How to Write a Psychology Research Proposal

By following these steps, you can write a clear and comprehensive research proposal easily!

Deciding on an area.

This needs to be something that interests you. In order to be able to provide a rationale for why your research will be innovative, it’s a good idea to make sure that there is a substantial amount of literature that has already been written in the area and theories to explain it.

How do I do a literature search?

Your college or university will have access to academic databases which will allow you to find the most up to date publications. These include useful scientific databases such as PsychInfo, Ovid and Medline. It might also be useful for you to use Google Scholar to search for articles.

It is often a good idea to think of all the alternative search terms you could use. For example, if you want to find out what literature there is on people over the age of 65 years with depression you could use the following:

  • Older adults and mental health difficulties
  • Old people with depression and anxiety
  • Ageing and mental health
  • Age and depression/anxiety

By exploring several different search terms, you can ensure that you have performed a full and wide search of your subject.

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Thinking of a research question

The key to thinking of a good research question is reading! By reading and understanding the research area, you will soon begin to identify gaps in the research. These gaps may be areas that have not had much work done on them. So, using the previous example, an area that might be under-researched may be anxiety and depression in older adults living in care homes, for example. Once gaps have been identified, you can perform another literature search to see how much material there is in this area and hopefully you will have a much clearer idea of your question!

What happens after you have thought of a question?

Once you have decided on a question, you will need to start thinking of how to investigate it. You will need to think about the following points:

  • What will your method be?
  • How many participants will you use?
  • What measures will you use?
  • What will the inclusion and exclusion criteria be for participants?
  • Will the data be analysed using quantitative or qualitative methods?
  • Ethical considerations

Having followed these steps you will now be able to write a comprehensive research proposal.

This must include:

  • A literature review of the research area.
  • Rationale for why this piece of research is needed.
  • Method section including participants and measures to be used.
  • Consideration of ethical issues.

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