Research Proposal Vs. Research Paper: Differences And Similarities

In a research work, research proposals and research paper both have great importance. Both of the tasks need high focus. Many students who have to do research for the first time, they take research proposals and research papers as the same thing. In reality, both of them are two different tasks. Although there are some similarities in these tasks, you cannot take them as the same document. For every researcher, it is necessary to know the differences as well as similarities in both research documents. As per its importance, this article aims to discuss the research proposal and research paper.

What are Main Differences in Between a Research proposal and Research Paper?

If you critically evaluate the research proposals and papers, you can find some minor as well as major differences. Let’s have a look at the major differences between the research proposal and research paper. From a broader perspective, there are five main differences between the research proposal and a research paper. These five differences are mentioned below:

  • Timespan
  • Objective of writing
  • Length of document
  • Tense of document
  • Composition

You can better understand these differences with the help of a brief explanation.


The very first difference between a research proposal and a research paper is of time span. You have to write a research proposal at the start, even before you actually work on research. At the bachelor’s level, every student has to experience research work for the first time. At this time, there can be much confusion related to every single aspect of research. So, they start research work by writing a research proposal. In the research proposal, students mention objective and structure of the whole research. The professor evaluates proposal and finds out if the problem is worth to research or not.

On the other hand, you have to write a research paper at the end of the research. Once you are done with data collection, analysis and dissertation writing, you can write a good research paper.

Objective of Writing

The objective of writing a research paper and research proposal is different. As you have to write a research proposal at the start of the research, so you need to mention the plan to conduct research in it. The main concern of research proposal is to make a track and add practicality of research. Also, you need to add a future scope of your research. The objective of adding all these things is to convince your advisor or other researchers of your plan and research problem. On the other hand, the research paper aims to discuss the major findings of the research work. Its structure includes background information, methodology and end results of research.

Length of Document

In a research proposal, you have to address fewer numbers of sections. Also, all of the sections are discussed briefly. So, the length of a research proposal is short. It is a brief overview of your research work. The standards of academic writing ask to write a research proposal in between 1500 and 2000 words. Your advisor may ask you to go for a different word count, still the length of the proposal is considered a short one. In contrast, a research paper has more length as compared to a proposal. The reason for more length is justified because of its more sections.

Tense of Document

You can also see the difference of tense in both of documents. In a research proposal, you need to address things for the future. So, you have to use the future tense. As you have not worked on your plan yet, but proposing a scenario. So, future tense is used for the proposal.  On the other hand, you have to write a research paper when you are done with your research work. Now, you need to address everything in the past tense.


The last main difference is of composition. Every academic document or report follows a proper structure. Similarly, research proposals and research papers follow a proper format and structure. In composition of the research paper, you need to focus on different aspects. It starts with background information, and then you need to add the importance of study. After mentioning the importance, its composition demands for objective and future scope. Also, add methodology and final conclusion to wind up the research paper.

On the other hand, the research proposal follows a totally different composition. First of all, you need to keep this in mind so that you can follow the standard structure for the research proposal. Also, there can be a structure offered by your institute that can vary from the standard one. Generally, the composition of the research proposal includes background information on the topic of discussion and then the research problem. After that, you have to critically evaluate the demand of your research problem. In the last, you are supposed to add literature from credible sources. There are many dissertation proposal help provider companies which assist in this regard.

What are Main Similarities in Between Research proposals and Research Papers?

The differences between a research proposal and a research paper are more than similarities. You can only observe the similarity in a few sections of both documents. For example, you can see the start of both documents is from background information. Also, the section of research problem remains the same. Another similarity is in the form of the research objective. In a research proposal, you have to design a research objective on which the whole research is dependent. For making a research objective, you have to see the research problem and topic of discussion. Similar to a research proposal, the research paper also addresses the research objective at the start.

Apart from all that, the methodology is the last similarity in the research proposal and paper. Although the tense is different, the track to conduct research remains the same. These are the only similarities in both of documents.

Final Thoughts

By understanding all of the above-mentioned points, you can better understand the differences and similarities in between the research proposal and research paper.

About the Author

Martha Alex

Our Technology and Business editor looks behind the headlines and tells you what is really going on in the field of Tech and Business. Read Interesting Articles from our writers on

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