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Research Design and Proposal Writing Resources

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh provides a guide on writing a proposal to students who are asked to submit a research proposal as part of their application for admissions to a research degree. This guide looks at the content, writing style, and the process of identifying funding sources.

Research and Sponsored Projects, University of Michigan

Intended for those with little or no experience writing grant proposals for sponsored activities, this guide breaks down the parts of writing a proposal and provides insight on each section of a proposal.

University of Pittsburgh

This instruction manual is a compilation of grant workshops at the University of Pittsburgh. It aims to be generic to be relevant to most grants and fellowship proposals, but will have examples applicable to applications for the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Learning Center, University of Sydney

Provides a guide on how to clarify the thesis topic, and assists with formulating research questions, aims, and objectives. It offers thesis proposal models for the social sciences, and science and engineering. It also gives an overview of the general expectations of a thesis at a Honors, Master’s and PhD level.

The Graduate Division, University of California Berkeley

Tips on proposal writing from Berkeley faculties that have served on review committees for the university and extramural awards. 

Gettysburg College

From Gettysburg, here is a research proposal template for anthropology that guides you in each section.

The Wenner-Gren Foundation, 1991

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research offers an overview of the grant-making process for those written for funders of anthropological research. It lists general points for writing a proposal, how to address questions in a proposal, and additional items such as the abstract, budget and title.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This guide is to assist graduate students of all academic disciplines (sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts) in writing and revising grant proposals for research funding. It provides general tips, how to organize your proposal, and how to search for potential grants and funding agencies.

Learner’s Associate

This guide provided by Dr. Levine of Michigan State University has writing tips and actual writing proposal examples to guide graduate students in writing a funding proposal. 

Trinity Western University

In this excerpt, Dr. Wong focuses on proposal writing rather than the development of research ideas. He explains the purpose of a literature review and the common mistakes students make when using them. He also offers a guide for the Method section.

University of California Berkeley

Focuses on research proposals that include conducting fieldwork. Provides insights on framing, designing and conducting a researchable project by using examples from the author’s own experiences examining social movements, household dynamics and gender issues.

The WAC Clearinghouse

This chapter addresses the technical skills of finding and recording information, developing original ideas and the skills of understanding them and making informed judgments. On page 18, it includes information on formalizing your topic through a review of the literature and proposal.

Purdue University

Put together by Computer Scientists for PhD students, you will find sections on terms and phrases to avoid, separating cause-effect relationships from simple statistical correlations and drawing only warranted conclusions.

National Science Foundation

From the National Science Foundation’s division of undergraduate education, this comprehensive and detailed guide to grant writing includes program information, prewriting strategies, grant writing guidelines, evaluation criteria, and advice on what to do once a proposal is or isn’t accepted.

Offers practical tips for picking a dissertation research topic and writing a dissertation proposal. Topics include hypothesis development, sample size and research design choice, and statistical tools for data gathering and analysis.

Foundation Center

A short course on proposal writing, geared particularly towards non-profit organizations seeking funding from private donors.

Gettysburg College, Department of Anthropology

Discusses the major sections of a research proposal. Directed to researchers in the field of anthropology, but useful for researchers in the social sciences and humanities more broadly. Sections discussed include: title, research objectives, background, literature review, methodology, personal rationale, and citations.

Oxford University Special Paper: Research Methods in Middle Eastern Studies

This paper, written by Dr. Maya Shuayb, Director of the Center for Lebanese Studies at Oxford University, provides useful resources for understanding the principles of research design. Paper aims to assist researchers in defining a research question, selecting appropriate methods for researching the question, analyzing qualitative data, and addressing ethical issues in social science research. Offers useful scholarly literature key topics related to research design and development.


A source of tips, tools, and information to navigate behavioral science research, from formulating your research question to getting your proposal funded. The grant-writing tutorial addresses the full sequential process to writing a grant, with an opportunity to build an online proposal outline. Resources also address assembling a research proposal team, choosing a statistical method, or selecting a journal for publishing work.

University of Southern California Libraries

Provides step-by-step guidance on how to develop and organize research projects in the social sciences. Specifically provides guidance in writing the key components of research proposals. Additional topics addressed include choosing a topic, developing a research design capable of addressing the research question, and writing up findings for publication.

University of Texas, Austin, Intellectual Entrepreneurship

Offers a list of sample dissertation proposals in humanities, social sciences, and engineering and natural sciences fields. Proposals organized by field, title, area or methodology, and department.

Science Supercourse, Library of Alexandria

Bibliotheca Alexandrina offers the Research Methods Library of Alexandria. This is one of the largest and comprehensive collections of research methods. It represents a one stop Library to answer your research methods question.