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The value of a good research plan 7 min read
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A research plan is a guiding framework that can make or break the efficiency and success of your research project. Oftentimes teams avoid them because they’ve earned a reputation as a dry or actionless document — however, this doesn’t have to be the case.

In this article, we’ll go over the most important aspects of a good research plan and show you how they can be visual and actionable with Work OS.

Why is the research plan pivotal to a research project?

A research plan is pivotal to a research project because it identifies and helps define your focus, method, and goals while also outlining the research project from start to finish.

This type of plan is often necessary to:

  • Apply for grants or internal company funding.
  • Discover possible research partners or business partners.
  • Take your research from an idea into reality.

It will also control the entire journey of the research project through every stage by defining crucial research questions and the hypothesis (theory) that you’ll strive to prove or disprove.

What goes into a research plan?

The contents of a thorough research plan should include a hypothesis, methodology, and more. There is some variation between academic and commercial research, but these are common elements:

  • Hypothesis: the problem you are trying to solve and the basis for a theoretical solution. For example, if I reduce my intake of calories, I’ll lose weight.
  • Research questions: research questions help guide your investigation into particular issues. If you were looking into the potential impact of outsourcing production, you might ask something like: how would outsourcing impact our production costs?
  • Research method: the method you’ll use to get the data for your research. For example, a case study, survey, interviews, a clinical trial, or user tests.
  • Definitions: a glossary for the research plan, explaining the terminology that you use throughout the document.
  • Conceptual frameworks: a conceptual framework helps illustrate what you think you’ll discover with your research. In a sense, it’s a visual representation of a more complex hypothesis.

For commercial plans, there will also likely be a budget and timeline estimate, as well as concrete hypothetical benefits for the company (such as how much money the project should save you).

OK, so you’ve got a handle on the building blocks of a research plan, but how should you actually write it?

How do you write a research plan on

The first, and perhaps most crucial part of having a good research plan is having the right medium for creating and sharing it. Using a pre-defined template can also make it much easier to get started.

On, you can choose from several templates like the Project Proposal Template or better yet the Research Power Tools Template to manage all aspects of your project including important communication with internal and external stakeholders and teammates.

Use your template to:

  • Create workdocs
  • Upload assets
  • Provide feedback
  • Assign task owners
  • Automate communication
  • and more.


The next step in writing a research plan is choosing the topic. To pick the right topic, focus on these factors:

  • What are the priorities of the potential funder/employer, such as the company or institution?
  • Are there any relevant recent studies with results you can build on and explore with further research?
  • Can you creatively adapt your experience — whether post-grad or professional — to make you the natural candidate? They don’t just need to believe in the research project, but also in your ability to manage it successfully.

Do your research, no pun intended. Once you’ve got the topic, you need to work on fleshing out the core ideas with the building blocks we mentioned above.

  • Get specific with your research questions and goals. Don’t go with, “how can we revolutionize our HR practices?” Instead use, “what is the economic and environmental impact of only accepting digital CVs?”
  • Use clear language aimed at gatekeepers. If it’s a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or a lab committee, you can use well-known technical terms. If they aren’t technical experts, adjust accordingly.
  • Include preliminary data or highlight similar studies. For companies, showing that a similar approach helped a competitor is a better argument than an empty assertion.

The recommended length of the plan depends on who you’re sending it to and their expectations. If possible, look at successful examples or directly ask your potential employers about their preferences. Not only do you need the right idea, but you also need to present it in the right way for your research project to have a fighting chance.

What is a good research plan?

A good research plan is one that gets accepted and funded to start doing the research.

If you want to plan a pivotal study, it’s not enough to consider the problem in a vacuum. You also need to evaluate how you can best communicate the value of your project to the gatekeepers.

Consider the entirety of your current situation and what that means for your project.

For example, inputs like funding, staff, IP, and how the scale of the project lines up with your company’s research budget. Or how it aligns with the goals of a University program. If the primary goal of the research is to impact a company or government agency directly, you should consider these stages of research engagement.

Flowchart of research engagement

(Image Source)

  • Inputs: anything from funding and staff to company IP that you need to both run the project and implement any results. Does this line up with the budget?
  • Activities: case studies, trials, surveys, the actual research.
  • Outputs: the final reports, any publications, and raw data.
  • Outcome: how will it directly impact the company, organization, or larger society?
  • Impacts: what are the indirect benefits or downsides?

In an internal research proposal, you can outline these aspects in separate sections. That allows different execs or managers to focus on the details that matter most to them. You must also work to engage stakeholders and make sure that they understand the importance of your project.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 5 purposes of research?

The 2 primary purposes of research are to gather information or test an existing theory. When broken down further, you can see 5 more specific purposes:

  1. Exploratory research is an early-stage inquiry that explores a topic for further study down the line, like exploring the deep ocean with a submersible vehicle.
  2. Descriptive research aims to explore and describe a specific substance, person, or phenomenon.
  3. Explanatory research is about figuring out the causal relationship, why something happens.
  4. Predictive research is all about trying to predict what might happen in specific situations based on the properties of the research object.
  5. Meta-research looks for overarching insights from multiple sources and tests the validity of common hypotheses.

What is a research work plan?

A research work plan is another name for a research plan, which is a critical component of any research proposal. Universities, labs, and companies use them to evaluate research projects before they decide to accept them.

As a researcher, it’s essential when targeting a funding opportunity of any kind.

What are the methods of research?

There are many research methods ranging from a simple online survey to a high-budget clinical study. Here are some examples of popular data collection methods:

  • Clinical trials
  • Experiments
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Case studies
  • Observations

Which one is right for your plan depends on your hypothesis, goals, industry regulations, and more.

Create a dynamic research plan

If you want to turn your research project into a reality, you need to go beyond the academic and into management mode.

With a template from, you can plan out a research project from start to finish. Including goals and objectives, budget estimates, milestones, and more.

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