How to Write a Research Proposal in Economics: The Only Manual You Are Going to Need

Writing guide
Posted on October 10, 2019

The majority of their time in university, undergraduate students are limited to consuming the existing empirical research. However, eventually (usually during the senior year), most academic programs give them the task of producing their original work. Many students struggle with this transition because until that moment they have been studying a different skill set than the one necessary for independent research.

Pro tip

A research proposal performs the role of a gateway – it sums up the nature of the proposed research, describes its context, and details the existing knowledge on the subject.

It is relatively short and does not take much time to write – therefore, students get the chance of analyzing the subject and their intended research before they commit to working on it. A research proposal prevents you from taking up an unpromising direction because you will discover the associated difficulties early on before you have time to get too deep into it. The fact that your research needs to be approved by a member of the college’s faculty means you will not waste time and resources.

The standards and requirements for research proposals are not set in stone – there is a lot of variety depending on the discipline, school, year of study, program, and personal preferences of your supervisor. What we describe in this article refers to the typical structure and guidelines for research proposals in Economics – your college may have different requirements, so make sure you study them carefully. Nevertheless, here you will find the general about how to write a research proposal in economics easily.

Choosing a Topic for Your Economics Research Proposal – What You Should Know

1. Choose Something That Fascinates You

Choosing the topic of your first real research proposal in economics is a very important step. In Economics, it often determines the general direction of your entire future career. This means that you have to be careful to select something you will be comfortable working on not just for the duration of this project, but for years to come. Even within the confines of an individual project, after you have to redraft it for the nth time, you will feel less enthusiasm than when you began. It is worth having more excitement, to begin with.

2. Study the Literature

Choose a general direction you are interested in, and dive into all the literature on it you can find. It can take some time, but again, choosing a topic for a long-term research project isn’t something you should do in a hurry. Use academic databases and search engines, both multidisciplinary (Academic Search, BASE, CORE, etc.) end economics-focused (EconBiz, EconLit). Run searches using the keywords related to the general area of your area of interest, and you will find plenty of sources to work with. Study them for some time, and you will discover a gap in the knowledge or an understudied subject. Alternatively, many papers indicate subjects that require further research – check if somebody already did it, and if not, you can do it yourself.

3. Find Somebody to Bounce Your Ideas Off

It may be your supervisor or another person knowledgeable in Economics. Suggest topics to him/her for consideration and gauge the reaction. If you choose this person well, he/she will help you find an optimal direction for research without imposing his/her point of view on you: by asking questions, pointing out flaws in your reasoning, or suggesting what literature you should read.

4. Take an Issue Arising from Your Previous Work

If in your previous research work you stumbled on issues that looked promising and interesting but were too peripheral for the subject of your paper, now may be the time to look into them. For example, you have been studying the practices applied in the expansion of a particular business overseas and encountered a culture-related difficulty this company had to deal with. You may want to return to it and study it on a deeper level.

Jacob Lee Top-10 Writer at

I recommend choosing one or a few research areas and deepening them through your education. With each course you take and each new topic you learn, find how it relates to your problem. This way, you will be fine with composing your portfolio in the future.

5. Think on an Interdisciplinary Level

Many supervisors like the idea of expanding the research beyond the boundaries of a specific discipline. Try to think about your area of interest in other academic disciplines. For example, you study the influence of immigration on the development of small businesses. You can try studying this issue in conjunction with education (how to deal with the need of hiring employees who studied in a different educational system or didn’t get organized schooling at all), ecology (how to make sure businesses hiring immigrants to comply with environmental regulations), sociology (the role of small businesses in providing upward social mobility among the immigrants), etc.

Here are some examples of topics for PhD and Masters papers for the admission committee you can come up with this way:

  • Covid-19 and economic well-being of the country: how the pandemic changed the world of big and small businesses
  • Agricultural Economics: the influence of water pollution after acid rains on harvesting
  • How does global inflation affect my native town?
  • How does the economy of your country suffer because of environmental disasters?
  • The relations between the creation of eco-friendly products and the prices that consumers see in groceries
  • The influence of sales and discounts on a consumer’s choice and business income as a sample of behavioral economics
  • The scarcity of natural resources and technology: how innovations help to reduce the cost of resource-dependent products

7 Top Economics Research Proposal Topics

  1. The Impact of Government Policies on Income Inequality. The research proposal aims to examine how various government policies, such as taxation, social welfare programs, and labor market regulations, influence income inequality within a country.
  2. The Role of Financial Education in Promoting Household Savings. This study proposal explores the effectiveness of financial education programs in enhancing individuals’ financial literacy and encouraging household savings behavior.
  3. The Effects of Trade Liberalization on Domestic Industries. This proposal research focuses on analyzing the impact of trade liberalization policies, such as free trade agreements, on domestic industries in terms of competitiveness, employment, and productivity.
  4. Investigating the Relationship Between Education and Economic Growth. This proposal paper explores the causal relationship between education levels and economic growth, examining how investments in education contribute to long-term economic development.
  5. The Impact of Technology Adoption on Firm Performance. This research proposal paper seeks to investigate the effects of technology adoption, such as digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence, on firm productivity, innovation, and competitiveness.
  6. Examining the Factors Influencing Entrepreneurship and Small Business Success. This study proposal aims to identify and analyze the key determinants that influence the establishment, growth, and success of entrepreneurial ventures and small businesses.
  7. The Economic Consequences of Climate Change. This research proposal essay focuses on assessing the economic implications of climate change, including the costs of adaptation and mitigation measures, the impact on natural resources and ecosystems, and the potential effects on global economic stability.

Research Proposal Mistakes

These research proposal topics can be further developed into comprehensive research projects by following a research proposal structure, such as providing an introduction, describing the research objectives and methodology, and outlining the expected outcomes.

Preparing a Research Proposal in Economics: General Principles

Although the specific requirements of your research proposal can be significantly different and depend on many factors, some principles remain the same, no matter which school you attend.

1. It Should Answer 3 Questions

They are as follows:

  • What you are going to research?
  • Why do you think this topic is worthy of research?
  • How do you propose to perform the research?

2. It Should Be Straightforward

The goal of a proposal is to carry your message through. Therefore:

  • Don’t embellish your text, write in a simple and matter-of-fact manner;
  • Eliminate all unnecessary words and sentences;
  • Don’t waste time leading up to the subject of your research. Get down to business right away. You may spend a couple of sentences delineating the context, but then state directly what you are going to research, e.g., “This study will examine the share of women coders in British tech startups”;
  • Avoid ambiguities. Your goal is not to create a work of art, but to be understood. Don’t be afraid to use the same word multiple times if clarity calls for it. This means that if you are talking about an ethnic minority, keep calling the group this way throughout the text, and don’t try to replace the term with “people of foreign descent” or something else.

3. It Should Be Carefully Organized

The exact structure may differ, but you should include all the sections your college’s guidelines suggest, accompanied by the necessary headings and subheadings. This helps readers navigate through your proposal and understand its contents more easily. By adhering to a structured format, you can effectively convey the purpose, significance, and methodology of your research, enhancing the overall clarity and coherence of your proposal.

4. It Should Point out the Innovativeness of Research

Your proposal should make it obvious which parts of what you say constitute the existing knowledge on the subject and the context of research, and which are innovative. By doing so, you demonstrate your awareness of the current scholarly landscape while emphasizing the unique contribution your research will make. This helps reviewers and readers understand the originality and value of your proposed study, setting it apart from previous research in the field.

Pro tip

What does innovativeness mean? Actual innovations in any area happen with the assistance of large teams and a solid budget. Academical innovativeness means searching for questions with no unambiguous answers and exploring available options.

5. It Should Follow the Guidelines

Whatever recommendations you find in this guide or elsewhere on the Internet, your college’s guidelines trump them. Even such a basic requirement as the word limit can differ wildly depending on the course. Even within a single university, it may range from 300 to 2000 words.

Writing a Research Proposal in Economics: A Typical Structure

1. Introduction

It is the “Why?” part of your proposal. Begin with clearly stating the central issue or question your research project will try to answer. Alternatively, you can express the primary claim or idea you intend to prove.
Explain why you have decided to research your subject and why you believe it to be important. Remember, however, that Economics is a practical and down-to-earth discipline. Try to avoid making your proposal fully descriptive – no matter how interesting and innovative your ideas are, you should try to look for practical implications and cause-and-effect explanations.
If the subject of your proposal is not fully innovative and has been broadly covered in literature, point out what makes your research different from the existing works on the topic. Prove that you are doing something new, not just rehash the research carried out by others.
You can optionally cover two other things in this section:

  • Project feasibility. Any research has associated costs and expenses. Prove why you believe the potential outcome to be worthy of the resources spent on it. It isn’t usually an issue, but you have to mention it if you have a reason to believe it to become a problem;
  • Project limitations. Try to maintain a reasonable balance between ambition and viability.

2. Current State of the Field

This section puts your research into context. Give a short and to-the-point description of the existing body of knowledge on the subject. You may want to:

  • Summarize what is known on the subject and what points most researchers agree upon;
  • Mention what important issues have already been studied by the scholars on the subject;
  • List the major points of contention between the experts on the subject. What schools of thought are dominant, why do they disagree, and what alternative viewpoints exist?
  • Point out methodological problems associated with the subject;
  • Provide criticism of the existing research or offer viable new avenues of investigation;
  • Define what is not yet known and how you intend to build upon the existing works in the field.

3. Project Description

It is the “What?” part of the proposal.

Suggest a theory answering or explaining the issue you have stated in the beginning. At this point, you do not have to provide detailed proof of why you believe it to be true – remember, you write a research proposal, not describe the research you have already carried out. If you can find enough information in high-authority information sources to justify your idea, it will be enough. You will have plenty of time over the course of the project to modify or even change the original theory based on your findings.
Also, establish the primary terminology you are going to use in your research. Try to stick to the terms commonly used in Economics and avoid ambiguity.

Jacob Lee Top-10 Writer at

My advice to first-grade students with little knowledge of economic terminology is to keep your own journal. First, write down all new words you come across. Second, occasionally, group them in categories to replace them from your passive vocabulary to the active.

4. Research Design/Methodology

It is the “How?” part of the proposal.
Describe all the operations, tools, and techniques (questionnaires, interviews, modeling, text analysis, etc.) you are going to use and explain why you believe them to be the best choice. List all the data and source material you intend to use and how you will gather and analyze them. Are there any practical considerations to consider (e.g., financial expenses, necessary resources, facilities, equipment)? Do you have the relevant skills and proficiencies to successfully use the methods you propose?

5. Conclusion

Provide a short summary of everything you have said up to this point. Refer to the original question, repeat your proposed solution or claim, and suggest what the result of your project will be and what impact it will have on the field of study, Economic studies, and related disciplines.

6. Bibliography

Provide the list of all the information sources you intend to use as the context for your research, with full citations. Try to make it comprehensive, including both recent and classic works on the subject. Also, don’t try to include all literature on the subject in general – if you discover new sources in the course of your research, you will be able to use them. Right now, your goal is to show that you are well-grounded in the existing research on the subject.

Pro tip

Why Proposals Get Rejected: Check if Yours Falls under These Criteria

Finally, you should analyze what you have written and be honest with yourself. Is it really the research you want to do? Is it good enough? Is it persuasive? Here are some of the most common reasons why research proposals get rejected, so that you can see if yours falls under these descriptions:

  1. The problem is insignificant. The issue you have chosen lacks importance, and the research is unlikely to produce new or useful results;
  2. Methods don’t correlate with the stated objective of the research;
  3. The researcher lacks sufficient expertise to do the research;
  4. The proposed approach is too vague and unclear to be properly evaluated;
  5. The researcher is not familiar with the relevant findings and research in the study field.

We hope that having this guide at hand provided by our research proposal writers will greatly improve your chances of successfully preparing your research proposal and getting it accepted.

Research Methods

Finding Literature for Your Economics Research Proposal

When working on research proposals in economics, it is crucial to gather information and review existing literature related to your chosen topic. Here are some  guidelines on where to find information and literature for your research proposal:

  1. Academic Databases. Utilize academic databases like JSTOR, Google Scholar, or EconLit to access a wide range of scholarly articles, research papers, and publications on economics research proposal topics. These databases contain a wealth of information and can help you explore relevant literature.
  2. University Libraries. Visit your university library or access its online resources to find books, journals, and academic publications specific to economics. Librarians can assist you in navigating the library’s catalog and suggest key resources for your research.
  3. Research Proposal Samples. Seek out a sample research proposal or a research proposal example related to economics. These samples can provide insights into the structure, formatting, and content of a research proposal, helping you understand how to present your own ideas effectively.
  4. Online Resources. Explore reputable websites, such as government publications, international organizations, and economic research institutes, for valuable reports, statistics, and research studies related to your research proposal. These sources often provide up-to-date information and insightful analysis.
  5. Research Proposal Writing Guides. Consult writing guides or resources specific to writing a research proposal. These guides offer step-by-step instructions, tips, and examples on how to craft a well-structured research proposal. They can assist you in organizing your proposal and addressing each required section, such as the introduction, methodology, and expected outcomes.
  6. Consult with Advisors or Peers. Seek guidance from your research advisor or discuss your research proposal ideas with fellow students or faculty members specializing in economics. They can provide valuable insights, suggest relevant literature, and offer feedback on your proposal.

Remember to critically evaluate the sources you gather information from, considering their credibility, relevance, and reliability. As you progress with your research proposal, continually refine your literature review and include the most pertinent and current studies to support your research objectives.

Conclusion Remarks

Writing research proposal in economics requires careful consideration and adherence to certain principles. By following the guidelines presented in this article, you can effectively craft a compelling research proposal example that meets the expectations of your college or university. When choosing a topic, it is important to select one that fascinates you and aligns with your long-term research interests in economics. Take the time to study the existing literature and identify gaps or understudied areas for exploration.

Seeking feedback and suggestions from knowledgeable individuals, such as your supervisor or experts in the field, can help refine your research direction and identify optimal methodologies. Emphasizing the innovativeness of your research proposal is crucial. Clearly distinguish between existing knowledge and your proposed contributions, highlighting the unique aspects of your study that set it apart from previous research. Careful organization of your research proposal is also essential. Adhere to the specific guidelines provided by your college, including all necessary sections, headings, and subheadings. This ensures clarity and facilitates understanding for the readers.

Also, it is important to ensure that your research proposal adheres to the word limit and other requirements set by your college. These guidelines take precedence over general recommendations found elsewhere. To gather information and literature for your economics research proposal, utilize resources such as academic databases, university libraries, research proposal samples, and online guides. Evaluate your sources critically, considering their credibility, relevance, and reliability.


By following these principles and utilizing available resources, you get economics assignment help and you can effectively prepare a comprehensive research proposal on economics. A well-structured and persuasive research proposal increases your chances of gaining approval and successfully carrying out your research project. Remember to continuously refine your literature review as you progress with your research, incorporating pertinent and current studies to support your research objectives. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a sample research proposal that stands out and contributes meaningfully to the field of economics.

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