As an educator and budding researcher, I’ve trodden the path of academic writing more times than I can count. From my nascent days as a doctoral student to my current role guiding others through their research journeys, I’ve penned dissertations, research papers, grants, research proposals, and more – each with its unique challenges and rewarding moments of breakthrough.
Taking the first steps into writing a research or dissertation proposal can seem like standing at the foot of an imposing mountain. The steep climb ahead, adorned with the rigors of extensive reading, nuanced academic writing, and a commitment level that would put marathon runners to shame, can be intimidating, to say the least.
Fear not, though. This journey, while rigorous, isn’t one you have to embark on unprepared or alone. I’ve discovered, through years of experience, that the secret to transforming this daunting task into a manageable one lies in the art of breaking it down.
Consider your research proposal or dissertation as a puzzle, with each section – the introduction, literature review, aims and objectives, methodology, ethical considerations, and so on – a piece of the larger picture. Focusing on one piece at a time, treating each as an individual project, can turn an overwhelming mountain into a series of small, conquerable hills.
[Related: Best books on how to write a dissertation]
A word to the wise: you might find it helpful to leave the crafting of the introduction until after you’ve completed the other sections. This way, you have a complete understanding of your research landscape, making it easier to introduce your work compellingly.
Let’s be candid: embarking on your first research or dissertation proposal may stir feelings of frustration, procrastination, and even imposter syndrome. These are not anomalies, but rather, common companions on the academic journey. The good news is, over time, you’ll learn to navigate these challenges with increasing dexterity. They may never disappear entirely, but believe me, you’ll become an expert in outsmarting them.
[Related: Books on how to write a literature review]
With this in mind, my intention for this blog post is to offer a lifeline in the form of practical, tried-and-true books that have aided me throughout my academic voyage. Check them out below and share with us your feedback!
Table of Contents
Best books on how to write research and dissertation proposals
1. Handbook For Writing Proposals, by Robert J. Hamper, L. Baugh
“Handbook for Writing Proposals” is a crucial resource that guides you through a unique nine-step proposal-writing journey, from the initial RFP to the client presentation. This revised and updated version offers practical advice on selecting promising RFPs, effectively showcasing your skills, setting realistic schedules and budgets, avoiding common pitfalls, and building lasting client relationships that invite repeat business. It also provides valuable guidance for adapting your writing to an international business audience.
2. Writing Successful Science Proposals, by Andrew J. Friedland, Carol L Folt, Jennifer L. Mercer
“Writing Successful Science Proposals” by Andrew J. Friedland, Carol L Folt, and Jennifer L. Mercer is a comprehensive guide brimming with professional insights for navigating the proposal writing process. The authors break down every step of proposal writing in an accessible manner, detailing everything from conceptualizing and designing a project to analyzing data, synthesizing results, estimating a budget, responding to reviewer comments, and even resubmitting.
3. Research Proposals: A Practical Guide, by Martyn Denscombe
“Research Proposals: A Practical Guide” by Martyn Denscombe is a comprehensive manual guiding readers through the crucial stages of crafting a research proposal – from selecting a topic to the final write-up. It’s a step-by-step companion that transforms the intimidating task of proposal writing into a manageable and organized process.
4. Writing a Proposal for Your Dissertation: Guidelines and Examples, by Steven R. Terrell
Steven R. Terrell’s “Writing a Proposal for Your Dissertation: Guidelines and Examples” offers indispensable guidance for each component of your dissertation proposal. From crafting compelling problem statements, purpose statements, research questions and hypotheses, to conducting literature reviews and laying out detailed data collection and analysis plans, Terrell has you covered. The book is enriched with case studies from diverse disciplines, interactive checklists, end-of-chapter quizzes, and exemplary proposals illustrating different research approaches.
5. Grant Writer’s Handbook: How To Write A Research Proposal And Succeed, by Gerard M Crawley
“Grant Writer’s Handbook: How To Write A Research Proposal And Succeed” by Gerard M Crawley is a comprehensive guide that offers invaluable advice on all aspects of proposal writing, including idea development, proposal drafting, referee interaction, and budgeting. The authors leverage their extensive experience in writing and reviewing proposals from various countries and scientific maturity levels, making this handbook globally relevant.
6. Research Proposal: Little Quick Fix, by Zina O′Leary
Zina O′Leary′s “Research Proposal: Little Quick Fix” is a smart, engaging workbook filled with real-life examples that keep you on track. This invaluable resource guides you through the elements of a proposal and helps you craft your unique research proposal quickly and effectively, using insightful exercises.
7. Designing Your First Research Proposal, by Renuka Vithal, Jonathan Jansen
“Designing Your First Research Proposal: A Manual for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences” by Renuka Vithal and Jonathan Jansen presents a clear and coherent strategy for creating a research proposal suitable for various disciplines. This updated manual offers step-by-step instructions on writing proposals for both basic and advanced research projects.
8. Proposal Planning & Writing, by Miner
“Proposal Planning & Writing” by Miner draws on the authors’ extensive grantseeking experience to deliver a guide for creating successful proposals. From strategic project planning to targeted proposal writing, the authors provide a systematic approach, introducing a template for writing letter proposals and offering tips for crafting a realistic budget.
9. Grant Writing: The Complete Workbook for Writing Grant Proposals that Win, by Mary Gladstone-Highland
“Grant Writing: The Complete Workbook for Writing Grant Proposals that Win” by Mary Gladstone-Highland addresses the essential questions that arise during the grant writing process. It guides you from project planning to application writing, providing clear, comprehensive answers and helping you weave a compelling narrative and craft a convincing budget.
Elizabeth A. Wentz’s “How to Design, Write, and Present a Successful Dissertation Proposal” is an indispensable resource for any graduate student in the social or behavioral sciences. The book underscores the importance of ethical research, CV development, effective reading and writing skills, literature review completion, and the translation of a research idea into a viable proposal using research methods.