How to Write a Concept Note: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Concept notes are important documents that serve as a brief outline of a project. They are used to present a proposed project to potential stakeholders and funders, and are usually requested before a full project proposal is submitted. If you are planning to embark on a new project, it is essential to know how to write a concept note. In this guide, we'll take you through the step-by-step process of writing a winning concept note.

Understanding the Purpose of a Concept Note

Before we delve into the details of how to write a concept note, it is important to understand its purpose. A concept note serves several functions:

What is a Concept Note?

A concept note is a brief outline of a project proposal, usually submitted to potential stakeholders and funders to solicit their support.

Let’s take an example of a non-profit organization that wants to start a new project to provide education to underprivileged children. The organization will need funding and support from donors to make this project a success. To attract potential donors, the organization will need to submit a concept note that outlines the basic details of the project.

Why is a Concept Note Important?

Concept notes are important because they help to identify potential stakeholders and funders for a proposed project. By providing a brief overview of the project, concept notes help to gauge interest and support. This is especially important when dealing with multiple potential stakeholders and funders, as it allows the organization to tailor their proposal to the interests of each party.

Moreover, concept notes help organizations to save time and resources. Instead of preparing a full proposal for every potential stakeholder or funder, concept notes can be used to filter out those who are not interested in the project, allowing the organization to focus on those who are.

When to Use a Concept Note?

Concept notes are usually requested by potential stakeholders and funders before a full project proposal is submitted. They can also be used to introduce a new project to an organization or community. In addition, concept notes can be used as a tool for internal planning and decision-making.

For example, a company may use a concept note to introduce a new product or service to its employees before launching it to the public. This allows the company to gather feedback and make any necessary changes before investing resources into a full launch.

In conclusion, concept notes are an important tool for organizations to attract support and funding for their projects. By providing a brief overview of the project, concept notes help to gauge interest and support, saving time and resources. They can be used to introduce new projects to stakeholders and funders, as well as for internal planning and decision-making.

Key Components of a Concept Note

The following are key components that should be included when writing a concept note:

Project Title

The project title should be clear and concise. It should capture the essence of the project in a few words.

Project Objective

The project objective should be clearly stated, and should contain a succinct statement of what the project intends to achieve.

Background and Context

The background and context should provide an overview of the problem that the project intends to address. It should also highlight the relevance of the problem to the target audience and the broader community.

Target Audience and Beneficiaries

The target audience and beneficiaries should be clearly identified. This helps to ensure that the project is designed to meet the needs of the intended beneficiaries.

Project Activities and Methodology

The project activities and methodology should describe the specific steps that will be taken to achieve the project objectives. It should also provide details on how the project will be implemented.

Expected Outcomes and Impact

The expected outcomes and impact should clearly state what the project hopes to achieve and how it will contribute to the broader goals of the organization or community.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The monitoring and evaluation plan should outline how the project will be monitored and evaluated to determine its success.

Budget and Resources

The budget and resources section should provide a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the project, as well as the resources required to implement it.

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Concept Note

Now that we have covered the key components of a concept note, it is time to take you through a step-by-step guide to writing a winning concept note.

Step 1: Research and Preparation

Before you start writing your concept note, it is important to conduct thorough research on the problem you are seeking to address, the target audience, and the available resources. This will help you to develop a comprehensive understanding of the project and its requirements.

Step 2: Develop a Clear Project Objective

The project objective is the backbone of your concept note. It should be clear, concise, and specific. A well-defined objective will help you to stay focused on the project and ensure that the project is designed to achieve the intended outcomes.

Step 3: Provide a Strong Background and Context

The background and context section of your concept note should provide a clear understanding of the problem the project intends to address and its relevance to the target audience and the broader community. This section should demonstrate the importance of the project and why it is needed.

Step 4: Identify Your Target Audience and Beneficiaries

The target audience and beneficiaries section of your concept note should clearly identify who the project is meant to benefit. This section should also provide details on how the project will improve the lives of the intended beneficiaries.

Step 5: Outline Your Project Activities and Methodology

The project activities and methodology section of your concept note should provide a detailed explanation of how the project will achieve its objectives. This section should outline the specific steps that will be taken to implement the project and achieve the desired outcomes.

Step 6: Describe Expected Outcomes and Impact

The expected outcomes and impact section of your concept note should detail the expected results of the project and how they will contribute to the broader goals of the organization or community. This section should also provide a clear understanding of the impact the project is expected to have on the beneficiaries.

Step 7: Develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

The monitoring and evaluation plan should outline how the project will be monitored and evaluated to determine its success. This section should also include the indicators that will be used to measure the project's impact.

Step 8: Prepare a Budget and Identify Resources

The budget and resources section of your concept note should provide a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the project, as well as the resources required to implement it. This section should also include details on how the project will be funded.

By following these steps, you will be able to develop a comprehensive and winning concept note that will help you to secure funding for your project. Remember to keep your concept note clear, concise and focused on the project objectives. Good luck!

ChatGPT Prompt for Writing a Concept Note

Use the following prompt in an AI chatbot . Below each prompt, be sure to provide additional details about your situation. These could be scratch notes, what you'd like to say or anything else that guides the AI model to write a certain way.

Please prepare a comprehensive and detailed document outlining the key ideas, objectives, and strategies for a proposed project or initiative. This document should clearly articulate the purpose of the project, the target audience, the expected outcomes, and the resources required to implement it. The concept note should be well-structured, concise, and informative, providing a clear roadmap for the proposed project and demonstrating its potential impact and value.


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Concept Papers in Research: Deciphering the blueprint of brilliance

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Concept papers hold significant importance as a precursor to a full-fledged research proposal in academia and research. Understanding the nuances and significance of a concept paper is essential for any researcher aiming to lay a strong foundation for their investigation.

Table of Contents

What Is Concept Paper

A concept paper can be defined as a concise document which outlines the fundamental aspects of a grant proposal. It outlines the initial ideas, objectives, and theoretical framework of a proposed research project. It is usually two to three-page long overview of the proposal. However, they differ from both research proposal and original research paper in lacking a detailed plan and methodology for a specific study as in research proposal provides and exclusion of the findings and analysis of a completed research project as in an original research paper. A concept paper primarily focuses on introducing the basic idea, intended research question, and the framework that will guide the research.

Purpose of a Concept Paper

A concept paper serves as an initial document, commonly required by private organizations before a formal proposal submission. It offers a preliminary overview of a project or research’s purpose, method, and implementation. It acts as a roadmap, providing clarity and coherence in research direction. Additionally, it also acts as a tool for receiving informal input. The paper is used for internal decision-making, seeking approval from the board, and securing commitment from partners. It promotes cohesive communication and serves as a professional and respectful tool in collaboration.

These papers aid in focusing on the core objectives, theoretical underpinnings, and potential methodology of the research, enabling researchers to gain initial feedback and refine their ideas before delving into detailed research.

Key Elements of a Concept Paper

Key elements of a concept paper include the title page , background , literature review , problem statement , methodology, timeline, and references. It’s crucial for researchers seeking grants as it helps evaluators assess the relevance and feasibility of the proposed research.

Writing an effective concept paper in academic research involves understanding and incorporating essential elements:

Elements of Concept Papers

How to Write a Concept Paper?

To ensure an effective concept paper, it’s recommended to select a compelling research topic, pose numerous research questions and incorporate data and numbers to support the project’s rationale. The document must be concise (around five pages) after tailoring the content and following the formatting requirements. Additionally, infographics and scientific illustrations can enhance the document’s impact and engagement with the audience. The steps to write a concept paper are as follows:

1. Write a Crisp Title:

Choose a clear, descriptive title that encapsulates the main idea. The title should express the paper’s content. It should serve as a preview for the reader.

2. Provide a Background Information:

Give a background information about the issue or topic. Define the key terminologies or concepts. Review existing literature to identify the gaps your concept paper aims to fill.

3. Outline Contents in the Introduction:

Introduce the concept paper with a brief overview of the problem or idea you’re addressing. Explain its significance. Identify the specific knowledge gaps your research aims to address and mention any contradictory theories related to your research question.

4. Define a Mission Statement:

The mission statement follows a clear problem statement that defines the problem or concept that need to be addressed. Write a concise mission statement that engages your research purpose and explains why gaining the reader’s approval will benefit your field.

5. Explain the Research Aim and Objectives:

Explain why your research is important and the specific questions you aim to answer through your research. State the specific goals and objectives your concept intends to achieve. Provide a detailed explanation of your concept. What is it, how does it work, and what makes it unique?

6. Detail the Methodology:

Discuss the research methods you plan to use, such as surveys, experiments, case studies, interviews, and observations. Mention any ethical concerns related to your research.

7. Outline Proposed Methods and Potential Impact:

Provide detailed information on how you will conduct your research, including any specialized equipment or collaborations. Discuss the expected results or impacts of implementing the concept. Highlight the potential benefits, whether social, economic, or otherwise.

8. Mention the Feasibility

Discuss the resources necessary for the concept’s execution. Mention the expected duration of the research and specific milestones. Outline a proposed timeline for implementing the concept.

9. Include a Support Section:

Include a section that breaks down the project’s budget, explaining the overall cost and individual expenses to demonstrate how the allocated funds will be used.

10. Provide a Conclusion:

Summarize the key points and restate the importance of the concept. If necessary, include a call to action or next steps.

Although the structure and elements of a concept paper may vary depending on the specific requirements, you can tailor your document based on the guidelines or instructions you’ve been given.

Here are some tips to write a concept paper:

Tips to Write Concept Paper

Example of a Concept Paper

Here is an example of a concept paper. Please note, this is a generalized example. Your concept paper should align with the specific requirements, guidelines, and objectives you aim to achieve in your proposal. Tailor it accordingly to the needs and context of the initiative you are proposing.

 Download Now!

Importance of a Concept Paper

Concept papers serve various fields, influencing the direction and potential of research in science, social sciences, technology, and more. They contribute to the formulation of groundbreaking studies and novel ideas that can impact societal, economic, and academic spheres.

A concept paper serves several crucial purposes in various fields:

Purpose of a Concept Paper

In summary, a well-crafted concept paper is essential in outlining a clear, concise, and structured framework for new ideas or proposals. It helps in assessing the feasibility, viability, and potential impact of the concept before investing significant resources into its implementation.

How well do you understand concept papers? Test your understanding now! 

Fill the Details to Check Your Score


Role of AI in Writing Concept Papers

The increasing use of AI, particularly generative models, has facilitated the writing process for concept papers. Responsible use involves leveraging AI to assist in ideation, organization, and language refinement while ensuring that the originality and ethical standards of research are maintained.

AI plays a significant role in aiding the creation and development of concept papers in several ways:

1. Idea Generation and Organization

AI tools can assist in brainstorming initial ideas for concept papers based on key concepts. They can help in organizing information, creating outlines, and structuring the content effectively.

2. Summarizing Research and Data Analysis

AI-powered tools can assist in conducting comprehensive literature reviews, helping writers to gather and synthesize relevant information. AI algorithms can process and analyze vast amounts of data, providing insights and statistics to support the concept presented in the paper.

3. Language and Style Enhancement

AI grammar checker tools can help writers by offering grammar, style, and tone suggestions, ensuring professionalism. It can also facilitate translation, in case a global collaboration.

4. Collaboration and Feedback

AI platforms offer collaborative features that enable multiple authors to work simultaneously on a concept paper, allowing for real-time contributions and edits.

5. Customization and Personalization

AI algorithms can provide personalized recommendations based on the specific requirements or context of the concept paper. They can assist in tailoring the concept paper according to the target audience or specific guidelines.

6. Automation and Efficiency

AI can automate certain tasks, such as citation formatting, bibliography creation, or reference checking, saving time for the writer.

7. Analytics and Prediction

AI models can predict potential outcomes or impacts based on the information provided, helping writers anticipate the possible consequences of the proposed concept.

8. Real-Time Assistance

AI-driven chat-bots can provide real-time support and answers to specific questions related to the concept paper writing process.

AI’s role in writing concept papers significantly streamlines the writing process, enhances the quality of the content, and provides valuable assistance in various stages of development, contributing to the overall effectiveness of the final document.

Concept papers serve as the stepping stone in the research journey, aiding in the crystallization of ideas and the formulation of robust research proposals. It the cornerstone for translating ideas into impactful realities. Their significance spans diverse domains, from academia to business, enabling stakeholders to evaluate, invest, and realize the potential of groundbreaking concepts.

Frequently Asked Questions

A concept paper can be defined as a concise document outlining the fundamental aspects of a grant proposal such as the initial ideas, objectives, and theoretical framework of a proposed research project.

A good concept paper should offer a clear and comprehensive overview of the proposed research. It should demonstrate a strong understanding of the subject matter and outline a structured plan for its execution.

Concept paper is important to develop and clarify ideas, develop and evaluate proposal, inviting collaboration and collecting feedback, presenting proposals for academic and research initiatives and allocating resources.

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How To Write a Concept Paper for Academic Research: An Ultimate Guide

How To Write a Concept Paper for Academic Research: An Ultimate Guide

A concept paper is one of the first steps in helping you fully realize your research project. Because of this, some schools opt to teach students how to write concept papers as early as high school. In college, professors sometimes require their students to submit concept papers before suggesting their research projects to serve as the foundations for their theses.

If you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably been assigned by your teacher or professor to write a concept paper. To help you get started, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on how to write a proper concept paper.

Related: How to Write Significance of the Study (with Examples)

Table of Contents

What is the concept paper, 1. academic research concept papers, 2. advertising concept papers, 3. research grant concept papers, concept paper vs. research proposal, tips for finding your research topic, 2. think of research questions that you want to answer in your project, 3. formulate your research hypothesis, 4. plan out how you will achieve, analyze, and present your data, 2. introduction, 3. purpose of the study, 4. preliminary literature review, 5. objectives of the study, 6. research questions and hypotheses, 7. proposed methodology, 8. proposed research timeline, 9. references, sample concept paper for research proposal (pdf), tips for writing your concept paper.

Generally, a concept paper is a summary of everything related to your proposed project or topic. A concept paper indicates what the project is all about, why it’s important, and how and when you plan to conduct your project.

Different Types of the Concept Paper and Their Uses

writing a concept paper

This type of concept paper is the most common type and the one most people are familiar with. Concept papers for academic research are used by students to provide an outline for their prospective research topics.

These concept papers are used to help students flesh out all the information and ideas related to their topic so that they may arrive at a more specific research hypothesis.

Since this is the most common type of concept paper, it will be the main focus of this article.

Advertising concept papers are usually written by the creative and concept teams in advertising and marketing agencies.

Through a concept paper, the foundation or theme for an advertising campaign or strategy is formed. The concept paper can also serve as a bulletin board for ideas that the creative and concept teams can add to or develop. 

This type of concept paper usually discusses who the target audience of the campaign is, what approach of the campaign will be, how the campaign will be implemented, and the projected benefits and impact of the campaign to the company’s sales, consumer base, and other aspects of the company.

This type of concept paper is most common in the academe and business world. Alongside proving why your research project should be conducted, a research grant concept paper must also appeal to the company or funding agency on why they should be granted funds.

The paper should indicate a proposed timeline and budget for the entire project. It should also be able to persuade the company or funding agency on the benefits of your research project– whether it be an increase in sales or productivity or for the benefit of the general public.

It’s important to discuss the differences between the two because a lot of people often use these terms interchangeably.

A concept paper is one of the first steps in conducting a research project. It is during this process that ideas and relevant information to the research topic are gathered to produce the research hypothesis. Thus, a concept paper should always precede the research proposal. 

A research proposal is a more in-depth outline of a more fleshed-out research project. This is the final step before a researcher can conduct their research project. Although both have similar elements and structures, a research proposal is more specific when it comes to how the entire research project will be conducted.

Getting Started on Your Concept Paper

1. find a research topic you are interested in.

When choosing a research topic, make sure that it is something you are passionate about or want to learn more about. If you are writing one for school, make sure it is still relevant to the subject of your class. Choosing a topic you aren’t invested in may cause you to lose interest in your project later on, which may lower the quality of the research you’ll produce.

A research project may last for months and even years, so it’s important that you will never lose interest in your topic.

  • Look for inspiration everywhere. Take a walk outside, read books, or go on your computer. Look around you and try to brainstorm ideas about everything you see. Try to remember any questions you might have asked yourself before like why something is the way it is or why can’t this be done instead of that . 
  • Think big. If you’re having trouble thinking up a specific topic to base your research project on, choosing a broad topic and then working your way down should help.
  • Is it achievable? A lot of students make the mistake of choosing a topic that is hard to achieve in terms of materials, data, and/or funding available. Before you decide on a research topic, make sure you consider these aspects. Doing so will save you time, money, and effort later on.
  • Be as specific as can be. Another common mistake that students make is that they sometimes choose a research topic that is too broad. This results in extra effort and wasted time while conducting their research project. For example: Instead of “The Effects of Bananas on Hungry Monkeys” , you could specify it to “The Effects of Cavendish Bananas on Potassium-deficiency in Hungry Philippine Long-tailed Macaques in Palawan, Philippines”.

Now that you have a general idea of the topic of your research project, you now need to formulate research questions based on your project. These questions will serve as the basis for what your project aims to answer. Like your research topic, make sure these are specific and answerable.

Following the earlier example, possible research questions could be:

  • Do Cavendish bananas produce more visible effects on K-deficiency than other bananas?
  • How susceptible are Philippine long-tailed macaques to K-deficiency?
  • What are the effects of K-deficiency in Philippine long-tailed macaques?

After formulating the research questions, you should also provide your hypothesis for each question. A research hypothesis is a tentative answer to the research problem. You must provide educated answers to the questions based on your existing knowledge of the topic before you conduct your research project.

After conducting research and collecting all of the data into the final research paper, you will then have to approve or disprove these hypotheses based on the outcome of the project.

Prepare a plan on how to acquire the data you will need for your research project. Take note of the different types of analysis you will need to perform on your data to get the desired results. Determine the nature of the relationship between different variables in your research.

Also, make sure that you are able to present your data in a clear and readable manner for those who will read your concept paper. You can achieve this by using tables, charts, graphs, and other visual aids.

Related: How to Make Conceptual Framework (with Examples and Templates)

Generalized Structure of a Concept Paper

Since concept papers are just summaries of your research project, they are usually short and  no longer than 5 pages. However, for big research projects, concept papers can reach up to more than 20 pages.

Your teacher or professor may give you a certain format for your concept papers. Generally, most concept papers are double-spaced and are less than 500 words in length. 

Even though there are different types of concept papers, we’ve provided you with a generalized structure that contains elements that can be found in any type of concept paper.

parts of a concept paper

The title for your paper must be able to effectively summarize what your research is all about. Use simple words so that people who read the title of your research will know what it’s all about even without reading the entire paper. 

The introduction should give the reader a brief background of the research topic and state the main objective that your project aims to achieve. This section should also include a short overview of the benefits of the research project to persuade the reader to acknowledge the need for the project.

The Purpose of the Study should be written in a way that convinces the reader of the need to address the existing problem or gap in knowledge that the research project aims to resolve. In this section, you have to go into more detail about the benefits and value of your project for the target audience/s. 

This section features related studies and papers that will support your research topic. Use this section to analyze the results and methodologies of previous studies and address any gaps in knowledge or questions that your research project aims to answer. You may also use the data to assert the importance of conducting your research.

When choosing which papers and studies you should include in the Preliminary Literature Review, make sure to choose relevant and reliable sources. Reliable sources include academic journals, credible news outlets, government websites, and others. Also, take note of the authors for the papers as you will need to cite them in the References section.

Simply state the main objectives that your research is trying to achieve. The objectives should be able to indicate the direction of the study for both the reader and the researcher. As with other elements in the paper, the objectives should be specific and clearly defined.

Gather the research questions and equivalent research hypotheses you formulated in the earlier step and list them down in this section.

In this section, you should be able to guide the reader through the process of how you will conduct the research project. Make sure to state the purpose for each step of the process, as well as the type of data to be collected and the target population.

Depending on the nature of your research project, the length of the entire process can vary significantly. What’s important is that you are able to provide a reasonable and achievable timeline for your project.

Make sure the time you will allot for each component of your research won’t be too excessive or too insufficient so that the quality of your research won’t suffer.

Ensure that you will give credit to all the authors of the sources you used in your paper. Depending on your area of study or the instructions of your professor, you may need to use a certain style of citation.

There are three main citation styles: the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and the Chicago style.

The APA style is mostly used for papers related to education, psychology, and the sciences. The APA citation style usually follows this format:

how to write concept papers 1

The MLA citation style is the format used by papers and manuscripts in disciplines related to the arts and humanities. The MLA citation style follows this format:

how to write concept papers 2

The Chicago citation style is usually used for papers related to business, history, and the fine arts. It follows this citation format:

how to write concept papers 3

This is a concept paper sample provided by Dr. Bernard Lango from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (modified for use in this article). Simply click the link above the download the PDF file.

  • Use simple, concise language. Minimize the use of flowery language and always try to use simple and easy-to-understand language. Too many technical or difficult words in your paper may alienate your readers and make your paper hard to read. 
  • Choose your sources wisely. When scouring the Internet for sources to use, you should always be wary and double-check the authenticity of your source. Doing this will increase the authenticity of your research project’s claims and ensure better data gathered during the process.
  • Follow the specified format, if any. Make sure to follow any specified format when writing your concept paper. This is very important, especially if you’re writing your concept paper for class. Failure to follow the format will usually result in point deductions and delays because of multiple revisions needed.
  • Proofread often. Make it a point to reread different sections of your concept paper after you write them. Another way you can do this is by taking a break for a few days and then coming back to proofread your writing. You may notice certain areas you’d like to revise or mistakes you’d like to fix. Make proofreading a habit to increase the quality of your paper.

Written by Ruth Raganit

in Career and Education , Juander How

Last Updated May 30, 2022 04:34 PM

writing a concept note for research

Ruth Raganit

Ruth Raganit obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Her love affair with Earth sciences began when she saw a pretty rock and wondered how it came to be. She also likes playing video games, doing digital art, and reading manga.

Browse all articles written by Ruth Raganit

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writing a concept note for research

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What is a Concept Paper and How do You Write One?


  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • August 26, 2020

Concept Paper

What is a Concept Paper?

A concept paper is a short document written by a researcher before starting their research project, with the purpose of explaining what the study is about, why it is important and the methods that will be used.

The concept paper will include your proposed research title, a brief introduction to the subject, the aim of the study, the research questions you intend to answer, the type of data you will collect and how you will collect it. A concept paper can also be referred to as a research proposal.

What is the Purpose of a Concept Paper?

The primary aim of a research concept paper is to convince the reader that the proposed research project is worth doing. This means that the reader should first agree that the research study is novel and interesting. They should be convinced that there is a need for this research and that the research aims and questions are appropriate.

Finally, they should be satisfied that the methods for data collection proposed are feasible, are likely to work and can be performed within the specific time period allocated for this project.

The three main scenarios in which you may need to write a concept paper are if you are:

  • A final year undergraduate or master’s student preparing to start a research project with a supervisor.
  • A student submitting a research proposal to pursue a PhD project under the supervision of a professor.
  • A principal investigator submitting a proposal to a funding body to secure financial support for a research project.

How Long is a Concept Paper?

The concept paper format is usually between 2 and 3 pages in length for students writing proposals for undergraduate, master’s or PhD projects. Concept papers written as part of funding applications may be over 20 pages in length.

How do you Write a Concept Paper?

There are 6 important aspects to consider when writing a concept paper or research proposal:

  • 1. The wording of the title page, which is best presented as a question for this type of document. At this study concept stage, you can write the title a bit catchier, for example “Are 3D Printed Engine Parts Safe for Use in Aircraft?”.
  • A brief introduction and review of relevant existing literature published within the subject area and identification of where the gaps in knowledge are. This last bit is particularly important as it guides you in defining the statement of the problem. The concept paper should provide a succinct summary of ‘the problem’, which is usually related to what is unknown or poorly understood about your research topic . By the end of the concept paper, the reader should be clear on how your research idea will provide a ‘solution’ to this problem.
  • The overarching research aim of your proposed study and the objectives and/or questions you will address to achieve this aim. Align all of these with the problem statement; i.e. write each research question as a clear response to addressing the limitations and gaps identified from previous literature. Also give a clear description of your primary hypothesis.
  • The specific data outputs that you plan to capture. For example, will this be qualitative or quantitative data? Do you plan to capture data at specific time points or at other defined intervals? Do you need to repeat data capture to asses any repeatability and reproducibility questions?
  • The research methodology you will use to capture this data, including any specific measurement or analysis equipment and software you will use, and a consideration of statistical tests to help interpret the data. If your research requires the use of questionnaires, how will these be prepared and validated? In what sort of time frame would you plan to collect this data?
  • Finally, include a statement of the significance of the study , explaining why your research is important and impactful. This can be in the form of a concluding paragraph that reiterate the statement of the problem, clarifies how your research will address this and explains who will benefit from your research and how.

You may need to include a short summary of the timeline for completing the research project. Defining milestones of the time points at which you intend to complete certain tasks can help to show that you’ve considered the practicalities of running this study. It also shows that what you have proposed is feasible in order to achieve your research goal.

If you’re pitching your proposed project to a funder, they may allocate a proportion of the money based on the satisfactory outcome of each milestone. These stakeholders may also be motivated by knowing that you intend to convert your dissertation into an article for journal publication; this level of dissemination is of high importance to them.

Additionally, you may be asked to provide a brief summary of the projected costs of running the study. For a PhD project this could be the bench fees associated with consumables and the cost of any travel if required.

Make sure to include references and cite all other literature and previous research that you discuss in your concept paper.

This guide gave you an overview of the key elements you need to know about when writing concept papers. The purpose of these are first to convey to the reader what your project’s purpose is and why your research topic is important; this is based on the development of a problem statement using evidence from your literature review.

Explain how it may positively impact your research field and if your proposed research design is appropriate and your planned research method achievable.

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In this post you’ll learn what the significance of the study means, why it’s important, where and how to write one in your paper or thesis with an example.

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This post explains the difference between the journal paper status of In Review and Under Review.

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How to Write a PhD Concept Paper

format of a phd concept paper

A concept paper – or concept note – is one of the initial requirements of a PhD programme. It is normally written during the PhD application process as well as early on in the programme once a student has been admitted.

A concept paper is basically a shorter version of a research proposal – in most cases between 2,000 and 2,500 words – that expresses the research ideas of the potential PhD student.

Besides being short, it should be concise yet have adequate details to convince the Department the student is applying to that he/she is worth being admitted to the programme.

Example of a title with a sub-title

References/bibliography, why do phd programmes require applicants to submit a concept paper.

A concept paper serves four main purposes:

  • It gives the Department the student is applying to an idea of the student’s research interests.
  • Based on point one, it informs the Department whether the student will be a good fit to the Department or not. To be a good fit, the research interests of the applicant should match those of the Department’s faculty.
  • Based on the two points above, it enables the Department to offer support to the student throughout his/her PhD studies in the form of supervision and mentorship.
  • Because the concept paper is written – and must be accepted – before the full proposal, it saves the student time and effort that would otherwise be spent on topics that may end up being rejected by the Department. A concept paper is therefore the first step to writing the PhD thesis/dissertation (see the figure below).

writing a concept note for research

Format of a PhD Concept Paper

The format of a concept paper might vary from one university to another. A PhD student should therefore read the guidelines provided by his/her University of interest before writing a concept paper.

In general, the following is a common format of a concept paper:

Title of proposed study

The title of the proposed study is the first element of a concept paper.

The title should describe what the study is about by highlighting the variables of the study and the relationship between the variables if applicable.

The title should be short and specific: it is best to have a title that is not more than 15 words’ long.

Example of a title:

Use of Mobile Phone Applications for Weight Management in the United States

In order to add more specificity to the title, you can add a subtitle to the main title. The title and subtitle should be separated by a full colon.

Use of Mobile Phone Applications for Weight Management in the United States:

A Behavioural Economics’ Analysis

Background to the study

The background to the study contains the following elements:

  • The history of the topic, both globally and in the proposed location of your study.
  • What other researchers have found out from their own studies.
  • What the gaps in the existing literature are, that is, what the other researchers have not addressed.
  • What your study will contribute towards filling the identified gaps.

The implication of the above is that one must have conducted some literature review prior to writing the background to the study.

Statement of the problem

The statement of the problem is a clear description of the issue that the study will address, the relevance of the issue, the importance (benefits) of addressing the issue, and the method the researcher will use to address the issue.

Goal and objectives of the study

Once you have identified the problem of your study, the next step is to write the goal and objectives of the study. There is a difference between these two:

The goal of the study is a broad statement of what the researcher hopes to accomplish at the end of the study. The goal should also be related to the problem statement.

Any given project should have one goal because having many goals would lead to confusion. However, that one goal can have multiple elements in it, which would be accomplished through the project’s objectives.

The objectives of the study, on the other hand, are specific and detailed statements of how the researcher will go about accomplishing the stated goal.

The objectives should:

  • Support the accomplishment of the goal.
  • Follow a sequence, that is, like a step-by-step order. This will help you frame the activities needed to be undertaken in a logical manner so that the goal is achieved.
  • Be stated using action verbs, for instance, “to identify”, “to create”, “to establish”, “to measure”, etc.
  • Be about 3-4: having too few of objectives will limit the scope of your PhD dissertation, while having too many objectives may complicate the dissertation.
  • Be SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

The video below clearly explains how to set SMART goals and objectives:

Important tip 1: depending on your PhD programme, you may be required to have at least 3 journal papers to qualify for graduation. Each of your objectives can be converted into a separate journal paper on its own.

Research questions and hypotheses

Every PhD dissertation needs research questions. Research questions will help the student stay focused on his/her research.

The aim of the research is to provide answers to the research questions. The answers to the questions will form the thesis statement.

Examples of research questions:

In the title example given earlier about use of mobile phone applications for weight management in the United States, a student may be interested in the following questions:

  • To what extent do adults in the United States use mobile phone applications to manage their weight?
  • Is there any gender disparity in the use of mobile phone apps for weight management in the United States?
  • How effective are mobile apps for weight management in the United States?

Good research questions are those that can be explored deeply and widely as well as defended using evidence. Questions with ‘yes” or “no” responses are not academic-worthy.

When developing research questions, you also need to think about the data that will be required to answer the questions. Do you have access to that data? If no, will your time and financial resources allow you to collect that data?

Important tip 2: Your PhD study is time-limited therefore data requirement issues need to be thought through at the initial stages of your concept paper writing so that you don’t waste too much time either collecting the data in the future or trying to access the data if it already exists elsewhere.

Preliminary literature review

At the concept paper stage, a preliminary literature review serves three main purposes:

  • It shows whether you have knowledge of the current state of debate about your chosen topic.
  • It shows whether you are familiar with the experts in your chosen topic.
  • It also helps you identify the research gaps.

Proposed research design, methods and procedures

This sections provides a brief overview of the research methodology that you will adopt in your study. Some issues to consider include:

  • Will your study use quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods approach?
  • Will you use secondary or primary data?
  • What will be the sources of your data? Will you need any ethical clearance from your university before collecting data?
  • Will the data sources be readily accessible?
  • Will you use external assistance for data collection? Or will you do all the data collection yourself?
  • How will the data be analysed? Which softwares will you use? Are you competent in those softwares?

While the above issues are important to think through, please note that the research design and methods will be informed by your research objectives and research questions. As an illustration:

A research question that aims to measure the effect of one (or more) variable(s) on another variable will definitely require quantitative research methods.

On the other hand, a research question that aims to explain the existence of a phenomenon will render itself to the use of qualitative research methods.

Contribution to knowledge

This is perhaps the most important aspect of a PhD dissertation. Your concept note needs to briefly highlight how your project will add value to knowledge.

Making significant contribution to knowledge at the PhD level does not mean a Nobel prize standard of knowledge (this you can do after your PhD when you’ll have all the time in the world to do so). You can achieve this in various ways:

  • New applications of existing ideas.
  • New interpretations of previous ideas.
  • Investigating an existing issue in a new location.
  • Development of a new theory.
  • Coming up with a new technique, among others.

The last section of the concept paper is the reference list or bibliography. This is the section that lists the literatures that you have reviewed and cited in your paper.

There is a slight difference between a reference list and a bibliography:

A reference list includes all those studies that have been directly cited in the paper.

A bibliography, on the other hand, includes all those studies that have been directly cited in the paper as well as those that were reviewed and consulted but not cited in the paper.

When creating the reference list/bibliography, one should be mindful of the referencing style that is required by their PhD department (that is, whether APA, MLA, Chicago, Havard, etc).

Final Thoughts on Writing a PhD Concept Paper

The concept paper is the first step to writing the PhD dissertation. Once accepted, the student will proceed to writing the proposal, which will then be defended before proceeding with writing the full dissertation.

The concept paper is a mini-proposal and has most of the components expected in the proposal.

However, the concept paper should be short and precise while at the same time have adequate information to enable the PhD Committee of the PhD Programme the student is applying to judge if the student will be a good fit to the programme or not.

Related posts

How To Choose a Research Topic For Your PhD Thesis (7 Key Factors to Consider)

Comprehensive Guidelines for Writing a PhD Thesis Proposal (+ free checklist for PhD Students)

Grace Njeri-Otieno

Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."

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How to Write a Concept Paper for a PhD: A 10-Step Guide

Adela B.

Table of contents

You’re ready to enroll for your Ph.D. studies but feeling anxious. You don’t know whether your application will be accepted or what it would take to be accepted.

Aside from your academic qualifications, a concept paper is one of the most critical determinants. If you’re planning to pursue a Ph.D., you need to learn how to write an effective concept paper to convince your professors.

Writing a concept paper requires strong analytical skills, advanced research knowledge, and excellent writing skills.

This blog post will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a concept paper for a Ph.D. to get you a step closer to becoming a doctor of philosophy.

What is a concept paper for Ph.D.?

A concept paper for a Ph.D. is a written statement outlining the objectives and concepts of a proposed research study. It acts as an introduction to your dissertation or full thesis.

It is also an important part of the application process for Ph.D. programs and helps the admissions committee evaluate a student's research potential.

It typically includes background information on the topic to be studied, an overview of existing research, and the proposed research design. It also highlights potential results from the proposed study and their practical applications.

Ultimately, concept papers for Ph.D. programs help determine whether a student is qualified to pursue doctoral-level work in their chosen field.

How long is a Ph.D. concept paper?

The length of your concept paper will depend on your field of study and the requirements set by your university. Generally speaking, most universities expect concept papers to be between 3-5 pages long. Some papers may be longer or shorter depending on how much detail your project entails.

Key takeaways

A concept paper for Ph.D. includes:

  • Background information on the topic;
  • Overview of existing research;
  • Proposed research design;
  • Potential results from the study;
  • Practical applications of the study.

How to Write a Concept Paper for Ph.D.?

An effective concept paper will help you get approval from your professor or adviser to begin your doctoral work.

What are the characteristics of a good concept paper?

A good concept paper should present an idea or topic in a clear and concise manner. It should provide an overview of what the research project will cover and explain why it’s important.

Additionally, it should highlight any potential implications of the research study and how they can be addressed or minimized. The goal of the paper is to convince the reader that your proposed project is worth pursuing and that it contributes new knowledge to your field of study.

What are the 5 elements of a concept paper?

The five elements of a concept paper are:

  • Background;
  • Purpose statement;
  • Problem statement;
  • Research questions or hypotheses;
  • Significance or implications for practice.

These elements work together to provide a comprehensive overview of your proposed research project and show why it’s worth pursuing.

Here are the steps to write an outstanding concept paper that stands no chance of being rejected.

1. Define the title and purpose of your study

The first step in writing a concept paper is defining the title and purpose of your study. What will your research be about? And what are you trying to accomplish through it?

The title and purpose of your study will set the foundation for your concept paper. This part should be concise and clear so that readers understand the basis and significance of your research. When formulating the title, ensure it accurately reflects the main focus of your entire research study.

2. Describe the background and scope of your study

The next step is to provide an overview of the background information of your study topic and explain how it relates to your proposed project.

When describing the background of your study, you need to provide some context about why this topic is important enough to warrant academic inquiry.

Highlight any existing studies or theories related to your topic so that readers understand why you have chosen it as part of your dissertation research.

3. Identify the problem statement

Next, identify a problem statement that outlines what issue or gap in the knowledge you are attempting to address through your research project. Every good concept paper should include a well thought problem statement.

Your problem statement should be precise and concise so readers can easily understand what they can expect from reading further.

Here, you should make it clear why there’s a need for further investigation in your chosen field and how your research will contribute new insights into existing knowledge.

4. List your goals and objectives

Now that you’ve established your problem statement, you need to outline the specific goals and objectives that will guide you through your research.

Here, you outline what steps you’ll take and what specifically you hope to achieve in every stage of the study. This could mean anything from creating new theories, testing existing theories or models, exploring the techniques used in other studies, etc.

Your goals and objectives will give the readers a heads-up about what outcomes they can expect from the project.

Ensure whatever goals and objectives you list are measurable and achievable within the scope of your research study.

5. Formulate research questions

Next, formulate detailed research questions (and accompanying hypotheses) based on the topic you plan to explore.

These questions should include the variables you plan to manipulate or measure during data collection. Ensure the questions are clear and written in simple language so readers can understand what you’ll address through the study.

Also, don’t forget to create hypotheses for every research question you write. These are specific claims that will act as the starting points for further inquiry and potential conclusions for the study.

6. Explain the theoretical framework of the study

Once you’ve formulated your research questions, the next step is to explain the theoretical framework or foundational concept of the study.

Identify and briefly explain the theories that inspired you and connect them back to your intended study.

This will set out the context of your project and show that you’ve read and understood existing knowledge on the subject. This theoretical knowledge will come in handy if your application is accepted.

7. Write the literature review

The next step is to write the literature review . Here, you identify information and existing knowledge from previous studies and other published articles.

Your literature review should also include summaries or reviews of key texts related to your topic. You can get information for this section from peer-reviewed articles and online journals like OpenDOAR and CORE.

Remember, all the facts, statistics, and other relevant information must be accompanied by appropriate citations and references.

8. Describe the proposed research methodology

After writing the literature review, go ahead and describe the research design and methodology you’ll be employing.

Some of the critical details to include in this section include:

  • What data collection methods you’ll use? (e.g., surveys, interviews, or questionnaires).
  • How many participants will form your sample size?
  • What data analysis methods will you use? (e.g., qualitative versus quantitative).

Be sure to highlight any ethical considerations involved in your research methodology. For instance, explain the informed consent procedures you’ll use if your research involves human participation.

Also, explain how you’ll minimize the potential risks associated with participating in your research activities.

9. Explain the significance of the study (and its implications)

Now that you’ve explained the methodology, it’s time to let the readers understand why this study is important and why it makes a significant contribution to existing research.

Additionally, explain how this study will impact theory development and its significance for policymakers or practitioners in your field of study.

You should also discuss any potential implications of conducting this research (e.g., ethical considerations or political ramifications).

10. Include references/bibliography

Finally, include references or a bibliography at the end of your concept paper to build credibility for your research paper.

A bibliography enables you to give credit where it belongs by recognizing the owners of your reference materials.

Ensure you format references properly according to the style specified by the institution you’re applying to. This could be for example APA , MLA, or  Harvard referencing style .

What is the difference between a concept paper and a research paper?

A concept paper outlines what you plan to do (in future tense), while a research paper explains what you did (in past tense) after completing your research project. In other words, a concept paper serves as an introduction to your research, while a research paper provides evidence-based results from experiments conducted during your study.

Final thoughts

The thought of writing a concept paper for your Ph.D. can be intimidating at first. However, once you know the right approach to take and invest enough time, the writing process becomes hassle-free.

Start by brainstorming your ideas, researching related topics, and creating an outline. Also, ensure you clearly define your concept and know the exact approach you’ll be taking. This way, you won’t find yourself stuck when your concept paper has been approved for further research.

After completing the paper, revise it to ensure everything is clear and accurate with no typos. In the end, you’ll have an excellent concept paper that will pave the way for you to pursue your doctoral studies.

If you need help writing a concept paper for your Ph.D., turn to Writers Per Hour for assistance. With expert Doctoral writers on the team, we can draft a compelling concept paper that is 100% original and written from scratch as per your requirements.

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writing a concept note for research

Tips on writing a concept note to make you stand out from the crowd

writing a concept note for research

In the world of grants, proposals, and project funding, one document holds significant power: the concept note. Whether you're seeking funds for a non-profit project, research initiative, social impact initiative, or startup idea, a well-crafted concept note can be your ticket to success. However, understanding the nuances of creating an outstanding concept note is crucial. But with countless applications flooding the inboxes of funding organizations, how can you ensure your concept note stands out from the crowd?

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of writing a compelling concept note that captures the attention of reviewers and increases your chances of securing the support you need to create an impact. 

What is a Concept Note?

A concept note , often referred to as a concept paper or a letter of inquiry, is a concise document that outlines the key elements of your project or proposal. It serves as an initial pitch to funding organizations or donors, offering them a glimpse into your idea and its potential impact.  If your concept note piques their interest, you may be invited to submit a full proposal.

Writing an effective concept note is an art, and it requires careful planning, clear communication, and an understanding of what funders are looking for . Let's delve into the tips and strategies that will help you create a concept note that stands out in the crowd.

1. Understand Your Audience

Before you start writing your concept note, immerse yourself in researching and understanding your target audience. Whether it's a government agency, a foundation, or a corporation, knowing their funding priorities, and past projects they've supported is essential. Ask yourself:

  • What are their funding priorities and areas of interest?
  • What kind of projects have they supported in the past?
  • Do they have any specific guidelines or criteria for concept notes?
  • Who will be reviewing your concept note, and what are their backgrounds and expertise?

You’re probably wondering how understanding your audience can significantly enhance your concept note's effectiveness. Understanding your audience is crucial because it allows you to tailor your concept note to their preferences and priorities. It's about speaking their language and addressing their concerns. The more you can align your proposal with their goals, the better your chances of standing out.

Consider a scenario where a non-profit organization is seeking funds for an environmental conservation project. By citing specific projects previously funded by the same organization, your concept note gains credibility. For instance, referencing a similar initiative that led to a 30% reduction in plastic waste in a neighboring town adds weight to your proposal.

 2. Craft a Compelling Title

The title of your concept note is the first thing reviewers will see, and it can greatly influence their initial impression. A clear, concise, and compelling title sets the stage for the rest of your document. Here are some tips for creating an engaging title: 

  • Be specific : Your title should convey the essence of your project in a few words. Avoid vague or overly generic titles.
  • Highlight the impact : If possible, include a hint of the positive change your project aims to bring about.
  • Use action words : Action-oriented verbs can make your title more dynamic and engaging.
  • Keep it short : Aim for a title that is both informative and succinct.

For example, instead of a title like "Education Project," consider something more specific and engaging like "Empowering Girls Through STEM Education in Underserved Communities."

3. Begin with a Strong Opening Statement

Your concept note should begin with a powerful opening statement that hooks the reader's attention. This statement should provide a brief overview of your project, highlighting its significance and potential impact. Consider starting with a compelling statistic, a thought-provoking question, a success story  or a concise anecdote related to your project.

Here's an example of a strong opening statement for a concept note for a project focused on improving feeding and nutrition:

"Every year, millions of children in our community go to bed hungry. This issue is not only a matter of survival but also of their future prospects. The 'Nourish a Brighter Tomorrow' project aims to address this critical problem by providing nutritious meals to underprivileged children, ensuring that they have the energy to learn, grow, and thrive."

This opening statement immediately draws attention to the problem and introduces the proposed solution.

 4. Clearly Define the Problem

In the next section of your concept note, it's essential to provide a clear and comprehensive explanation of the problem your project seeks to address.  It's not just about stating the issue; it's about painting a vivid picture that evokes empathy and urgency in the reader.  Make sure to include the following elements:

  • Statistics and evidence : Use data and evidence to substantiate the existence and scope of the problem. This helps reviewers understand the urgency and importance of your project.
  • Root causes : Explain the underlying factors contributing to the problem. Identifying these causes can demonstrate your understanding of the issue and the need for your project.
  • Impact on the community : Describe how the problem affects the community or target population. Share personal stories, anecdotes, or case studies to humanize the issue and make it relatable.
  • Relevance : Highlight why addressing this problem is timely and necessary. Connect it to broader social, economic, or environmental trends if applicable.
  • Local context : If your project is location-specific, provide information about the geographical and cultural context. Explain why your approach is suitable for this specific community or area.

The goal is to paint a clear and compelling picture of the problem, making it impossible for reviewers to ignore the urgency of your project.

5. Present Your Solution

After defining the problem, it's time to introduce your proposed solution. This section should provide a comprehensive overview of your project, including its objectives, activities, and expected outcomes. Here's what you can include to make this section even more compelling:

  • Project objectives : Clearly state the primary and secondary objectives of your project. What do you aim to achieve, and how will you measure success?
  • Activities and methods : Describe the specific activities and methods you will employ to reach your objectives. Be detailed but concise.
  • Timeline : Provide a timeline outlining the key milestones and phases of your project. This demonstrates your ability to plan and execute effectively.
  • Expected outcomes : Explain the anticipated outcomes and impact of your project. How will it address the problem you've defined?
  • Sustainability : Discuss the long-term sustainability of your project. How will it continue to make a positive impact after the initial funding period?
  • Innovation : If your project includes innovative approaches or strategies, highlight them. Innovations can be a significant point of interest for reviewers.

Ensure that your solution aligns with the identified problem and that there is a logical and coherent connection between the two.

6. Emphasize Impact and Benefits

Reviewers want to know the positive changes your project will bring to the community or the world at large. Be sure to emphasize the impact and benefits of your project, both in the short term and the long term. Use concrete and measurable indicators to demonstrate how your project will make a difference.

  • Quantifiable metrics : Specify how you will measure success. This might include the number of beneficiaries, percentage improvements, or other relevant metrics.
  • Social, economic, or environmental impact : Discuss the broader implications of your project. Will it improve the quality of life, boost economic development, or contribute to environmental sustainability?
  • Inclusivity : Highlight how your project will benefit different groups within the community, including marginalized or vulnerable populations.
  • Testimonials and success stories : If you have testimonials from individuals or communities you've worked with in the past, include them. Real stories and voices can add credibility to your project.
  • Cost-effectiveness : Address the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your project. Reviewers want to know that their investment will generate a significant return.

By showcasing the potential impact and benefits of your project, you not only make it more attractive to funders but also inspire confidence in your ability to deliver results.

7. Demonstrate Feasibility

Funders want assurance that your project is feasible and can be successfully implemented. To address this concern, include information on the following aspects:

  • Project team : Introduce the key members of your project team, including their qualifications and relevant experience. Remember to highlight any expertise that is crucial for the success of your project.
  • Partnerships : If your project involves collaborations with other organizations or stakeholders, provide details about these partnerships. Demonstrating support from reputable partners can enhance your credibility.
  • Budget : Present a detailed budget that outlines the expected costs of your project, including expenses for personnel, materials, administration, and overheads. Be transparent and realistic in your budgeting.
  • Funding plan : Clearly state the amount of funding you are requesting and how it will be used. If your project requires additional funding sources, explain your fundraising strategy.
  • Interactive Timelines : Create an interactive timeline that readers can manipulate, allowing them to explore the project's phases, milestones, and expected completion dates.
  • Risk management : Identify potential risks and challenges associated with your project and outline your plans for mitigating these risks. This shows that you have considered the potential obstacles and have a plan in place to address them.

A well-thought-out and feasible project plan instills confidence in funders, making them more likely to support your initiative.

8. Write Clearly and Concisely

Clarity and conciseness are key when writing a concept note. Reviewers often have to read through numerous applications, so your document should be easy to understand and navigate. Follow these tips for clear and concise writing:

  • Use simple language : Avoid jargon and technical terms that might confuse readers. Opt for clear and straightforward language that conveys your message effectively.
  • Organize your content : Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to organize your content. This makes it easier for reviewers to skim through the document and grasp the main points.
  • Edit and proofread : Eliminate grammatical errors, typos, and awkward phrasing. A polished document reflects professionalism and attention to detail.
  • Citations and References : Introduce citations and references to support key points in your concept note. Providing credible sources adds depth to your claims, enhancing the document's reliability.
  • Be mindful of length : While your concept note should be comprehensive, avoid unnecessary elaboration. Aim for clarity and depth without unnecessary verbosity.

9. Seek Feedback and Revise

Before submitting your concept note, seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, or experts in your field. Seeking feedback and being open to revisions are integral parts of the writing process. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement. Be open to constructive criticism and be willing to revise your document based on the feedback received.

Additionally, pay attention to the guidelines provided by the funding organization. Ensure that your concept note adheres to their specific requirements regarding format, length, and content. Failure to follow these guidelines could result in your concept note being rejected without review.

Writing a standout concept note requires a combination of passion, research, and persuasive communication. By understanding your audience, defining the problem, presenting a viable solution, emphasizing impact, demonstrating feasibility, and writing clearly, you can create a compelling concept note that captures the attention of funding organizations and sets you apart from the crowd.

Remember, the key is to convey not only the significance of your project but also your commitment and enthusiasm to make a difference. With careful planning and attention to detail, your concept note can pave the way for funding opportunities, allowing you to turn your vision into a reality and create a positive impact on the world. Good luck!

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A concept note is a summary of a proposal containing a brief description of the idea of the project and the objectives to be pursued.

writing a concept note for research



A concept paper is meant to give the university an informed idea of the applicant’s areas of research interest to avail the necessary assistance for them to develop a full research proposal and allocate supervisors to give the necessary assistance. Applicants should therefore be as specific as possible. Concept papers vary in format and specifics depending on the university but are generally concise documents containing accurate relevant information and persuasive arguments to enable decision making. These guidelines are intended to guide applicants on how to develop the concept papers as part of the application process.


1. Selection of Research Field- Each University has got specialized fields of  research and therefore students have to research within those fields only. It is a requirement for the students to select a research field only offered by the University and anything outside what is offered will not be acceptable. For example, a student cannot select Robotics as a research field when it is not among the ones offered within the University. The student’s selection will be always guided by the list of the research fields that have been listed by the University.

2. Generate an area of interest- This is an area where you have a curiosity. What are you curious about (within the general area of specialization/field where you wish to do your research? A student who wishes to specialize in public administration would for example be curious about public service values. A student who wishes to do research in computer science may be very curious about systems security or internet fraud. A student who wishes to specialize in business administration may be curious about the increasing corporate governance crisis. A student who wishes to specialize in management may be curious about management styles adopted by CEOs . The selection of this area is influenced by some factors including:-

· The applicant’s knowledge of the state of the scientific discipline of his or her area of specialization

· The applicant’s knowledge of the Social problems

· The applicant’s values and research expertise in a particular file

· Social premiums

· Practical considerations and accessibility to the research subjects

· Financial constraints-applicants must gauge their financial strength to select an area of research.

· The applicant’s research paradigm-qualitative, quantitative orientation or both

· Educational background will determine what initial knowledge the applicant can bring to the research.

3. Choose one of the areas of curiosity and develop some specific questions (this is called “question framing”). Many research questions  can be classified as (1) exploratory (just trying to find out about something); (2) descriptive (trying to obtain descriptive data, such as average age, income, etc.), and (3) explanatory (trying to explain the relationship between variables, like your major in college and your future earnings). Think about answers to certain questions-it is common for a good researcher writing a concept paper to ask the following questions:_

· What will be the research unit?-will the study be on individuals, groups, structures, systems, etc?

· What is the level of research?-first level (relationship between individuals), second level (relationship between individuals and groups), and third level (relationship between groups)

· What key variables are to be explored in the intended study?

· What are the anticipated relationships among the variables identified?

· What hypothesis (if any) does the applicant have on the variables identified?

4. Formulate a possible research topic or title based on the answers   above. In particular, once you are clear on your variables and anticipated relationship, it becomes clear to formulate a tentative topic for investigation which will be discussed and approved by your supervisor. The title should not exceed 20 words and should be clear and concise.

5. Do any of your questions lend themselves to a research hypothesis? If so, write out any hypotheses. A research hypothesis is an “educated guess” about relationships that may explain behavior and phenomena. Sometimes we refer to our research hypothesis as our thesis or theses (plural). If research hypotheses involve quantitative data, they may be tested statistically through statistical hypothesis testing. Note that developing hypotheses may require some preliminary research or prior knowledge (which is why a hypothesis is called an educated guess).

6. Identify the ideal evidence (data) and how you will probably try to  gather that evidence (your methodology). You are very likely to need multiple types of evidence (data). The methodology you will probably have to use will include the following:

· Review literature on history through secondary sources about the area of your proposed research

· Think about what type of data you may need to conduct your study and address your curiosity

· Think about the methods you are likely to use to get the data that you wish

· Think about the population and sample from which you are likely to get the information

· Think about how you are likely to analyze the data that you may collect

7.  Write a Concept Paper. Draw on what you have developed in terms of  areas of curiosity, research questions, research hypotheses, data sources, and methodology. Begin with a very direct and explicit statement of your area of interest and your research question(s). This should take about one paragraph. Move on to state your research hypotheses, or thesis statement. This should take another paragraph or so. Conclude with a discussion of your proposed methodology. This should take another paragraph. The entire Concept Paper should be at least 2 pages and not be more than 10 pages, double-spaced. Citations are appropriate if you used any sources in developing your Concept Paper.

8.  Before turning in your concept paper, go through this checklist to make sure your concept paper is of the highest quality possible:

1. Are you proposing to research something that is really of interest to you? 2. Are your research questions truly appropriate for academic inquiry, or are they more appropriate for casual or non-scholarly consideration?

3. Are your research questions actual questions that can be researched through academic means (e.g., library sources, interviews, surveys, etc.), or are they opinions or attitudes that can’t be researched?

4. Does your concept paper attempt to research an area of interest to you and ask (and propose to answer) specific questions, or is it trying to solve some problem (finding solutions to problems is not appropriate for a research paper, although you may make policy recommendations as a result of your findings).

5. Are your questions specific?

6. Are your questions answerable through research?  

7. Have you stated at least one hypothesis (research or statistical)?

8. Have you identified the data you will need and how you will get it (methodology)? 9. Have you included citations, if appropriate, and a reference list or bibliography?


As a guide and to encourage uniformity in the assessment of the concept papers, all applicants should structure their concept papers; taking into account the preceding process guidelines; as follows:-

· Cover page include the title of your research, your names as they appear in the academic documents, the area of specialization of the Ph.D. as advertised, and months and date

· Introduction- Briefly tells us about the area of your proposed interest  and why such an area is of significance to study. Justify why such an area is of utmost importance to research ( not more than 3 paragraphs)

· Problem statement – Briefly state what the problem of the investigation  will be for the proposed study. Give evidence of the magnitude of the problem by either giving the statistics where applicable or citations. Remember your problem can be theoretical or practical and whichever you opt to address, make sure you have ‘convicted’ the problem (two paragraphs)

· Research Questions, Objectives, and Hypotheses . Formulate the key  questions which your study intends to explore. The questions should be in harmony with the formulated objectives and any hypotheses if any; given the natural relationships among the three. No more than 6 research questions/ objectives should be formulated

· Literature – Briefly review the current literature about the proposed area  of research. Use journal sources and primary sources like dissertations within your area of specialization. At this level, you can show how current you are aware of the debates and developments within your chosen area of research ( 2-3 pages would be adequate)

· Methodology . Finally, you should briefly describe the methodology you intend to follow in conducting the proposed research. You need to show in this methodology the research orientation in terms of research paradigm qualitative, quantitative or both

· References . The last part of your concept paper should be a list of references (all works cited in the text) and ensure you follow the American psychological association style of referencing (APA). Its guidelines are available on the World Wide Web.


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  1. How to Write a Concept Note: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Now that we have covered the key components of a concept note, it is time to take you through a step-by-step guide to writing a winning concept note. Step 1: Research and Preparation Before you start writing your concept note, it is important to conduct thorough research on the problem you are seeking to address, the target audience, and the ...

  2. How to Write a Concept Paper

    Here are some tips to write a concept paper: These tips can elevate your experience of writing a concept paper. Example of a Concept Paper. Here is an example of a concept paper. Please note, this is a generalized example. Your concept paper should align with the specific requirements, guidelines, and objectives you aim to achieve in your proposal.

  3. How to write a concept paper with practical sample by Dr Lango

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  5. PDF MRP 2021: Guide for Writing Research Concept Note

    MRP 2021: Guide for Writing Research Concept Note Your research concept note is a vital part of your application for the mentoring programme. To ensure that the submitted concept note provides enough information for the multi-stakeholder selection team to make an informed decision, we advise that you present your research topic in a clear manner

  6. Guidelines to Develop Concept Note for Research Students/ Ph.D

    Structure of the Concept Note/paper As a guide a nd to encourage uniformity in assessment of the concept papers, all applicants should structure their concept papers; taking into account the preceding


    to interest potential funders. to develop potential solutions or investigations into project ideas. to determine whether a project idea is fundable. to serve as the foundation of a full proposal. Funders that request concept papers often provide a template or format. If templates or formats are not provided, the following can serve as a useful ...

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  9. What is a Concept Paper and How do You Write One?

    A concept paper is a short document written by a researcher before starting their research project, with the purpose of explaining what the study is about, why it is important and the methods that will be used. The concept paper will include your proposed research title, a brief introduction to the subject, the aim of the study, the research ...

  10. How to Write a PhD Concept Paper

    The title of the proposed study is the first element of a concept paper. The title should describe what the study is about by highlighting the variables of the study and the relationship between the variables if applicable. The title should be short and specific: it is best to have a title that is not more than 15 words' long.

  11. Writing the Conceptual Article: A Practical Guide

    Noting that a smart-phone camera is a feature, while recordability is an affordance, they advocate a more rigorous use of the concept in research. This journal has commissioned a number of conceptual articles, including how to define digital journalism itself (Eldridge et al. Citation 2019). These contributions show how slippery even a journal ...

  12. PDF Guidelines for Writing Concept Notes, Proposals, Research Reports

    2.0 CONCEPT NOTE, PROPOSAL, REPORT, DISSERTATION OR THESIS DESIGN 2.1 Concept Note 2.1.1 The concept note/synopsis shall contain the following components; (i) Intended title/topic of the study; (ii) A summary of the background; (iii) A brief statement of the problem; (iv) The main objective and specific objectives;

  13. Concept Note Template: How to write (with Samples)

    In order to write a concept note, the following steps would be useful: Start the concept note with a title. The header section would include information like submitted by along with the date of submission. It is important to keep in mind that the title should be short; however, it would be such that it reflects information about the project.

  14. PDF University of South Africa

    Determine whether your research is aligned with their own interests and experience. Whether there is capacity in the research group to accommodate your study Writing a concept note will assist you in clarifying your ideas, defining your research topic and presenting the material in a logical and coherent manner.

  15. How to Write a Concept Paper for a Ph.D. [10-Step Guide]

    A concept paper for a Ph.D. is a written statement outlining the objectives and concepts of a proposed research study. It acts as an introduction to your dissertation or full thesis. It is also an important part of the application process for Ph.D. programs and helps the admissions committee evaluate a student's research potential.

  16. PDF MRP 2022: Guide for Writing Research Concept Note

    MRP 2022: Guide for Writing Research Concept Note Your research concept note is a vital part of your application for the mentoring programme. To ensure that the submitted concept note provides enough information for the multi-stakeholder selection team to make an informed decision, we advise that you present your research topic in a clear manner

  17. How to Write a Concept Note for Research

    Postgraduate Concept Paper Template A concept paper is meant to give your Department an idea of your area of research interest in order to avail the necessary assistance for you to develop a research proposal. Be as specific as possible in providing information. The Structure of a Concept Note; 1. Title of Proposed Study: 2. Area of Study: 3.


    The concept note will have the following five main elements: Title of your study Background of the study Problem statement Research objectives Research questions A. Title of your study The title of study originates from the discipline of your studies, that is we expect a BAF student to focus on Accounting and Finance related disciplines and BBA ...

  19. What is a concept note and how to write one for funding

    Defining a Concept Note. At its core, a concept note is a brief, yet powerful, document that serves as a preview of your proposed project or initiative. Think of it as a captivating trailer for an inspiring movie. It acts as a prelude to the full project proposal, offering potential funders a glimpse into the project's key objectives ...

  20. Tips on writing a concept note to make you stand out from the crowd

    Writing a standout concept note requires a combination of passion, research, and persuasive communication. By understanding your audience, defining the problem, presenting a viable solution, emphasizing impact, demonstrating feasibility, and writing clearly, you can create a compelling concept note that captures the attention of funding ...

  21. Understanding how to write a Concept Note through a Simple Q&A

    Research plays an important role in enriching your concept note and brings depth to your writing too. Typically, you might need to put in some research on the following aspects: Needs assessment: It would mean using primary and secondary research to build the context, to define the problem and to establish the need for the solution that your ...

  22. How to write concept notes for Ph.D. or research position

    7. Write a Concept Paper. Draw on what you have developed in terms of areas of curiosity, research questions, research hypotheses, data sources, and methodology. Begin with a very direct and explicit statement of your area of interest and your research question (s). This should take about one paragraph.