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Research Proposal vs. Research Report: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 21, 2024
A research proposal outlines intended research objectives and methods, while a research report presents completed research findings and analysis.

Key Differences

A research proposal is a document outlining a planned investigation's objectives, methodology, and significance. It serves as a plan or blueprint for a research project, detailing what the researcher intends to study, how they will conduct the study, and why the study is worthwhile. On the other hand, a research report is a comprehensive document that presents the findings of completed research. It includes data analysis, discussions, and conclusions drawn from the research process.
When drafting a research proposal, the researcher focuses on hypothesizing, planning, and justifying the upcoming research. It typically includes a literature review, proposed methodology, and expected outcomes, laying the groundwork for the research. In contrast, a research report is centered on presenting and interpreting the results of conducted research. It often includes detailed data, analysis, and discussion of how the findings contribute to or challenge existing knowledge.
The structure of a research proposal usually includes an introduction, objectives, literature review, methodology, and potential implications. Its main aim is to convince others, such as a thesis committee or funding body, of the research's value and feasibility. The research report, however, is structured to convey completed research findings and is composed of an introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion, effectively summarizing and interpreting the research outcomes.
In a research proposal, the emphasis is on the potential of the research: what the researcher aims to discover or prove, and how they plan to do it. It's forward-looking and speculative in nature. In contrast, a research report focuses on what was discovered or proven, providing concrete evidence and data to support its conclusions. It is retrospective, summarizing the research that has already been conducted.
The audience for a research proposal and a research report can also differ. Proposals are often written to persuade potential supervisors, academic committees, or funders of the project's merit. Research reports, however, are generally aimed at the academic community, presenting new knowledge or insights to peers, or they might be submitted to supervisors or committees as proof of completed research.

Comparison Chart


To plan and justify a research project.
To present findings and analysis of research.


Prepared before conducting research.
Created after research is completed.

Content Focus

Hypotheses, methodology, and potential significance.
Data, results, and conclusions drawn from research.


Speculative and anticipatory.
Analytical and reflective of completed work.

Primary Audience

Funders, supervisors, academic committees.
Academic community, supervisors, committees.

Research Proposal and Research Report Definitions

Research Proposal

An outline of intended research, objectives, and methodology.
His research proposal detailed an innovative experiment in physics.

Research Report

A document summarizing the findings and analysis of a study.
He presented a comprehensive research report at the conference.

Research Proposal

A written proposal for a research project, seeking approval or funding.
The research proposal was submitted for grant approval.

Research Report

A report presenting the methodology, results, and conclusions of research.
Her research report was published in a prestigious journal.

Research Proposal

A plan that describes what, how, and why a research will be conducted.
The committee reviewed her research proposal for its feasibility and relevance.

Research Report

A compilation of data, analysis, and findings from a research project.
The research report influenced future studies in the field.

Research Proposal

A document presenting a research idea and its method.
The research proposal was accepted, paving the way for a groundbreaking study.

Research Report

An academic document that communicates the outcomes of a study.
The research report was cited by many as a significant contribution to the field.

Research Proposal

A blueprint for a future research project.
Her research proposal outlined a new approach to studying climate change.

Research Report

A detailed account of completed research.
The research report provided new insights into renewable energy sources.


Who reads a research proposal?

Typically, academic committees, supervisors, or potential funders.

What is a research proposal?

A plan for a future research project, outlining objectives and methods.

Can a research proposal guarantee funding?

Not always, but a well-crafted proposal improves chances of funding.

What does a research report include?

Findings, data analysis, and conclusions of a completed study.

What is the main goal of a research proposal?

To convince others of the value and feasibility of the proposed research.

When is a research report prepared?

After the research has been completed and data analyzed.

Is a literature review included in a research proposal?

Yes, to contextualize the research within existing knowledge.

What happens if a research proposal is approved?

The researcher can proceed with the study, often with funding.

Do research proposals need ethical approval?

Yes, if the research involves human subjects, ethical approval is required.

What differentiates a research report from a proposal?

A report presents completed research, while a proposal plans future research.

How detailed should a research proposal be?

It should be sufficiently detailed to outline the study's purpose, methodology, and significance.

Are research reports always published?

Not always, but many are published in academic journals or presented at conferences.

How long is a typical research report?

Length varies, but it's usually detailed and comprehensive.

Do research reports require peer review?

Yes, when intended for publication in academic journals.

Is a research report subjective or objective?

It should be objective, presenting findings based on evidence and analysis.

Can a research report influence future studies?

Yes, reports often guide or inspire subsequent research in the field.

What role does methodology play in a research proposal?

It's crucial, as it outlines how the research will be conducted.

Are research reports accessible to the general public?

They can be, especially if published in open-access journals or platforms.

Can a research proposal be rejected?

Yes, based on feasibility, relevance, or methodological issues.

Are conclusions part of a research report?

Yes, conclusions are drawn based on the research findings.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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