30+ Sample Undergraduate Research Proposal

What Is an Undergraduate Research Proposal?

An undergraduate research proposal is a written or printed document from a student to a professor. It details the proposed research plan, in-depth research, related questions, and a list of research papers and articles to help investigate the research problems pointing towards the research. The research proposal serves as the outline of a research project, detailing the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting theoretical frameworks. It also explains concepts set in different conditions that provide a glimpse of a student’s academic experiences. The undergraduate research proposal also contains cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to emphasize the topic’s significance requiring further studies. Students utilize varying processes to explain the rationale, describe and defend underlying methods, and highlight their importance to the subject matter and future research.

Undergraduate research has long been a way for students to enhance their critical thinking, scientific writing processes, social and communication skills. According to a study conducted by Michelle Kovarik in 2015, documentation of 52 undergraduate research papers between 2009 to 2015 from higher education institutions provided significant advances in analytical chemistry, namely in spectroscopy, microfluidics, and electrochemistry. These are values from one field of study. What more on others? It is of grave importance that students continue with undergraduate research to create advances for the future.

Parts of an Undergraduate Research Proposal

The format of an undergraduate research proposal serves as a roadmap. It allows the students to visualize and supply a comprehensive response to the study’s main problem, following the events leading up to a clear solution. Unlike essays or research papers, undergraduate research proposals follow a specific structure that participants must observe to achieve clarity and persuasion. The format allows readers of your research to get a sufficient understanding of the flow of events contained in the research proposal. Below are the components found in an undergraduate research proposal.

Title and Title Page: The title page is the first element in your research proposal comprising information regarding the research topic, student researchers, and any additional detail to help identify the research. The title of your research proposal must be concise, accurate, and evident. A standard research title is a sentence ranging from not more than ten words without using acronyms or technical terms. Research titles follow the Harvard style or APA style of writing, depending on the conditions of the university. Abstract/Summary: The abstract is a mandatory section of the research proposal as it serves to explain or express the student’s scientific idea, interpretation of the proposed research’s objective and rationale, and the possible results of the study, including the names and expertise of the participating researchers. Researchers also include a brief text of the research proposal from beginning to end, meaning that the abstract serves as a minute collection of all the components of the proposal. The section starts with a short explanation and relevance of the research problem, aims, processes, and findings with concise thought. Typically, the research proposal summary contains 100 to 200 words.Introduction/Background: The role of the introduction is to present the significance of the research problem statement, including the processes and approach the researchers are planning to take to answer the problem. It must also introduce the members operating to solve the problem and carry out the research. The introduction focuses on a significant idea, introducing connected studies to the principal issue or topic for a concrete foundation to gain the attention and interest of readers, adding to the significance of the research. The section comprises 20% of the total word count of the proposal.Preliminary studies: In many scenarios linking to undergraduate research proposals, students gather relevant resources and compose information accordingly to the topic. The preliminary studies also involve an outline of the team’s accomplishments after carrying out related experiments and prior research as supporting documents to the probable success of the research paper. The preparation of the section allows audiences to witness the dedication put forth by the researcher, making them invest more in the research itself.Research Approach/Methodology: The methodology section explains a brief outline of the processes the researchers must take. It is the foundation of the research, including the description and justification of the corresponding methods available during the study. The contents of the methodology consist of the research timeline, description of the potential experiments, and countermeasures or action plans when difficulties or challenges arise. It is best to cite all the necessary strategies that researchers plan on executing, including supporting explanations that support choosing one strategy over the others. The research timeline must clearly state and represent the possible length of the study and list down the schedules of research activities with the corresponding researcher. It is critical to reassure your audiences that discrepancies, setbacks, and problems arise in every step of the research process. Supply sufficient information on possible actions or plans that the researcher or researchers can handle these predicaments that still produce meaningful and substantial results.Implications and contributions to knowledge: In this section of the proposal, researchers declare the feasible indications or discoveries that will transform, improve, or develop current sciences and facts about the research topic. It also helps to understand and utilize the research objectives in expounding the effects of the study’s outcomes on future research, theory, investigation, practice, and processes, among others in methodological, theoretical, or substantive significances. The section also allows researchers to ponder on possible gaps or understudied resources and existing studies and literature to equate the importance of the contributions your study brings, leading to plausible new understandings of the research problem for conducting the research.Compliance with ethical principles: Writing styles for research studies vary, and nothing is best or worse than another. However, there are standardized approaches when it comes to delivering information. This section depends on determined scholarly disciplines and publication styles by the funding agency or institution. Ethical principles serve as a guide for research and writing. Under the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines of 2014, it states that content seeks to protect intellectual property rights, protect the welfare of research participants, and guarantee the accuracy of scientific research and knowledge.Budget: The budget section identifies the anticipated costs of the research study and is in a tabular format. The research budget request comes with the budget justification. The justification details the explanation of including specific items and their necessity in fulfilling the experiments and other activities. It is critical to indicate those you truly need to accomplish the study. There are two types of costs in a budget that serves as principal components: direct and indirect costs. Direct costs refer to expenses incurred that directly affect the project. These include salary, benefits, materials, supplies, instruments, and travel expenses. On the other hand, indirect costs are facilities or administrative costs acquired by the institution or organization employing researchers to support the activities. These costs are further classified into total direct costs (TDC) or modified total direct costs (MTDC) basis that covers a percentage of the direct costs for the research with the funding agency responsible for indicating and managing the prices of the costs.Conclusion: In writing the conclusion of a research proposal, it is best to look back and present the possible outcomes from the abstract section. The section must include all the anticipated inferences that the researchers must achieve. The conclusion helps the audience to understand that the predicted outcome stems from the preliminary research studies of the researchers and insinuate that the results are likely to change once the research study is complete. Writing a possible outcome shows the readers that the researchers have put thought into articulating potential conclusions as part of the research.Appendix: The appendix section includes supplementary material and documents other than the core element of the research idea still relevant to enhancing the knowledge, views, and arguments of the research proposal. The content of the appendix ranges from data tables and charts, consent reports, research protocols, and data collection instruments. In this section, researchers can include their curriculum vitae with relevant academic or extracurricular activities as required by professors.

How To Write a Comprehensive Undergraduate Research Proposal

It is critical to draft an effective research proposal to ensure its approval. It is safe to remember that undergraduate research proposals have definite sections that must be present, as listed above. From this section, you’ll find out how to write a comprehensive undergraduate research proposal that you can use for your academic research and writing, whether quantitative or qualitative. Continue reading below.

  • Step 1: Determine the Research Topic and Perform Literature Reviews

    Identify the general topic of your research to investigate. The research proposal centers around the student or students’ chosen research topic that the rest of the content follows. The research topics are either assigned by professors or advisers. Upon selecting the topic, the researchers search for related literature linked with the subject matter. It is advisable to write down notes relating to the research topic, summarizing the purpose and findings relevant to the subject leading to the Research Proposal.

  • Step 2: List the Gaps in Literature and Frame the Purpose of the Study

    The purpose of writing down literature reviews is to have a comprehensive understanding of related studies and identify significant gaps in the literature. Through this, researchers can pinpoint deficiencies and broaden and add their knowledge on the topic of the subject. Researchers base their research problem according to the insufficient information available from the review of existing literature, stating its importance to the field. Ensure that the problem is convincing enough for your audience to see its relevance.

  • Step 3: Construct the Introduction, Hypothesis, and Research Questions to Guide the Study

    After identifying the research problem and framing the study’s purpose, researchers draft an introduction. The introduction of the research proposal must contain the research problem, a literature review summary, a description of the gaps in the literature, and the research purpose statement. Right after the introduction, draft a research hypothesis to identify what the researchers are aiming to do to investigate the problem, including the expected outcomes of the study. For Quantitative Research, constructing a research hypothesis is key; qualitative research relies on research questions. These two must always be linked with the findings of the literature review.

  • Step 4: Outline the Investigation Methods and Research Design

    In terms of academic writing, indicating Investigation Methods help understand the flow of the study. It outlines the procedures that researchers follow to achieve the proposed research. The section includes the research design, sample size with corresponding characteristics, and data collection and analysis methods. For each research design that researchers incorporate into the proposal, there must at least be two or three alternatives with descriptions of choosing one over the other.

  • Step 5: Indicate the Sample Size, Including Its Characteristics

    In describing the sample size and characteristics of the group, it is critical to discuss how the researchers determine the number of participants, including the similarities of their attributes that qualify their inclusion in the research study.

    Step 6: Outline the Necessary Procedures for Data Collection and Analysis

    When writing the procedures for data collection and Data Analysis, researchers must describe the plan to collect information, may it be through surveys, interviews, or questionnaires. After the collection of data, researchers outline the process of data analysis. In quantitative research, running the data on Excel or SPSS is advantageous. For Qualitative Research, there are computer programs that you can use to input data like ATLAi that helps produce a concrete narrative that filters the themes of responses.


How long is an undergraduate research proposal?

According to the University of California San Diego, an undergraduate research proposal must be not more than three pages long.

What is the appropriate format for an undergraduate research proposal?

The undergraduate research proposal format varies depending on the agreed-upon structure by the professor or adviser of the educational institution. The critical part in the construction of an undergraduate research proposal is the discussion of the problem statement, research objectives, research methodology, and possible conclusions.

What do you keep in mind when writing an undergraduate research proposal?

According to York St. Johns University, there are four things to remember when writing an undergraduate research proposal. The proposal must emphasize its uniqueness and significance to the field of study. It must also indicate how the research develops or challenges existing knowledge and literature on the subject. It is also essential to highlight the importance of the research and demonstrate the relevance of the individual or individuals as the ideal fit to complete the study.

Understanding the essence of starting a research study is essential to writing a relevant and comprehensive undergraduate research proposal. Students must be aware of the importance of supporting the research proposal with literature reviews. More than just completing requirements for graduation, undergraduates must also consider the relevance and implications of their research to future studies regarding the research topic they chose. After reading the information about the undergraduate research proposals above, get started with your research by downloading the samples in the formats available. Gets yours today!