A research proposal usually consists of the following elements:
The research proposal can be envisaged as the process (step by step guidelines) to plan and to give structure to the prospective research with the fina1 aim of increasing the validity of the research. It is therefore a written submission to spell out in a logic format the nature of the design and the means and strategies that are going to be used.
1 The Title
The title is usually only formulated after the research problem and subproblems have been stated in a more or less final format. The research project title should demarcate the following:
- the WHO or/and WHAT is researched;
- the WHERE;
- the WHEN;
- the HOW; and
- an indication of the ENVISAGED SOLUTION or possible NEW PRODUCT.
Also see Research Topic.
2 Problem Statement
It was previously mentioned that research forms a circle. It starts with a problem and ends with a solution to the problem. Problem statement is therefor the axis which the which the whole research revolves around, because it explains in short the aim of the research. Prospective researchers can search within their own subject field for suitable problems. What should, however, be mentioned, is that not all identified problems within a scientific field of study is suitable for research.
The prospective researcher should think on what caused the need to do the research (problem identification). The question that he/she should ask him/herself is: Are there questions about this problem to which answers have not been found up to the present? The research problem should be stated in such a way that it would lead to analytical thinking on the part of the researcher with the aim of possibly concluding solutions to the stated problem.
The following aspects are important when formulating a research problem:
The following serves as an example:
The main and subproblems should, however, form a research unit. After you have stated the research problem, you should continue to formulate the relevant hypotheses.
Also see Research Problem.
3 Formulating Hypotheses
From the literature it is concluded that a hypothesis is a tentative statement, that implies a proposed answer to a problem, setting accountability and responsibility of effective research procedure as high priority (De Wet, Monteith, Steyn & Venter 1981 :76).
It should, however, be emphasized that in no way a hypothesis statement can claim to be the only solution to the problem. It serves only as a point of departure - the chain between the theory and the research that leads to the broadening of knowledge (Smit 1983:19).
Hypotheses are thus tentative statements that should either be acknowledged or rejected by means of research.
Because hypotheses give structure and direction to research, the following aspects should be kept in mind when formulating a hypothesis:
- Hypotheses can only be formulated after the researcher has gained enough knowledge regarding the nature, extent and intensity of the problem.
- Hypotheses should figure throughout the research process in order to give structure to the research.
- Hypotheses are tentative statements/solutions or explanations of the formulated problem. Care should be taken not to over-simplify and generalize the formulation of hypotheses.
- The research problem does not have to consist of one hypothesis only. The type of problem area investigated, the extent which encircles the research field are the determinating factors on how many hypotheses will be included in the research proposal.
A research hypothesis is usually stated in an explanatory form, because it indicates the expected reference of the difference between two variables. ln other words it verifies the reference that the researcher expects by means of incorporating selected research procedures.
The research hypothesis may be stated in a directional or non-directional form. According to Landman (1988:86) and De Wet et al, (1981:80) a directional hypothesis statement indicates the expected direction of results, while a nondirectional one indicates no difference or no relationship.
ln order to assist you in formulating a research hypothesis, you should ascertain the criteria used in formulating hypotheses.
3.1 Criteria for the formulation of a hypothesis
According to Srnit (1983: 20-21 ) the following criteria are of importance in formulating hypotheses. A hypothesis should:
- stand a test;
- be expressed in clear language;
- be in accordance with the general theme of other hypotheses statements in the same field of study, and should be regarded as valid;
- be. co-ordinated with the theory of science;
- be a tentative answer to the formulated problem;
- be logical and simplistic;
- consider available research techniques (to be able to analyze and interpret the results);
- be specific; and
- be relevant to the collection of empirical phenomenons and not merely conclude value judgements.
3.2 Hypothesis formulation
From the aforementioned it is clear that hypotheses can be formulated in more than one way.
Smit (1983:21) demonstrates the latter by using the words ...if and ... then when formulating a hypothesis. The following serves as an example: If first-year students pass through an orientation programme then they will be better equipped for study success.
You schould take note that the results after the word then, are not necessarily true, but could be, in cases where the wording after the word if is true.
3.3 Hypothesis testing
Landman (1988:12) explains the term hypothesis testing as follows: The purpose of testing a hypothesis is to determine the probability that it is supported by facts.
For the testing of a hypothesis, knowledge of applicable variables of the researcher is an important assumption. An explanation of the term literature survey with regard to research context will be explained below.
Also see The Hypothesis.
4 Demarcation of the Terrain of Study
In this section a precise indication is given of the scope of the research with indication of the assumptions made, limitations and delimitations of the research before the research is started.
5 Defining of Terminology/Concepts
An indication is given of how the researcher interpreted and is going to use terminology/ concepts in the research report. This is very important, because some concepts/terms are often used in different meanings by different authors.
6 Indication of the Importance/Significance of the Research
The researcher should indicate and defend why it is necessary to undertake the research. The benefits that will result from the research and to whom it will be beneficial should be indicated.
7 Literature Survey
To conduct research regarding a topic, by implication means that the researcher has obtained sound knowledge with regard to the research topic. It is therefore imperative that the researcher, at the time of the submission of the research proposal, clearly indicates what theoretical knowledge he possesses about the prospective research. A literature search therefore will entail the literature the prospective researcher has already consulted.
An overview of the literature anticipates the background knowledge of the researcher and a possible classification of the content for the purpose of stating the research problem. This should also reveal the importance of the contemplated research. A literature search therefore simplifies the formulation of hypotheses for the researcher.
According to De Wet et al. (1981; 40 - 41 ) the aim of a literature study is to:
- give all-round perspectives on the latest research findings regarding the topic;
- indicate the best method, scale of measurements and statistics that can be used;
- interpret the research findings in a better way; and
- determine the relevancy of the prospective research.
It should further noted that the research design must be accompanied by a preliminary list of references consulted by the researcher during the preparation of the research proposal. The list should include the mast recent publications on the research topic. It must however be emphasized that this reference list by no means is sufficient to complete the research project - it must be augmented during further literature searches as the research process continues.
Also see Data Collection.
8 Analysis of the Proposed Research Procedures
The researcher supply here a careful and detailed analysis of the proposed research procedures he/she intends to follow.
Also see Research Methods.
9 Time Schedule
A detailed proposed time schedule is supplied.
10 Budget (where applicable)
A detailed indication of the funds needed to undertake the research. This is necessary where the researcher intends to apply for funding from the FRD, etc.
11 Researchers Qualifications
A list of all the qualification the researcher obtained up to date.
12 Resource List
The list of resources used will only include resources referred to in the research proposal. Use the APA style. An information pamphlet is available from the library.
13 Technical Editing of the Research Proposal
Although the research proposal is considered the preliminary planning of a research problem, it should comply with the following requirements:
- It should preferably be typed in double spacing on size A4 paper.
- A margain of 4cm is required on the left side of the paper.
The following should also accompany the research proposal:
- A front page.
- The name and surname of the researcher.
- Opening words to the effect of:
- Research proposal prepared for a project with the following title: ...................
Apart of the aforementioned format, Leedy (1987:107-108) recommends the following guidelines to assist you in structuring your presentation logically:
- The programme and its milieu
- State the problem.
- State the subproblems.
- State the hypotheses.
- Demarcate the terrain.
- Define the terminology.
- Indicate the importance of the study.
- Review related literature
The calculation and interpretation of data:
- Relevant data.
- Research methodology.
- The proposed handling of each subproblem.
- Data required.
- Where will you find the data.
- How will you obtain the data.
- How will you calculate/interpret the data.
Framework for the prospective study
Landman (1988: 88) holds the view that preparing a research proposal is an important task, especially when the researcher wishes to obtain funds for the research project. He emphasizes that the research proposal format should include the following:
- The statement of the problem.
- Hypothesis formulation.
- The significance of the problem.
- Definitions, assumptions, limitations and delimitations.
- Review of related literature.
- A careful and detailed analysis of proposed research procedures.
- A time schedule.
What should however be emphasized is the fact that the research proposal forms part of the research project, and is not merely a means to acquire funding. If you want to obtain funds for your research project, a definite recipe does not exist for preparing a successful application. The basic guidelines given by Leedy (1985) and Landman (1988) should suffice.
A well prepared research proposal is characterized by an orderly logical outline. It should be emphasized that various disciplines and different research types, requires different approaches and methods.
14 Resource List
De Wet, JJ; Monteith, JL de K; Steyn, HS & Venter, PA 1981 Navorsingsmetodes in die Opvoedkunde: >n Inleiding tot empiriese navorsing. Pretoria: Butterworth.
Landman, WA 1988 Navorsingsmetodologiese Begrippe. Pretoria: Serva.
Leedy, PD 1985 Practical Research: Planning and Design. Third Edition. New York: McMillan Publishing Co.
Smit, GJ 1983 Navorsingsmetodes in die Geesteswetenskappe. Pretoria: HAUM.