IT Research Proposal Writing Guide

Research problem

An IT research proposal should clearly and succinctly state the research problem that requires solving while justifying the significance of it. You should emphasize communicating the value of solving the problem, which could even be on a personal level; in which case, you should provide substantial background about your interest, as well as actually substantiating that the problem exists. To aid you in identifying the problem, it could fall into one of (but not only) the following types:

  • the need for an evaluation of a novel technology or methodology; or
  • the improvement of an IT method or process; or
  • the lack of a software solution or IT system; or
  • the failure of a software solution or IT system

Research direction

One of the most important, if not the most important, features of your IT research proposal is to include a statement of clearly defined and testable objectives, questions and/or hypothesis or hypotheses of your research. IT research that involves the design and/or implementation of a system would tend to best be directed with objectives and targets of the research mainly related to the (at least one per) deliverable(s), and likewise for the improvement of a system. Alternatively, the analysis of an IT system, improvement of an IT method or process and evaluations would be more suitably set research questions to answer or hypothesis to refute.

Your objectives/questions/hypothesis should be specified in such a way that is precise enough to be tested, answered or refuted as the case may be. This is to allow you to use results, data and criteria to clearly and quantifiably show satisfaction, acceptance or rejection and ultimately making strong conclusions from your research.

IT Research Proposal - Research Plan

A good IT research proposal would have to include clear identification of methodologies available, such as the Rational Unified Process for research involving the development of a software solution, from which you would chose as a guiding framework. You should provide strong justification for your choice of methodology, clearly stating its usefulness and relatedness to your research.

Devise a work plan that incorporates the overall methodology, detailing phases and your method of research with resources identified and deliverables/milestones stated in relation to the objectives, research questions or hypothesis. Estimate time scales for research, writing, and additional tasks and pinpoint their dependencies as that enables you to identify which tasks must follow which other and monitor your progress throughout. A common problem is being optimistic with estimating timescales so try to be pessimistic by exaggerating more time for problems than you naturally foresee.

Further to the problems, it’s valuable to undertake a risk assessment to identify issues that can confound the research outcomes, how severe each could be, the probability that each would occur, how to prevent them and alleviate their damage if prevention doesn’t work. You can draw this up in a table, as in the following that shows an example of one risk.






Underestimating timescale



Use similarly sized project(s) as example

Revise work plan, adjusting for lateness

Literature Review

You should provide a review of existing research theories, models, technologies and discussion in your research problem area and strongly defend that your research will provide something new above the current state of understanding and/or solutions. Provide specific references to the related literature and argue why each particular source doesn’t satisfactorily address and/or resolve your research problem to the extent your research aims to.

Research Contribution

You should include a section that outlines how your research will contribute to particular stakeholders that you can identify. These would likely be individuals or groups that will ultimately receive your deliverable(s) and/or use your results for some benefit.

Drafting Proposal

You should use formal and precise language in your proposal that is free from spelling and grammatical mistakes. Your proposal should have a consistent structure and arguments that follow a logical succession that make it easier to follow. Ensure the quality of these characteristics by proofreading your proposal before submission - you could ask someone you know to read it over for you, especially a peer or IT researcher. You should have an outline of what you want to write and include (points, sources, data, etc.), before you start writing your proposal, but don’t concern yourself by small changes from these concepts as you get into more detail.

Write a list of references at the end, including those that you have not cited in your proposal but may have been relevant sources to writing it.

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