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Format Research proposal – Harvard University

Research proposal format- Harvard university

Writing Research Proposal

The research proposal is your opportunity to show that you—and only you!—are the perfect person to take on your specific project. After reading your research proposal, readers should be confident that…

  • This project has been thoughtfully designed and crafted by you
  • The background you have for this project is sufficient;;
  • You have the proper support system in place;
  • The steps you need to take to complete this project are clear to you; and,
  • With this funding in hand, you can be on your way to a meaningful research experience and a significant contribution to your field.

Research proposals typically include the following components:

  • Objective, significance, and implications of research
    • Why is your project important?
    • How does it contribute to the field or to society? and
    • What do you hope to prove?
  • Detailed plan for research
    • This section includes the project design, specific methodology, your specific role and responsibilities, steps you will take to execute the project, etc.
    • Here you will show the committee the way that you think by explaining both how you have conceived the project and how you intend to carry it out.
  • Time frame
    • Please be specific in the project dates/how much time you need to carry out the proposed project.
    • The scope of the project should clearly match the timeframe in which you propose to complete it!
  • Use of funds
    • Funding agencies like to know how their funding will be used.
    • Including this information will demonstrate that you have thoughtfully designed the project and know of all of the anticipated expenses required to see it through to completion.
  • Faculty/advisor involvement
    • It is important that you have a support system on hand when conducting research, especially as an undergraduate. 
    • There are often surprises and challenges when working on a long-term research project and the selection committee wants to be sure that you have the support system you need to both be successful in your project and also have a meaningful research experience. 
    • Some questions to consider are: How often do you intend to meet with your advisor(s)? (This may vary from project to project based on the needs of the student and the nature of the research.) What will your mode of communication be? Will you be attending (or even presenting at) lab meetings? 

Be sure to include relevant information about your background and advocate for yourself!

Is there anything you have learned from a previous research experience (or leadership position, job, coursework, etc.) that can be applied to the project in question?

Do you have experience applying a specific method of analysis you learned in class to a different situation?

Be sure to include any previous experience with this professor/lab in your proposal!

This will demonstrate your readiness to start right away to the selection committee, and

Lastly, be sure to know who your readers are so that you can tailor the field-specific language of your proposal accordingly.

If the selection committee are specialists in your field, you can feel free to use the jargon of that field; but if your proposal will be evaluated by an interdisciplinary committee (this is common), you might take a bit longer explaining the state of the field, specific concepts, and certainly spelling out any acronyms.



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