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How to Write an Effective Research Proposal Statement of Purpose

As a nursing student, you will likely be required to write a research proposal that includes a well-crafted statement of purpose. This section is critical as it outlines the main aims, objectives, and significance of your proposed research study. A clear and compelling statement of purpose not only helps you clarify your research goals but also convinces your audience (professors, reviewers, potential funders) of the importance and relevance of your work.

Understanding the Statement of Purpose

What is a Statement of Purpose?

A statement of purpose, also known as a research problem statement or research rationale, is a concise description of the main issue, problem, or gap in knowledge that your research aims to address. It explains why your study is necessary and what contribution it aims to make to the existing body of knowledge.

Why is a Statement of Purpose Important?

The statement of purpose serves several crucial functions in your research proposal:

  1. Focuses your research: A clear and well-defined statement helps you stay focused on the central problem you want to investigate, preventing you from straying off-topic or exploring tangential issues.
  2. Justifies your research: It explains the significance of your study and why it is worth pursuing, helping to convince reviewers, professors, and potential funders of its value and relevance.
  3. Guides your methodology: The statement of purpose informs the research questions, hypotheses, and methods you will use to address the identified problem or gap in knowledge.
  4. Provides context: It situates your research within the broader context of your field, demonstrating your understanding of existing literature, theories, and knowledge gaps.
  5. Generates interest: A well-written statement of purpose can capture the reader’s attention and generate interest in your proposed research, increasing the likelihood of approval or funding.

Steps to Writing an Effective Statement of Purpose

Writing an effective statement of purpose requires careful thought, planning, and attention to detail. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Identify the Research Problem or Gap

Start by clearly identifying the central problem, issue, or gap in knowledge that your research aims to address. This could be a lack of understanding about a particular phenomenon, a need for further investigation into a specific area, or a practical problem that requires a solution.


  • “There is a lack of research on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for reducing stress and burnout among nursing students, who face unique stressors and challenges during their education and training.”
  • “The impact of nurse staffing levels on patient outcomes, such as mortality rates, length of stay, and incidence of adverse events, in intensive care units is not well understood, despite its importance for patient safety and quality of care.”

2. Explain the Significance and Implications

Once you have identified the problem or gap, explain why it is significant and important to address. Highlight the potential benefits, implications, or contributions of your research for nursing practice, education, policy, or theory. This helps justify the relevance and value of your proposed study.


  • “Addressing stress and burnout among nursing students is crucial, as high levels of these issues can negatively impact their well-being, academic performance, and retention in the nursing profession, ultimately leading to a shortage of qualified nurses.”
  • “Understanding the relationship between nurse staffing levels and patient outcomes in intensive care units can inform staffing policies, resource allocation, and patient safety initiatives, ultimately improving the quality of care and potentially saving lives.”

3. Provide Background and Literature Review

Give a brief overview of the existing literature and current state of knowledge related to your research problem. This helps situate your study within the broader context of your field and demonstrates your familiarity with the topic. Highlight any gaps, inconsistencies, or limitations in the current research that your study aims to address.


“Previous studies have explored the use of mindfulness-based interventions for stress reduction in various populations, such as healthcare professionals and college students. However, few studies have focused specifically on nursing students, who face unique stressors and challenges related to their academic workload, clinical rotations, and exposure to emotionally demanding situations. Additionally, much of the existing research has relied on self-reported measures of stress, rather than objective physiological measures.”

4. State Your Research Objectives and Questions

Clearly articulate the main objectives, aims, or goals of your proposed research study. These should directly address the identified problem or gap in knowledge and provide a roadmap for your investigation. Additionally, include your specific research questions or hypotheses, if applicable.


  • “The primary objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention in reducing perceived stress, burnout, and physiological markers of stress (e.g., cortisol levels) among nursing students.”
  • “This research aims to examine the relationship between nurse staffing levels (measured by nurse-to-patient ratios) and patient outcomes, such as mortality rates, length of stay, and incidence of adverse events (e.g., medication errors, falls, pressure ulcers), in intensive care units. Specifically, we hypothesize that higher nurse staffing levels will be associated with better patient outcomes.”

5. Highlight the Potential Contributions and Implications

Emphasize the potential contributions or implications of your proposed research for nursing practice, education, policy, or theory. This helps strengthen the justification for your study and demonstrates its potential impact or relevance.


  • “The findings of this study could inform the development and implementation of mindfulness-based interventions tailored specifically for nursing students, which could help address issues of stress, burnout, and attrition in nursing education programs.”
  • “By elucidating the relationship between nurse staffing levels and patient outcomes in intensive care units, this research has the potential to inform evidence-based policies and guidelines for nurse staffing in these critical care settings, ultimately improving patient safety and quality of care.”

6. Revise and Refine

After drafting your statement of purpose, review it critically and seek feedback from your supervisor, professors, or peers. Ensure that your statement is concise, clear, and compelling, and that it accurately reflects the scope and goals of your proposed research. Revise and refine your statement as needed, ensuring that it effectively communicates the importance and significance of your study.

Additional Tips

  • Use simple, straightforward language that is easy for your audience (nursing students and faculty) to understand. Avoid jargon or overly technical terms unless they are essential and well-explained.
  • Keep your statement focused and avoid including unnecessary details or tangents that could distract from the main purpose.
  • Be specific about the population, setting, or context of your proposed research, as well as the variables or factors you plan to investigate.
  • Consider using subheadings or bullet points to organize and structure your statement of purpose, making it easier to read and follow.
  • Ensure that your statement of purpose aligns with the overall goals and objectives of your research proposal, as well as the requirements or guidelines provided by your institution or program.

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