Secondary Content

Contact Person

Advice for Writing Research Proposals

General information on research skills, you will find here.

Helpful Links for writing a Proposal

Proposed structure of a research proposal

  • Title, author, current affiliation
  • Abstract
    The abstract should summarize the contents of each of the following sections in each 1-2 sentences.
  1. Motivation
    1.1) What exactly is the problem you are planning to solve in your project ?
    1.2) Why is it hard?
    1.3) How is it solved today?
    1.4) How exactly do you plan to improve on this state of the art ?
    1.5) What is the impact if successful?
  2. Aim and objectives
    2.1) Research questions: List and explain the research questions to be investigated and the research aims to be reached.
    2.2) Expected results
    2.3) Outputs of the research
    2.4) What are the quality criteria against which you plan to measure the success of the research, and how can these be quantified (i.e. using which metric or measure) ?
    2.5) What is the new technical idea ? Give concrete examples for problem that can be addressed using your idea which could not be addressed before (or not as good as they can using your approach; in this case explain what "good" means here).
    2.6) Why can we succeed now while previous attempts have not ?
  3. Relevance to the research in the group
    Please refer to concrete research projects in our group; for information cf. here:
  4. Literature review
    For each research question, explain which existing work(s) in the literature come closest to solving this questions, and what are the missing obstacles which haven't been overcome yet and which you plan to overcome, and how.
  5. Research methods
    For each of the research questions, describe in 2-3 sentences which kind of work you will perform in order to investigate the question. In particular please comment on whether you will develop any software tools to support the research, or as an outcome of the research. Give as much technical detail as possible. Ideally, structure the research in work-packages and for each define the input and output for that work-package and how they relate to each other.
  6. Scientific validation
    For each of the research questions in sec. 2.1 and quality criteria in sec. 2.4, describe in 1-2 sentences how you plan to scientifically validate the findings that you will find wrt. that question. See section 4.1 of this paper for more information.
  7. Publication plans
    Which of the results do you plan to publish in which kind of conferences / journals ?
  8. Planned time-line
    How will you measure progress?
  9. Literature references

Criteria for judging the quality of a research proposal

  • strong idea ?
  • strong scientific background in this area ? unique selling point ?
  • strong connection to application ?
  • realistic goals, good project management ?

Proposed structure of a scientific publication

Actually, the structure of a scientific publication can be quite parallel to that of a project proposal suggested above, so we discuss it here while we are at it.

The main differences are:

  • The main difference is of course that instead of formulating future research plans, one reports on past research.
  • Instead of "3 Relevance to the research in the group" one usually has background section on (ones own or other people's) previous research on which the current work is based.
  • In section 6, one should in fact discuss which scientific validation has been performed, to what extent the stated research questions have been met, and discuss any risks to validity of the results.
  • Sections 7 and 8 are irrelevant, instead one has a section on conclusions, lessons learnt, open research questions, and possible future work.