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How to Write a Research Plan

Published on: Aug 28, 2023
Updated on: Aug 28, 2023
Table of content
  • Research plan definition
  • Purpose of a research plan
  • Research plan structure
  • Step-by-step writing guide
  • Tips for creating a research plan
  • Research plan examples

Navigating college and delving into academic writing can introduce you to various assignment types you might not be familiar with. No need for concern; we’re here to assist you. At its essence, a research proposal is a concise document outlining the scope of a larger research endeavor. This skill will likely come into play when working on your thesis.

Furthermore, if you decide to pursue academia beyond your undergraduate studies, developing a research plan for your master’s thesis, dissertation, and other research pursuits will become second nature.

Research plan: definition and significance

A research plan is a comprehensive documented outline of your entire project, encompassing the research process and the anticipated outcomes. This strategic document aids in defining objectives, summarizing the necessary steps to achieve them, and detailing the requirements for obtaining conclusive results.

A research plan offers a structured framework for researchers to consolidate their strategies and procedures for conducting their study. Moreover, research plans extend their utility to external stakeholders. Particularly in projects involving collaborators, stakeholders, or external observers, a research plan assumes the role of a communication tool.

Speaking about the importance of having a research plan, it effectively updates all parties about the project’s progress and overarching trajectory. While the sections might exhibit variability, the overarching goal remains constant. Note: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for an ideal research plan.

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What is the purpose of a research plan?

In certain scenarios, the research plan aims to secure funding for the research; in others, it seeks approval from supervisors or departments for project progression. In specific instances, such plans are pivotal components of graduate school applications. The chosen methods and procedures for collecting relevant data are incorporated within a research plan. These analysis methods are tailored to meet the desired outcomes and must be clearly outlined.

Throughout these contexts, research proposals adhere to a consistent structure. The main points you can cover with research plan are:

  • Bridging gaps in the existing knowledge related to their subject.
  • Reinforcing established research about their subject.
  • Introducing insights that contribute to subject understanding.

Keep reading to discover how to make a research plan!

Research plan structure & template

A research proposal adheres to a clear and logical structure that ensures your project’s effectiveness. In the research plan structure, consider organizing its core components as in the following outline.


Often referred to as the ‘need for study’ or ‘abstract,’ the introduction serves as the initial platform for your idea. It establishes the context, setting the stage for your research. Captivating the reader’s interest illuminates the study’s necessity and your passion for the topic. This section can be evaluated through questions like:

  • What is the existing knowledge about the subject?
  • What gaps remain unanswered?
  • How will your research enrich understanding, practice, and policy?

Some evaluation committees might anticipate addressing these queries under a distinct ‘background and significance’ segment. When making a plan for a research project you should introduce the research’s underlying hypothesis or delineate the investigative path if formulating a hypothesis is unfeasible.


This section delves into the rationale behind your research’s necessity and integration with established studies within your field. Your work might align with, reinforce, or even challenge existing research. Articulate how your work blends with other researchers’ endeavors, providing an in-depth exposition within your research proposal.

This segment explicitly outlines the preexisting issues your research is poised to address. It is where you address the crucial “so what?” question, clarifying the relevance of your work. Furthermore, detail the methodology that will underpin your research. If applicable, mention any tangential questions or concerns your research won’t encompass.

Literature review

This research plan writing phase encompasses all relevant scientific sources that shape your research. This includes seminal studies with their associated data, books, and scholarly articles. However, a literature review transcends a mere listing of sources; it delves into the selection of sources, elucidating their role in your research.

Progression can transition from broader studies to focused ones, or historical evolution can be woven to develop the narrative. Inclusive content should feature supporting data, disagreements, and controversies, adhering to the ‘Five Cs’ approach: comprehend, critique, compare, contrast, and conclude.

Expected results

While you can’t preemptively determine research outcomes, you can certainly establish the groundwork for your work’s potential impact. This section carries immense weight as it elucidates the underlying reasons for the necessity of your research. To create a research plan, focus on these key aspects:

  • Express how your research can challenge established theories in your field.
  • Highlight how your work lays the groundwork for future research endeavors.
  • Emphasize how your work can potentially address real-world problems.


A research budget entails forecasting and costing every research aspect, supplemented with an allowance for unforeseen contingencies, delays, and escalating expenses. Each budget item guarantees justification, underpinning transparency.


The conclusion serves as the final piece of your research proposal puzzle. Similar to the conclusion paragraph in an essay, this section encapsulates your proposal’s essence and reinforces its underlying purpose.


The references confirm your research’s foundation with your comprehensive literature review. Unlike the review, which delves into source relevance and potential challenges, the bibliography is a straightforward catalog of your chosen sources and their respective authors.

5 Steps to crafting an effective research plan

Let’s delve deeper into the research plan outline process:

Step 1: Define the project purpose

Begin by clearly outlining the why and what of your research. Understanding the purpose sets the foundation for your project’s goals. Whether you work solo or in a team, a well-defined purpose guides your efforts. For collaborative work, it helps allocate tasks efficiently. For instance, if your project explores a country’s history, assign team members tasks like cultural history research or conflict history investigation.

Step 2: Select the research method

Choose suitable research methods that align with your goals. While variety is possible, aligning methods with each team member’s strengths enhances efficiency. For instance, one member excelling in interviews can focus on that approach.

Whenever feasible, involve participants to expedite research efforts. Involving others not only saves time but also simplifies tasks. In team settings, distribute work based on individual strengths. This dynamic aids in efficient task management, allowing you to focus on strategy, task allocation, and documentation.

Step 3: Manage the task and timeline

Swiftly allocate tasks within a team context. Determine the required number of tasks and delegate them promptly. Effective task distribution accelerates individual contributions to the project’s segments.

Once you’ve assembled your team and outlined project tasks, construct a practical timeline for your objectives. Collaborative efforts may necessitate multiple meetings to finalize a feasible timeline. Consider creating a visual timeline using whiteboards, paper sheets, or digital tools. This visualization technique assists team members in grasping task deadlines.

Step 4: Write a summary

Prepare a project summary that serves as your research project guide. This invaluable tool aids recruitment interviews, meetings, and field studies. With a well-structured summary, you can stay on track during interactions, ensuring you address key project aspects. It includes questions for potential recruits, project components for discussion, and meeting focus. Typically separate from the main project, summaries feature an introduction and possibly interview questions for potential participants.

Step 5: Plan the result presentation

Your diverse presentation methods may apply depending on your research’s context and purpose. For instance, corporate projects might demand professional presentation avenues such as slideshows, pamphlets, or booklets. Conversely, personal or independent research may not require formal presentation methods unless preferred for organizational purposes. Identifying your preferred presentation mode enhances clarity and readiness as your project unfolds.

Tips for creating a research plan

Follow these tips to ensure your research plan is comprehensive and well-prepared:

  • Brainstorm Collaboratively: Initiate a collective brainstorming session with peers or experts. Outline the essential questions that warrant exploration and answers within your research.
  • Prioritize and Feasibility: Evaluate the list of questions and prioritize those that are achievable and important. Focus on questions that can realistically be addressed.
  • Define Key Terminology: Define technical terms pertinent to your research, fostering a shared understanding. Ensure that terms like “church” or “unreached people group” are well-defined to prevent ambiguity.
  • Organize your approach: Once well-acquainted with your institution’s regulations, organize each aspect of your research by these guidelines. Allocate appropriate word counts for different sections and components of your research paper.

Research plan example

Examining real-world sample research plan can provide valuable insights into effective strategies. Here are a few diverse scenarios:

Clinical Health Project Proposal

Dive into a sample research proposal focusing on clinical health projects. Gain insights into framing research objectives and methodologies in the realm of healthcare.

Social Policy and Criminology Proposal

Examine a research proposal example in the field of social policy and criminology. Learn how to structure and articulate research questions that address societal issues.

Early Learning

Discover samples addressing early learning research. These examples showcase the formulation of research goals and methodologies for improving early education.

Civil Engineering

Explore a sample research proposal in the field of civil engineering. This example demonstrates how to structure a proposal for projects related to infrastructure and construction.

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