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Concept Paper vs. Research Proposal – and when to use each
On the surface, concept papers sound like they do the same job as a research proposal – and essentially, they do. Both are designed to communicate the rationale, methodology and outcomes of a proposed piece of work. The difference between the two lies mostly in the level of detail and the potential audience, based on which your approach towards writing each will vary. In this article, we dig deeper into these and recommend when to use which.
Concept paper: Putting your idea to paper
- What : A concept paper verbalises an idea and puts it to paper for the first time. Here, an overall rationale is presented, with a focus on the essential idea and potential impact of the expected outcome(s). However, what you would not include here is much in-depth detail.
- When : Writing a concept paper is most useful when an initial expression of interest is made to either a collaborator or funder – provided the funder has mechanisms for you to do this, like an open call.
- Why : The aim of your concept paper will be to win your audience over with your idea and its potential ramifications.
(For more on concept papers, read: Understanding and developing a concept paper )
Research proposal: Showing how things will get done
Let’s say that through your concept paper, you find funding and collaborators for your proposed research project. You will now get into the nitty gritty of the project with a research proposal, while still keeping it “consumable” enough for a broader audience.
- What : A research proposal builds on a concept paper by now including aspects like key deliverables, milestones and specific outcomes, as well as how you plan to achieve these.
- When : You will typically send a research proposal to sources of funding of an open nature, i.e. those that do not require a standardised form to be filled in, as is often the case with institutional internal funding or private investors.
- Why : It is not necessary for you to first send someone a concept paper and follow it up with a proposal. However, you may often need to follow this sequence in order to provide only ‘need to know’ material depending on the stage of your relationship with potential partners.
( For more on research proposals, read: Writing a successful research proposal )
When both are needed, a concept paper precedes a research proposal
Deciding between a concept paper and a research proposal
Whether you send someone a concept paper or a research proposal depends entirely on two things:
- Your existing relationship with whomever you are reaching out to
- What you are trying to achieve
If you are emailing an organisation or individual for the first time, you are more likely to receive a response by attaching a brief, snappy concept paper that is easily read by a multitude of people. On the other hand, some larger organisations, such as pharmaceutical companies, are very used to seeing full-fledged research proposals and may have a portal on their website where you would need to upload one, enabling them to skip the preliminary step of vetting your work through a concept paper.
Our recommendation : Given how pressed many people are for time these days, it would be prudent to send concept papers more frequently than research proposals. If more information is required, you will be asked for it.
Concept papers and research proposals do very similar things, but set out and achieve very different aims. They are often sent in sequence – the concept paper first, followed by the research proposal. The need for a research proposal arises when the concept paper has achieved its mark – when, for example, more information is required for a funding decision to be reached, or due diligence is to be performed, as a result of your concept paper gaining preliminary acceptance. Following up with a research proposal fills in the gaps and will aid in answering questions arising from the concept paper.
Read previous (second) in series: Writing a successful Research Proposal
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What is the difference between a concept paper, a research proposal, and a research report?
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"What is the difference between a concept paper, a research proposal, and a research report?" eNotes Editorial , 6 Oct. 2019, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-difference-between-concept-paper-research-326377. Accessed 13 Mar. 2023.
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Educator since 2018
The concept paper, the research proposal, and the research report are all parts of a formulated research project that culminates in a final research paper.
The concept paper is the initial writing step of the research project in which you gather your initial thoughts. The concept paper allows you to think about and record what the core questions and focal components of your research project are.
The research proposal is the next step of preparing to begin your research project. The research proposal is usually reviewed by a team of experts of the field of study, such as PhD professors at a university, who can approve the research proposal. At the point of approval, one can then begin the actual research project. The research proposal includes an extensive outline of what will be researched, the methods of research, the possible problems involved with the research, and a literature review of what is already known.
The research report is the culmination of all your research and conclusions in written form. The research report will include what you researched, how you conducted the research, what your findings were, what your conclusions are, and, often, implications or questions for further study.
Educator since 2015
There is a difference between a concept paper, a research proposal, and a research report. A concept paper usually reflects an issue that is of interest to a writer. The paper provides an opportunity to have a deep discussion about the specific issue or issues. The concept paper may advocate for certain ideas or policies to be followed.
A research proposal is an attempt to get permission and/or funding to pursue a project that is of interest to the individual making the proposal. This proposal should include the what, why, and how of the project. The author should state what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, and why they want to do it.
The research report is the actual paper or project that shows the results of a person’s research. This is often presented in a formal setting and may be used to grant the author an advanced degree. The report should include an introduction, a review of the literature, an explanation of methods that were used, the results that were obtained, and a discussion of findings.
Educator since 2009
All three of these are stages in doing professional research. You can kind of think of it in architectural terms: sketches, blueprints, and finally building the house.
- Concept paper -- A concept paper is putting your idea onto paper. It includes what the question is, what is already known about that question, and why the question is worth expending energy on in the first place. It also typically includes information about areas that might be problematic from a research standpoint, and also a proposed list of sources. In a lot of ways, a concept paper is used to focus your thoughts and it might not be seen in an "official" way by anyone else.
- Research proposal -- This is the bit that actually can get a "green light" and allows a person to begin research. It is usually what would be examined by "experts" in an academic setting. It is more detailed than the concept paper because it has to prove that the research is needed, and it also has to detail the methods that are going to be used in collecting data. There is also typically an extensive "literature review" of what's already known about the topic.
- Research report -- This is actually doing the work of putting the report together. It includes your research and conclusions. It is the work that will either be accepted as valid or rejected by those who read it. A research report follows a strict outline and must be created with a high level of professionalism.
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What exactly is a Concept Paper, and how do you write one?
Learn why a concept paper is important, what the main elements of a research concept paper are, and how to create an excellent one.
Prior to submitting a formal proposal (business proposal, product, or research proposal), many private organizations have historically asked for the submission of a concept paper for review.
Recently, organizations have begun to advocate for the usage of concept papers as a way for applicants to obtain informal input on their ideas and projects before submitting a proposal. Several of these organizations now demand a concept paper as part of the official application process.
Simply described, a concept paper is a preliminary document that explains the purpose of research, why it is being conducted, and how it will be performed. It examines a concept or idea and offers an outline of the topic that a researcher wants to pursue. Continue reading to learn more about concept papers and how to create a good one.
What a concept paper is and its purpose
A concept paper is a brief paper that outlines the important components of a research or project before it is carried out. Its purpose is to offer an overview. Entrepreneurs working on a business idea or product, as well as students and researchers, frequently write concept papers .
Researchers may be required to prepare a concept paper when submitting a project proposal to a funding authority to acquire the required grants.
As a consequence, the importance is based on the fact that it should help the examiner determine whether the research is relevant, practicable, and useful .
If not, they may suggest looking into a different research area. It also allows the examiner to assess your comprehension of the research and, as a result, if you are likely to require assistance in completing the research.
Illustrate your Concept Paper with infographics
Infographics are very useful to explain complex subjects in a very short time. Use Mind the Graph to create beautiful infographics for your Concept Paper with scientifically accurate illustrations, icons, arrows and many other design tools.
Concept paper’s elements for an academic research
To produce an effective concept paper, you must first comprehend the essential elements of academic research:
- Title page: Mention the applicant’s name, institution, project title, and submission date.
- Background for the research: The second section should be the purpose section, which should be able to clear out what has already been stated about the subject, any gaps in information that need to be filled or problems to be solved, as well as the reason why you wish to examine the issue.
- Literature review: In this section, you should provide a theoretical basis and supporting material for your chosen subject.
- State the problem and your goals: Describe the overall problems, including the research questions and objectives. State your research’s unique and original aspects, concentrate on providing and clearly discussing your goals towards the problem.
- Methodology: Provide the data analysis system to be utilized, data collecting method, tools to be used, and research participants in this section.
- Timeline: Include a realistic timeline estimate that is defined in months and years.
- References: Add a list of all sources cited in your concept paper , such as books, journals, and other resources.
Tips on writing an effective concept paper
A concept paper is extremely crucial for a project or research, especially if it requires funding. Check out these simple tips to ensure your concept paper is successful and simple.
- Choose a research topic that truly piques your curiosity
- Create a list of research questions. The more, the merrier.
- When describing the project’s reasoning, use data and numbers.
- Use no more than 5 single-spaced pages.
- Tailor your speech to the appropriate audience.
- Make certain that the basic format elements, such as page numbers, are included.
- Spend additional time on your timeline as this section is critical for funding.
- Give specific examples of how you plan to measure your progress toward your goals.
- Provide an initial budget when seeking funds. Sponsors will want to obtain an idea of how much funds are required.
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Concept paper is putting your idea on a paper for the first time. Research proposal is showing how things will get done – like key deliverables
A clear distinction between the two is merely their types. A concept paper is about a topic of your interest which you would like to explore
What is the difference between a concept paper, a research proposal, and a research report? Watch later. Share. Copy link.
There is a difference between a concept paper, a research proposal, and a research report. A concept paper usually reflects an issue that is of interest to a
Concept paper -- A concept paper is putting your idea onto paper. · Research proposal -- This is the bit that actually can get a "green light" and allows a
Download Table | Differences between a concept note and a full proposal from publication: Writing convincing research proposals and effective scientific
A Concept Document or Letter of Inquiry is a timesaver for anyone who might be an ally for your project and for the proposal writer, as it allows the
The concept paper will include your proposed research title, a brief introduction to the subject, the aim of the study, the research questions
A concept paper is a brief paper that outlines the important components of a research or project before it is carried out. Its purpose is to
Funders often ask for brief 1- to 5-page concept papers (also called “white papers” in the government contracting sector) prior to submission of a full proposal