread of a certain disease.

Significance for Future Research

This pertains to the potential of a study to inspire further research. A study might open up new areas of investigation, provide new research methodologies, or propose new hypotheses that need to be tested.

How to Write Significance of the Study

Here’s a guide to writing an effective “Significance of the Study” section in research paper, thesis, or dissertation:

  • Background : Begin by giving some context about your study. This could include a brief introduction to your subject area, the current state of research in the field, and the specific problem or question your study addresses.
  • Identify the Gap : Demonstrate that there’s a gap in the existing literature or knowledge that needs to be filled, which is where your study comes in. The gap could be a lack of research on a particular topic, differing results in existing studies, or a new problem that has arisen and hasn’t yet been studied.
  • State the Purpose of Your Study : Clearly state the main objective of your research. You may want to state the purpose as a solution to the problem or gap you’ve previously identified.
  • Contributes to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Addresses a significant research gap.
  • Offers a new or better solution to a problem.
  • Impacts policy or practice.
  • Leads to improvements in a particular field or sector.
  • Identify Beneficiaries : Identify who will benefit from your study. This could include other researchers, practitioners in your field, policy-makers, communities, businesses, or others. Explain how your findings could be used and by whom.
  • Future Implications : Discuss the implications of your study for future research. This could involve questions that are left open, new questions that have been raised, or potential future methodologies suggested by your study.

Significance of the Study in Research Paper

The Significance of the Study in a research paper refers to the importance or relevance of the research topic being investigated. It answers the question “Why is this research important?” and highlights the potential contributions and impacts of the study.

The significance of the study can be presented in the introduction or background section of a research paper. It typically includes the following components:

  • Importance of the research problem: This describes why the research problem is worth investigating and how it relates to existing knowledge and theories.
  • Potential benefits and implications: This explains the potential contributions and impacts of the research on theory, practice, policy, or society.
  • Originality and novelty: This highlights how the research adds new insights, approaches, or methods to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Scope and limitations: This outlines the boundaries and constraints of the research and clarifies what the study will and will not address.

Suppose a researcher is conducting a study on the “Effects of social media use on the mental health of adolescents”.

The significance of the study may be:

“The present study is significant because it addresses a pressing public health issue of the negative impact of social media use on adolescent mental health. Given the widespread use of social media among this age group, understanding the effects of social media on mental health is critical for developing effective prevention and intervention strategies. This study will contribute to the existing literature by examining the moderating factors that may affect the relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes. It will also shed light on the potential benefits and risks of social media use for adolescents and inform the development of evidence-based guidelines for promoting healthy social media use among this population. The limitations of this study include the use of self-reported measures and the cross-sectional design, which precludes causal inference.”

Significance of the Study In Thesis

The significance of the study in a thesis refers to the importance or relevance of the research topic and the potential impact of the study on the field of study or society as a whole. It explains why the research is worth doing and what contribution it will make to existing knowledge.

For example, the significance of a thesis on “Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare” could be:

  • With the increasing availability of healthcare data and the development of advanced machine learning algorithms, AI has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry by improving diagnosis, treatment, and patient outcomes. Therefore, this thesis can contribute to the understanding of how AI can be applied in healthcare and how it can benefit patients and healthcare providers.
  • AI in healthcare also raises ethical and social issues, such as privacy concerns, bias in algorithms, and the impact on healthcare jobs. By exploring these issues in the thesis, it can provide insights into the potential risks and benefits of AI in healthcare and inform policy decisions.
  • Finally, the thesis can also advance the field of computer science by developing new AI algorithms or techniques that can be applied to healthcare data, which can have broader applications in other industries or fields of research.

Significance of the Study in Research Proposal

The significance of a study in a research proposal refers to the importance or relevance of the research question, problem, or objective that the study aims to address. It explains why the research is valuable, relevant, and important to the academic or scientific community, policymakers, or society at large. A strong statement of significance can help to persuade the reviewers or funders of the research proposal that the study is worth funding and conducting.

Here is an example of a significance statement in a research proposal:

Title : The Effects of Gamification on Learning Programming: A Comparative Study

Significance Statement:

This proposed study aims to investigate the effects of gamification on learning programming. With the increasing demand for computer science professionals, programming has become a fundamental skill in the computer field. However, learning programming can be challenging, and students may struggle with motivation and engagement. Gamification has emerged as a promising approach to improve students’ engagement and motivation in learning, but its effects on programming education are not yet fully understood. This study is significant because it can provide valuable insights into the potential benefits of gamification in programming education and inform the development of effective teaching strategies to enhance students’ learning outcomes and interest in programming.

Examples of Significance of the Study

Here are some examples of the significance of a study that indicates how you can write this into your research paper according to your research topic:

Research on an Improved Water Filtration System : This study has the potential to impact millions of people living in water-scarce regions or those with limited access to clean water. A more efficient and affordable water filtration system can reduce water-borne diseases and improve the overall health of communities, enabling them to lead healthier, more productive lives.

Study on the Impact of Remote Work on Employee Productivity : Given the shift towards remote work due to recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this study is of considerable significance. Findings could help organizations better structure their remote work policies and offer insights on how to maximize employee productivity, wellbeing, and job satisfaction.

Investigation into the Use of Solar Power in Developing Countries : With the world increasingly moving towards renewable energy, this study could provide important data on the feasibility and benefits of implementing solar power solutions in developing countries. This could potentially stimulate economic growth, reduce reliance on non-renewable resources, and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

Research on New Learning Strategies in Special Education : This study has the potential to greatly impact the field of special education. By understanding the effectiveness of new learning strategies, educators can improve their curriculum to provide better support for students with learning disabilities, fostering their academic growth and social development.

Examination of Mental Health Support in the Workplace : This study could highlight the impact of mental health initiatives on employee wellbeing and productivity. It could influence organizational policies across industries, promoting the implementation of mental health programs in the workplace, ultimately leading to healthier work environments.

Evaluation of a New Cancer Treatment Method : The significance of this study could be lifesaving. The research could lead to the development of more effective cancer treatments, increasing the survival rate and quality of life for patients worldwide.

When to Write Significance of the Study

The Significance of the Study section is an integral part of a research proposal or a thesis. This section is typically written after the introduction and the literature review. In the research process, the structure typically follows this order:

  • Title – The name of your research.
  • Abstract – A brief summary of the entire research.
  • Introduction – A presentation of the problem your research aims to solve.
  • Literature Review – A review of existing research on the topic to establish what is already known and where gaps exist.
  • Significance of the Study – An explanation of why the research matters and its potential impact.

In the Significance of the Study section, you will discuss why your study is important, who it benefits, and how it adds to existing knowledge or practice in your field. This section is your opportunity to convince readers, and potentially funders or supervisors, that your research is valuable and worth undertaking.

Advantages of Significance of the Study

The Significance of the Study section in a research paper has multiple advantages:

  • Establishes Relevance: This section helps to articulate the importance of your research to your field of study, as well as the wider society, by explicitly stating its relevance. This makes it easier for other researchers, funders, and policymakers to understand why your work is necessary and worth supporting.
  • Guides the Research: Writing the significance can help you refine your research questions and objectives. This happens as you critically think about why your research is important and how it contributes to your field.
  • Attracts Funding: If you are seeking funding or support for your research, having a well-written significance of the study section can be key. It helps to convince potential funders of the value of your work.
  • Opens up Further Research: By stating the significance of the study, you’re also indicating what further research could be carried out in the future, based on your work. This helps to pave the way for future studies and demonstrates that your research is a valuable addition to the field.
  • Provides Practical Applications: The significance of the study section often outlines how the research can be applied in real-world situations. This can be particularly important in applied sciences, where the practical implications of research are crucial.
  • Enhances Understanding: This section can help readers understand how your study fits into the broader context of your field, adding value to the existing literature and contributing new knowledge or insights.

Limitations of Significance of the Study

The Significance of the Study section plays an essential role in any research. However, it is not without potential limitations. Here are some that you should be aware of:

  • Subjectivity: The importance and implications of a study can be subjective and may vary from person to person. What one researcher considers significant might be seen as less critical by others. The assessment of significance often depends on personal judgement, biases, and perspectives.
  • Predictability of Impact: While you can outline the potential implications of your research in the Significance of the Study section, the actual impact can be unpredictable. Research doesn’t always yield the expected results or have the predicted impact on the field or society.
  • Difficulty in Measuring: The significance of a study is often qualitative and can be challenging to measure or quantify. You can explain how you think your research will contribute to your field or society, but measuring these outcomes can be complex.
  • Possibility of Overstatement: Researchers may feel pressured to amplify the potential significance of their study to attract funding or interest. This can lead to overstating the potential benefits or implications, which can harm the credibility of the study if these results are not achieved.
  • Overshadowing of Limitations: Sometimes, the significance of the study may overshadow the limitations of the research. It is important to balance the potential significance with a thorough discussion of the study’s limitations.
  • Dependence on Successful Implementation: The significance of the study relies on the successful implementation of the research. If the research process has flaws or unexpected issues arise, the anticipated significance might not be realized.

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  • CREd Library , Planning, Managing, and Publishing Research

Grant Section Analysis: Significance and Innovation

Part 2 in a section-by-section overview with tips, suggestions, and examples for writing a strong research grant application., shelley i. gray.

  • April, 2014

DOI: 10.1044/cred-pvd-lfs002

The following is a transcript of the presentation video, edited for clarity.

Significance

significance section of a research proposal example

In the Significance Section, I’ve highlighted the key words straight from the instructions on what you should include. What we’re recommending is that you take this exact wording right out of the instructions and use it in your application. That makes it easy for the reviewers to find these critical words that are like little guideposts in your grant application.

You can see the words here. I think someone yesterday said that they keep a list of these things right up by their computer, or right on their desktop, as they are writing to make sure they’re being constantly reminded to include them as they write.

Clarity of Purpose

significance section of a research proposal example

One of the more difficult things to do is to achieve this clarity of purpose. We have broad ideas, we have lots of ideas about what we want to do. For a grant application proposal, you really need to get a laser-focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, and be able to communicate that to the reviewer.

Your wording should convey your purpose clearly, enthusiastically, and concisely. To do that, one of the things I suggest is to use words with positive valence in your application. Words with positive valence evoke happy and positive thoughts as you read them. We’re using priming of positive valence words to help build a positive attitude.

Don’t be tentative. Be proactive and be confident in your grant proposal. We’ll talk about some words that are tentative. And do your best not to be vague.

Words with Positive Valence

significance section of a research proposal example

Here are some words with positive valence. Improved, original, opportunity, new, productive, innovative, exciting, creative, interesting, constructive, advanced, important, and you can probably think of a lot of other ones.

You can use these adjectives, but if what you’re proposing is not these things, it’s not going to do you any good. It really does have to be these things. But once you have that in your content and your proposal, this will help create a positive attitude.

Tentative Stance

significance section of a research proposal example

What are some words that convey a tentative stance? If. In science we use “if” statements a lot, but they shouldn’t be the kind of “if” statements that are casting doubt on whether something will turn out the way you think it will. You can use the word if for contingencies and cover both sides of the contingency, that’s important. But what you don’t want to do is raise a problem and not address it.

May — can you think of a replacement word for may?

Hope — we hope this happens. I’ve seen that in a lot of grant applications. Of course we hope it happens, but better not to say it that way.

Might — that’s another one, “it might.” In your grant application you want to plan for every contingency and let your reviewers know that you’ve thought through the different things that can happen and what you’ll do with each one of them. Same with “could.” It could happen, perhaps, possibly.

Do these words evoke a car sales ad to you? Do they make you feel like people can’t really say what this car will do for you, but it might do it, so we’re hedging our bets. You don’t want to hedge your bets in a grant application.

Vague Terminology

significance section of a research proposal example

The thing and stuff words. Phrases like certain aspects — that’s not too specific. Some properties, a general outcome, the overall conceptualization, improved understanding, observed change, improved outlook. These might be big picture things that can happen, but when you start to use terms that aren’t real specific, it is good for you to think, “Is there something more specific I can say?”

significance section of a research proposal example

Another recommendation we introduced last year was this book (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008). You can look it up on Amazon if you’d like, but one way to start — or maybe to back up if you’re having trouble with that laser focus — would be to think about something like this. Can I say in a few short sentences what I’m trying to accomplish?

Here’s an example: A real quick description of your topic. Then can you explain what you think the theoretical significance of that would be? What would be the clinical significance? Is there a potential practical application? And why is it innovative?

If you can summarize what you’re trying to do starting with this kind of an organization, chances are you’re going to be able to expand it. As someone was saying yesterday, you really need to be able to present your program of research or grant in a 30-second bite, a 2-minute bite, and so on. This kind of thing will help you do that.

Telling the Story

Integrate Your Story into the Literature Review

significance section of a research proposal example

Another important thing to do is to think about integrating a story into your grant application. As someone said yesterday, it should read like an action novel.

On one hand, we’re talking about wordsmithing and using good grantsmanship, and you’re getting the wording in there. But on the other hand, you really need a story to unfold. And like any good writer, you’re trying to combine these two things.

What is the story you want to tell about the problem?

What is the problem? Is it an interesting problem? Is it an important problem?

Where does that problem come from? Is it a theoretical problem that we don’t have a theory in a particular area? Or the theory has been stuck at this level of conceptualization for a period of time, and we could move beyond that to suggest new lines of research? Why is it important in your story that you’re telling in the grant?

What are the gaps in knowledge that you’re particularly interested in? You’re the hero of the story, right? Your solution to the problem is the “Aha. Here comes the main character.” You are the main character and you are solving the problem that you’ve had the opportunity to build credibility for in your background section.

Convey Significance with Context

significance section of a research proposal example

You want to explain the problem, and what is known about the problem right now in this day and age. It’s important that you are backing this up with current research. That the reviewers know that you understand the breadth of research.

Contextualize what work you have done so far that is helping to build the story. It might be published research. It might be pilot data that you have. It might be part of your training even. It you’ve contributed in any way to this work, you certainly want to highlight that.

You want to propose the next step and tell why what you’re proposing is the next logical step. What do you want to do right now that’s important? You really need to situate your problem within a theoretical framework, or at least a model to show how you fit in with history, and how you’re part fits in with the longer-playing story.

Example Sentences: Significance

significance section of a research proposal example

Here are a couple examples to highlight the gap in knowledge or barrier to progress.

In human subjects it is difficult to determine the links among physiology, vocal function measurement, and perceptual quality because it is not possible to systematically manipulate one and observe the effects on the other.

So can you pick out the gap or barrier to progress in this paragraph? The problem is it’s difficult to determine the links among physiology, vocal function measurement, and perceptual quality — and it says not only that it’s a problem, but explains quickly and concisely why it’s a problem. Then here comes the possible solution to the problem.

Computational and physical modeling are alternative methods for studying the links among physiology, vocal function measures, and perceptual quality.

And it describes it in a very short amount of space.

significance section of a research proposal example

Here’s a significance statement.

The proposed research is significant because understanding how specific vocal fold asymmetries contribute to voice quality will lead to improved efficiency of evaluation and treatment of voice disorders that involve vibratory asymmetry.

There’s the word “significant” — you might even want to bold it — it explains clearly and concisely why this proposed research is significant. This is the kind of quote a reviewer can lift right out of your grant proposal and put it into the significance section of the review.

significance section of a research proposal example

Here’s another significance statement from one of our proposals that combines both the theoretical and the clinical significance.

The theoretical and clinical significance accrued across these aims include (1) data-based comparisons of four theoretically-based WM models in children, (2) the development and testing of a new working-memory-based WL model in children, (3) establishing the relationship between WM and WL in monolingual English and bilingual Spanish-English speaking children compared to children with SLI, dyslexia and SLI/dyslexia, (4) a comprehensive description of between- and within-group WL differences in large, carefully selected typical and clinical groups and (5) the refinement of a working-memory-based WL battery for future theoretical and clinical research.

In this proposal, we listed four areas that we felt were contributing both theoretically and clinically to the research base. Then, we also highlighted the population we were going to include, because we thought that was innovative as well.

significance section of a research proposal example

These studies address important problems in the fields of psychology, language sciences and education, including the need for comprehensive working memory and word learning batteries for children to support valid and reliable assessment and the need to understand deficits underlying poor word learning so that effective treatments can be developed. By completing this research we will advance scientific knowledge in working memory and word learning for monolingual and bilingual children with typical development and children with language impairment and significantly improve the methods for assessing working memory and word learning in school age children.

These studies address important problems — so you’re going to spell out for reviewers exactly what the important problems are and what fields they are likely to impact. That comes right out of the instructions about saying how you’re going to be addressing important problems. Also, we have these keywords, “will advance scientific knowledge” in these ways, and it will “significantly improve the methods” in these ways. If you can’t figure out how it will do it, the reviewers can’t figure out how it will do it. You need to figure it out yourself, ahead of time, and put it in your application.

significance section of a research proposal example

Yesterday we discussed that innovation can be its own section. And some people do make it its own section with a header. But it’s also important to weave innovation and words around innovation throughout your whole application to create an overall positive representation of your work.

You want to use these key words in your application. Seeking to shift current paradigms or clinical practice. Great to put that word in your application. “The proposed work will shift current clinical practice of X by doing Y.” It takes one sentence.

What’s novel about your proposal? There are many different things that could be novel, and you should highlight each of them. The theoretical concept, your approach, your methodologies, the instrumentation or intervention you propose to use. It’s great if you can explain why what you’re proposing has an advantage over what’s currently being done. Sometimes just a refinement in a methodology is an important step forward. Sometimes there is something that has been very successful and well-tested, but you are proposing a very novel application — like the example Holly gave yesterday with a book reading intervention tried with typically developing children, but it’s never been tried with children with language impairment.

As you’re telling your story, weave in about innovation.

Things That Are Innovative

significance section of a research proposal example

Here are some things that are innovative. A new theory or model. Different application of an existing theory. Bringing in a theory or model from another field that has particular application. Applying a normal theory to a disordered population. New and better experimental methods, better instrumentation, or new approaches to analysis.

Things That Are Not Innovative

significance section of a research proposal example

Here are some things that are not innovative and all of us have to fight against them.

Using the technique of the day, and thinking everyone will be interested in it because it is the new hot thing to do. Collecting more data because it would be interesting to know about it. You have to be careful about that word “interesting.” That in and of itself is not innovative.

And the bane of our existence, conducting more research because “very little is known” about this thing. There might be a very good reason very little is known. Maybe nobody cares one bit about it, except for you. Remember you’re going to get a lot of money for this study, so it needs to be something that people care about.

Example Sentences: Innovation

significance section of a research proposal example

Here are some lines out of different people’s grants with innovation statements. It seeks to “shift current working memory paradigms in children by testing …”, “shift current word learning paradigms by…”, “the proposed methodology goes beyond typical measures of word learning…”, “a novel word learning battery…”, “shift current research and clinical paradigms by studying large, diverse participant groups…”, it’s innovative because “our collaboration itself is innovative.”

significance section of a research proposal example

What I’d like you to take a minute to do here is see if you can say, “my study is significant because…” and follow that with “my study is innovative because…”

I think a really hard part about this is being concise, and capturing the essence of what you’re doing. If you can’t capture the essence, often you haven’t got the essence yet. This is a good exercise for you — it’s a good exercise for me too.

More on Grantsmanship

significance section of a research proposal example

A little more on grantsmanship. As I already said, use and highlight the words from the grant package and the scoring guide. You should have the scoring guide that the reviewers are using right there beside you when you write. Tape it up on the wall, put on your computer screen.

Don’t go down side roads. On many of the applications that I read when I review, you see that people have a love of many areas, but often the love of that area doesn’t feed directly into the purpose of the grant. It’s important — don’t let your train go down the dirt road. Stay on the track.

Have a careful, accurate review of the research, with an appropriate scope of research and citations. The reviewers know the literature quite well. If you haven’t done a good job with your literature search, and if you don’t have a command of the literature in the area, it will show.

And use positive valence words.

significance section of a research proposal example

We talked about figures. Defining your terminology is really important. Don’t use acronyms. But when you’re using a term, make sure you’re defining how you’re using it, because different fields use the same term differently.

We talked about including white space.

The editing. I don’t know about you, but I really need to see it on paper to edit. How many of you that review print out grants? See — there are still four or five people who still print them out. Probably half the people in the room. You need to make sure that, if you’re a better editor on paper, go ahead and print it out and edit.

You should not have any typos or grammatical errors. Zero.

Questions and Discussion

I think we have a couple minutes if you have questions.

Question: How can we avoid “if” statements when we are not certain of the outcomes of our experiments?

I think there is a difference between your hypothesis testing — where you say that if it turns out this way, this is what it will add to our field, and if it turns out this way, it will do this — as opposed to building your story on a series of “ifs,” each one contingent on the other.

One of the things reviewers will always be concerned about is, for example, if the results of specific aim two are contingent on a certain outcome from specific aim one. Because if it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted money. If you write with a lot of if statements, it sets up that expectation. That’s different from hypothesis testing.

Question: My study is not an intervention study, it’s a basic science study. For the significance part, can I imply it is clinically important when it is not directly so for my study? If this is for the future, for long-term clinical importance can I mention this? Or, if it’s not specific, is it better to just not mention it?

My thought is that they are funding the work you are proposing now. That work needs to have impact. If it has impact ten years down the road, I don’t want to pay for that now. That’s my feeling.

Audience Discussion:

  • I think what it doesn’t do, is it doesn’t use that space to really boost the feeling about your current work. If it has obvious clinical implications down the road, they’ll be fairly obvious. In my opinion, you would be better off to be really specific about the positive theoretical or scientific benefits of your proposed work right now. Often we can see clinical benefits down the road, but there are so many steps to get there that what we can’t see is the next critical, short-term step. Especially for an R03.
  • I’m Dan Sklare from the NIDCD, I would add to what’s been said that you have the advantage, in a fellowship application, or a career award application, of demonstrating your vision five and ten years down the road. I think that showing the impact of a more fundamental study down the road to the field is going to be easier. Because you’re doing that within the context of tracking the vision of your own evolving research career. I think you’ve got a leg up in showing significance and impact.
  • Also, don’t walk away with the impression that fundamental or basic science is in itself not innovative. It can be extremely innovative. Of course, its translatability and impact to the field is another issue. I would integrate the two, and I agree with the comments previously made about the importance of showing innovation even in a fellowship proposal.

Shelley I. Gray Arizona State University

Developed by Shelley Gray, Karen Kirk, and Bonnie Martin-Harris, with past input from Melanie Schuele, Kris Tjaden, Paul Abbas, Steven Barlow, Brenda Ryals, and Jack Jiang.

Presented at Lessons for Success (April 2014). Hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Research Mentoring Network.

Lessons for Success is supported by Cooperative Agreement Conference Grant Award U13 DC007835 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is co-sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).

Copyrighted Material. Reproduced by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in the Clinical Research Education Library with permission from the author or presenter.

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How To Write Significance of the Study (With Examples) 

How To Write Significance of the Study (With Examples) 

Whether you’re writing a research paper or thesis, a portion called Significance of the Study ensures your readers understand the impact of your work. Learn how to effectively write this vital part of your research paper or thesis through our detailed steps, guidelines, and examples.

Related: How to Write a Concept Paper for Academic Research

Table of Contents

What is the significance of the study.

The Significance of the Study presents the importance of your research. It allows you to prove the study’s impact on your field of research, the new knowledge it contributes, and the people who will benefit from it.

Related: How To Write Scope and Delimitation of a Research Paper (With Examples)

Where Should I Put the Significance of the Study?

The Significance of the Study is part of the first chapter or the Introduction. It comes after the research’s rationale, problem statement, and hypothesis.

Related: How to Make Conceptual Framework (with Examples and Templates)

Why Should I Include the Significance of the Study?

The purpose of the Significance of the Study is to give you space to explain to your readers how exactly your research will be contributing to the literature of the field you are studying 1 . It’s where you explain why your research is worth conducting and its significance to the community, the people, and various institutions.

How To Write Significance of the Study: 5 Steps

Below are the steps and guidelines for writing your research’s Significance of the Study.

1. Use Your Research Problem as a Starting Point

Your problem statement can provide clues to your research study’s outcome and who will benefit from it 2 .

Ask yourself, “How will the answers to my research problem be beneficial?”. In this manner, you will know how valuable it is to conduct your study. 

Let’s say your research problem is “What is the level of effectiveness of the lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) in lowering the blood glucose level of Swiss mice (Mus musculus)?”

Discovering a positive correlation between the use of lemongrass and lower blood glucose level may lead to the following results:

  • Increased public understanding of the plant’s medical properties;
  • Higher appreciation of the importance of lemongrass  by the community;
  • Adoption of lemongrass tea as a cheap, readily available, and natural remedy to lower their blood glucose level.

Once you’ve zeroed in on the general benefits of your study, it’s time to break it down into specific beneficiaries.

2. State How Your Research Will Contribute to the Existing Literature in the Field

Think of the things that were not explored by previous studies. Then, write how your research tackles those unexplored areas. Through this, you can convince your readers that you are studying something new and adding value to the field.

3. Explain How Your Research Will Benefit Society

In this part, tell how your research will impact society. Think of how the results of your study will change something in your community. 

For example, in the study about using lemongrass tea to lower blood glucose levels, you may indicate that through your research, the community will realize the significance of lemongrass and other herbal plants. As a result, the community will be encouraged to promote the cultivation and use of medicinal plants.

4. Mention the Specific Persons or Institutions Who Will Benefit From Your Study

Using the same example above, you may indicate that this research’s results will benefit those seeking an alternative supplement to prevent high blood glucose levels.

5. Indicate How Your Study May Help Future Studies in the Field

You must also specifically indicate how your research will be part of the literature of your field and how it will benefit future researchers. In our example above, you may indicate that through the data and analysis your research will provide, future researchers may explore other capabilities of herbal plants in preventing different diseases.

Tips and Warnings

  • Think ahead . By visualizing your study in its complete form, it will be easier for you to connect the dots and identify the beneficiaries of your research.
  • Write concisely. Make it straightforward, clear, and easy to understand so that the readers will appreciate the benefits of your research. Avoid making it too long and wordy.
  • Go from general to specific . Like an inverted pyramid, you start from above by discussing the general contribution of your study and become more specific as you go along. For instance, if your research is about the effect of remote learning setup on the mental health of college students of a specific university , you may start by discussing the benefits of the research to society, to the educational institution, to the learning facilitators, and finally, to the students.
  • Seek help . For example, you may ask your research adviser for insights on how your research may contribute to the existing literature. If you ask the right questions, your research adviser can point you in the right direction.
  • Revise, revise, revise. Be ready to apply necessary changes to your research on the fly. Unexpected things require adaptability, whether it’s the respondents or variables involved in your study. There’s always room for improvement, so never assume your work is done until you have reached the finish line.

Significance of the Study Examples

This section presents examples of the Significance of the Study using the steps and guidelines presented above.

Example 1: STEM-Related Research

Research Topic: Level of Effectiveness of the Lemongrass ( Cymbopogon citratus ) Tea in Lowering the Blood Glucose Level of Swiss Mice ( Mus musculus ).

Significance of the Study .

This research will provide new insights into the medicinal benefit of lemongrass ( Cymbopogon citratus ), specifically on its hypoglycemic ability.

Through this research, the community will further realize promoting medicinal plants, especially lemongrass, as a preventive measure against various diseases. People and medical institutions may also consider lemongrass tea as an alternative supplement against hyperglycemia. 

Moreover, the analysis presented in this study will convey valuable information for future research exploring the medicinal benefits of lemongrass and other medicinal plants.  

Example 2: Business and Management-Related Research

Research Topic: A Comparative Analysis of Traditional and Social Media Marketing of Small Clothing Enterprises.

Significance of the Study:

By comparing the two marketing strategies presented by this research, there will be an expansion on the current understanding of the firms on these marketing strategies in terms of cost, acceptability, and sustainability. This study presents these marketing strategies for small clothing enterprises, giving them insights into which method is more appropriate and valuable for them. 

Specifically, this research will benefit start-up clothing enterprises in deciding which marketing strategy they should employ. Long-time clothing enterprises may also consider the result of this research to review their current marketing strategy.

Furthermore, a detailed presentation on the comparison of the marketing strategies involved in this research may serve as a tool for further studies to innovate the current method employed in the clothing Industry.

Example 3: Social Science -Related Research.

Research Topic:  Divide Et Impera : An Overview of How the Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Prevailed on Philippine Political History.

Significance of the Study :

Through the comprehensive exploration of this study on Philippine political history, the influence of the Divide et Impera, or political decentralization, on the political discernment across the history of the Philippines will be unraveled, emphasized, and scrutinized. Moreover, this research will elucidate how this principle prevailed until the current political theatre of the Philippines.

In this regard, this study will give awareness to society on how this principle might affect the current political context. Moreover, through the analysis made by this study, political entities and institutions will have a new approach to how to deal with this principle by learning about its influence in the past.

In addition, the overview presented in this research will push for new paradigms, which will be helpful for future discussion of the Divide et Impera principle and may lead to a more in-depth analysis.

Example 4: Humanities-Related Research

Research Topic: Effectiveness of Meditation on Reducing the Anxiety Levels of College Students.

Significance of the Study: 

This research will provide new perspectives in approaching anxiety issues of college students through meditation. 

Specifically, this research will benefit the following:

 Community – this study spreads awareness on recognizing anxiety as a mental health concern and how meditation can be a valuable approach to alleviating it.

Academic Institutions and Administrators – through this research, educational institutions and administrators may promote programs and advocacies regarding meditation to help students deal with their anxiety issues.

Mental health advocates – the result of this research will provide valuable information for the advocates to further their campaign on spreading awareness on dealing with various mental health issues, including anxiety, and how to stop stigmatizing those with mental health disorders.

Parents – this research may convince parents to consider programs involving meditation that may help the students deal with their anxiety issues.

Students will benefit directly from this research as its findings may encourage them to consider meditation to lower anxiety levels.

Future researchers – this study covers information involving meditation as an approach to reducing anxiety levels. Thus, the result of this study can be used for future discussions on the capabilities of meditation in alleviating other mental health concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what is the difference between the significance of the study and the rationale of the study.

Both aim to justify the conduct of the research. However, the Significance of the Study focuses on the specific benefits of your research in the field, society, and various people and institutions. On the other hand, the Rationale of the Study gives context on why the researcher initiated the conduct of the study.

Let’s take the research about the Effectiveness of Meditation in Reducing Anxiety Levels of College Students as an example. Suppose you are writing about the Significance of the Study. In that case, you must explain how your research will help society, the academic institution, and students deal with anxiety issues through meditation. Meanwhile, for the Rationale of the Study, you may state that due to the prevalence of anxiety attacks among college students, you’ve decided to make it the focal point of your research work.

2. What is the difference between Justification and the Significance of the Study?

In Justification, you express the logical reasoning behind the conduct of the study. On the other hand, the Significance of the Study aims to present to your readers the specific benefits your research will contribute to the field you are studying, community, people, and institutions.

Suppose again that your research is about the Effectiveness of Meditation in Reducing the Anxiety Levels of College Students. Suppose you are writing the Significance of the Study. In that case, you may state that your research will provide new insights and evidence regarding meditation’s ability to reduce college students’ anxiety levels. Meanwhile, you may note in the Justification that studies are saying how people used meditation in dealing with their mental health concerns. You may also indicate how meditation is a feasible approach to managing anxiety using the analysis presented by previous literature.

3. How should I start my research’s Significance of the Study section?

– This research will contribute… – The findings of this research… – This study aims to… – This study will provide… – Through the analysis presented in this study… – This study will benefit…

Moreover, you may start the Significance of the Study by elaborating on the contribution of your research in the field you are studying.

4. What is the difference between the Purpose of the Study and the Significance of the Study?

The Purpose of the Study focuses on why your research was conducted, while the Significance of the Study tells how the results of your research will benefit anyone.

Suppose your research is about the Effectiveness of Lemongrass Tea in Lowering the Blood Glucose Level of Swiss Mice . You may include in your Significance of the Study that the research results will provide new information and analysis on the medical ability of lemongrass to solve hyperglycemia. Meanwhile, you may include in your Purpose of the Study that your research wants to provide a cheaper and natural way to lower blood glucose levels since commercial supplements are expensive.

5. What is the Significance of the Study in Tagalog?

In Filipino research, the Significance of the Study is referred to as Kahalagahan ng Pag-aaral.

  • Draft your Significance of the Study. Retrieved 18 April 2021, from http://dissertationedd.usc.edu/draft-your-significance-of-the-study.html
  • Regoniel, P. (2015). Two Tips on How to Write the Significance of the Study. Retrieved 18 April 2021, from https://simplyeducate.me/2015/02/09/significance-of-the-study/

Written by Jewel Kyle Fabula

in Career and Education , Juander How

Last Updated May 6, 2023 10:29 AM

significance section of a research proposal example

Jewel Kyle Fabula

Jewel Kyle Fabula is a Bachelor of Science in Economics student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His passion for learning mathematics developed as he competed in some mathematics competitions during his Junior High School years. He loves cats, playing video games, and listening to music.

Browse all articles written by Jewel Kyle Fabula

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Write Your Research Plan

In this part, we give you detailed information about writing an effective Research Plan. We start with the importance and parameters of significance and innovation.

We then discuss how to focus the Research Plan, relying on the iterative process described in the Iterative Approach to Application Planning Checklist shown at Draft Specific Aims  and give you advice for filling out the forms.

You'll also learn the importance of having a well-organized, visually appealing application that avoids common missteps and the importance of preparing your just-in-time information early.

While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of it is useful for other grant types.

Table of Contents

Research plan overview and your approach, craft a title, explain your aims, research strategy instructions, advice for a successful research strategy, graphics and video, significance, innovation, and approach, tracking for your budget, preliminary studies or progress report, referencing publications, review and finalize your research plan, abstract and narrative.

Your application's Research Plan has two sections:

  • Specific Aims —a one-page statement of your objectives for the project.
  • Research Strategy —a description of the rationale for your research and your experiments in 12 pages for an R01.

In your Specific Aims, you note the significance and innovation of your research; then list your two to three concrete objectives, your aims.

Your Research Strategy is the nuts and bolts of your application, where you describe your research rationale and the experiments you will conduct to accomplish each aim. Though how you organize it is largely up to you, NIH expects you to follow these guidelines.

  • Organize using bold headers or an outline or numbering system—or both—that you use consistently throughout.
  • Start each section with the appropriate header: Significance, Innovation, or Approach.
  • Organize the Approach section around your Specific Aims.

Format of Your Research Plan

To write the Research Plan, you don't need the application forms. Write the text in your word processor, turn it into a PDF file, and upload it into the application form when it's final.

Because NIH may return your application if it doesn't meet all requirements, be sure to follow the rules for font, page limits, and more. Read the instructions at NIH’s Format Attachments .

For an R01, the Research Strategy can be up to 12 pages, plus one page for Specific Aims. Don't pad other sections with information that belongs in the Research Plan. NIH is on the lookout and may return your application to you if you try to evade page limits.

Follow Examples

As you read this page, look at our Sample Applications and More  to see some of the different strategies successful PIs use to create an outstanding Research Plan.

Keeping It All In Sync

Writing in a logical sequence will save you time.

Information you put in the Research Plan affects just about every other application part. You'll need to keep everything in sync as your plans evolve during the writing phase.

It's best to consider your writing as an iterative process. As you develop and finalize your experiments, you will go back and check other parts of the application to make sure everything is in sync: the "who, what, when, where, and how (much money)" as well as look again at the scope of your plans.

In that vein, writing in a logical sequence is a good approach that will save you time. We suggest proceeding in the following order:

  • Create a provisional title.
  • Write a draft of your Specific Aims.
  • Start with your Significance and Innovation sections.
  • Then draft the Approach section considering the personnel and skills you'll need for each step.
  • Evaluate your Specific Aims and methods in light of your expected budget (for a new PI, it should be modest, probably under the $250,000 for NIH's modular budget).
  • As you design experiments, reevaluate your hypothesis, aims, and title to make sure they still reflect your plans.
  • Prepare your Abstract (a summary of your Specific Aims).
  • Complete the other forms.

Even the smaller sections of your application need to be well-organized and readable so reviewers can readily grasp the information. If writing is not your forte, get help.

To view writing strategies for successful applications, see our Sample Applications and More . There are many ways to create a great application, so explore your options.

Within the character limit, include the important information to distinguish your project within the research area, your project's goals, and the research problem.

Giving your project a title at the outset can help you stay focused and avoid a meandering Research Plan. So you may want to launch your writing by creating a well-defined title.

NIH gives you a 200 character limit, but don’t feel obliged to use all of that allotment. Instead, we advise you to keep the title as succinct as possible while including the important information to distinguish your project within the research area. Make your title reflect your project's goals, the problem your project addresses, and possibly your approach to studying it. Make your title specific: saying you are studying lymphocyte trafficking is not informative enough.

For examples of strong titles, see our Sample Applications and More .

After you write a preliminary title, check that

  • My title is specific, indicating at least the research area and the goals of my project.
  • It is 200 characters or less.
  • I use as simple language as possible.
  • I state the research problem and, possibly, my approach to studying it.
  • I use a different title for each of my applications. (Note: there are exceptions, for example, for a renewal—see Apply for Renewal  for details.)
  • My title has appropriate keywords.

Later you may want to change your initial title. That's fine—at this point, it's just an aid to keep your plans focused.

Since all your reviewers read your Specific Aims, you want to excite them about your project.

If testing your hypothesis is the destination for your research, your Research Plan is the map that takes you there.

You'll start by writing the smaller part, the Specific Aims. Think of the one-page Specific Aims as a capsule of your Research Plan. Since all your reviewers read your Specific Aims, you want to excite them about your project.

For more on crafting your Specific Aims, see Draft Specific Aims .

Write a Narrative

Use at least half the page to provide the rationale and significance of your planned research. A good way to start is with a sentence that states your project's goals.

For the rest of the narrative, you will describe the significance of your research, and give your rationale for choosing the project. In some cases, you may want to explain why you did not take an alternative route.

Then, briefly describe your aims, and show how they build on your preliminary studies and your previous research. State your hypothesis.

If it is likely your application will be reviewed by a study section with broad expertise, summarize the status of research in your field and explain how your project fits in.

In the narrative part of the Specific Aims of many outstanding applications, people also used their aims to

  • State the technologies they plan to use.
  • Note their expertise to do a specific task or that of collaborators.
  • Describe past accomplishments related to the project.
  • Describe preliminary studies and new and highly relevant findings in the field.
  • Explain their area's biology.
  • Show how the aims relate to one another.
  • Describe expected outcomes for each aim.
  • Explain how they plan to interpret data from the aim’s efforts.
  • Describe how to address potential pitfalls with contingency plans.

Depending on your situation, decide which items are important for you. For example, a new investigator would likely want to highlight preliminary data and qualifications to do the work.

Many people use bold or italics to emphasize items they want to bring to the reviewers' attention, such as the hypothesis or rationale.

Detail Your Aims

After the narrative, enter your aims as bold bullets, or stand-alone or run-on headers.

  • State your plans using strong verbs like identify, define, quantify, establish, determine.
  • Describe each aim in one to three sentences.
  • Consider adding bullets under each aim to refine your objectives.

How focused should your aims be? Look at the example below.

Spot the Sample

Read the Specific Aims of the Application from Drs. Li and Samulski , "Enhance AAV Liver Transduction with Capsid Immune Evasion."

  • Aim 1. Study the effect of adeno-associated virus (AAV) empty particles on AAV capsid antigen cross-presentation in vivo .
  • Aim 2. Investigate AAV capsid antigen presentation following administration of AAV mutants and/or proteasome inhibitors for enhanced liver transduction in vivo .
  • Aim 3. Isolate AAV chimeric capsids with human hepatocyte tropism and the capacity for cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) evasion.

After finishing the draft Specific Aims, check that

  • I keep to the one-page limit.
  • Each of my two or three aims is a narrowly focused, concrete objective I can achieve during the grant.
  • They give a clear picture of how my project can generate knowledge that may improve human health.
  • They show my project's importance to science, how it addresses a critical research opportunity that can move my field forward.
  • My text states how my work is innovative.
  • I describe the biology to the extent needed for my reviewers.
  • I give a rationale for choosing the topic and approach.
  • I tie the project to my preliminary data and other new findings in the field.
  • I explicitly state my hypothesis and why testing it is important.
  • My aims can test my hypothesis and are logical.
  • I can design and lead the execution of two or three sets of experiments that will strive to accomplish each aim.
  • As much as possible, I use language that an educated person without expertise can understand.
  • My text has bullets, bolding, or headers so reviewers can easily spot my aims (and other key items).

For each element listed above, analyze your text and revise it until your Specific Aims hit all the key points you'd like to make.

After the list of aims, some people add a closing paragraph, emphasizing the significance of the work, their collaborators, or whatever else they want to focus reviewers' attention on.

Your Research Strategy is the bigger part of your application's Research Plan (the other part is the Specific Aims—discussed above.)

The Research Strategy is the nuts and bolts of your application, describing the rationale for your research and the experiments you will do to accomplish each aim. It is structured as follows:

  • Significance
  • You can either include this information as a subsection of Approach or integrate it into any or all of the three main sections.
  • If you do the latter, be sure to mark the information clearly, for example, with a bold subhead.
  • Possible other sections, for example, human subjects, vertebrate animals, select agents, and others (these do not count toward the page limit).

Though how you organize your application is largely up to you, NIH does want you to follow these guidelines:

  • Add bold headers or an outlining or numbering system—or both—that you use consistently throughout.
  • Start each of the Research Strategy's sections with a header: Significance, Innovation, and Approach.

For an R01, the Research Strategy is limited to 12 pages for the three main sections and the preliminary studies only. Other items are not included in the page limit.

Find instructions for R01s in the SF 424 Application Guide—go to NIH's SF 424 (R&R) Application and Electronic Submission Information for the generic SF 424 Application Guide or find it in your notice of funding opportunity (NOFO).

For most applications, you need to address Rigor and Reproducibility by describing the experimental design and methods you propose and how they will achieve robust and unbiased results. The requirement applies to research grant, career development, fellowship, and training applications.

If you're responding to an institute-specific program announcement (PA) (not a parent program announcement) or a request for applications (RFA), check the NIH Guide notice, which has additional information you need. Should it differ from the NOFO, go with the NIH Guide .

Also note that your application must meet the initiative's objectives and special requirements. NIAID program staff will check your application, and if it is not responsive to the announcement, your application will be returned to you without a review.

When writing your Research Strategy, your goal is to present a well-organized, visually appealing, and readable description of your proposed project. That means your writing should be streamlined and organized so your reviewers can readily grasp the information. If writing is not your forte, get help.

There are many ways to create an outstanding Research Plan, so explore your options.

What Success Looks Like

Your application's Research Plan is the map that shows your reviewers how you plan to test your hypothesis.

It not only lays out your experiments and expected outcomes, but must also convince your reviewers of your likely success by allaying any doubts that may cross their minds that you will be able to conduct the research.

Notice in the sample applications how the writing keeps reviewers' eyes on the ball by bringing them back to the main points the PIs want to make. Write yourself an insurance policy against human fallibility: if it's a key point, repeat it, then repeat it again.

The Big Three

So as you write, put the big picture squarely in your sights. When reviewers read your application, they'll look for the answers to three basic questions:

  • Can your research move your field forward?
  • Is the field important—will progress make a difference to human health?
  • Can you and your team carry out the work?

Add Emphasis

Savvy PIs create opportunities to drive their main points home. They don't stop at the Significance section to emphasize their project's importance, and they look beyond their biosketches to highlight their team's expertise.

Don't take a chance your reviewer will gloss over that one critical sentence buried somewhere in your Research Strategy or elsewhere. Write yourself an insurance policy against human fallibility: if it's a key point, repeat it, then repeat it again.

Add more emphasis by putting the text in bold, or bold italics (in the modern age, we skip underlining—it's for typewriters).

Here are more strategies from our successful PIs:

  • While describing a method in the Approach section, they state their or collaborators' experience with it.
  • They point out that they have access to a necessary piece of equipment.
  • When explaining their field and the status of current research, they weave in their own work and their preliminary data.
  • They delve into the biology of the area to make sure reviewers will grasp the importance of their research and understand their field and how their work fits into it.

You can see many of these principles at work in the Approach section of the Application from Dr. William Faubion , "Inflammatory cascades disrupt Treg function through epigenetic mechanisms."

  • Reviewers felt that the experiments described for Aim 1 will yield clear results.
  • The plans to translate those findings to gene targets of relevance are well outlined and focused.
  • He ties his proposed experiments to the larger picture, including past research and strong preliminary data for the current application. 

Anticipate Reviewer Questions

Our applicants not only wrote with their reviewers in mind they seemed to anticipate their questions. You may think: how can I anticipate all the questions people may have? Of course you can't, but there are some basic items (in addition to the "big three" listed above) that will surely be on your reviewers' minds:

  • Will the investigators be able to get the work done within the project period, or is the proposed work over ambitious?
  • Did the PI describe potential pitfalls and possible alternatives?
  • Will the experiments generate meaningful data?
  • Could the resulting data prove the hypothesis?
  • Are others already doing the work, or has it been already completed?

Address these questions; then spend time thinking about more potential issues specific to you and your research—and address those too.

For applications, a picture can truly be worth a thousand words. Graphics can illustrate complex information in a small space and add visual interest to your application.

Look at our sample applications to see how the investigators included schematics, tables, illustrations, graphs, and other types of graphics to enhance their applications.

Consider adding a timetable or flowchart to illustrate your experimental plan, including decision trees with alternative experimental pathways to help your reviewers understand your plans.

Plan Ahead for Video

If you plan to send one or more videos, you'll need to meet certain standards and include key information in your Research Strategy now.

To present some concepts or demonstrations, video may enhance your application beyond what graphics alone can achieve. However, you can't count on all reviewers being able to see or hear video, so you'll want to be strategic in how you incorporate it into your application.

Be reviewer-friendly. Help your cause by taking the following steps:

  • Caption any narration in the video.
  • Choose evocative still images from your video to accompany your summary.
  • Write your summary of the video carefully so the text would make sense even without the video.

In addition to those considerations, create your videos to fit NIH’s technical requirements. Learn more in the SF 424 Form Instructions .

Next, as you write your Research Strategy, include key images from the video and a brief description.

Then, state in your cover letter that you plan to send video later. (Don't attach your files to the application.)

After you apply and get assignment information from the Commons, ask your assigned scientific review officer (SRO) how your business official should send the files. Your video files are due at least one month before the peer review meeting.

Know Your Audience's Perspective

The primary audience for your application is your peer review group. Learn how to write for the reviewers who are experts in your field and those who are experts in other fields by reading Know Your Audience .

Be Organized: A B C or 1 2 3?

In the top-notch applications we reviewed, organization ruled but followed few rules. While you want to be organized, how you go about it is up to you.

Nevertheless, here are some principles to follow:

  • Start each of the Research Strategy's sections with a header: Significance, Innovation, and Approach—this you must do.

The Research Strategy's page limit—12 for R01s—is for the three main parts: Significance, Innovation, and Approach and your preliminary studies (or a progress report if you're renewing your grant). Other sections, for example, research animals or select agents, do not have a page limit.

Although you will emphasize your project's significance throughout the application, the Significance section should give the most details. Don't skimp—the farther removed your reviewers are from your field, the more information you'll need to provide on basic biology, importance of the area, research opportunities, and new findings.

When you describe your project's significance, put it in the context of 1) the state of your field, 2) your long-term research plans, and 3) your preliminary data.

In our Sample Applications , you can see that both investigators and reviewers made a case for the importance of the research to improving human health as well as to the scientific field.

Look at the Significance section of the Application from Dr. Mengxi Jiang , "Intersection of polyomavirus infection and host cellular responses," to see how these elements combine to make a strong case for significance.

  • Dr. Jiang starts with a summary of the field of polyomavirus research, identifying critical knowledge gaps in the field.
  • The application ties the lab's previous discoveries and new research plans to filling those gaps, establishing the significance with context.
  • Note the use of formatting, whitespace, and sectioning to highlight key points and make it easier for reviewers to read the text.

After conveying the significance of the research in several parts of the application, check that

  • In the Significance section, I describe the importance of my hypothesis to the field (especially if my reviewers are not in it) and human disease.
  • I also point out the project's significance throughout the application.
  • The application shows that I am aware of opportunities, gaps, roadblocks, and research underway in my field.
  • I state how my research will advance my field, highlighting knowledge gaps and showing how my project fills one or more of them.
  • Based on my scan of the review committee roster, I determine whether I cannot assume my reviewers will know my field and provide some information on basic biology, the importance of the area, knowledge gaps, and new findings.

If you are either a new PI or entering a new area: be cautious about seeming too innovative. Not only is innovation just one of five review criteria, but there might be a paradigm shift in your area of science. A reviewer may take a challenge to the status quo as a challenge to his or her world view.

When you look at our sample applications, you see that both the new and experienced investigators are not generally shifting paradigms. They are using new approaches or models, working in new areas, or testing innovative ideas.

After finishing the draft innovation section, check that

  • I show how my proposed research is new and unique, e.g., explores new scientific avenues, has a novel hypothesis, will create new knowledge.
  • Most likely, I explain how my project's research can refine, improve, or propose a new application of an existing concept or method.
  • Make a very strong case for challenging the existing paradigm.
  • Have data to support the innovative approach.
  • Have strong evidence that I can do the work.

In your Approach, you spell out a few sets of experiments to address each aim. As we noted above, it's a good idea to restate the key points you've made about your project's significance, its place in your field, and your long-term goals.

You're probably wondering how much detail to include.

If you look at our sample applications as a guide, you can see very different approaches. Though people generally used less detail than you'd see in a scientific paper, they do include some experimental detail.

Expect your assigned reviewers to scrutinize your approach: they will want to know what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.

NIH data show that of the peer review criteria, approach has the highest correlation with the overall impact score.

Look at the Application from Dr. Mengxi Jiang , "Intersection of polyomavirus infection and host cellular responses," to see how a new investigator handled the Approach section.

For an example of an experienced investigator's well-received Approach section, see the Application from Dr. William Faubion , "Inflammatory cascades disrupt Treg function through epigenetic mechanisms."

Especially if you are a new investigator, you need enough detail to convince reviewers that you understand what you are undertaking and can handle the method.

  • Cite a publication that shows you can handle the method where you can, but give more details if you and your team don't have a proven record using the method—and state explicitly why you think you will succeed.
  • If space is short, you could also focus on experiments that highlight your expertise or are especially interesting. For experiments that are pedestrian or contracted out, just list the method.

Be sure to lay out a plan for alternative experiments and approaches in case you get negative or surprising results. Show reviewers you have a plan for spending the four or five years you will be funded no matter where the experiments lead.

See the Application from Drs. Li and Samulski , "Enhance AAV Liver Transduction with Capsid Immune Evasion," for a strong Approach section covering potential. As an example, see section C.1.3.'s alternative approaches.

Here are some pointers for organizing your Approach:

  • Enter a bold header for each Specific Aim.
  • Under each aim, describe the first set of experiments.
  • If you get result X, you will follow pathway X; if you get result Y, you will follow pathway Y.
  • Consider illustrating this with a flowchart.

Trim the fat—omit all information not needed to make your case. If you try to wow reviewers with your knowledge, they'll find flaws and penalize you heavily. Don't give them ammunition by including anything you don't need.

As you design your experiments, keep a running tab of the following essential data on a separate piece of paper:

  • Who. A list of people who will help you for your Key Personnel section later.
  • What. A list of equipment and supplies for the experiments you plan.
  • Time. Notes on how long each step takes. Timing directly affects your budget as well as how many Specific Aims you can realistically achieve.

Jotting this information down will help you Create a Budget and complete other sections later.

After finishing a draft Approach section, check that

  • I include enough background and preliminary data to give reviewers the context and significance of my plans.
  • They can test the hypothesis (or hypotheses).
  • I show alternative experiments and approaches in case I get negative or surprising results.
  • My experiments can yield meaningful data to test my hypothesis (or hypotheses).
  • As a new investigator, I include enough detail to convince reviewers I understand and can handle a method. I reviewed the sample applications to see how much detail to use.
  • If I or my team has experience with a method, I cite it; otherwise I include enough details to convince reviewers we can handle it.
  • I describe the results I anticipate and their implications.
  • I omit all information not needed to state my case.
  • I keep track of and explain who will do what, what they will do, when and where they will do it, how long it will take, and how much money it will cost.
  • My timeline shows when I expect to complete my aims.

If you are applying for a new application, include preliminary studies; for a renewal or a revision (a competing supplement to an existing grant), prepare a progress report instead.

Describing Preliminary Studies

Your preliminary studies show that you can handle the methods and interpret results. Here's where you build reviewer confidence that you are headed in the right direction by pursuing research that builds on your accomplishments.

Reviewers use your preliminary studies together with the biosketches to assess the investigator review criterion, which reflects the competence of the research team.

Give alternative interpretations to your data to show reviewers you've thought through problems in-depth and are prepared to meet future challenges. If you don't do this, the reviewers will!

Though you may include other people's publications, focus on your preliminary data or unpublished data from your lab and the labs of your team members as much as you can.

As we noted above, you can put your preliminary data anywhere in the Research Strategy that you feel is appropriate, but just make sure your reviewers will be able to distinguish it. Alternatively, you can create a separate section with its own header.

Including a Progress Report

If you are applying for a renewal or a revision (a competing supplement to an existing grant), prepare a progress report instead of preliminary studies.

Create a header so your program officer can easily find it and include the following information:

  • Project period beginning and end dates.
  • Summary of the importance of your findings in relation to your Specific Aims.
  • Account of published and unpublished results, highlighting your progress toward achieving your Specific Aims.

Note: if you submit a renewal application before the due date of your progress report, you do not need to submit a separate progress report for your grant. However, you will need to submit it, if your renewal is not funded.

After finishing the draft, check that

  • I interpret my preliminary results critically.
  • There is enough information to show I know what I'm talking about.
  • If my project is complex, I give more preliminary studies.
  • I show how my previous experience prepared me for the new project.
  • It's clear which data are mine and which are not.

References show your breadth of knowledge of the field. If you leave out an important work, reviewers may assume you're not aware of it.

Throughout your application, you will reference all relevant publications for the concepts underlying your research and your methods.

Read more about your Bibliography and References Cited at Add a Bibliography and Appendix .

  • Throughout my application I cite the literature thoroughly but not excessively, adding citations for all references important to my work.
  • I cite all papers important to my field, including those from potential reviewers.
  • I include fewer than 100 citations (if possible).
  • My Bibliography and References Cited form lists all my references.
  • I refer to unpublished work, including information I learned through personal contacts.
  • If I do not describe a method, I add a reference to the literature.

Look over what you've written with a critical eye of a reviewer to identify potential questions or weak spots.

Enlist others to do that too—they can look at your application with a fresh eye. Include people who aren't familiar with your research to make sure you can get your point across to someone outside your field.

As you finalize the details of your Research Strategy, you will also need to return to your Specific Aims to see if you must revise. See Draft Specific Aims .

After you finish your Research Plan, you are ready to write your Abstract (called Project Summary/Abstract) and Project Narrative, which are attachments to the Other Project Information form.

These sections may be small, but they're important.

  • All your peer reviewers read your Abstract and narrative.
  • Staff and automated systems in NIH's Center for Scientific Review use them to decide where to assign your application, even if you requested an institute and study section.
  • They show the importance and health relevance of your research to members of the public and Congress who are interested in what NIH is funding with taxpayer dollars.

Be sure to omit confidential or proprietary information in these sections! When your application is funded, NIH enters your title and Abstract in the public RePORTER database.

Think brief and simple: to the extent that you can, write these sections in lay language, and include appropriate keywords, e.g., immunotherapy, genetic risk factors.

As NIH referral officers use these parts to direct your application to an institute for possible funding, your description can influence the choice they make.

Write a succinct summary of your project that both a scientist and a lay person can understand (to the extent that you can).

  • Use your Specific Aims as a template—shorten it and simplify the language.
  • In the first sentence, state the significance of your research to your field and relevance to NIAID's mission: to better understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.
  • Next state your hypothesis and the innovative potential of your research.
  • Then list and briefly describe your Specific Aims and long-term objectives.

In your Project Narrative, you have only a few sentences to drive home your project's potential to improve public health.

Check out these effective Abstracts and Narratives from our R01  Sample Applications :

  • Application from Dr. Mengxi Jiang , "Intersection of polyomavirus infection and host cellular responses"
  • Application from Dr. William Faubion , "Inflammatory cascades disrupt Treg function through epigenetic mechanisms"
  • My Project Summary/Abstract and Project Narrative (and title) are accessible to a broad audience.
  • They describe the significance of my research to my field and state my hypothesis, my aims, and the innovative potential of my research.
  • My narrative describes my project's potential to improve public health.
  • I do not include any confidential or proprietary information.
  • I do not use graphs or images.
  • My Abstract has keywords that are appropriate and distinct enough to avoid confusion with other terms.
  • My title is specific and informative.

Previous Step

Have questions.

A program officer in your area of science can give you application advice, NIAID's perspective on your research, and confirmation that NIAID will accept your application.

Find contacts and instructions at When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer .

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:

Introduction

Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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McCombes, S. & George, T. (2023, November 21). How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved March 13, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-proposal/

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Writing a Grant Part 2: Significance and Innovation

The significance and innovation section is a recent (within the last 10 years) addition to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and most other foundation grant applications. It is a place for you to showcase why the work should be done — why there is a significant need for your study, and how the work is different from everyone else’s approach.

When writing this section, ask yourself: What makes my work groundbreaking, original research that will advance our scientific knowledge?

18-BCH-27965 Grant Writing Part 2 1600x800

Writing the Significance Section

Let’s start with significance. Depending upon the government agency and/or institution to which you are applying, you will need to tailor this section to highlight an unmet need specific to the goals of the organization or funding opportunity to which you are applying. Whether you’ve identified a novel target for the treatment of a rare disease or you’ve designed technology with applications pertinent to national defense systems, you’ll need to be specific about what the problem is, the extent of the burden, and the paucity of adequate solutions to address it.

As an example, let’s assume that you’ve uncovered the previously-unknown role of a kinase in neuronal death and loss of motor control. A well-structured significance section may have the following subheadings and content:

  • What is the underlying cause of the disease?
  • How many patients are affected in the US and worldwide?
  • What is the total economic impact?
  • What is the clinical presentation of the disease?
  • How is it treated, and what gaps in the standard of care have been revealed?
  • Are there mutations in the kinase that directly correlate with disease?
  • Has overexpression been shown to increase neuronal death in culture? Conversely, has knockdown been shown to be protective?
  • What is the phenotype of the knockout mouse? Do these animals present with improved mobility? Do they have increased survival?
  • Is the target druggable? If so, are there tool compounds available that could be assessed pre-clinically?

Writing the Innovation Section

With this foundation firmly established, you can now build the framework for how your proposal approaches the problem in a way that nobody else has tried. How will your approach change the way that people think about the problem? For some, composing this section of the grant may be foreign territory and lead to countless blank stares at the laptop screen.

When you get lost, remember that there are several types of innovation. In his first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age (McGraw Hill Education, 2017), Greg Satell outlines four categories in what he terms the “innovation matrix”:

Adapted from: Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age

The problem, as addressed in the significance section, is the need being satisfied by your research. The domain is the set of skills required to solve the problem.

Let’s look at our kinase example to highlight the utility of this matrix. As part of your pre-clinical animal studies, you’ve determined the efficacy of a tool compound known to inhibit the kinase. The molecule dose-dependently reduces neuronal death and motor dysfunction, but it’s also poorly absorbed and leads to weight loss in rodents. The only means of improving the drug-like properties is to develop a novel chemical synthesis pathway. In this case, the problem is clear, but the set of skills required is not. Thus, you’re on the verge of a breakthrough innovation.   

Obviously, this matrix is generic, but it can help to put your research into context. Keep in mind that the more specific you are in defining the problem, the more distinctly you can describe your innovative solution. Furthermore, no solution is complete without a few descriptive figures and a schematic of goals and objectives. Not only do you want to show that you’ve solved a certain need, but you also want to demonstrate feasibility, intermediate milestones, and future efforts.

Lastly — and this point can’t be overstated — be sure to circulate your significance and innovation sections to as many of your mentors and peers as possible. If it’s not clear to them, it certainly won’t be to your reviewers!

Read the Complete Grant Writing Series:

  • Part One: First Things First
  • Part Two: Significance and Innovation
  • Part Three: The Experimental Approach
  • Part Four: Additional Details
  • Part Five: Smaller Application Components
  • Part Six: Budget Justification, Letters of Support, and More
  • Part Seven: How to Interpret Summary Statement and Reviewer’s Critiques
  • Part Eight: What Are My Chances?

Additional Grant-Writing Resources

Check out the Cell Mentor portal for more career advice or scientific tricks and tips.

Note: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides sample applications along with corresponding summary statements. This is a good resource to see what gets people funded!

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Demystifying the Significance Section in Research Proposals

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Introduction

Research proposals serve as the blueprint for groundbreaking studies, outlining the what, why, and how of a research endeavor. Among its various sections, the Significance Section emerges as a linchpin, compelling researchers to delve into the profound impact their work can have on the scientific community and beyond.

Significance Section

Understanding the Purpose

At its core, the Significance Section articulates the broader relevance and importance of the proposed research. It goes beyond the immediate problem at hand, highlighting why the research matters in the grander scheme of things.

Components of the Significance Section

Statement of the problem.

A well-defined problem statement lays the foundation for a compelling Significance Section. It serves as the starting point, setting the stage for the significance to unfold.

Literature Review

Intertwined with the problem statement is the literature review, providing a comprehensive backdrop to the research. It establishes the context, showcasing the existing body of knowledge and paving the way for the identification of a research gap.

Research Gap Identification

Identifying a gap in existing research is a pivotal aspect of the Significance Section. It emphasizes the unique contribution the proposed study aims to make.

Crafting a Compelling Section

pexels julia m cameron 4144923 1024x683 1

Clarity and Specificity

A clear and specific Significance Section is paramount. Ambiguity can dilute the impact, making it crucial to articulate the significance with precision.

Demonstrating Relevance

Connecting the dots between the research and its relevance to the broader community adds weight to the Section. It answers the question: Why should anyone care?

Highlighting Innovation

Innovation is the heartbeat of impactful research. The Section should underscore how the proposed study breaks new ground and contributes to the advancement of knowledge.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Lack of clarity.

One pitfall to sidestep is a lack of clarity. Ambiguous or convoluted language can obfuscate the true significance of the research.

Overemphasis or Underemphasis

Finding the delicate balance is key. Overemphasizing or underemphasizing the significance can skew the perception of the proposal.

Importance for Funding Agencies

For funding agencies, the Section holds immense sway in decision-making. It serves as a litmus test, helping them discern which projects have the potential for substantial impact.

Real-Life Examples

Examining successful proposals can provide valuable insights. Let’s delve into real-life examples where a robust Section played a pivotal role in securing funding and recognition.

Impact on the Overall Proposal Evaluation

Reviewers often prioritize the Section in their evaluation. Understanding how this section influences their perception is crucial for researchers.

Tips for Improving the Significance Section

Thorough research and understanding.

In-depth research forms the bedrock of a compelling Section. A nuanced understanding of the problem and its context is indispensable.

Collaboration and Feedback

Seeking input from peers and mentors can offer fresh perspectives. Collaborative efforts often refine the Section, enhancing its impact.

Revision and Refinement

A Section is seldom perfect in the first draft. Iterative refinement is key to polishing this section to its full potential.

Significance Section Across Different Disciplines

Tailoring the Section for different research areas is an art. Understanding the nuances of each discipline ensures the section resonates effectively.

Trends in Significance Section Writing

As expectations and standards evolve, staying abreast of trends is essential. Adapting to these changes ensures proposals remain relevant and impactful.

Addressing Perplexity in Significance

Balancing complexity and clarity is an art. The Section should engage without overwhelming, navigating the fine line between perplexity and accessibility.

Burstiness in Significance

Captivating the reader’s attention requires a burst of dynamism. A Section should exude energy, sparking interest from the very first sentence.

The Role of Analogies and Metaphors

Incorporating analogies and metaphors bridges the gap between complex research and reader comprehension. Making the abstract tangible fosters a deeper connection.

Final word about CItation style

In the realm of research proposals, the Significance Section reigns supreme. Demystifying its intricacies reveals its true importance—a linchpin that can elevate a proposal from ordinary to extraordinary. Let  Blainy  be your trusted research assistant, guiding you to get quality research paper with latest trends and updates also to discover a wealth of resources, expert insights, and personalized assistance tailored to your research needs

  • The Significance Section showcases the broader impact of the research, influencing funding decisions and reviewer perceptions.
  • Thorough research, collaboration, and iterative refinement are key to achieving clarity in the Significance Section.
  • Analogies and metaphors make complex concepts relatable, enhancing reader engagement and understanding.
  • Yes, avoiding ambiguity, overemphasis, and underemphasis are crucial for crafting an effective Significance Section.
  • Tailoring the Significance Section to the nuances of each discipline ensures relevance and resonance.

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Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

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Table of Contents

The importance of a well-written research proposal cannot be underestimated. Your research really is only as good as your proposal. A poorly written, or poorly conceived research proposal will doom even an otherwise worthy project. On the other hand, a well-written, high-quality proposal will increase your chances for success.

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of writing an effective scientific research proposal, including the differences between research proposals, grants and cover letters. We’ll also touch on common mistakes made when submitting research proposals, as well as a simple example or template that you can follow.

What is a scientific research proposal?

The main purpose of a scientific research proposal is to convince your audience that your project is worthwhile, and that you have the expertise and wherewithal to complete it. The elements of an effective research proposal mirror those of the research process itself, which we’ll outline below. Essentially, the research proposal should include enough information for the reader to determine if your proposed study is worth pursuing.

It is not an uncommon misunderstanding to think that a research proposal and a cover letter are the same things. However, they are different. The main difference between a research proposal vs cover letter content is distinct. Whereas the research proposal summarizes the proposal for future research, the cover letter connects you to the research, and how you are the right person to complete the proposed research.

There is also sometimes confusion around a research proposal vs grant application. Whereas a research proposal is a statement of intent, related to answering a research question, a grant application is a specific request for funding to complete the research proposed. Of course, there are elements of overlap between the two documents; it’s the purpose of the document that defines one or the other.

Scientific Research Proposal Format

Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you’re submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template.

In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal. These include:

  • Title: Make sure the title of your proposal is descriptive and concise. Make it catch and informative at the same time, avoiding dry phrases like, “An investigation…” Your title should pique the interest of the reader.
  • Abstract: This is a brief (300-500 words) summary that includes the research question, your rationale for the study, and any applicable hypothesis. You should also include a brief description of your methodology, including procedures, samples, instruments, etc.
  • Introduction: The opening paragraph of your research proposal is, perhaps, the most important. Here you want to introduce the research problem in a creative way, and demonstrate your understanding of the need for the research. You want the reader to think that your proposed research is current, important and relevant.
  • Background: Include a brief history of the topic and link it to a contemporary context to show its relevance for today. Identify key researchers and institutions also looking at the problem
  • Literature Review: This is the section that may take the longest amount of time to assemble. Here you want to synthesize prior research, and place your proposed research into the larger picture of what’s been studied in the past. You want to show your reader that your work is original, and adds to the current knowledge.
  • Research Design and Methodology: This section should be very clearly and logically written and organized. You are letting your reader know that you know what you are going to do, and how. The reader should feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge needed to get the project done.
  • Preliminary Implications: Here you’ll be outlining how you anticipate your research will extend current knowledge in your field. You might also want to discuss how your findings will impact future research needs.
  • Conclusion: This section reinforces the significance and importance of your proposed research, and summarizes the entire proposal.
  • References/Citations: Of course, you need to include a full and accurate list of any and all sources you used to write your research proposal.

Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Remember, the best research proposal can be rejected if it’s not well written or is ill-conceived. The most common mistakes made include:

  • Not providing the proper context for your research question or the problem
  • Failing to reference landmark/key studies
  • Losing focus of the research question or problem
  • Not accurately presenting contributions by other researchers and institutions
  • Incompletely developing a persuasive argument for the research that is being proposed
  • Misplaced attention on minor points and/or not enough detail on major issues
  • Sloppy, low-quality writing without effective logic and flow
  • Incorrect or lapses in references and citations, and/or references not in proper format
  • The proposal is too long – or too short

Scientific Research Proposal Example

There are countless examples that you can find for successful research proposals. In addition, you can also find examples of unsuccessful research proposals. Search for successful research proposals in your field, and even for your target journal, to get a good idea on what specifically your audience may be looking for.

While there’s no one example that will show you everything you need to know, looking at a few will give you a good idea of what you need to include in your own research proposal. Talk, also, to colleagues in your field, especially if you are a student or a new researcher. We can often learn from the mistakes of others. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are prior to writing your research proposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

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One of the top reasons scientific research proposals are rejected is due to poor logic and flow. Check out our Language Editing Services to ensure a great proposal , that’s clear and concise, and properly referenced. Check our video for more information, and get started today.

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How To Write a Significance Statement for Your Research

A significance statement is an essential part of a research paper. It explains the importance and relevance of the study to the academic community and the world at large. To write a compelling significance statement, identify the research problem, explain why it is significant, provide evidence of its importance, and highlight its potential impact on future research, policy, or practice. A well-crafted significance statement should effectively communicate the value of the research to readers and help them understand why it matters.

Updated on May 4, 2023

a life sciences researcher writing a significance statement for her researcher

A significance statement is a clearly stated, non-technical paragraph that explains why your research matters. It’s central in making the public aware of and gaining support for your research.

Write it in jargon-free language that a reader from any field can understand. Well-crafted, easily readable significance statements can improve your chances for citation and impact and make it easier for readers outside your field to find and understand your work.

Read on for more details on what a significance statement is, how it can enhance the impact of your research, and, of course, how to write one.

What is a significance statement in research?

A significance statement answers the question: How will your research advance scientific knowledge and impact society at large (as well as specific populations)? 

You might also see it called a “Significance of the study” statement. Some professional organizations in the STEM sciences and social sciences now recommended that journals in their disciplines make such statements a standard feature of each published article. Funding agencies also consider “significance” a key criterion for their awards.

Read some examples of significance statements from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) here .

Depending upon the specific journal or funding agency’s requirements, your statement may be around 100 words and answer these questions:

1. What’s the purpose of this research?

2. What are its key findings?

3. Why do they matter?

4. Who benefits from the research results?

Readers will want to know: “What is interesting or important about this research?” Keep asking yourself that question.

Where to place the significance statement in your manuscript

Most journals ask you to place the significance statement before or after the abstract, so check with each journal’s guide. 

This article is focused on the formal significance statement, even though you’ll naturally highlight your project’s significance elsewhere in your manuscript. (In the introduction, you’ll set out your research aims, and in the conclusion, you’ll explain the potential applications of your research and recommend areas for future research. You’re building an overall case for the value of your work.)

Developing the significance statement

The main steps in planning and developing your statement are to assess the gaps to which your study contributes, and then define your work’s implications and impact.

Identify what gaps your study fills and what it contributes

Your literature review was a big part of how you planned your study. To develop your research aims and objectives, you identified gaps or unanswered questions in the preceding research and designed your study to address them.

Go back to that lit review and look at those gaps again. Review your research proposal to refresh your memory. Ask:

  • How have my research findings advanced knowledge or provided notable new insights?
  • How has my research helped to prove (or disprove) a hypothesis or answer a research question?
  • Why are those results important?

Consider your study’s potential impact at two levels: 

  • What contribution does my research make to my field?
  • How does it specifically contribute to knowledge; that is, who will benefit the most from it?

Define the implications and potential impact

As you make notes, keep the reasons in mind for why you are writing this statement. Whom will it impact, and why?

The first audience for your significance statement will be journal reviewers when you submit your article for publishing. Many journals require one for manuscript submissions. Study the author’s guide of your desired journal to see its criteria ( here’s an example ). Peer reviewers who can clearly understand the value of your research will be more likely to recommend publication. 

Second, when you apply for funding, your significance statement will help justify why your research deserves a grant from a funding agency . The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, wants to see that a project will “exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved.” Clear, simple language is always valuable because not all reviewers will be specialists in your field.

Third, this concise statement about your study’s importance can affect how potential readers engage with your work. Science journalists and interested readers can promote and spread your work, enhancing your reputation and influence. Help them understand your work.

You’re now ready to express the importance of your research clearly and concisely. Time to start writing.

How to write a significance statement: Key elements 

When drafting your statement, focus on both the content and writing style.

  • In terms of content, emphasize the importance, timeliness, and relevance of your research results. 
  • Write the statement in plain, clear language rather than scientific or technical jargon. Your audience will include not just your fellow scientists but also non-specialists like journalists, funding reviewers, and members of the public. 

Follow the process we outline below to build a solid, well-crafted, and informative statement. 

Get started

Some suggested opening lines to help you get started might be:

  • The implications of this study are… 
  • Building upon previous contributions, our study moves the field forward because…
  • Our study furthers previous understanding about…

Alternatively, you may start with a statement about the phenomenon you’re studying, leading to the problem statement.

Include these components

Next, draft some sentences that include the following elements. A good example, which we’ll use here, is a significance statement by Rogers et al. (2022) published in the Journal of Climate .

1. Briefly situate your research study in its larger context . Start by introducing the topic, leading to a problem statement. Here’s an example:

‘Heatwaves pose a major threat to human health, ecosystems, and human systems.”

2. State the research problem.

“Simultaneous heatwaves affecting multiple regions can exacerbate such threats. For example, multiple food-producing regions simultaneously undergoing heat-related crop damage could drive global food shortages.”

3. Tell what your study does to address it.

“We assess recent changes in the occurrence of simultaneous large heatwaves.”

4. Provide brief but powerful evidence to support the claims your statement is making , Use quantifiable terms rather than vague ones (e.g., instead of “This phenomenon is happening now more than ever,” see below how Rogers et al. (2022) explained it). This evidence intensifies and illustrates the problem more vividly:

“Such simultaneous heatwaves are 7 times more likely now than 40 years ago. They are also hotter and affect a larger area. Their increasing occurrence is mainly driven by warming baseline temperatures due to global heating, but changes in weather patterns contribute to disproportionate increases over parts of Europe, the eastern United States, and Asia.

5. Relate your study’s impact to the broader context , starting with its general significance to society—then, when possible, move to the particular as you name specific applications of your research findings. (Our example lacks this second level of application.) 

“Better understanding the drivers of weather pattern changes is therefore important for understanding future concurrent heatwave characteristics and their impacts.”

Refine your English

Don’t understate or overstate your findings – just make clear what your study contributes. When you have all the elements in place, review your draft to simplify and polish your language. Even better, get an expert AJE edit . Be sure to use “plain” language rather than academic jargon.

  • Avoid acronyms, scientific jargon, and technical terms 
  • Use active verbs in your sentence structure rather than passive voice (e.g., instead of “It was found that...”, use “We found...”)
  • Make sentence structures short, easy to understand – readable
  • Try to address only one idea in each sentence and keep sentences within 25 words (15 words is even better)
  • Eliminate nonessential words and phrases (“fluff” and wordiness)

Enhance your significance statement’s impact

Always take time to review your draft multiple times. Make sure that you:

  • Keep your language focused
  • Provide evidence to support your claims
  • Relate the significance to the broader research context in your field

After revising your significance statement, request feedback from a reading mentor about how to make it even clearer. If you’re not a native English speaker, seek help from a native-English-speaking colleague or use an editing service like AJE to make sure your work is at a native level.

Understanding the significance of your study

Your readers may have much less interest than you do in the specific details of your research methods and measures. Many readers will scan your article to learn how your findings might apply to them and their own research. 

Different types of significance

Your findings may have different types of significance, relevant to different populations or fields of study for different reasons. You can emphasize your work’s statistical, clinical, or practical significance. Editors or reviewers in the social sciences might also evaluate your work’s social or political significance.

Statistical significance means that the results are unlikely to have occurred randomly. Instead, it implies a true cause-and-effect relationship.

Clinical significance means that your findings are applicable for treating patients and improving quality of life.

Practical significance is when your research outcomes are meaningful to society at large, in the “real world.” Practical significance is usually measured by the study’s  effect size . Similarly, evaluators may attribute social or political significance to research that addresses “real and immediate” social problems.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to determine that the research problem has not been adequately addressed or has been answered ineffectively and, in so doing, become better at locating pertinent scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of conducting scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those findings. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your proposal is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to investigate.
  • Why do you want to do the research? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of in-depth study. A successful research proposal must answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to conduct the research? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having difficulty formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here for strategies in developing a problem to study.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise . A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review . Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem.
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research . This is critical. In many workplace settings, the research proposal is a formal document intended to argue for why a study should be funded.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar . Although a research proposal does not represent a completed research study, there is still an expectation that it is well-written and follows the style and rules of good academic writing.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues . Your proposal should focus on only a few key research questions in order to support the argument that the research needs to be conducted. Minor issues, even if valid, can be mentioned but they should not dominate the overall narrative.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal.  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing most college-level academic papers, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. The text of proposals generally vary in length between ten and thirty-five pages, followed by the list of references. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like, "Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Most proposals should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea based on a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Answer the "So What?" question by explaining why this is important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This is where you explain the scope and context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.

To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care?].
  • Describe the major issues or problems examined by your research. This can be in the form of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain the methods you plan to use for conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will be excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts, theories, or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while at the same time, demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations. Also pay attention to any suggestions for further research.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in relation to the arguments put forth by other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you review more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

NOTE: Do not shy away from challenging the conclusions made in prior research as a basis for supporting the need for your proposal. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. Highlighting the problematic conclusions strengthens your proposal. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

To help frame your proposal's review of prior research, consider the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: describe what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate among scholars?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, and methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that you have a plan worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used, but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results obtained in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is a deliberate argument as to why techniques for gathering information add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method applied to research in the social and behavioral sciences is perfect, so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your professor!

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications . The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy making. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.   When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to challenging the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions that support the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace, organization, or community?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented and what innovations or transformative insights could emerge from the process of implementation?

NOTE:   This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence . The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.

ANOTHER NOTE : This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations because the study has yet to be conducted, you still must tell the reader where and in what form impediments may arise and how you plan to address them.

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study . This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done;
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer;
  • The decision for why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options;
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem; and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used . In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- a list of only the sources you actually used in creating your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- a list of everything you used in creating your proposal, along with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to ensure the project will complement and not just duplicate the efforts of other researchers. It demonstrates to the reader that you have a thorough understanding of prior research on the topic.

Most proposal formats have you start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences , Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Significance – NIH style

significance section of a research proposal example

The significance section of an R01 is probably the most misunderstood part of the entire NIH grant. Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as this section has been a bit of a moving target over the past several years. Another source of confusion may be that Webster’s definition of significance and the NIH’s definition are “significantly” different. A brief history lesson may shed some light on why the significance section is a bit murky and will put today’s directives in context.

A brief history of significance

Way back in the dark ages, when getting your NIH review in the mail as a “pink sheet”, the R01 proposal was 25 pages long. Significance was included with background, and given the overall length of the grant, background often expanded into a verbal upchuck of information about the topic at hand. In 2009, the powers that be decided to give the reviewers a break and the 25 page limit was reduced to 12. The background and significance section slimmed down and was intended to highlight key findings rather than review the world’s literature. In 2016, spurred on by the need for public accountability, NIH grants underwent a major overhaul and the significance section had a new set of instructions. Significance was to include the word premise, which was defined by the NIH as “the quality and strength of the prior research used as the basis for the proposed research question or project; this is distinct from the hypothesis or justification.” The significance section was also to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the prior research. Since these initial instructions, the word premise has been dropped and quality and strength of prior research is addressed as, wait for it…., rigor.

Webster defines significance as “the quality of being important”. Investigators must like this definition, as most significance sections that I have read include something about the importance of the work. However, the NIH forgot to check Webster’s, and if you only include statements about the importance of the work your significance section will miss the mark. The NIH assumes success of your specific aims and wants to know “how will your work, successfully carried out, impact the field?”. I put the word successfully in italics, because if your work is founded on weak preliminary data and/or a poor approach, successful completion of aims will not have a major impact on the field.

Significance today

Knowing the evolution of the significance section might explain the potential differences that you’ll see either as a reviewer or in reading examples of successful grants. Now let’s head back to the future. What are reviewers looking for in today’s version? The current significance section looks for impact based on the rigor of prior research.  What is rigor of prior research you ask?  Right from the horse’s orifice of choice, rigor of prior research is defined as “the quality and strength of the research being cited by the applicant as crucial to support the application; this is distinct from the hypothesis or justification.” It’s premise without the word premise.

As part of the rigor of prior research, the applicant is supposed to address the “strengths and weaknesses of the prior research used to support the application and describe how the proposed research will address weaknesses or gaps identified by the applicant. This may include the applicant’s own preliminary data, data published by the applicant, or data published by others.” Here is your opportunity to discuss the strengths of your preliminary data (for an R01) or published data (R21, R03) that are the foundation of your hypothesis. The weaknesses you will, of course, be addressing in the grant.

Structuring your significance section

Although the exact order isn’t critical, the elements described above must be included in your significance section. I suggest starting with a brief paragraph restating the critical need your proposal addresses and how successful completion of your proposal will change the field. Remember, this is the NIH definition of significance. If you have a surprising statistic that supports the need here’s the spot.  In the next paragraph restate the hypothesis, followed by the strengths of your key supporting data. I don’t think it’s over the top to include a sub-header entitled “Rigor of prior research”.  It’s hard for a reviewer to claim this wasn’t addressed when you have it written as a separate section.  From there you discuss the weaknesses, which prepares the reviewer for the approach section where they will be addressed.

Here’s an example of a significance section, which is taken from a proposal using e-yarn as a way to detect lost socks. This example highlights my approach, but as the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a significance section.

Socks are the number one lost laundry item in the United States. Every household is, at some point, plagued by the problem of lost socks. Lost socks generate substantial psychological and financial burdens on many households, which escalate exponentially in families with 8 feet or more. Last year alone, replacement costs for lost socks reached 1.2 million dollars, and this cost is on the rise. Experts from the Simpson Family Foundation, a think tank focused on family issues, project that by 2040 the problem of lost socks will surpass health care as the number one drain on family budgets. New ways to find lost socks must be found now to avert this future financial catastrophe.

Rigor of prior research: We hypothesize that socks made with e-yarn will be detectable within an average size US home (2000 sq feet) using a barcode cell phone application. This hypothesis is built on strong data demonstrating that detectability of e-yarn is resistant to dye (Figure 1), water (Figure 2), and that 1 g of e-yarn is currently detectable up to 2000 feet (Figure 3). Based on these data, the proposal that follows will develop a unique, cost effective way to find lost socks. Successful completion of this proposal will represent a significant step towards eliminating the financial and psychological burden of lost socks. A side benefit of this approach is that, if desired, family members with similar sized feet can identify their own socks. Finally, this technology can be applied to other problematic clothing items such as cufflinks and earrings.

This proposal will address the following weaknesses in preliminary and published data. Our preliminary data shows that 1 g of e-yarn is detectable by RFID up to 2000 feet. However, we have not yet tested smaller amounts of e-yarn. Since it is not cost effective to make an entire sock of e-yarn, we will determine the smallest amount of e-yarn that can be woven into a sock and remain detectable. This question will be addressed in Aim I.

Many studies have taken a compensatory approach to the problem of lost socks rather than finding the sock itself, which is the goal of this proposal. Some studies, for example, suggest that purchasing a 6 pack of socks can address the lost sock problem. 2-5 However, these studies have only used white athletic socks and do not take into account more expensive dress socks. Another approach, reported by Hanes, et al, was to wear mismatched socks. 6 However, their study was limited to 15-25 year olds, who have been shown to enjoy wearing mismatched socks. 7-9 A similar approach, wearing only one sock, was supported by findings of Scholl, et al. 10 However, this study involved a more sedentary population. When tested in a younger, more active population, Adidas et al found that the one sock approach was not feasible due to foot sores and odor, particularly when studied in student athletes traveling together on buses. 11,12

As outlined above, this example starts with a restatement of the problem, adding a little more detail than what was presented on the specific aims page. From there, I restate the hypothesis, so that it is fresh in the mind of the reviewer as he/she goes on read the key data supporting your hypothesis. These key data are the “strength” of the strength and weaknesses of supporting data. Make sure that you demonstrate the strength of your data with figure legends that support rigor and reproducibility (positive and negative controls, statistics, numbers of replicates and experiments/animals, etc). After listing the key supporting data, I describe what will happen upon successful completion of the proposal. Because this section focuses on the proposal, rather than the problem, the successful completion part flows nicely from here. I then finish by discussing the weaknesses/gaps that will be addressed.

Where’s the background?

Since the NIH got rid of the “background and significance” section it’s dealer’s choice as to where to the background. Do you even need a background section and if so, how much? Yes, you need some background information. I think of background as a “need to know” section. Include what the reviewer needs to know so that he/she understands your work and its context. Some investigators still put this information in the significance section, and others put it at the beginning of the approach. I do not recommend putting your background with the significance, because you risk reviewers missing the information the NIH asks for (and you are scored on) by getting caught up in background details.

If nothing else, remember that the significance is the impact of your proposal, if completed successfully, on the field. Reviewers are instructed to score grants with this idea in mind. Now time to do some laundry.

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What is the Significance of the Study?

DiscoverPhDs

  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • August 25, 2020

Significance of the Study

  • what the significance of the study means,
  • why it’s important to include in your research work,
  • where you would include it in your paper, thesis or dissertation,
  • how you write one
  • and finally an example of a well written section about the significance of the study.

What does Significance of the Study mean?

The significance of the study is a written statement that explains why your research was needed. It’s a justification of the importance of your work and impact it has on your research field, it’s contribution to new knowledge and how others will benefit from it.

Why is the Significance of the Study important?

The significance of the study, also known as the rationale of the study, is important to convey to the reader why the research work was important. This may be an academic reviewer assessing your manuscript under peer-review, an examiner reading your PhD thesis, a funder reading your grant application or another research group reading your published journal paper. Your academic writing should make clear to the reader what the significance of the research that you performed was, the contribution you made and the benefits of it.

How do you write the Significance of the Study?

When writing this section, first think about where the gaps in knowledge are in your research field. What are the areas that are poorly understood with little or no previously published literature? Or what topics have others previously published on that still require further work. This is often referred to as the problem statement.

The introduction section within the significance of the study should include you writing the problem statement and explaining to the reader where the gap in literature is.

Then think about the significance of your research and thesis study from two perspectives: (1) what is the general contribution of your research on your field and (2) what specific contribution have you made to the knowledge and who does this benefit the most.

For example, the gap in knowledge may be that the benefits of dumbbell exercises for patients recovering from a broken arm are not fully understood. You may have performed a study investigating the impact of dumbbell training in patients with fractures versus those that did not perform dumbbell exercises and shown there to be a benefit in their use. The broad significance of the study would be the improvement in the understanding of effective physiotherapy methods. Your specific contribution has been to show a significant improvement in the rate of recovery in patients with broken arms when performing certain dumbbell exercise routines.

This statement should be no more than 500 words in length when written for a thesis. Within a research paper, the statement should be shorter and around 200 words at most.

Significance of the Study: An example

Building on the above hypothetical academic study, the following is an example of a full statement of the significance of the study for you to consider when writing your own. Keep in mind though that there’s no single way of writing the perfect significance statement and it may well depend on the subject area and the study content.

Here’s another example to help demonstrate how a significance of the study can also be applied to non-technical fields:

The significance of this research lies in its potential to inform clinical practices and patient counseling. By understanding the psychological outcomes associated with non-surgical facial aesthetics, practitioners can better guide their patients in making informed decisions about their treatment plans. Additionally, this study contributes to the body of academic knowledge by providing empirical evidence on the effects of these cosmetic procedures, which have been largely anecdotal up to this point.

The statement of the significance of the study is used by students and researchers in academic writing to convey the importance of the research performed; this section is written at the end of the introduction and should describe the specific contribution made and who it benefits.

What is a Research Instrument?

The term research instrument refers to any tool that you may use to collect, measure and analyse research data.

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17 Research Proposal Examples

research proposal example sections definition and purpose, explained below

A research proposal systematically and transparently outlines a proposed research project.

The purpose of a research proposal is to demonstrate a project’s viability and the researcher’s preparedness to conduct an academic study. It serves as a roadmap for the researcher.

The process holds value both externally (for accountability purposes and often as a requirement for a grant application) and intrinsic value (for helping the researcher to clarify the mechanics, purpose, and potential signficance of the study).

Key sections of a research proposal include: the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, research design and methods, timeline, budget, outcomes and implications, references, and appendix. Each is briefly explained below.

Watch my Guide: How to Write a Research Proposal

Get your Template for Writing your Research Proposal Here (With AI Prompts!)

Research Proposal Sample Structure

Title: The title should present a concise and descriptive statement that clearly conveys the core idea of the research projects. Make it as specific as possible. The reader should immediately be able to grasp the core idea of the intended research project. Often, the title is left too vague and does not help give an understanding of what exactly the study looks at.

Abstract: Abstracts are usually around 250-300 words and provide an overview of what is to follow – including the research problem , objectives, methods, expected outcomes, and significance of the study. Use it as a roadmap and ensure that, if the abstract is the only thing someone reads, they’ll get a good fly-by of what will be discussed in the peice.

Introduction: Introductions are all about contextualization. They often set the background information with a statement of the problem. At the end of the introduction, the reader should understand what the rationale for the study truly is. I like to see the research questions or hypotheses included in the introduction and I like to get a good understanding of what the significance of the research will be. It’s often easiest to write the introduction last

Literature Review: The literature review dives deep into the existing literature on the topic, demosntrating your thorough understanding of the existing literature including themes, strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the literature. It serves both to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and, to demonstrate how the proposed study will fit alongside the literature on the topic. A good literature review concludes by clearly demonstrating how your research will contribute something new and innovative to the conversation in the literature.

Research Design and Methods: This section needs to clearly demonstrate how the data will be gathered and analyzed in a systematic and academically sound manner. Here, you need to demonstrate that the conclusions of your research will be both valid and reliable. Common points discussed in the research design and methods section include highlighting the research paradigm, methodologies, intended population or sample to be studied, data collection techniques, and data analysis procedures . Toward the end of this section, you are encouraged to also address ethical considerations and limitations of the research process , but also to explain why you chose your research design and how you are mitigating the identified risks and limitations.

Timeline: Provide an outline of the anticipated timeline for the study. Break it down into its various stages (including data collection, data analysis, and report writing). The goal of this section is firstly to establish a reasonable breakdown of steps for you to follow and secondly to demonstrate to the assessors that your project is practicable and feasible.

Budget: Estimate the costs associated with the research project and include evidence for your estimations. Typical costs include staffing costs, equipment, travel, and data collection tools. When applying for a scholarship, the budget should demonstrate that you are being responsible with your expensive and that your funding application is reasonable.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: A discussion of the anticipated findings or results of the research, as well as the potential contributions to the existing knowledge, theory, or practice in the field. This section should also address the potential impact of the research on relevant stakeholders and any broader implications for policy or practice.

References: A complete list of all the sources cited in the research proposal, formatted according to the required citation style. This demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the relevant literature and ensures proper attribution of ideas and information.

Appendices (if applicable): Any additional materials, such as questionnaires, interview guides, or consent forms, that provide further information or support for the research proposal. These materials should be included as appendices at the end of the document.

Research Proposal Examples

Research proposals often extend anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 words in length. The following snippets are samples designed to briefly demonstrate what might be discussed in each section.

1. Education Studies Research Proposals

See some real sample pieces:

  • Assessment of the perceptions of teachers towards a new grading system
  • Does ICT use in secondary classrooms help or hinder student learning?
  • Digital technologies in focus project
  • Urban Middle School Teachers’ Experiences of the Implementation of
  • Restorative Justice Practices
  • Experiences of students of color in service learning

Consider this hypothetical education research proposal:

The Impact of Game-Based Learning on Student Engagement and Academic Performance in Middle School Mathematics

Abstract: The proposed study will explore multiplayer game-based learning techniques in middle school mathematics curricula and their effects on student engagement. The study aims to contribute to the current literature on game-based learning by examining the effects of multiplayer gaming in learning.

Introduction: Digital game-based learning has long been shunned within mathematics education for fears that it may distract students or lower the academic integrity of the classrooms. However, there is emerging evidence that digital games in math have emerging benefits not only for engagement but also academic skill development. Contributing to this discourse, this study seeks to explore the potential benefits of multiplayer digital game-based learning by examining its impact on middle school students’ engagement and academic performance in a mathematics class.

Literature Review: The literature review has identified gaps in the current knowledge, namely, while game-based learning has been extensively explored, the role of multiplayer games in supporting learning has not been studied.

Research Design and Methods: This study will employ a mixed-methods research design based upon action research in the classroom. A quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test control group design will first be used to compare the academic performance and engagement of middle school students exposed to game-based learning techniques with those in a control group receiving instruction without the aid of technology. Students will also be observed and interviewed in regard to the effect of communication and collaboration during gameplay on their learning.

Timeline: The study will take place across the second term of the school year with a pre-test taking place on the first day of the term and the post-test taking place on Wednesday in Week 10.

Budget: The key budgetary requirements will be the technologies required, including the subscription cost for the identified games and computers.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: It is expected that the findings will contribute to the current literature on game-based learning and inform educational practices, providing educators and policymakers with insights into how to better support student achievement in mathematics.

2. Psychology Research Proposals

See some real examples:

  • A situational analysis of shared leadership in a self-managing team
  • The effect of musical preference on running performance
  • Relationship between self-esteem and disordered eating amongst adolescent females

Consider this hypothetical psychology research proposal:

The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Stress Reduction in College Students

Abstract: This research proposal examines the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on stress reduction among college students, using a pre-test/post-test experimental design with both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods .

Introduction: College students face heightened stress levels during exam weeks. This can affect both mental health and test performance. This study explores the potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions such as meditation as a way to mediate stress levels in the weeks leading up to exam time.

Literature Review: Existing research on mindfulness-based meditation has shown the ability for mindfulness to increase metacognition, decrease anxiety levels, and decrease stress. Existing literature has looked at workplace, high school and general college-level applications. This study will contribute to the corpus of literature by exploring the effects of mindfulness directly in the context of exam weeks.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n= 234 ) will be randomly assigned to either an experimental group, receiving 5 days per week of 10-minute mindfulness-based interventions, or a control group, receiving no intervention. Data will be collected through self-report questionnaires, measuring stress levels, semi-structured interviews exploring participants’ experiences, and students’ test scores.

Timeline: The study will begin three weeks before the students’ exam week and conclude after each student’s final exam. Data collection will occur at the beginning (pre-test of self-reported stress levels) and end (post-test) of the three weeks.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: The study aims to provide evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in reducing stress among college students in the lead up to exams, with potential implications for mental health support and stress management programs on college campuses.

3. Sociology Research Proposals

  • Understanding emerging social movements: A case study of ‘Jersey in Transition’
  • The interaction of health, education and employment in Western China
  • Can we preserve lower-income affordable neighbourhoods in the face of rising costs?

Consider this hypothetical sociology research proposal:

The Impact of Social Media Usage on Interpersonal Relationships among Young Adults

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effects of social media usage on interpersonal relationships among young adults, using a longitudinal mixed-methods approach with ongoing semi-structured interviews to collect qualitative data.

Introduction: Social media platforms have become a key medium for the development of interpersonal relationships, particularly for young adults. This study examines the potential positive and negative effects of social media usage on young adults’ relationships and development over time.

Literature Review: A preliminary review of relevant literature has demonstrated that social media usage is central to development of a personal identity and relationships with others with similar subcultural interests. However, it has also been accompanied by data on mental health deline and deteriorating off-screen relationships. The literature is to-date lacking important longitudinal data on these topics.

Research Design and Methods: Participants ( n = 454 ) will be young adults aged 18-24. Ongoing self-report surveys will assess participants’ social media usage, relationship satisfaction, and communication patterns. A subset of participants will be selected for longitudinal in-depth interviews starting at age 18 and continuing for 5 years.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of five years, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide insights into the complex relationship between social media usage and interpersonal relationships among young adults, potentially informing social policies and mental health support related to social media use.

4. Nursing Research Proposals

  • Does Orthopaedic Pre-assessment clinic prepare the patient for admission to hospital?
  • Nurses’ perceptions and experiences of providing psychological care to burns patients
  • Registered psychiatric nurse’s practice with mentally ill parents and their children

Consider this hypothetical nursing research proposal:

The Influence of Nurse-Patient Communication on Patient Satisfaction and Health Outcomes following Emergency Cesarians

Abstract: This research will examines the impact of effective nurse-patient communication on patient satisfaction and health outcomes for women following c-sections, utilizing a mixed-methods approach with patient surveys and semi-structured interviews.

Introduction: It has long been known that effective communication between nurses and patients is crucial for quality care. However, additional complications arise following emergency c-sections due to the interaction between new mother’s changing roles and recovery from surgery.

Literature Review: A review of the literature demonstrates the importance of nurse-patient communication, its impact on patient satisfaction, and potential links to health outcomes. However, communication between nurses and new mothers is less examined, and the specific experiences of those who have given birth via emergency c-section are to date unexamined.

Research Design and Methods: Participants will be patients in a hospital setting who have recently had an emergency c-section. A self-report survey will assess their satisfaction with nurse-patient communication and perceived health outcomes. A subset of participants will be selected for in-depth interviews to explore their experiences and perceptions of the communication with their nurses.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including rolling recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing within the hospital.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the significance of nurse-patient communication in supporting new mothers who have had an emergency c-section. Recommendations will be presented for supporting nurses and midwives in improving outcomes for new mothers who had complications during birth.

5. Social Work Research Proposals

  • Experiences of negotiating employment and caring responsibilities of fathers post-divorce
  • Exploring kinship care in the north region of British Columbia

Consider this hypothetical social work research proposal:

The Role of a Family-Centered Intervention in Preventing Homelessness Among At-Risk Youthin a working-class town in Northern England

Abstract: This research proposal investigates the effectiveness of a family-centered intervention provided by a local council area in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth. This case study will use a mixed-methods approach with program evaluation data and semi-structured interviews to collect quantitative and qualitative data .

Introduction: Homelessness among youth remains a significant social issue. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in addressing this problem and identify factors that contribute to successful prevention strategies.

Literature Review: A review of the literature has demonstrated several key factors contributing to youth homelessness including lack of parental support, lack of social support, and low levels of family involvement. It also demonstrates the important role of family-centered interventions in addressing this issue. Drawing on current evidence, this study explores the effectiveness of one such intervention in preventing homelessness among at-risk youth in a working-class town in Northern England.

Research Design and Methods: The study will evaluate a new family-centered intervention program targeting at-risk youth and their families. Quantitative data on program outcomes, including housing stability and family functioning, will be collected through program records and evaluation reports. Semi-structured interviews with program staff, participants, and relevant stakeholders will provide qualitative insights into the factors contributing to program success or failure.

Timeline: The study will be conducted over a period of six months, including recruitment, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Budget: Expenses include access to program evaluation data, interview materials, data analysis software, and any related travel costs for in-person interviews.

Expected Outcomes and Implications: This study aims to provide evidence for the effectiveness of family-centered interventions in preventing youth homelessness, potentially informing the expansion of or necessary changes to social work practices in Northern England.

Research Proposal Template

Get your Detailed Template for Writing your Research Proposal Here (With AI Prompts!)

This is a template for a 2500-word research proposal. You may find it difficult to squeeze everything into this wordcount, but it’s a common wordcount for Honors and MA-level dissertations.

Your research proposal is where you really get going with your study. I’d strongly recommend working closely with your teacher in developing a research proposal that’s consistent with the requirements and culture of your institution, as in my experience it varies considerably. The above template is from my own courses that walk students through research proposals in a British School of Education.

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 50 Durable Goods Examples
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8 thoughts on “17 Research Proposal Examples”

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Very excellent research proposals

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very helpful

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Very helpful

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Dear Sir, I need some help to write an educational research proposal. Thank you.

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Hi Levi, use the site search bar to ask a question and I’ll likely have a guide already written for your specific question. Thanks for reading!

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very good research proposal

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Thank you so much sir! ❤️

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Very helpful 👌

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Writing a Research Proposal

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Is it Peer-Reviewed?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism [linked guide]
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper

The goal of a research proposal is to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting the research are governed by standards within the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, so guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and/or benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to ensure a research problem has not already been answered [or you may determine the problem has been answered ineffectively] and, in so doing, become better at locating scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of doing scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those results. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your writing is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to research.
  • Why do you want to do it? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of study. Be sure to answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to do it? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having trouble formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here .

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise; being "all over the map" without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual boundaries of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.].
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research.
  • Failure to stay focused on the research problem; going off on unrelated tangents.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal .  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal . Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal . International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal . University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing a regular academic paper, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. Proposals vary between ten and twenty-five pages in length. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like--"Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

In general your proposal should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea or a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in one to three paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Why is this important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. This is where you explain the context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is relevant to help explain the goals for your study.

To that end, while there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to address some or all of the following key points:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing. Answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care].
  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Set the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you will study, but what is excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, where stated, their recommendations. Do not be afraid to challenge the conclusions of prior research. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your study in relation to that of other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you read more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

To help frame your proposal's literature review, here are the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.] .
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that it is worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of these operations in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that a methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method is perfect so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your reader.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal . Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal . The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal . International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal . University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Introduction to the Specific Aims Page of a Grant Proposal

Andrew a. monte.

1 University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO

Anne M. Libby

Grant writing starts with crafting an effective Specific Aims page. This page should be a succinct combination of sales pitch and science. The Specific Aims page demonstrates a problem, a gap in current knowledge, and suggests a solution. It proposes aims that work toward a defended solution and reveal the impact of the proposal on the problem, the field, and future research. The language must be efficient and persuasive; the presentation must drive a reviewer to support the proposal. Here we present a refined recipe for an effective Specific Aims page.

Grant writing starts with the iterative development of a Specific Aims page. The Aims page serves as a concept sheet with project milestones, hypotheses, and the most important elements of the approach.[ 1 ] This page also serves as a master plan for the research proposal and ideally engages the reader as an advocate during review. The readers are review panel members that will advocate for or against your project during review. Grant reviewers often have significantly different research experience and training than the grant writer. Thus, this page must give the educated non-expert a basic understanding of the problem while giving just enough detail to indicate mastery, should the reviewer be an expert on the topic. An effective Aims page makes the case that the research is important, the methods are likely to be successful, and the applicant is the right person and team to do the project. While these goals seem simple, conveying these elements efficiently and coherently is challenging. If the Specific Aims page is confusing, boring, or overly controversial then reviewers may be lost as advocates. In contrast, effective Aims page predisposes the reader to stay engaged and eager for subsequent details. Although a grant cannot be won with the Specific Aims page, a proposal can be lost on there by confusing or alienating reviewers.

Some grant writers chafe at the notion that they need to “sell” their ideas because the proposed science should stand alone as compelling and valuable. We posit that a grant proposal is both sales and science in different parts. We define the goal of grant writing as gaining financial sponsorship for planned work; like sales, a proposal requires marketing, tailoring, and a value proposition. In contrast, science requires content and intent, a hypothesis and approach, thus science is the research that will be conducted with sponsorship. The Aims page is the point of sale for planned science and written with the goal of research sponsorship. The target audience is the review panel, and the goal is to enlist reviewers as partners and advocates of the proposal. Table 1 describes similarities between elements of effective sales and grant proposals.

Similarities: Sales and Grantsmanship

First, the Aims page should be written to an educated non-expert audience, saving the field-specific details for content experts in later sections. Also, the Specific Aims page should make the overall plan as simple as possible, but not simpler, including only “need to know” information. Demonstrating the depth of expertise and fine details of pilot data are best deployed in later sections of the grant; instead, identify the problem to study, educate the reader with background knowledge, and describe why the proposed study will successfully solve the problem. Generally, citations are minimized on the Aims page because they can distract the reader and will be included in the background section of the grant. Obey the “cultural norms” that vary by discipline or review group; for example, whether hypotheses or short descriptive approach statements are listed by aim or as a preamble. Consider adding a figure on the Specific Aims page. Simple figures, such as conceptual models or relationships among key variables, are encouraged to save words and provide visual reinforcement. While format may vary, all Aims pages should educate the non-expert reader on existing literature, identify a knowledge gap, propose a solution grounded in the aims themselves, and demonstrate the impact of the work.

Based upon our collective experience as grant writers, grant reviewers, and mentors to numerous externally-funded investigators, we have characterized effective Specific Aims pages with a “recipe.” Because there exists a recipe for success, and because of this page’s critical importance in review, this manuscript explains the four key components of an effective Specific Aims page ( Table 2 ). This recipe for the Specific Aims page is an essential first step to successful grant writing; we conclude with overviews of formatting and writing style.

Four Components for Effective Specific Aims Page

1. Introductory Paragraph

Paragraph 1 begins with a first sentence that is compelling, catchy, includes all pertinent key words, and conveys importance and impact. The typical broad first sentence that “bad things happen to many people” is insufficient as it does not telegraph appropriate expectations of what comes next; in fact, the rest of the paragraph should be predictable if the first sentence effectively frames the problem. A solid opening sentence tells the reader what condition the researcher will study, why it is important, and engages the reviewer to read on for the proposed solution. For example, in a proposal on thrombolysis in stroke, instead of a first sentence on all neurologic diseases, it could state the health impact of thrombolysis in stroke patients as a critical problem to solve. A too-broad sentence might be “Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US.” A reader could imagine any number of topics for the proposed study. A better opener could be “After cardiac arrest, therapeutic cooling after return of spontaneous circulation improves neurologic outcomes.”

At the end of the introductory paragraph, the reader has been introduced to the project and its relation to the agency’s mission, educated with a brief summary of important existing knowledge, and notified to the gap or critical need to be filled. One or two high level sentences on current knowledge is sufficient in order to balance goals of providing enough detail to ground the proposal in the literature yet not become esoteric, jargony, or lengthy. The Specific Aims page should briefly acknowledge major controversies that may subvert the importance of the proposal; further explanations must arrive in later sections, but this page must allay concerns even briefly in order to keep the reader moving forward. This should flow directly into the knowledge gap the researcher hopes to fill. Statements that clearly identify the problem should be used such as “these studies were limited by…,” “no one knows why…” or “a gap remains…” Ideally, the aims will directly address the identified gaps. For instance, a proposal for an intervention might have aims on prevalence, effectiveness, and safety; these concepts would have been highlighted as gaps. When addressing alignment with a funding agency, consider using terminology and language from the funding announcement. In summary, the first paragraph introduces the problem to be solved, educates the reviewer on what is known, identifies the knowledge gap that the planned study will fill, and relates the project to the funding agency mission.

2. Rationale Paragraph

Paragraph 2 describes the rationale for the proposed study. It is here that the researcher reveals the proposed solution to bridge the (previously identified) knowledge gap: a high-level proposal to fill the knowledge gap, why it is the right solution, and why this team is the right one to do it. Briefly describe and justify why this is the proposed approach to the problem, and why this team would be the group to achieve the aims. Assuming the reader is compelled by the significant problem and knowledge gap, why would this be the expected or desired study, and what about this researcher’s expertise, experience, or environment ensure success? The rationale for filling this knowledge gap and for the approach chosen to fill it is critical. Linked to this rationale, the researcher makes a case for him or herself as the person/team to achieve the proposed plan. This can be achieved simply with a brief statement outlining pertinent qualifications, an advantageous opportunity such as “…through the development of a novel…, we now have the unique ability to…,” or “based on our compelling pilot data.”

The rationale paragraph is an ideal location for an overall study objective. This may specifically identify the long-term goal of the research agenda and the specific goals of what the proposed project will accomplish. The objective statement, much like in a manuscript, succinctly outlines what the researcher will successfully accomplish with the proposed study. This objective must be realistic and achievable. A researcher should not propose to “cure cancer,” for example, but perhaps “improve the staging and treatment of resectable lung cancer.” The objective is then linked to a critical need or central hypothesis whose testing will achieve the global objective of the application. Take care that the objective is not to test a hypothesis. Be sure to have a thorough plan for negative and null findings that will be explained in later sections. An ideal hypothesis is one in which any result actually advances the field of inquiry and can be explained in such a way (rather than we learned something, or we were wrong). In terms of critical need, it is especially desirable to have a “burning platform” for the proposed study. It may be urgent because it is timely such as when major health policy adoption hinges on a study result, when a gap is on the critical path to allow an entire field of study to progress, or if there is an advantage for safety and efficacy pending the outcome of the proposed study. Closing this section with a global objective or central hypothesis distills the justification made above to set up the subsequent specific aims. In summary, the rationale conveys why the research is proposed at this time and by the researcher specifically, and what will be possible after the study.

3. Specific Aims

Specific aims are treated as a paragraph although they are generally a list with some type of outline numbering. Taken as a whole, specific aims outline the key steps to fulfill objectives that address a critical need. Aims are clear, achievable, and directly related to the content provided in the preceding paragraphs, with no new terms or “first mentions” in the aims. Specific aims are specific with clarity and have a goal to achieve something. Within each aim, avoid redundant phrases, e.g. “in older male patients with prostate cancer.” Depending on the audience and reader expectations, aims may be written as incomplete sentences starting with action words, e.g. investigate, measure, estimate, implement. For instance, use “measure” rather than “determine whether,” and avoid heavily descriptive verbs such as “correlate, describe, explore, or investigate.” For some agencies it is expected that each aim has an accompanying hypothesis and experiment, or perhaps a short description of an approach with data source and analytic methods. Other agencies expect to see anticipated challenges and proposed solutions. These expectations can be garnered from mentors that have been successful with the funding agency or review panel members. It is common to think of each aim as generating a result that can be written as a manuscript.

Depending on the duration of the planned study, two to four aims are acceptable with three generally being “just right.” Two aims can be considered for grants of short duration or small dollars while four aims may be appropriate for large program grants that must fulfill more objectives. The aims directly reflect the scope of work and can help define whether the study is judged as too ambitious; pilot studies may have fewer aims. Some investigators will call out an aim as “exploratory” and expect a lower standard for feasibility, although we avoid these and recommend only proposing work that can be executed successfully and thus defended. As a matter of grantsmanship, a researcher may or may not conduct exploratory work, but it is risky to propose work that may appear weak in comparison to other aims. Sub-aims (e.g. 1a, 1b, 1c) may organize basic science experiments beneath an aim, which may benefit such a proposal. Sub-aims increase the complexity of the aims page, however, increasing possible confusion and decreasing clarity. Sub-aims may provide a reviewer with additional opportunity to criticize the approach, so they should be considered very carefully.

Avoid “aim dependency” whereby one aim cannot be completed if a prior aim fails. Strategies to avoid interdependence include utilization of separate populations or different approaches. For instance, if one aim is to develop a new assay and a subsequent aim uses the assay for a hypothesis test, then if assay development fails the subsequent study is doomed. An alternative proposal may seek to measure the utilization of the currently used assay, test three alternative methods to detect the condition in question, and pilot the test with the highest sensitivity assay for the condition. In this way, the study will generate knowledge regardless of the success with the new assay. Similarly, one might aim to measure a problem across multiple institutions, determine the best environment for an intervention, and pilot test the intervention in the most controllable of these sites. Table 3 highlights additional “do’s and don’ts” for effective specific aims.

Specific Aims Do’s and Don’ts

In summary, specific aims should be correlated with the central project goal and hypothesis. They should be conceptual rather than descriptive, flow in a logical sequence, have a clear purpose with a working hypothesis or statement of need, and each aim’s success should be independent of the success of prior aims.

4. Overall Impact Paragraph

It is a common mistake to overfill the background before the aims, leaving little page space after the aims for anything more than a generic statement of innovation and importance for human health and future studies. This closing Aims page paragraph outlines the expected outcome and highlights the health and scientific impact identified in the first sentence of the page. It is essential to describe in specific ways the proposed project will be of value to the funding agency, to the field of inquiry, and to society. If the proposal includes career development plans then outlining who the researcher will become as a result of the funding is part of the value. This paragraph also closes the loop back to the opening sentence, the impact from filling a gap, and addressing a critical problem. The closing paragraph may only be two or three sentences, but can address innovation and impact. This is also the place to suggest what a specific next study would be that builds on the proposed study. In summary, the last payoff paragraph reorients reviewers to the background and knowledge gap, identifies the innovation, delineates expected project outcomes, summarizes the project’s significance, and allows the reviewer a peek at the importance of a larger research agenda.

5. Formatting and Writing Style

Formatting elements, such as bolding, underling, fonts and margins are generally dictated by the funding agency. It is essential to keep the reader in mind by making it as easy on the eyes and as user-friendly as possible. In formatting terms this means that there should be as much white (non-text) space as possible; we recommend writing a complete Aims Page using 12 point font and one-inch margins before reformatting to narrower margins per agency allowances. Writers should be judicious and consistent in using emphasis with bold, underline, and italics. Experienced grant writers advise saving one style of emphasis, e.g. either italics or underline, for resubmissions in order to differentiate new material and telegraph responsiveness to prior critiques. When adding a figure to the Aims page, consider wrapping the text and placing figures on the left so that the font to has a left-justified straight edge. Because some writers prefer straight edges generally they use full justification, but proportional spacing is harder to read on the eyes so we recommend using left justification as another step to keep the reader in mind. Font choice may be dictated by the granting agency, but it is generally accepted that sans serif fonts like Arial are easier to read electronically or on screens, and serif fonts like Times new Roman are easier to read in print. This is generally a preference as electronic submissions and PDF editing means that many reviewers never print paper copies but rather review proposals in electronic formats. We utilize Arial 11 point font with half inch margins for federal proposals.

Effective writing style and story-telling is the next step in developing a persuasive grant application. Writing style is a large topic beyond the scope of this guide, though we will provide a few recommendations that relate to the Aims page. Clarity and concision are key (e.g. use short words when there is an option such as “and” instead of “as well as” or delete unnecessary phrases such as “indeed”).[ 2 ] Write to reader expectations in terms of sentence structure and paragraph linkage. [ 3 ] Use active verbs when possible, use first person (“I will” or “we will” instead of “this study will”) and passive voice (“data were collected”) judiciously and when appropriate (e.g. when you as the researcher are needed in the action such as making choices to defend). Writers should use a topic sentence and then supporting material in a more journalistic style rather than the logical approach of starting broad and ending with the point. Storytelling approaches are highly effective features of persuasive Specific Aims pages. For clinical research proposals, a composite case can bring the human element of the scientific rationale to light in a highly memorable way; clinical translational proposals can also benefit from a human health implication of the science. The hallmarks of excellent scientific writing deserve their own full manuscript discussion, but these basic elements can help the grant writer develop an effective Specific Aims page.

6. Additional Resources

Successful Aims pages can help early stage investigators model their own proposals.[ 1 ] The more you read and review, the better your own Aims pages will become and you will find an approach that works for you; no matter your style, Aims pages will include the recommended background, knowledge gap, proposed solution, and impact elements. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has their own grant writing workshop available through the Grant Writers’ Seminar and Workshops site ( http://www.grantcentral.com ).[ 4 ] The NIH provides writing tips,[ 5 ] others have “demystified” the grant NIH grant application process[ 6 , 7 ] and the Center for Scientific Review has outlined the necessary components of NIH grants.[ 8 ] For grant writers interested in the historical elements behind developing a Specific Aims page and more depth from reviewers’ perspective [ 9 ] The Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) has built an illustrative website with full grant examples ( http://www.saem.org/research )[ 10 ] and webinars ( http://www.saem.org/saem-foundation/events/educational/webinars )[ 11 ] and many additional related resources, include our webinar discussing this topic in detail, where we recommend researchers evaluate Aims pages with a checklist of effective elements ( Table 4 ). In workshops on this subject, participants would use this list to assess their own Aims pages as well as another participant’s page.

Formative Assessment of an Effective Specific Aims Page

The Advanced Research Methodology Evaluation and Design (ARMED, http://www.saem.org/education/live-learning/advanced-research-methodology-evaluation-and-design-(armed) [ 12 ] is a year-long program that leverages in-person workshops and webinars to train junior investigators to in research topics. The SAEM Grant Writing Workshop ( http://www.saem.org/annual-meeting/education/workshops/grant-writing-workshop )[ 13 ] occurs at the Annual Meeting; it is a working session that allows investigators to further develop individual Aims pages. Both of these programs have nominal costs and most department Chairs are eager to support junior researchers with these opportunities.

This manuscript provides a recipe for writing an effective Specific Aims page using a simple four paragraph structure, and gave formatting and style recommendations. It is ideal to optimize Aims pages with readers who are educated non-experts who are not unfamiliar with your study as they most closely resemble review panelists.

Dr. Anne Libby, PhD, is Professor Emergency Medicine and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Libby’s research expertise is patient-oriented outcomes research, specifically, the financing and organization of health care systems with a focus on behavioral health. She served 4 years on study section for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Her research and mentored training programs have been funded by federal sources (NIH, AHRQ) and national foundations (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation). She co-founded the Education, Training, and Career Development Core of the Colorado Clinical Translational Sciences Institute, and founded mentoring and mentored research development programs in clinical and outcomes research.

Conflict of Interest: AAM and AML have no conflicts of interest relating to this work.

Funding Disclosure: The contents of this work are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represents the views of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Monte received support from NIH 1 K23 GM110516. Dr. Monte and Dr. Libby are supported by NIH/NCATS Colorado CTSA Grant Number ULI TR001082. Contents are the authors’ sole responsibility and do not necessarily represent official NIH views.

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What are the Sections of a Research Proposal?

significance section of a research proposal example

Research proposals that are written by graduate students or academic researchers typically follow a similar format consisting of headings and sections that explain the purpose of the research, specify the scope and scale of the study, and argue for its importance in contributing to the scientific literature. Knowing how to write a research proposal checklist  is crucial to getting your dissertation or thesis project accepted.

Although the research proposal sections may vary depending on whether it is a grant,  doctoral dissertation , conference paper, or professional project, there are certainly some sections in common. This article will cover sections you will often see in research proposals, explain their purpose, and provide a sample research proposal template.

What are the sections of a research proposal?

Let’s take a look at each section of a research proposal:

  • Overall purpose
  • Background literature
  • Research question
  • Definitions of terms and nomenclature
  • Research methodology
  • Problems and limitations
  • Required resources and budget
  • Ethical considerations
  • Proposed timetable

What is the purpose of each research proposal section?

The research proposal sections and headings above resemble a fully edited and published academic journal article, which you probably can recognize if you are a new PhD or master’s graduate student who is just starting out reading peer-reviewed academic journal articles. 

However, the purpose of each heading in a research proposal is quite different from that of a final article. 

Purpose : To explain briefly, in a few words, what the research will be about.

What you should do:  Give your research proposal a concise and accurate title. Include the name of your faculty mentor (and his/her academic department).

Note : Title pages for research proposals are generally standardized or specified and provide or summarize basic administrative information‌, such as the university or research institution. Titles should be concise and brief enough to inform the reader of the purpose and nature of the research.

Related Article:  How to choose the best title for your research manuscript

Purpose:  To provide an overview of the study, which you will expand on in detail in later sections of the research proposal.

What you should do:  Provide a brief overview of your project. Include the goals of your research proposal and clearly specify the research questions you want to address. Explain the hypotheses you want to test.

Note : A good summary should emphasize the problems the applicant intends to solve, identify the solution to the problems, and specify the objectives and design‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌research. It should also describe the applicant’s qualifications and budget requirements.

Check out a webinar on how to write an effective research introduction

Overall purpose.

Purpose:  To state the overall goal of the work in a clear, concise manner.

What you should do : Summarize your problem for someone who is scientifically knowledgeable but potentially uninformed regarding your specific research topic.

Note : The aim or purpose of a research proposal should be results-oriented as opposed to process-oriented. For example, the result of a research study may be “To determine the enzyme involved in X” while the process is “to perform a protein electrophoresis study on mice expressing Y gene.” There should be at least three objectives per proposal. 

Background Literature Review

Purpose : To demonstrate the relationship between the goals of the proposed study and what has already been established in the relevant field of study.

What you should do : Selectively and critically analyze the literature. Explain other researchers’ work so that your professor or project manager has a clear understanding of how you will address past research and progress the literature.

Note : One of the most effective ways to support your research’s purpose and importance is to address gaps in the literature, controversies in your research field, and current trends in research. This will put into context how your dissertation or study will contribute to general scientific knowledge. Learn  how to write a literature review  before writing this section.

Research Question or Hypothesis

Purpose : To state precisely what the study will investigate or falsify.

What you should do : Clearly distinguish the dependent and independent variables and be certain the reader understands them. Make sure you use your terms consistently. Whenever possible, use the same nomenclature.

Note : A research question presents the relationship between two or more variables in the form of a question, whereas a hypothesis is a declarative statement of the relationship between two or more variables. Knowing  where to put the research question in a science paper  is also crucial to writing a strong Introduction section.

Definition of Terms

Purpose : To define the meanings of the key terms used in the research.

What you should do:  Align your term and nomenclature usage throughout your entire research proposal. Clearly define abbreviations and make sure they are understandable to scientists from other disciplines.

Note : Different scientific fields of study often use different terms for the same thing. Further, there are language consistency issues that should be considered. In organic chemistry, there are international standards for naming compounds, but common names are still regularly used, e.g., acetic acid versus ethanoic acid.

Research Methodology

Purpose:  To break down the steps of your research proposal.

What you should do:   Explain how you will achieve‌ ‌your research goals ‌specified‌ ‌earlier using terms that a general reader can understand. Explain your approach, design, and methods.

Note : Your research proposal should explain the broad scope of your research to other researchers‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌field. This section represents the most important part of a research proposal and is therefore ‌the‌ ‌primary‌ ‌concern‌ ‌of‌ ‌reviewers. Knowing  how to explain research methodology for reproducibility  is important to explaining your methodology to dissertation or thesis advisors and committees. 

Problems and Limitations

Purpose:  To demonstrate awareness of any study limitations, potential problems, and barriers to answering the research question, and how to deal with them

What you should do:  Thoroughly head off any criticisms before they can torpedo your research proposal. Explain that any limitations or potential conflicts will only delay your research or alter/narrow its scope; they will not fundamentally degrade the importance of your research.

Note : Any research proposal or scientific study will have limitations in its scope and execution. Sometimes it may be a key procedure that is problematic or a material you cannot readily obtain. Discussing limitations is key to demonstrating you are an adept and experienced researcher worth approving.

Related Article:  How to present study limitations and alternatives

Required resources and budget.

Purpose:  To list what resources your research may require and what costs and timelines may affect your completion.

What you should do:  Think as a businessperson. Breakdown what resources are available at your institution or university as well as the required resources you still need. These can be materials, machinery, lab equipment, and computers. Resources can also be human: expertise to perform a procedure and other kinds of collaboration. 

Note : This section underscores why your funding institution or academic committee should fund your university, laboratory team, or yourself for this particular research. 

Ethical Considerations

Purpose:  To state how participants will be advised of

the overall nature and purpose of the study and how informed consent will

be obtained.

What you should do:  Consult with your academic institution, PhD advisor, and laboratory colleagues. Do not gloss over this part since it has legal consequences.

Note : Often, these types of legal disclaimers are well established and readily available in template format from your research institution or university. Just obtain the proper clearance and permission and have the legal authority at your institution check it over.

Read about how  conflicts of interest  should be disclosed in research proposals

Proposed timeline.

Purpose:  To give a projected timeline for planning, completing, verifying, and reporting your research.

What you should do:  Approach this part with a project management style. In an organized fashion, set out a specific timeline for how long each part of your research will take. Identify bottlenecks and specify them.

Note:  Savvy time management is something that comes with lots of research experience. Ask your professor or colleagues if you have questions about how long certain procedures will take.

Purpose:  To provide detailed bibliographic and reference citations.

What you should do:  Use an online citation machine ( APA citation machine , MLA citation machine , Chicago citation machine , Vancouver citation machine ) that can instantly organize your references in any format. Make sure you do this as you go, not saving it for the last when you have lost track.

Note:  The bibliographic format used varies according to the research discipline. Consistency is the main consideration; whichever style is chosen should be followed carefully throughout the entire paper. 

Related Article:  How many references to include in a research proposal?

Purpose : To include any extra materials or information.

What you should do:  Add letters of endorsement or collaboration and reprints of relevant articles if they are not available electronically. In addition to the above, you may want to include data tables, surveys, questionnaires, data collection procedures, clinical protocols, and informed consent documents.

Notes : Many writers tend to attach supporting documents to support their research proposal. But remember, more is not always better. Be sure to only include information that strengthens your case, not simply make it longer.

Note : Savvy time management is something that comes with lots of research experience. Ask your professor or colleagues if you have questions about how long certain procedures will take.

The Bottom Line

Whether your research is academic (PhD or master’s graduate student) or professional (competing for government or private funding), how you organize your research proposal sections is one of the first things evaluators will notice. Many academic reviewers will simply scan and check for key section headings. If any headings are missing or strangely written, they may instantly give the reviewer a bad impression of your proposal. 

One tip before submitting or even writing your research proposal is to search for the best journal to publish your research in and follow the guidelines in the Guide for Authors section, as well as read as many articles from that journal as possible to gain an understanding of the appropriate style and formatting.

Preparing Your Research Proposal for Publication

So make sure to use some of our resources, such as our  FREE APA citation generator  and  research proposal checklist , or contact us to ask about  professional proofreading services , including academic editing and manuscript editing for academic documents.

And check our guide on the  editing process  to learn more about how language editing for manuscripts can enhance your writing and increase your chances of publication.

IMAGES

  1. 9 Free Research Proposal Templates (with Examples)

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  2. Choose from 40 Research Proposal Templates & Examples. 100% Free

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  3. Typical Preliminary Research Proposal

    significance section of a research proposal example

  4. Sample Research Proposal

    significance section of a research proposal example

  5. Grant Section Analysis: Significance and Innovation

    significance section of a research proposal example

  6. 👍 Research proposal. Research Proposal Example. 2019-02-23

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VIDEO

  1. Selecting a Research Topic and Developing Research Proposal

  2. DEFINITION EXAMPLE OF PROPOSAL

  3. Proposal 101: What Is A Research Topic?

  4. Sample of Research Proposal / MESP001 / Hand written

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  6. Research Proposal with example #research #researchproposal #management #managementstudies #education

COMMENTS

  1. Significance of the Study

    The Significance of the Study section is an integral part of a research proposal or a thesis. This section is typically written after the introduction and the literature review. In the research process, the structure typically follows this order: Title - The name of your research. Abstract - A brief summary of the entire research.

  2. Grant Section Analysis: Significance and Innovation

    Example Sentences: Significance. ... This is the kind of quote a reviewer can lift right out of your grant proposal and put it into the significance section of the review. ... the refinement of a working-memory-based WL battery for future theoretical and clinical research. In this proposal, we listed four areas that we felt were contributing ...

  3. How To Write Significance of the Study (With Examples)

    Significance of the Study Examples. This section presents examples of the Significance of the Study using the steps and guidelines presented above. Example 1: STEM-Related Research. Research Topic: Level of Effectiveness of the Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) Tea in Lowering the Blood Glucose Level of Swiss Mice (Mus musculus). Significance of ...

  4. How do I write about the significance of the study in my research proposal?

    The significance of the study, quite simply, is the importance of the study to the field - what new insights/information it will yield, how it will benefit the target population, very simply, why it needs to be conducted. For instance, given the current situation (and without knowing your subject area), you may wish to conduct research on ...

  5. Write Your Research Plan

    Spot the Sample. Look at the Significance section of the Application from Dr. Mengxi Jiang, "Intersection of polyomavirus infection and host cellular responses," to see how these elements combine to make a strong case for significance.. Dr. Jiang starts with a summary of the field of polyomavirus research, identifying critical knowledge gaps in the field.

  6. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management" Example research proposal #2: "Medical Students as Mediators of ...

  7. Writing a Grant Part 2: Significance and Innovation

    The significance and innovation section is a recent (within the last 10 years) addition to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and most other foundation grant applications. It is a place for you to showcase why the work should be done — why there is a significant need for your study, and how the work is different from everyone else's ...

  8. Demystifying the Significance Section in Research Proposals

    In the realm of research proposals, the Significance Section reigns supreme. Demystifying its intricacies reveals its true importance—a linchpin that can elevate a proposal from ordinary to extraordinary. Let Blainy be your trusted research assistant, guiding you to get quality research paper with latest trends and updates also to discover a ...

  9. Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

    Conclusion: This section reinforces the significance and importance of your proposed research, and summarizes the entire proposal. References/Citations: Of course, you need to include a full and accurate list of any and all sources you used to write your research proposal. Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

  10. How To Write a Significance Statement for Your Research

    To write a compelling significance statement, identify the research problem, explain why it is significant, provide evidence of its importance, and highlight its potential impact on future research, policy, or practice. A well-crafted significance statement should effectively communicate the value of the research to readers and help them ...

  11. Writing a Research Proposal

    The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study. This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

  12. Significance

    Significance was to include the word premise, which was defined by the NIH as "the quality and strength of the prior research used as the basis for the proposed research question or project; this is distinct from the hypothesis or justification.". The significance section was also to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the prior research.

  13. What is the Significance of the Study?

    The significance of the study is a section in the introduction of your thesis or paper. It's purpose is to make clear why your study was needed and the specific contribution your research made to furthering academic knowledge in your field. where you would include it in your paper, thesis or dissertation, and finally an example of a well ...

  14. 17 Research Proposal Examples (2024)

    Research Proposal Examples. Research proposals often extend anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 words in length. The following snippets are samples designed to briefly demonstrate what might be discussed in each section. 1. Education Studies Research Proposals.

  15. Writing a Research Proposal

    The goal of a research proposal is to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. ... Background and Significance. This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow ...

  16. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposals, like all other kinds of academic writing, are written in a formal, objective tone. Keep in mind that being concise is a key component of academic writing; formal does not mean flowery. Adhere to the structure outlined above. Your reader knows how a research proposal is supposed to read and expects it to fit this template.

  17. Significance and innovation: cornerstones of a successful grant

    The Significance and Innovation sections of a grant application are the cornerstones to a successful application. These sections emphasize the importance of the problem being studied, highlight what is novel about the proposal, and are an opportunity to get the reviewers excited about the application. To the novice grant writer, it may be ...

  18. Writing a Research Strategy

    This section gives you the chance to explain how your application is conceptually and/or technically innovative. Some examples as to how you might do this could include but not limited to: Demonstrate the proposed research is new and unique, e.g., explores new scientific avenues, has a novel hypothesis, will create new knowledge.

  19. How to Write a Research Proposal in 2024: Structure, Examples & Common

    A quality example of a research proposal shows one's above-average analytical skills, including the ability to coherently synthesize ideas and integrate lateral and vertical thinking. Communication skills. The proposal also demonstrates your proficiency to communicate your thoughts in concise and precise language.

  20. How to write a grant proposal

    Background and significance. The purpose of the background and significance section is to lay out the rationale for the proposed research project and to summarize currently available data in the literature that is relevant to the project. If no systematic review or meta-analysis was done on the topic, you should do one.

  21. Introduction to the Specific Aims Page of a Grant Proposal

    The Aims page is the point of sale for planned science and written with the goal of research sponsorship. The target audience is the review panel, and the goal is to enlist reviewers as partners and advocates of the proposal. Table 1 describes similarities between elements of effective sales and grant proposals.

  22. PDF QUICK GUIDE FOR GRANT APPLICATIONS

    RESEARCH PLAN PART 2: Significance Purpose: The Significance section should explain the importance of the problem or describe the critical barrier to progress in the field that is being addressed. Explain how the proposed research project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields.

  23. What are the Sections of a Research Proposal?

    Purpose: To provide an overview of the study, which you will expand on in detail in later sections of the research proposal. What you should do: Provide a brief overview of your project. Include the goals of your research proposal and clearly specify the research questions you want to address. Explain the hypotheses you want to test.