Topic outline

  • Course

    Research Proposal


    “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

    "You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win."

    “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

    (Zig Ziglar)


    Your Research Proposal is your personal proposal of what exactly you want to research how and why at the UCN International School of Psychology. Here you describe the problem that you would like to solve, the goal that you would like to achieve by solving this problem, the basic ideas that guides your research (hypotheses), what you already know about scientific literature and research concerning your problem, the methods you plan to use for your research and your planned time line for your research. 

    Before you can register and enroll you need the approval of your Research Proposal from the UCN International School of Psychology. 

    In this course here we support you with recommendations how to write your Research Proposal. 

    When you think you have produced a convincing Research Proposal, please send it for review with your CV to the UCN International School of Psychology:

    big grin

    Here you find a short motivation video

    If you want to start with the course right away, please turn directly to topic 1 and work on the text there.

  • Topic 1


    Research Proposal

    We recommend that you use for each of the following 8 parts of your Research Proposal a separate blanc sheet of paper and start to write down whatever you know at the very moment now about the topic. It makes everything much easier if you allow yourself to start right away to write down what you already know. You can always improve it later. So it will develop step by step.

    Start with writing on each page the headline (Problem, Outcome, Hypotheses…).

    Then write on each page whatever comes to your mind concerning the relevant headline. This is a creative process where you can allow yourself to be really happy doing it. 

    We highly recommend using a mind map to visualize your ideas and thought process.

    Here is our recommended easy structure of your Research Proposal:

    1. Problem: What is a problem where you are highly interested to find out more about possible solutions with the help of psychological knowledge and a scientific research? Please try to describe this problem as specific as possible. Why is it important for you? What are typical symptoms of this problem? 

    2. Outcome: What do you want to achieve with your research? What is your personal gain from studying this topic of this research? What could you expect to be the practical implementations of your desired outcomes? Try to think big. Allow yourself to let your ideas and your imagination “flow” in order to be able to think of any possible outcome and its potential.

    3. Hypotheses: Do you have any ideas about the main causes for this problem? What triggers or activates this problem? What could be possible solutions for this problem? Please try to formulate ideas, theories, hypotheses about the problem and possible solutions.

    4. State of the field: What do you already know about what other researchers have found out about your topic? Where and in which way could you check and find out more about the state of the field? Which scientific books, articles, handouts, movies, radio programs, conferences, further educational programs or websites do you already know of, that are somehow connected to your research topic? Which sources would you like to use in addition?

    5. Methods (including pre-tests): Which psychological methods do you already know that you could use (e.g.: experiments, expert interviews, questionnaires)? Do you have any experience with the use of such methods?

    6. Title: What is currently the draft of a title or possible title for your research project? Allow yourself to dream about it, and make sure which phrasing creates a certain resonance within yourself. This is about trusting your own intuition and creativity, enjoying and knowing that everything is changeable and develops furthermore over time in form of regular adjustments at the end of each semester.

    7. Schedule: Milestones – set yourself milestones in order to structure your research and set yourself clear deadlines. You may apply the “as-if-frame” from NLP to allow yourself to think of all options. Allow yourself to phrase your milestones, and allow yourself to do so without any limits. What do you think of at this moment in time?

    8. Short summary (abstract): How can you summarize the key facts very briefly within a maximum of 15 lines?

    There are many more details about research proposals in psychological textbooks and on the internet.

    For the application of admittance in our study program the above 8 points in about 5 pages are sufficient.

    For more info about the details and expected content of the 8 parts please watch the following videos and read the recommended literature. We highly recommend that you use the 8 sheeds of paper (1 page for each of the 8 parts) when you watch the videos or read the literature and write down what exactly you want to keep in mind for your own Research Proposal.


      Here is the APA standard requirements for a Research Proposal in 11 minutes.

    • In the internet you find many ressources about writing a Research Proposal.

      Please use the recommendations from the following videos and websites to constantly improve your Research Proposal.

    • How to develop a research proposal with Prof. Johannes Cronje


      Here are guidelines from Paul Wong Ph.D. of Trinity Western University about how to write a Research Proposal:

    • The following example illustrates a more differentiated standard for doing a research proposal directed to our Ph.D.-Students, which contains more scientific terms, and also an assessment-guide for this level of study.

      1. Title: The title shall convey the focus point of the hypotheses clearly and concisely.

      2. Abstract (ca. 15 lines): What is the intention and the purpose of the thesis? Hence, what can be expected?

      3. Problem and research question (1-2 pages): Clear formulation of what is going to be explored. Why is the hypothesis justified? Why is there a need to raise it? What problems are related to it and are discussed in the field of research? The illustration of the problem should be focused very precisely; however, not on a marginal level.

      4. State of field (in a broader context, 5-8 pages): Primary literature related to the major issue as well as clear content of sub-questions. Selected references (6-10 articles) shall provide a solid theoretical and empirical basis. While assessing the research proposal it is essential that cited literature has been reflected correctly, besides being quality sources, and that no relevant literature is missing.

      5. Theoretical and conceptual approach (2-4 pages): The theoretical core concept of work, derived hypotheses, propositions, prepositions to be established. When assessing the research proposal, it is essential to understand its whole reach and scope regarding its central areas and whether they are rather descriptive, explicative, technical, evaluative or prognostic. Also, it essential to compile the core value of the thesis to an extent that the research proposal has a well developed frame, which suits the need of the former. The latter needs to be based on logical and justified ideas, besides being convincing in its nature in terms of its consequences and practical implementations.

      6. Methods (2-3 pages). Epistemological basic information, data requirements, data compiling, analytical techniques (e.g. explorative or confirmatory analysis, etc.), avoidance of bias, securing external and internal validity, unambiguousness, securing plausibility. Methods of data analysis should be presented reasonable and justified, especially in terms of the procedure of testing the nature of the hypothesis using chosen quality data. Crucial when assessing research proposals is whether the proposed study and its implied variables are appropriate to the hypotheses, and whether the data compiling method is appropriate to the used analytical techniques. Other variables have to be taken into consideration as well like whether the applied research has internal and external validity and analytical techniques appropriate to the established theory and research questions.

      7. Relevance of thesis (1-2 pages): What is the intention behind the hypotheses? What will be the gain within the field of expertise? How can the scientific debate be stimulated? When assessing the research proposal it is crucial whether the thesis promises to be contributed by valued, already existing research, and whether the contribution to science is of quality, authentic, well-researched and documented besides being inspiring to the international science community.

      8. Bibliography: The fulfilment of the usual standards of citing (APA style) is taken for granted.


      Here is a short lecture about the basics for creating a Research Proposal

    • Here is an example of an good research proposal discussed by a docent of York College

    • Here are some more recommendations about writing a Research Proposla.

      Inspiration for development of ideas of a Research Proposal

      Lecture about Research Proposals for Funding by University of Georgia (Time: ca 1h)

    • Databases for literature research

      Here is a list of the most common and most important databases that are specifically designed for psychologists. We mostly recommend to use PubMed and PsycInfo. For your literature research use at least two of these databases.

      PubMed focuses on medicine, the life and health sciences including psychology and neuroscience.

      PsycInfo contains journals, books, book chapters, and dissertations in the fields of psychology, sociology, education, medicine, and others in more than 30 languages.

      CINAHL focuses on journals of nursing and allied fields (social sevices in health care and health education), includes journals and books: 

      ERIC focuses on educational research and educational psychology: 

      JSTOR focuses on social sciences, humanities and natural sciences:

      ProjectMUSE contains publications from diverse field (humanities and social sciences) such as education, gender studies, and cultural studies:

      If you find any other databases or want to share your experiences of best practice please use the following discussion forum.