Procedures of writing a research proposal

There are seven steps in research:

A proposal is a document which details an intended activity. It demonstrates the researchers’
ability to think clearly about the intended research or proposal. In a research proposal a
researcher proposes to undertake a piece of research on a pertinent issue. A research proposal
may be academic or non academic-oriented but are still aimed at undertaking research to solve a
problem i.e. action oriented research.
Steps in Research

  1. Formulation of a research problem: What causes….
  2. Definition of hypothesis: Reading from theory may hint on some possible guesses to the
  3. Research design: Researcher how to move from “here” to “there”
  4. Determination of data to be collected and how to collect it. May be Primary, secondary,
    qualitative or quantitative.
  5. Data collection: Data is collected using the appropriate instruments.
  6. Analyzing and processing of collected data: Data is analyzed, hypothesis are tested.
    Decisions are made to reject or fail to reject the hypothesis.
  7. Generalization: the established relationships are explicitly explained. This is stating the
    findings in form of a theory.
  8. The generalization may be a new theory, a modification of an existing theory or a
    refutation of a theory.
    Chapter in proposal
  9. These are details that appear before Chapter I.


They are numbered in I, ii, iii,-

They include:
i. Declaration both by the student and supervisor(s)
ii. Research abstract
iii. Acknowledgement
iv. Dedication
v. Table of contents (This must be generated)
vi. List of tables
vii. List of figures
viii. List of abbreviations and acronyms used in the write up.

A proposal has the following chapters.

Chapter I: Introduction

i. Overview
ii. Background information
iii. Statement of the problem
iv. Purpose o the study
v. Research objectives
vi. Research questions
vii. Hypothesis (Optional)
viii. Justification of the study
ix. Limitation of the study
x. Scope of the study
xi. Operational definition of terms 
xii. Conceptual framework Or Theoretical framework

Chapter II: Literature review.

It contains reading and citations of other people’s works. All works must be acknowledged
In text sources must appear at the reference section. Correct citations must be followed. Citations
may be author dominant or information dominant. Literature reviewed must be recent and must
inform the work being done. Lack of citing is academic plagiarism. It’s punishable 0y
disqualification. Discussion in Chapter II is based on conceptual framework.
Chapter III: Research Design and methodology

Key areas in this chapter are

i. Research design
ii. Study area
iii. Respondents
iv. The population
v. Selection processes (Sampling)
vi. Data collection
vii. Instruments of data collection
viii.Validity and reliability of instruments
ix. Proposed methods of data analysis
All the sections in this chapter and the choices MUST be supported with relevant literature.

It is a list of all cited works.

i.   It must be written according to the style that the university proposes.
ii.   It must be exhaustive to include all cited works
iii.   It must be written in Alphabetical manner
This is not an attachment but is part of the work. Thorough reading and citing other people work
only serves to improve on the quality of your work.
These are documents that are useful in the research but are not really part of the main text.
They include: Questionnaires, interview schedules, research permit and authorization, transmittal


The first step in research is the identification of a problem. Without being clear about what you
want to do, it is difficult to plan how you are going to do it. This requires thought, reading and
spending time wondering what the research should be all about.
Attributes of a good topic
i. Must meet the requirements of the examining body
ii. Must be within the abilities of the researcher to handle the issues (Available and possibly
developable skills should suffice).
iii. Must excite the researcher: You must be able to sustain your interest in the topic for at
least the period of study.
iv. Must be researchable with the available resources and within the stipulated time frame.
v. Must require data that can be obtained or can be availed. Do not plan to utilize
information that may be regarded state secrets.
vi. Mostly, should be related to some theory. This contextualizes your research. It helps in
formulating research questions, objectives and hypothesis.
vii. A good topic should link to and lead to clearly defined research questions and objectives.
If given a research idea by your organization, ensure that questions and objectives
vii. reflect the idea.
ix. The topic must have symmetry of possible outcomes. This is to do with the value of the
x. Must provide enough a scope for the project report to cover.
xi. Topic must be related to the purpose of the research.
xii. Must relate to the future career aspiration of the research. You are what your research is.


There is no limit to the number of good research problems. Knowledge is infinite and so are
research areas. The First step is identifying the broad are that one wants to research. (Education,
Finances, management, human resource etc). The second step is narrowing down to a specific
issue within the area. The criteria for choosing this area is: Must be important and researchable.
It should lead to findings with widespread applications, challenge commonly held truism, review
the inadequacies of existing laws and theory, cover reasonable scope. Scope is determined by:
Time available, money available, Equipment and availability of respondents.


  1. Existing theories- Validation or refutation
  2. Existing literature- For identification of gaps
  3. Discussion with experts-Topical areas mentioned
  4. Previous research studies- Areas of further study in chapter V
  5. Replication: to check if findings hold with time.
  6. The media: Public interest expressed thro media
  7. Personal experiences: Observations and reflection on intriguing issues is a source of research.

Stating the problem

The background builds the foundation for the statement of the problem. Background is based on
existing literature in order to identify the gains It must have supported with citations, well
It starts from general to specific. A poor background leads to difficulties in stating the problem.


A proposal abstract is a one paragraph summary of what the researcher intends to do. It should
be brief, precise and to the point. An abstract gives the reader an overview of what the problem is
and how the researcher intends to solve the problem through the proposed research.


The introduction tells us a lot about what is to follow in the rest of the proposal.
It includes the background of the problem, the statement of the problem, the purpose of study,
the objectives or research questions, hypotheses, the rationale or justification of the study, the
limitations and underlying assumptions, the theoretical framework or conceptual model and the
theoretical definitions of terms.

The background to the problem

The researcher should broadly introduce the topic under investigation. This is where the global,
regional, and national overview of the research topic is briefly discussed. For example, if the
topic is female education in Kenya the research should give an overview of the status of female
education globally, regionally -Africa and nationally -the Kenyan experience. This enables the
reader to have an idea of what is happening regarding the area under investigation.

The problem statement

In this section the researcher should narrow down the focus and state the problem under
investigation. The researcher states the problem under investigation e.g. High drop-out rates
among female pupils in primary schools. In addition, the researcher describes factors that make
the stated problem a critical issue to warrant the study-the researcher makes a case for the
research. In the above example the researcher could elaborate on the consequences of girls
dropping out of school, for example marginalization in the formal sector, a high fertility rate,
child labor, poor family nutritional status and a high child mortality. The problem statement
should be brief and precise and range from half paragraph to two pages.

A good statement of the problem should:

i. is clearly written to capture the readers interest.
ii. Is objectively researchable
iii. Indicates the scope of the research
iv. Is justified: its importance to knowledge generation is clear
v. Must give the purpose of the research.

Purpose of the study

It’s the broad focus of the study in 1 or 2 sentences. It crystallizes researcher’s inquiry into a
particular area of knowledge and centralizes the study to enhance focus. It should not be too
i. It’s narrower than a topic but broader that statement of the problem.
ii. Requires sufficient planning, reading and inquiry in to the topic.
iii. Should be unambiguously stated in declarative manner.
iv. Should indicate the variables in the study.
v. Relationship between the variable should also be stated where possible
vi. Target population must be stated in purpose.
vii. Consistency of variables between chapter I and III must be maintained.

  1. The purpose of the study is to investigate resource management skills among the leading
    business CEOS in Kenya.
  2. The purpose of the study is to determine the effect of skilled training on business
    performance in Kenya.
  3. The purpose of the study is find out the effect of alcohol on reaction time of truck drivers
    in Kenya.
  4. State others based on your area of interest.Verbs used in stating the purpose:
    To show ,To prove,To Confirm ,To Verify ,To check ,To Demonstrate,To indicate ,To validate ,To Explain ,To illustrate
    To Determine To compare To investigate To Differentiate TO EXPLORE To find out To examine To inquire To establish To test.

 The objectives of the study.

The objectives should be stated clearly and should be testable. The difference between the purpose statement and the objectives is that the purpose statement is broad, while the objectives are derived from the purpose and are more specific.
Objectives are very crucial because:

They determine the kind of questions to be asked. The questions should address the
objectives stated.

They determine the data collection and analysis procedures to be used.
Research questions
Refers to questions which a researcher would like answered by undertaking the study. The
difference between research questions and objectives is that a research Question is stated in a
quiz form while an objective is a statement.

Rationale or Justification and significance of the study.

This section highlights the reasons for conducting the study as well as the importance of carrying
it out. This section will often address questions like;
What gaps in knowledge will the study address?

Why is the study important?
How will the results be used?

Who will benefit from the results?
What is the expected end product?

Is the study worth it?

The rationale or justification and significance must be strong enough to warrant the use of
time, energy and money in carrying out the research.


This is a researchers’ prediction regarding the outcome of the study. It states the possible
difference, relationships or causes between variable or concepts. They are derived from existing
theories, previous research, personal observations or experiences. It is hypotheses that are tested.
Data either rejects or fails to reject hypotheses.
Purposes of hypothesis are:
i. Provide direction by bridging the gap between the problem and the evidence.
ii. Ensure collection of the necessary evidence to answer questions posed in the
statement of problem.
iii. Enable assessment of information collected in terms of relevance and
iv. Sensitize investigator to certain aspects of the situation that are relevant regarding
the problem at hand.
v. Permit clear understanding of the problem by the researcher.
vi. Guide collection of data and use the data collected to find solutions to problems.
vii. Form the framework for ultimate conclusions

Types of hypotheses:
There are three main types of hypotheses

  1. Null hypothesis: Also known as statistical hypothesis
    • It states that there is no real relationship, difference between the variables.
    • Any relationship or difference is due to chance.
    • Stated Ho: u1=u2 or u1-u2 =0
  2. Alternative non directional: Known as a research hypothesis
    States that there is a relationship of difference.
    • Does not state the nature of the relationship or difference.
    • Stated Hi: u1=u2.
  3. Alternative directional:
    Specifies the nature of the relationship or difference among variables.
    • Uses terms such as greater that, more than, less than, At least greater than,
    Increased, decreased, Higher than, lower than etc.
    • Stated: H1:u1>u2 or H1: u1<u2

Assumptions and Limitations

• Assumptions: Are issues and facts that the researcher takes to be true without precisely
verifying them.
• Limitations: Is some aspect of the study that the researcher knows may negatively affect
the results or generalizability of the study but over which he/she probably has no control.
In other words most common limitations have to do with the sample, sample size, length
of the study, or data collection procedures.
Theoretical background or framework.
In many fields, theories and propositions about concepts and relationships have been formulated.
The researcher may be interested in ascertaining or testing a particular theory or framework.
Such a theoretical framework should be Cleary explained in the proposal. The researcher must
then show how the study in question is related to the theoretical background.Its made up of a
theory or a set of theories, which form both the background and guide to the investigation in

Conceptual Framework.

Refers to when a researcher conceptualizes the relationship between variables in the study and
shows the relationship graphically or diagrammatically. It is a hypothesized model identifying
the concepts under study and their relationship. The variables and other related factors are put in
the boxes with arrows indicating the interconnections between them.The purpose of a
conceptual model is to help the reader to quickly see the proposed relationships.

Chapter II: Literature review

The purpose of literature review

To determine what is already done related to the research problem being studied. This is
important because in helps in avoid unnecessary and unintentional replication, Forms a
framework for interpretation of results, Increases familiarity with the existing body of
Lit Review reveals strategies, procedures and measuring instruments that have been
found useful in investigating the problem in question. This reduces mistakes.
Lit review suggests other approaches
Enables interpretation of the research findings
Helps the researcher to limit the research problem and define it better.
Stimulates new ideas and determines new approaches.
Divulges approaches that have been found futile.
Is a source of research based on suggestions for further research.
Puts together, integrates and summarize what is known in the area. Thus literature
exposes gaps in literature and information.

Sources of Literature

Sources are broken down in two. Primary sourçes and secondary sourer
• Primary source is those people who experienced the phenomenon. Direct witnesses,
researchers of other reports.
• Secondary: Include publications by other authors.
• Sources:


Scholarly journals,
  Thesis and dissertations,
  Government documents,
  Conference papers,
  References quoted in books,
  International indices,
  Reference sections of the library,
  Computer search,
  The internet
  Referencing within text
  Referencing refers to accrediting a statement or findings to another author, to show that the
  statement or finding quoted is by that author. The statement may be paraphrased or may be direct
  quotation. There are two common methods of referencing within the text.
   Two methods:
  i. Content dominant e.g. It has been found that variable A relates to variable B in
  direct proportions (Kamau & Otieno, 2006).
  ii. Author dominant. E.g. Kamau and Otieno (2006) found that variable A relates to
  variable B in direct proportions.
  References and bibliography
  Reference refers to a list of all the articles the researchers actually read and are cited in the text.
  The list of all these articles should appear at the reference section. On the other hand-bibliography refers to the list of all the materials that were read whether they were cited or not.
  These two words are sometimes used synonymously, There are several ways of writing
  references and bibliographies. The format will depend on the university; the main most common
  used by social scientist is the American Psychological Association (APA) Manual.
  • Discuss the APA style of referencing for different materials. (ASSIGNMENT) Mugenda
  and Mugenda pg 33

  Chapter III Research Methodology.

  The methodology component of a proposal mainly includes:
  The proposed research design,
  Population and sample,
  Data collection procedures,
  Data analysis procedures and sometimes measurements of variables.

Research design.

  A good proposal should discuss the type of research design to be used. For example, through
  survey, experimental, co-relational study etc.
  Study area; it specifies where the actual research will be undertaken.

  Population and sample.

  This section describes the population from which the sample will be drawn, the sample size and
  sample selection method.
  Data collection: it details the procedure of data collection and the instrument that will be used to
  gather data. These instruments are questionnaires, interview and observation.

  Reliability and Validity of the research instruments

  Reliability: it refers to the degree to which a particular measurement procedure gives equivalent
  results over a number of repeated trials.Its determined by:

  Use of test-retest method – administering the same instrument twice to the same group of
  subiects, Spearman rank order correlation is employed to compute the correlation coefficient. A
  correlation coefficient of 0.75 is considered high enough to judge the reliability of the
  Equivalent form method: two equivalent instruments are used to measure the same concept.
  The items are the same in number, structure and level of difficulty.
  Split halves method: the test is split in to half. Each half is scored independently of the other
  items of the two halves matched on content and difficulty. If the test is reliable, scores of the two
  haves have a high positive correlation
  Validity: it’s the degree to which a test measures what is supposed to measure. It also refers to
  the accuracy and meaningfulness of inferences which are based on the results. In other words it’s
  the degree to which results obtained from the analysis of data actually represents the
  phenomenon under study.
  Variables: it’s defined as a measurable characteristic that assumes different values among the
  subjects. There are several types of variables:
  Independent variable: is a variable that a researcher manipulates in order to determine its effect
  or influence on another variable. They are also referred to as predictor variable. E.g. The
  influence of income on housing conditions. Income an independent variable.
  Dependent Variable: is also known as criterion variable and it attempts to indicate the total
  influence arising from the effects of the independent variable.
  Extraneous variable: are those variables that affect the outcome of a research study either
  because the researcher is not aware of their existence or, if the researcher is aware he does not
  have control over them.

  Ethical and human relations issues in Research.

  Among the ethical issues to be considered during research are:
  Informed consent: research sometimes involves invading a person’s privacy. He should not be
  subjected to research unless he agrees to it. Participation should be voluntary and direct consent
  from adults must be sought if its children or students, parents or teachers must agree.
  Ensure confidentiality; participants must be assured that the information collected will be kept
  confidential and used only for the purpose of the research.
  Anonymity: it should be maintained to protect the participant from victimization or public
  embarrassment of identifying with the information given to researcher. Deception and trustworthiness: only used in extreme cases if the respondents may discover that one is collecting data from them. The Human relations issues which are important include Mien (persons appearance, manner or expression of the face as showing feelings) and Decorum( refers to behavior and appearance) and following chain of command.