Research Proposal Steps

Step 1: The Title

Naming your research is an important part of the research proposal. It should tell the user (In 25 words or less) what you intend to research and how you intend to do it. You may also wish to give your research project both a Māori and English title. The choice is up to you, as long as your title is relevant to the research question.

Step 2: The Abstract

Your research proposal in its entirety may be anywhere between 5,000 to 25,000 words in length. So it is important that you give a summary of the entire document. This summary is known as the abstract, and should demonstrate to the reader the most important parts of each of the sections of the research proposal in around 200 words. It is often useful to write the abstract last, after the rest of the research proposal has been written and fully thought out.

Step 3: Aims and Objectives

In this section you should expand on the title of your research project to articulate in full detail the aims and objectives of your research. You should be able to provide a detailed description of the research question, the purpose of the research, and a description of your approach (methodology and method) to the research.

Included in this section should be discussion around the research problem that you intend to answer or investigate, your hypothesis, the parameters of the research i.e. what you intend to include within the research, and what you intend to leave out.

Step 4: Background

This section should provide detail about the background to the research question. In this section you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the existing literature and research studies within the area of your proposed research topic. This is to assist the reader to understand the significance of your research, and where it fits within the existing body of knowledge.

The background section is a significant portion of your proposal and therefore should be an extensive review of the literature related to your topic (see literature review). You should be able to discuss what the existing literature is about and highlight any gaps, issues or contentions that arise. You also need to be able to show where your research fits within this literature and enter into discussions on issues that relate to your research question. The point of this background section is to demonstrate to the reader your understanding and knowledge of the research area, as well as the contribution that your research project will make to the existing research and knowledge.

Step 5: Methodology and Method

In this section of the proposal you will need to demonstrate how you intend to go about investigating the research question. The methodology generally refers to the theory to be used to justify the use of the particular research methods that you are choosing to use. You may use more than one methodology to inform your method of research. The method describes the way you intend to investigate the question, such as a questionnaire, a hui, in-depth individual interviews, focus group interviews, a wānanga, a survey and so forth.

Kaupapa Māori is a methodology, that also gives rise to and guides research methods. In this section you will need to give a brief overview of Kaupapa Māori theory and/or theories, why you have chosen to use this methodology and how your research question fits within this methodological framework.

If you are using more than one methodology then you will need to demonstrate why you have chosen to use another methodology alongside Kaupapa Māori, and how it is relevant to the aims and objectives of your research.

You should also discuss the different methods you intend to use in full detail, and provide justification as to why you have chosen to use these methods. It is also helpful to discuss how many participants you intend to involve in your research, how you intend to find or approach participants, and how they will be used in your study.

Step 6: Schedule and Timeline

You need to be able to demonstrate that your research is possible within a given timeframe. You may be able to define your own timeframe, or the institution for which you are writing a proposal may have a set timeframe that you will need to work within. Either way, it is important that you are able to plot the intended progress of the project from start to finish. If you intend to produce any outputs, reports, findings then they should be inserted into this schedule.

Step 7: Ethical Approval

Some institutions require that any research involving interaction with human participants get approval from ethical advisory committees or boards. This ethical approval is sought to ensure that the researcher conducts research in a manner that is respectful to the participants and other human beings that may be influenced by the research process. It is important that you seek out what ethical approval is required within your area of research. You may need to seek approval from more than one advisory committee depending on the institutional, financial and disciplinary context. Applications for ethical approval are obtained directly from the ethical committees themselves.

Ethical considerations is a key part of conducing Kaupapa Māori research. Understanding research ethics will impact on all aspects of your research, in particular, how you engage with communities to conduct your research and disseminate your research findings. Māori community research organizations are also beginning to develop their own research ethics guidelines to assist both the researchers and participants to be ‘culturally safe’ during the research process.

In the ‘ethical approval’ section, it is important to outline who you intend to seek ethical approval from, and/or when ethical approval was granted and for what period of time.

Step 8: Resources

This section demonstrates to the reader that you are both suitable and capable of carrying out the proposed research. You will need to discuss what resources you have at your disposal that makes it possible for you to carry out this research. For example, physical resources (such as research instruments), personal resources (such as knowledge of the discipline, area or community under study), as well as any other resources that you have as a researcher (or research team) that will enable you to carry out the research from beginning through to completion.

You may also need to highlight what resources you still require in order to complete the research, and also discuss how you intend to go about acquiring these resources (i.e. through funding, through research collaborations etc.)

Step 9: Budget

Not all research proposal require a budget (such as thesis proposals for academic institutions), however if you intend to apply for funding for research it is important that you are able to show how much money you require, and justify the amount asked for. The way to justify the amount you are asking for is to provide a detailed budget outlining what expenses you predict you will incur in conducting the research. Exactly where and how money will be spent will differ from project to project, and the size of the budget should reflect the size of the research project. Some of the main expenses that may be included in any budget could be researcher’s time, human resources (such as other research assistants, transcribers, advisory board members), technical equipment (Dictaphones, transcribers, computer hardware and software etc), stationary, koha and others.