10 Reasons Why Research Proposals Fail: A Must Read

10 Reasons Why Research Proposals Fail: A Must Read: Writing a good research proposal is an important research skill required of a 21st century researcher to be able to attract research funding and research grants.

The task can be very tedious for an early-career researcher as he/she is learning the art of proposal writing. More discouraging is the fact that a researcher will spend the time and resources required to write a proposal and get it thrown out or thrashed because he/she did not do what he/she was supposed to do.

The following points listed below are the few reasons why research proposals fail. This is to guard against future occurrence. If you want to learn the effective ways how to write research proposal the you should note these points;

  • Proposal deadlines not met
  • Guidelines not Followed
  • Proposal not Intriguing
  • Proposal did not Meet Priorities
  • Proposal Not Complete
  • Poorly written Literature Review
  • Proposal Appears to be Beyond the Capacity of the Principal Investigator
  • Proposal with weak Methodology
  • Unrealistic Budget
  • Cost Greater than Benefits

Now are you ready to explore these points in details? Let’s discuss them.

  • Proposal deadlines not met:

Some researchers get their proposals rejected because they did not meet up with the proposal submission deadline. Just like while applying for scholarships, an application submitted after the deadline will not be considered irrespective of how qualified that applicant is. There may be several reasons why researchers don’t meet up with deadlines, one of such may the that the submission deadline was totally forgotten or that the proposal was not completed before the deadline. So to avoid this setback, researchers are to keep accurate track of the application process and prepare his/her proposals ahead of time.

  • Guidelines not Followed:

Proposals are not generic and as such appropriate guidelines as provided by the funding organizations should be followed. Some funders will require that applicants follow their guidelines to the later and being that the funding will be given to limited number of applicants, not following appropriate guidelines may be one of the disqualifying factor that will get your proposal rejected.

  • Proposal not Intriguing:

Funders or grants sponsors are not just looking for a way to throw money around in the name of funding proposals, but they are interested in funding proposals that are captivating and has the potential to impact positively on humanity and contribute to the body of knowledge. So when next you are writing a proposal ensure that there is something unique about your proposal that will make it stand out amongst others.

  • Proposal did not Meet Priorities:

A research is tailored to answer a particular question or questions and there are key deliverables expected of a research outcome. Writing a proposal that does not meet with the priorities of the funders will see the proposal not considered. So when writing proposals or writing for grants, ensure to understand the key themes or thematic areas that the funders are interested in and tailor your proposal to address such issues. No institution or body will fund a proposal that does not meet up with the priorities expected of such research but would rather go for a proposal that meets the priority areas that the funders are interested in.

  • Proposal Not Complete:

When thinking how to write research proposal and not fail! Some researchers may be caught in the web while trying to submit a proposal. Submitting an incomplete proposal is as good as not submitting a proposal at all because the key issues that the assessors of the proposals will be looking out for will not be captured in an incomplete proposal. It is therefore advised to ensure that all the areas required by the funders are duly captured in the proposal for it to be eligible for consideration.

  • Poorly written Literature Review:

Writing a literature review in a proposal is key to making your proposed funders know that you have a grasp of what you are doing in its entirety. So a poorly written literature review exposes the researcher’s knowledge base about the subject matter and no sponsor will commit funds to someone who barely understands what he/she is going.

  • Proposal Appears to be Beyond the Capacity of the Principal Investigator:

When the proposal appears to be bigger than the capacity of the principal investigator entails that the such researcher lacks the ability and the technical know-how to conduct such research and such proposal will not sail through the first screening stage. A researcher must show that he/she has what it takes to conduct a research of certain magnitude by showing with proofs past researches conducted. Doing so will give a boost to the proposal and convince the funders of the ability of the principal investigator to handle such research.

Check: Steps to Writing and Accessing a Research Grant with Ease

  • Proposal with weak Methodology:

How good or successful a research is largely dependent on the methodologies employed. A poorly designed methodology will generate poor research output and therefore funding for such proposal will not come through. A research methodology should be sound and robust enough to generate great and excellent research outcomes. So when next a proposal is written, the methodology should be critique extensively to ensure that it will lead to the generation of an excellent research output which funders will be willing to fund.

  • Unrealistic Budget:

A good proposal must have a budgetary allocation that is feasible and realistic. Attaching a budgetary allocation that is not realistic to a proposal will see to it that the proposal fails. So budgetary allocations should not be written in a hurry but rather the services of experienced researchers could be sought if one is not really abreast with budgetary allocations.  And the last but not the least…

  • Cost Greater than Benefits:

Performing a research is aimed at solving a particular problem in the society that will benefit humanity. So committing resources to ventures that far outweighs the benefits is not economical. So funders will sponsor research with huge benefits as compared to the cost of carrying out such research in terms of human resources and funds and laboratory supplies.


Also See: UN Scholarships and Research Grants for International Students


Still worried on how to write research proposal and get acceptance, then you are encouraged to take into consideration the points raised above when next they are submitting proposals to funders so that the energy invested in writing a proposal will not be wasted. Also, students applying for postgraduate scholarships that require proposals should learn how to structure their research proposals appropriately. However, researchers should not be discouraged when their proposals get turned down, but they should strive to know why their proposals were not accepted and make amends.

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