Developing the research plan

What is it?

A good research plan is an explicit, coherent and well-grounded description of your research. The plan should tell the reader what you aim to do, how your study contributes to the field and how you intend to carry out your project.

The plan should describe:

  • the topic and purpose of your study clearly and concisely
  • the place of your research within a field of study
  • how your work relates to previous research and specify how your study will contribute to it show how your study is relevant to different audiences (e.g. other researchers or practitioners
  • the research questions your study addresses and the methods you have chosen to address the problem or question of your choice  (research design)
  • the overall work plan; aims and targets and the time frame within which you aim to achieve these targets

What does a proposal look like?

This depends, to some extent, on the nature of your study and the field that you are working in; you can also follow your own preferences for presenting your ideas as long as you take into account that the reader needs to get a clear picture of what your study is about.

The plan can be organized as follows:


  • state the purpose of your work;  the 'big question' it addresses and the overall goal it aims to achieve
  • describe the field or research you are working in
  • specify how your study contributes to or 'fills a gap' in previous research
  • give a brief description of the (possible) implications of your work or practical applications of the results


  • Show (i) that you are able to formulate a 'problem' or research task that is both relevant and interesting,  and (ii) that you are able to break this down to specific and explicit questions that your study will investigate


Locate your study within a field that addresses similar questions and can provide theoretical and analytic tools that are useful in your work; give the reader a sense of the overall framework and direction of your work by

  • providing a brief summary description of relevant previous research
  • defining the concepts and terms that are central to your research
  • making an explicit statement of the (theoretical or analytic) perspective that your study builds on
  • describing the methodology that you will adopt: the data you have chosen and the methods of analysing it


Give a more detailed description of how your study is relevant to different audiences and how the results may be used in different fields of application; in other words what kind of (new?) information it can offer to

  • the research community that it addresses (i.e. those doing research on similar or related questions)  and / or
  • to a community of practitioners who work with the kinds of problems or questions that your study addresses (e.g. language teachers, text producers, professionals who design language / communication training, etc.)
  • to the broader social community or society as a whole   (e.g. does your research address questions that are important for particular groups of people or questions which are currently debated in society?)