Research plan vs. research proposal

In the academy there are still some confusions between what is the research plan and the research proposal. For some authors it is the same thing, but others point from slight to wide dissimilarities.

They are the same? Are there any differences? In particular, they are not the same. And yes, there are profound differences.

The research proposal is a request or application that (worth the redundancy) is proposed to someone, be it a research office or research department or scientific financing entity (such as a foundation), for its evaluation, obtaining authorization and / or financial support for its initiation and execution as a research project. It may be the research proposal of a graduate student’s thesis or the proposal of an experienced researcher or of an entire institution.

The research plan is the search or exploration program that you want to do according to a goal. The plan may refer to the project of a person, a team of researchers or an institution (such as a university or business) or a government, and may be composed of one or more research projects.

When it comes to a university or scientific center, the institutional research plan can be transformed into the ‘research agenda’, and its perspective expressed in (1) multi-projects and (2) in the medium or long term. In addition, in the development of this plan, the involved researchers can continue to generate proposals for projects that arise along the way.

The research proposal, on the other hand, is, to put it in some way, a scientific or academic ‘composition’ that is developed based on any type of formats that ask the applicant, within the framework of priorities and policies of the financial institution or from the host institution of the researcher (s). The proposal is enriched with the most recent and valuable information on the subject that it deals with, and it is solidly constructed to demonstrate the knowledge and capacity on the matter on the part of the author (s); the place, methods and resources to do it; the background and skills of the person (s) intend to do so, and justify the need to carry it out; In this way, persuade the director of the institution or reviewers of the foundation to support their initiative.

The research plan is a guide guided by concrete objectives tending to solve unknowns or to create or to innovate, and it can have as North an ideal goal. For example, there is research for the cure of cancer, which occurs through all kinds of projects with particular objectives anywhere in the world. The mere idea of ​​the cure of the disease remains unattainable, but it is the guiding beacon. Some objectives are met, but the goal is not reached. In this case, this has been the case for decades.

JC Banka’s thesis research, which consisted in the preparation of “a research plan to evaluate the power and energy capacity of a fluvial network under an integrated wind / hydro power regime” (University of Toronto, 2017), and It is a clear example of a broad-spectrum research plan for the development of hydraulic and wind infrastructure to produce electricity.

In summary, at the individual level, it could be said that the main purpose of a research proposal is to persuade another person or foundation to support an investigation, while the main function of the research plan is to guide the researcher through the project that will develop without deviating from its particular objectives.


“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas, but to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they are valued”.

Ken Robinson

The publication of scientific and academic articles has increased rapidly in Mexico so far this 21st century. This is due to the existence of the National System of Researchers (SNI) of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), where, to enter and stay current, researchers must write and publish the results of their studies in specialized scientific media .

In 1984 – the year the SNI began – 1,396 researchers registered; in the year 2000, 7,466 were inventoried; and, to the year 2018 -34 years later-, the number surpassed the 28,000 researchers in payroll. That is, the bulk of the growth of the research population occurred during the past 18 years.

This increase in researchers coincides with the change in federal higher education policies (PROMEP in 1996, today PRODEP – Program for Teacher Professional Development -), through which the postgraduate training of university professors began to be promoted – giving preference to to the doctorate-, which brought with it the increase in the number of investigations and a high pressure to write and publish the findings.

Most of these researchers are inserted in universities and research centers, and a few in private companies. This ‘amplification’ of the population of registered researchers, which does not include many others who investigate but are not in the SNI, shows that there is already a propensity towards scientific and academic publication in the country. But does this mean that there is already a ‘culture of scientific publication’ in Mexico?

To begin with, what is meant by the culture of scientific publication? I have not found a definition – at least not in Spanish – that explains what that concept consists of. The Dutch researchers Tijdink, Schipper, Bouter, Maclaine Pont, de Jonge, and Smulders (2016), conducted an extensive study on “how scientists perceive the culture of publication” in the scientific field, where, after previous exploratory checks, They came to the point of prioritizing aspects about others of what they considered to be the “culture of publication.”

Thus, the research team focused on eight topics related to their vision of the culture of the publication, which were:

1. Financing of research

2. Authorship and sequence of authors

3. Quality vs. quantity

4. Pressure to publish

5. Scientific integrity

6. Publication bias

7. Impact factor

8. Competence, prestige, self-satisfaction and vanity

It will also be necessary to see that Tijdink and collaborators are talking about the culture of the publication prevalent in the Dutch biomedical scientific society, whose social scientific context is very mature and totally different from ours.

For them, the increasing number of published articles, the competitiveness for the funds available for research, the prioritization of areas or topics of research, productivity, the citation and the increasing amount of doctoral theses, “are phenomena that can be described as the publishing culture. ” But this is not a definition per se; they talk about that idea but they do not clarify it, which would have been an interesting starting point for their elaborate study.

Among the thousands of professors and researchers who have the habit of writing and publishing in Mexico and perhaps also in a good part of Latin America, as I have noticed, it permeated in them the culture of the publication as a reflection of the environment in which they developed; they learned by seeing others and they were correct in the writing and publication of their works by trial and error; sometimes, for example, not even linking the issue of financing their research with the fact of publishing, as Tijdink et al.

This research funding, I think, belongs rather to the initial processes of project projection and to commitments or promises (with whom the project is financed) to disseminate the resulting data. That is, among Mexican and Latin American professors and researchers, publication culture is a culture forged based on the evolution of the understanding of what writing is to publish in a specialized journal, and on how to proceed to do so. Each one learns and understands in its own way “the mysteries of scientific publication”. This is because there is no formal culture on the subject in universities.

When some of those professors who have already published and who arrive at a scientific writing workshop to incorporate new skills or improve what they have, as I have received in workshops, have an imprint already, that is, a very own way of doing things and they are difficult – if not impossible – reeducation. The reality is that many teachers today investigate a lot, knowing little or just enough to survive in the scientific environment on some of the 8 points mentioned above.

For the experience of more than 25 years that I have in this matter, from having founded and directed a printed newsletter, a newsletter, and created and edited two academic electronic journals (one that has been for 15 years), as well as having been a member of the committee editorial and / or reviewer of at least four journals (in Spanish and English), and dealing with hundreds of authors, who for their approach to the editor, the quality of their papers submitted for review, and their persistent insistence on whether would publish and when it would be published that they sent -all of which shows lack of experience about the art of writing to publish in the academy and in science-, I define the culture concept of academic and scientific publication as:

The set of knowledge and ideas, veteran, skills and trade of a scientist and / or academic, to:

1. manage, organize and analyze the data generated by your research

2. Write the research report with quality

3. Search, find, examine and select the journals of your interest

4. understand the policies and contexts of the journals

5. grant authorship that legitimately corresponds to each of the collaborators

6. Know and assimilate the author’s guides

7. Know how to apply these guides to your articles and / or future work

8. know and understand the peer evaluation process

9. Be patient with the times of revision of the works

10. look for the impact factor

11. assume the intellectual responsibility of the writing

12. recognize previous works connected to the own

13. accredit the institutions that sheltered and / or sponsored the study

14. provide and use bibliographic cataloging of their work

15. take into account the ideal and / or potential readers of the works

16. not be dishonest in the use and handling of the results

17. not plagiarize the ideas and / or works of others

18. assimilate rejection and feedback with the indications of peer reviewers

19. disseminate and share social work once published

20. self-recognized as a researcher-author

21. transmit this knowledge to their students and collaborating learners; and between other things,

22. know how to approach protocol, politely and appropriately to the editor, and, in the end,

23. Get your writings published.

One of the key aspects that Yore found in his study on “scientists as writers” (2002), and that explains in part why science and engineering researchers do not develop or root trans-generationally a culture of the publication that goes beyond beyond the practice of writing a report from time to time and seek to publish it in a specialized journal, is that scientists basically write to inform, unlike writers of literature or philosophy, for whom the act of writing is a process of knowledge construction.

Are there seminars, courses or workshops on the culture of academic and / or scientific publication in a university or college? Apparently not; in fact, Tijdink and collaborators affirm that this topic is an unexplored field (and it seems that way), and that, with the exception of the research carried out by them, it has not been systematically addressed.

In the course-workshop Publish or Perceive about writing and publication of the scientific article, we have incorporated several of the aspects mentioned above for more than 10 years.


“Keep a notebook, darling, said Mae West, and one day he will keep you.” West could have said this in a material sense, but it is also true that he could say it in a spiritual sense. Writing is reborn, affirming the self, the soul and the creative spirit. “

Erica Jong, writer.

How would you describe the writer’s notebook? The ‘notebook’, as one called as a child the notebook he used to write all kinds of things and occurrences in school, fits a bit into the idea of ​​the writer’s notebook described by Ralph Fletcher.

Fletcher explains that, as a child, workers from the telephone company arrived at the patio of his house. They dug a ditch and left. The next morning, curious, he got up very early to go see the well before they covered it again. To his surprise, and because his house adjoined the forest, he found the hole occupied by different kinds of animals. Enchanted with the small zoo, he removed insects, frogs, a turtle and other bugs just in time, because after a few minutes the workers came, put the cables and sealed the hole.

Excited at the idea of ​​finding out what other kind of animals he could attract on his own, and before the eyes of his father’s few friends, he began to dig a new trench. Not as impressive as the professional peak and shovel, but two meters long by half wide and 10 cm deep. As soon as the sun came out the next day, he ran to examine his trap. To his surprise, the site was occupied by all kinds of visitors.

So, remember and compare Fletcher, it is the writer’s notebook, like a ditch in the backyard of the house that attracts and surprises the strangest animals that one can imagine. “And if you dig, they will come. You will be surprised by what you get there. “

He confesses that writing is his professional work, that he has written books for children and young people, and for adult readers. Nonfiction, poetry, novels, short stories, memoirs and writing books for writing teachers. His work includes more than 40 published books and countless collaborations in magazines.

Based on his experience, Fletcher considers that the notebook is the writer’s most important tool. In “The writer’s notebook: freeing the writer that is inside you” (A writer’s notebook: Unlocking the writer within you, Avon Books Inc., 1996), which is already a classic, comments that: “Keep a notebook of annotations It is one of the best ways I know to lead a kind of scriptural life. “

Precisely, on the subject of writing, Ralph Fletcher has approximately 20 published books. His work is very didactic and motivating, but, although in the United States he is a well-known author, it seems to me that in the Spanish-speaking countries very few know him and nobody has yet published it in our language.

“And, in essence, what is a writer’s notebook?” Ralph Fletcher asks, and answers: “It’s not a diary, it’s not a blog, it’s something else. The writer is as simple and ordinary as anyone. The difference is that while people go through life thinking, feeling, seeing, smelling, talking, and leaving behind their daily thoughts and feelings, the writer reacts to all this. And writers need where to record those reactions. ” This, for Fletcher, is the writer’s notebook.

‘The writer’s notebook: freeing the writer who is inside you’, which is a teaching book aimed at children, but useful to young people and adults too, offers all kinds of advice and practical exercises so that those who do not know how to take a Writing notebook learn to make your own.

There are people who write to write, to feel free or to vent their torment, as a form of self-help, without rules of any kind -in what are known as newspapers-, and not necessarily to survive and break the trial trying to create a super bestseller that leads to fame. So without being a professional writer desperate for the prize, anyone can become a happy amateur writer, noting at any time whatever he wants in his notebook.