How to Write an Inquiry or Proposal Paper

Being an academic or researcher requires writing research proposals or inquiries. Students may need to have proposals approved by instructors before beginning research projects and organizations that finance research typically expect detailed proposals from those applying for funding. A well-written proposal explains in detail how the research will be conducted and is persuasive in promoting the research project for approval.

Write the introduction to create excitement and interest in the study. Explain the research problem that needs to be solved and how this research will help solve it. Examine how the study will advance knowledge in the theoretical area on which it is based.

Formulate a statement of the problem. This should be more detailed than the general statement of the research's purpose from the introduction. Explain how this research will answer questions previous research has not addressed.

Describe the purpose of the study. Make the statement clear and explain why this study is important and how it will add to the field of knowledge. This is a chance to show that the proposed research has real value beyond the interest of the researcher.

Write an extensive literature review by first reading through all previous research conducted in the same area. Explain what other researchers have found and what questions still need to be answered. Establish a framework for the research being proposed.

Report the research questions or hypotheses. Use research questions if you are proposing qualitative research such as extensive interviews and observation. Offer hypotheses for quantitative research such as experiments and surveys.

Explain the design of the study and how it will be carried out. Be as detailed as possible, relating the measurements that will be used, the subjects to be studied, the sampling method and how the data will be collected and analyzed.

Describe any limitations of the study. Clearly state what is being studied and not studied, what questions will be addressed and which questions will not be addressed.

Detail the significance of the study. Explain how this study will advance the field of knowledge and be useful to scholars and other researchers.

Provide a References section listing every citation used in the proposal. Consistently use the American Psychological Association (APA) style, Chicago style or Modern Languages Association (MLA) style of citing references.


Don't worry that explaining the limitations of your research will be seen as negative or decrease the chances of the proposal being accepted; it is an expected part of a proposal. Research is continually being conducted by a variety of researchers and no one study is expected to answer all of the questions in the field.

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