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7 tips for writing a research proposal

For those who have never submitted a research proposal, it sometimes is difficult to start writing. Even some experienced researchers do not immediately look forward to tackling the application form. These 7 tips provide you with a decent base to start working on an artistic research proposal, ‘cause we all know that one's research is only as a good as one's proposal!


1. Start in time

"Time flies. It's up to you to be the navigator." (Robert Orben)


Yes, we are stating the obvious. Finding a promoter, reading into the subject, translating a project idea into objectives, estimate the costs, drafting a text, ... It all takes some time, so start well in advance with the preparations (read: at least a few months).


2. Talk it through

“You have to do the research. If you don’t know about something, then you ask the right people who do.” (Spike Lee)


Do you have an idea for a research topic? Then talk about it with colleagues or fellow students, researchers, and ask for feedback. What do they think? They can foster new ideas or put you in touch with other artists or organisations that work on similar themes. It can also be useful to explain your proposal to people who do not come from the world of art and culture. They often ask interesting questions and in doing so, encourage you to formulate your concept as clearly as possible.


3. Innovate

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research." (Albert Einstein)


What exactly do you achieve with your research? What new knowledge does it deliver? A good research proposal is original, innovative and challenging. To obtain that you don’t necessarily have to look too far. For example, link your subject to a social debate or to a theory, or use an existing method that you apply to your project.


4. Define

"Kill your darlings." (William Faulkner)


Start preparing your research proposal by reading in, talking about it, including the whole context around your subject, ... But in your research proposal you focus on one or a few aspects. Demarcate your theme very clearly, for example with relevant sub-questions.


5. Be concrete and clear

"No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking." (J.P. Morgan)


What exactly do you want to research and how? Don’t skip any steps in the thinking process, and don’t make unnecessary leaps. Describe important concepts for your research carefully and to the point, and avoid elements that are too abstract. A good research proposal tells a coherent story in a clear language. All aspects that you discuss reinforce the leitmotif in your proposal.


6. Don’t write for yourself

“The reason one writes is not the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)


You may have been working on a certain idea for years, and your proposal seems to be the next logical step, but don’t assume that others know this. When you write, try looking at it from the perspective of the reading committee and do not forget to sketch your own course as an artist and maker. How does this research and the questions you ask fit into it?


7. So what?

"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value." (Albert Einstein)


Why or for whom is your research relevant? To what extent does your research add value to society, education, the art world? Is this the best time for your project? During the drafting of your application, pay attention to the relevance and valorisation of your project.


Find all information on the call for research proposals here.


Good luck!



(c) I can do this for hours during ARTICULATE 2017