Research Paper Vs Research Proposal – Key Differences & Similarities

Last Updated on March 29, 2024 by Ali Hamza

At different phases of research, students have to deal with a number of research writing tasks while pursuing a research degree. For example, when you are applying for a master’s and doctorate degree, you must submit a research proposal with the application form. Likewise, for earning a research degree, you have to submit a dissertation or thesis to the research committee in your university. But the process does not end here; even after earning the desired degree, you should draft and publish a research paper in a renowned journal to be known by the field experts. Thus, at different academic stages, students must learn ways to write different types of academic documents. This article aims to describe two types of academic documents, research paper and research proposal, by describing their similarities and difference as well.

Research proposal: A brief overview

A research proposal is simply an academic document that outlines aims and objectives, scope, and methodology useful to conduct research. As a matter of course, it is the concise and coherent summary of a proposed research plan. Many times, a relatively similar word, ‘synopsis’, is used instead of the term ‘proposal’. No matter whether you are asked to write a proposal or synopsis, you must draft all key points that you decided to follow to accomplish your research goals. To develop a better understanding, you must review different parts of a proposal.

  1. Title
  2. Summary
  3. Abstract
  4. Introduction
  5. Literature review
  6. Proposed methodology
  7. Proposed outcomes

The proposal contains three main chapters, while a dissertation must contain at least five chapters. Data analysis and Results reporting are only the parts of a dissertation, not a proposal. This is because; the sole purpose of writing a proposal is to get committee and supervisors’ consent on a research project. However, a dissertation must report results to serve as a written proof of all academic research efforts so supervisors can assess a student’s knowledge about the research process. Due to this importance, it becomes necessary to get research proposal help from a good firm.

Research paper: A brief overview

A research paper is also an academic document that aims to report an interpretation and evaluation based on concrete assertions. The sole purpose of writing a research paper is to gain popularity among field experts. Scholars have to draft research papers to contribute to the existing body of literature. Papers are usually of two types, review papers and evaluation papers. For writing a review paper, there is no need to conduct primary research; instead, analysis of information present in the existing literature can serve the purpose. However, for writing an evaluation paper, you must first write a dissertation or conduct original research to report its finding and results in the form of a scholarly paper. Generally, a research paper has five main parts, other than the title, abstract, and bibliography:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature review
  3. Material and methods
  4. Results and findings
  5. Discussion and conclusion

If you are drafting a research paper from an accepted piece of the dissertation, you must use the material in a more precise and concise manner as per the selected journal’s guidelines. 

Key similarities between Research proposal and Research paper

Research papers and proposals are both academic pieces of writing that ask students to describe their research goals. The aim of writing a research paper is to inform the public about your research, and the aim of writing a proposal for the research is to inform the research committee. For writing both, critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills are essential. However, they are also similar in the context of three sections introduction, literature review, and methods. Lastly, the research paper as well as proposal both asks you to be precise and concise throughout the context.   

Key differences between Research proposal and Research paper

Like similarities, research proposal and research papers also have some differences. The foremost important difference is that the sole purpose of writing a paper is publication, while a research proposal is a formal way to get the committee’s consent on a research project. The former aims to make a research map, while the later aims to report the results of a study. A research proposal helps your reader know what your future research goals are (so it must be written in future tense), while the research paper is all about what you have investigated by conducting research (so it must be past tense). For writing a proposal, you have to conduct research from scratch, while after writing a dissertation, you just have to summarise your finding to be reported in a research paper.

Final Thoughts:

After all is said or done, we can say that research proposal writing is the first phase of academic research, while the research paper is almost the last task. These writing tasks are similar as the purpose of writing both is to inform the readers about the research aims and objectives. However, differences lie in the time of publication, format, structure, audience to address, and style of writing.

ghiselle rousso

Kate Johnson is a content writer, who has worked for various websites. She is also a college graduate who has a B.A in Journalism.

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