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Step 4: Writing Your Proposal

Page history last edited by Maria J Grant 10 years, 6 months ago

HEALER Research Toolkit
Step 4: Writing Your Proposal for Formal Research
Starting your Proposal or Plan
First consider if this is a research project OR a service evaluation/audit?  To help make this decision see the following links: 


Ideally discuss your ideas with a colleague (and if your work is formal academic research, this discussion should be conducted with your academic supervisor at the relevant academic institution).
Consider how you get input from users in the development process (See Step 3 on Design the Study and Develop Your Methods) and ideally have several involved throughout the development process.  This is applicable to both service evaluation and research studies.
If you have a sponsor you should contact them and discuss your proposal.
The researcher has a responsibility for developing proposals that are scientifically sound and ethical. (See Step 6 on Obtain Ethical and Trust Approval)

Project Planning


No two proposals are the same, but they are likely to contain similar elements.  Your project plan should contain:


  • A rationale (why you believe this is important, what you hope to achieve)
  • A strategy (including objectives, timescales and milestones, and methodology)
  • An estimate of resources (time, and material costs)
  • A demonstration that an assessment has been made of the key factors that will influence the success of the project in terms of achieving its objectives including: 
    • A collection of an adequate amount of data or information (what are the risks that you will not be able to get responses from people? Do your plans require some IT, or electronic resources to be in place
    • adequate data analysis (Is your sample a suitable size for statistical analysis to be meaningful? If you are using qualitative analysis, have you used several methods to ensure some checking - data triangulation?)


and follow a similar structure and elements.  These are:


  • Title  
  • Abstract/Summary 
  • Background or rationale of the project 
  • Aims/objectives 
  • Experimental design and methods 
  • Benefits of the study 
  • Resources, costs and time frame  


Specimen online application forms for grants/awards can be viewed on RDFunding:
  • Standard preliminary application form 
  • Full application form (only applicable if applying for external funding for research) 
  • CV template 

Guidelines have been developed providing recommendations for reporting various types of research studies. These specify a minimum set of items necessary for a clear and complete accounting of what was actually done. We recommend you consult a relevant guideline in the early stages of research planning. Visit EQUATOR Network to find a relevant guideline. 
When writing a proposal it is important to consider who will be reviewing it (e.g. for funding and/or peer review) as often it will be scrutinised by lay members of boards or committees. The following offers advice on writing clearly and effectively. 
Peer Review of Funded Research
The funders may require your proposal to be peer reviewed.  Please check their guidelines for details.
Sponsor Issues
Formal research will require adherence to the Department of Health Research Governance Framework.  Service evaluation may not require this, but check with your local R&D lead for clarification.
Suggested Reading

Comments (1)

Catherine Ebenezer said

at 11:58 am on Nov 9, 2010

The link to the Booth article needs to be updated: it is now http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2532.2000.00281.x/pdf
There is now a 5th edition of Bell's book (2010)

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