How to Design a Research Project in Environmental Economics

Preparing a proposal for a research project is a skill we tend to take for granted, although it is rarely taught in university. Written guides are limited to formats and application forms which briefly list the information requirements of a funding agency, but rarely explain why it important to provide that information. A clear research proposal is important not only because it increases the chances of getting funding but because it is necessary to the design of an efficient project that will produce valid results. Many of the implementation problems that projects encounter could be avoided if the steps needed to carry out the project had been thought through and specified at the proposal stage. This paper provides suggestions about how a thorough research proposal might be designed. The purpose is not to provide tips on how to fill out the forms. Instead it is to assist researchers in thinking through the steps needed to carry out a project for maximum impact with minimum effort, something that is in the best interests of the researcher as well as the funding agency. Like most of us, the author has had no formal training in preparing research proposals. The comments made are based on fifteen years of experience in assessing research proposals as a staff member of IDRC. They were prepared for environmental economists and include examples from that field, but the principles are broadly applicable to other social sciences. This paper is intended to help readers avoid some of the mistakes others have made and to make the research process a little bit easier.

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Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia