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The 10 most common mistakes in Research Proposal Writing

This article is intended to find answers to some of the intriguing questions that trouble the PhD students, doctoral candidates and research scholars while writing their PhD research proposal.

What important questions an excellent research proposal must address?

Irrespective of your level of education, regardless of the research area you selected and no matter what methodology you have chosen, a well-written research proposal must address the following 03 important questions:

  1. What do you plan to accomplish?
  2. Why do you want to do it?
  3. How are you going to do it?

What important points a good research proposal must encompass?

The research proposal should have sufficient information to convince your readers, supervisor, proposal approving board/committee that you have an important research idea, that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature, that you deeply understanding the theoretical or conceptual framework underpinning your research study and that your research methodology is well-founded and sound by all means.

Read More: Challenges in writing a PhD Research Proposal

A research proposal is supposed to persuade others that you, as a researcher, have a genuine research idea and you have the capacity, aptitude and the work-plan to complete it and complete it in time. Generally, a well-conceived research proposal should contain all the key elements and features postulated in the research process and contain sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed research study with a deeper understanding.

How a best research proposal should be written?

The quality of your research proposal rests not only on the quality of your concept  but also on the quality of your write-up. A somewhat decent research proposal may face the risk of outright rejection for the simple reason that the proposal is poorly written. This counts a lot. I have personally experienced many research proposals having serious grammatical mistakes even in the first line of the text. Any well written, coherent and compelling research proposal bear fruit. I suggest you should follow some best research proposal examples or take help from available research proposal templates.

Read More: How to write an effective research proposal?

Remember, there is no harm in taking guidance from some best research proposal examples or learning from research proposal templates readily available online. Here, a lot depends on your creativity, your ability to think clearly and the depth of your understanding of the problem area.

What is a high-quality research proposal and how important it is?

Majority of the PhD students and novice researchers do not essentially understand what a research proposal means nor do they understand its importance. To put it more succinctly, one’s research endeavour is only as a good as one’s proposal. An ill-conceived research proposal always runs the risk to flunk the entire scheme at any stage of the PhD research work even if it somehow gets through the approving committee.

Read More: What should be included in the Research Proposal?

A high-quality research proposal, on the other hand, not only promises success for the research study but also convince the examiners and research proposal evaluation committee/board about your potential as a researcher.

What key mistakes the scholars usually commit while writing a perfect research proposal?

  1. Losing focus with too much rambling without having a clear sense of direction.
  2. Being unable to provide a proper context to frame the research question.
  3. Failing to delimit the boundary walls of the proposed research study hence deviating from the research proposal outlines.
  4. Failing to cite important studies having many citation lapses and incorrect references.
  5. Failing to make reference to key authors in the relevant discipline, field of study/research area.
  6. Failing to accurately present the theoretical or conceptual framework underpinning the proposed research study.
  7. Failure to stay focused on the research question.
  8. Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research study.
  9. Being too long or too short at times chipping in much details on trivial issues, but not enough details on important issues.
  10. Bad writing multiplied by the failure to follow the underlined research proposal steps or research proposal format or research proposal examples suggested by your University/Department.


This blog post was intended to share my personal insight with PhD students and novice researchers so that they may get over the grave mistakes I committed or other of my fellow researchers were committing while writing their PhD research proposal.