Research Proposal explained and guide

Research proposal - Toolshero

Research proposal: this article provides a practical explanation of the research proposal. The article starts with a definition of the term research proposal and why the proposal is an important part of research as a whole. Then you will find a step-by-step guide and valuable tips on how to write a good research proposal. Enjoy reading!

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is an important first step that is carried out before the research starts. Every student who is going to write a thesis must submit a research proposal in advance. This proposal provides a picture of the problem that will be researched and how the research will be designed.

Research proposal structure

The research proposal is a document that usually consists of the following different elements:

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  • Background information
  • Problem statement, research objectives and research questions
  • Research methods
  • Preliminary bibliography

It is important to pay attention to this as it serves as a blueprint for the research project and helps to convince the reader that the research is worthwhile.

Students use the research proposal as a guideline for their thesis, an extensive research that forms the pinnacle of their academic career. Many students dread writing a thesis.

This proposal helps ensure that the student is on the right track with their research and provides a roadmap for writing the thesis. In this article you will find all the information you need to complete a research proposal.

Step 1 of the research proposal: Background information

The first step in writing a research proposal is to prepare background information. This section provides an explanation of the problem being researched, why it is important to research this problem, and how the problem compares to existing research conducted in the same field.

The background information may also include a brief overview of the main theories and concepts relevant to the research topic. However, these are also included in the last step under the provisional bibliography heading.

The purpose of this section is to help the reader understand why the research is needed and how it fits into the wider context of the field. We call this the academic relevance of the research.

Example of a good description of background information

In recent years, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has had a major impact on the way companies shape their marketing activities.

AI technologies are used to analyze data, predict consumer behavior and create personalized advertisements.

These developments have created both opportunities and challenges for marketers. This research focuses on examining the impact of AI on marketing in companies and exploring ways companies can use these technologies to improve their marketing strategies.

A study of the effects of AI in marketing is academically relevant because it focuses on a current and relevant topic within the marketing world, namely the emergence of AI technologies and their impact on companies’ marketing strategy.

The research is relevant because it contributes to the development of knowledge and understanding of this topic, and can help improve the way companies develop and execute their marketing strategies.

In addition, the research is also theoretically relevant, because it contributes to the development of academic literature on this topic, for example by introducing new insights or concepts on this relatively new and unknown topic.

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Step 2 of the research proposal: the Problem statement

The problem analysis in a research proposal ensures that the researcher gets a picture of the situation being researched and why it concerns a problem that needs to be researched. The problem statement then describes exactly what the problem or issue is and why research is needed.

Example problem statement

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way companies approach marketing.

As AI becomes more sophisticated and accessible, it can automate many tasks traditionally performed by human marketers, including data analysis, customer segmentation, and personalized targeting. While AI offers significant opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing efforts, it also poses challenges for companies in organizing and managing their marketing teams in this new landscape.

Research question

Therefore, the research question for this study is as follows:

What are the implications of AI for the organization of marketing efforts in companies, and how can companies best adapt to these changes to remain competitive in the marketplace?


Examples of sub-questions that can help answer the research question of this study are:

  1. What specific marketing tasks can AI automate, and how can companies effectively integrate AI into their existing marketing strategies?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using AI in marketing and in which different sectors and companies do they differ?
  3. How do AI-powered marketing tools influence the skills and roles needed for human marketers?
  4. Which organizational structures and business processes are best suited for integrating AI into marketing teams?

Step 3 of the research proposal: Research methods

To answer the above questions, it is important to know which research methods can be used to collect the right data. This part of the research proposal therefore revolves around determining and partly explaining the methods used.

Please try to complete this section as completely as possible. Keep the purpose of the research proposal in mind: the document serves as a blueprint and guideline for actually carrying out the research.

The better the preparation is, the easier it will be to go through the research process.

Example research methods

To answer the sub-questions, a mixed-methods research approach is used, combining both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

For the first sub-question, qualitative research methods are used, such as interviews with marketing experts and industry leaders.

This is done to gain a comprehensive understanding of the ways AI can be integrated into existing marketing strategies. In addition, a thorough literature review is performed to identify best practices and successful case studies of AI-driven marketing campaigns.

To answer the second sub-question, both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used to examine the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI in marketing across different industries and companies. Surveys and focus groups are the primary tools to collect qualitative data on consumer attitudes towards AI in marketing, while financial data will also be analyzed to measure the economic impact of AI on marketing efforts.

The third sub-question will be answered through a combination of qualitative research methods, specifically interviews and focus groups, as well as quantitative data analysis. Surveys are also being used to collect data on the skills and roles needed for human marketers in the age of AI. Job openings are also analyzed to identify emerging skills and roles in AI-driven marketing.

Finally, answering the fourth sub-question uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods again, where surveys and interviews will be used to collect data on the most effective organizational structures and processes for integrating AI into marketing teams.


A timeframe is also included in the research proposal. When it comes to a thesis, supervisors are mainly interested in the feasibility of the planning. Make sure you allocate enough time for each part and use margins so that you can meet the deadline even if there are delays. Use a tool like the Gantt chart.

Step 4 of the research proposal: Provisional bibliography and references

The reference list is an essential part of any research paper or proposal, as it lists all sources used in the research process. In this section, students should include a complete list of all references cited in their proposal, following a particular reference style such as APA or MLA.

The citation section should include the author’s name, publication year, article or book title, publication name, and page numbers. If the source is a website or online article, students should also include the URL and date of access.

Tips for writing a research proposal

Use the following tips to write a good research proposal:

1. Write a concise research question

Your research question should be focused and well-defined to keep you on track throughout the research process.

2. Conduct a thorough literature review

Before you start writing the actual research, it is important to conduct an extensive literature review to understand what research has already been done on the topic.

3. Describe your research methodology

Clearly explain the research methods you plan to use, including any data collection and analysis methods.

4. Academic relevance

Explain clearly why your research is important and how it will contribute to the field. The lack of academic relevance is a common reason for rejecting a research proposal.

5. Be realistic

Make sure that your research question is feasible and that you have access to the necessary resources to conduct the research.

6. Follow the guidelines

Check and follow the specific guidelines and requirements set by your institution or professor. This can also be a reason for rejection of a research proposal.

7. Proofreading

Check your proposal for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and ask a colleague or consultant to review it and provide feedback.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of writing a great research proposal that is well received and approved.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation of the research proposal? Does this article help you write a research proposal? Which tips in this article did you find most useful? Are you still missing information? Or do you have other tips and comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Barick, R. (2021). Research Methods For Business Students. Retrieved 02/16/2024 from Udemy.
  2. Denscombe, M. (2012). Research proposals: A practical guide. McGraw-Hill Education.
  3. Klopper, H. (2008). The qualitative research proposal. Curationis, 31(4), 62-72.
  4. Punch, K. (2000). Developing effective research proposals. Sage Publishing.

How to cite this article:
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Original publication date: 05/01/2023 | Last update: 01/02/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
Article by:

Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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