Health research has high value to society. It can provide important information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions, functional abilities, patterns of care, and health care costs and use. Health research, medical education and clinical practice form the three pillars of modern day medical practice which all pursued by a wide range of people. It’s a known that a medical research proposal is the first step to in a research career. For this it’s a very important document to invest one’s time and effort. In this article we will try to see what a research proposal is and the basic structures one should include on formulating it.
Whats a research proposal?
A research proposal is a detailed description of a proposed study designed to investigate a given problem. A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. Broadly the research proposal must address the following questions regardless of your research area and the methodology you choose:
- What you plan to accomplish,
- why do you want to do it and
- how are you going to do it.
A research proposal should include the following elements to achieve its purpose
1.Title: which should be concise, descriptive, informative and catchy. An effective title not only prick’s the readers interest, but also predisposes him/her favorably towards the proposal.
2.Abstract: It is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the main research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any) and the method.
3.Introduction: should encompass the following
- Introduces your topic
- States your problem statement and the questions your research aims to answer.
- Provides context for your research
4.Objectives: these are the goals to be achieved by conducting the research. They may be stated as ‘general’ and ‘specific’.
- The general objective of the research is what is to be accomplished by the research project.
- The specific objectives relate to the specific research questions the investigator wants to answer through the proposed study.
5.Variables: it is necessary to identify the key variables of the study and their method of measurement and unit of measurement must be clearly indicated. Four types of variables are important in research:
- Independent variables: variables that are manipulated or treated in a study in order to see what effect differences in them will have on those variables proposed as being dependent on them.
- Dependent variables: variables in which changes are results of the level or amount of the independent variable or variables.
- Confounding or intervening variables: variables that should be studied because they may influence or ‘mix’ the effect of the independent variables.
- Background variables: variables that are so often of relevance in investigations of groups or populations that they should be considered for possible inclusion in the study.
6.Questions and/ or hypotheses: A hypothesis can be defined as a tentative prediction or explanation of the relationship between two or more variables.
7.Methodology: This section is very important because it tells your research Committee how you plan to tackle your research problem. The guiding principle for writing the Methods section is that it should contain sufficient information for the reader to determine whether the methodology is sound. This section should include:
- Research design: The selection of the research strategy is the core of research design and is probably the single most important decision the investigator has to make. The choice of the strategy must be explained in relation to the study objectives.
- Research subjects or participants
- Sample size: The proposal should provide information and justification about sample size in this methodology section.
- Interventions: any intervention used should be mentioned.
- Ethical issues: Ethical considerations apply to all types of health research.
- The Informed consent form (informed decision-making): A consent form, where appropriate, must be developed and attached to the proposal. It should be written in the prospective subjects’ mother tongue and in simple language which can be easily understood by the subject. The use of medical terminology should be avoided as far as possible.
- Ethics checklist: The proposal must describe the measures that will be undertaken to ensure that the proposed research is carried out in accordance with the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical research involving Human Subjects.
- Research setting: The research setting includes all the pertinent facets of the study, such as the population to be studied (sampling frame), the place and time of study.
- Study instruments: these are the tools by which the data are collected. For validated questionnaires/interview schedules, reference to published work should be given and the instrument appended to the proposal.
- Collection of data: A short description of the protocol of data collection
- Data analysis: The description should include the design of the analysis form, plans for processing and coding the data and the choice of the statistical method to be applied to each data.
- Monitoring, supervision and quality control: Detailed statement about the all logistical issues should be mentioned
- Gantt chart: A Gantt chart is an overview of tasks/proposed activities and a time frame for the same. You put weeks, days or months at one side, and the tasks at the other. You draw fat lines to indicate the period the task will be performed to give a timeline for your research study.
- Significance of the study: Indicate how your research will refine, revise or extend existing knowledge in the area under investigation. This is where you explain how your research will benefit tconcerned stakeholders.
- Dissemination of the study results: this is where you explain the way you present your study findings.
- Budget: A proposal budget with item wise/activity wise breakdown and justification for the same. Indicate how will the study be financed.
- References: The proposal should end with relevant references on the subject. For web-based search include the date of access for the cited website, for example: add the sentence “accessed on November 18, 2011”.