Crafting an international development research proposal

Guidance on writing an international development research proposal.

Assessment of international development research proposals

Whilst the same standards of excellence are required for international development research as for any other type of research funding, there are differences in what is expected in an application.

Critically, applications are typically assessed by highly interdisciplinary panels. This will include academics outwith your discipline, development experts from outside academia (eg. NGOs or the UK Government Department for International Development) and in-country representatives. It is therefore key that non-subject specialists can understand your application.

Crafting a 'pathways to impact' using a theory of change approach

The theory of change approach is now widely used in international development by bilateral donors, multilateral agencies and international non-governmental organisations. 

We have developed a toolkit to assist you in writing a pathway to impact using a theory of change approach.

Download Toolkit: Crafting a pathways to impact using the theory of change approach (University staff only)

We also have more comprehensive resources available for those wanting to develop a deeper understanding of theory of change, Logframes and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) frameworks.

View international development research resources (University of Edinburgh staff only)

Gender in international development research

Experience has shown we cannot assume that technology and research will benefit everyone equally. Impacts interact with existing social structures – such as gender inequality. In the development sector, it is widely accepted that projects that take gender specific experiences into account are far more effective and deliver more positive outcomes in ensuring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal’s central agenda to ‘leave no one behind’. 

Therefore, funders are increasingly asking for evidence that projects have taken into account how gender is relevant and that they are taking active steps to reduce inequalities.

GenderED – the University’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexualities studies – has developed an extensive suite of resources to help you do this.

Gender sensitive research - genderED

Ethical Action in Global Research

All research conducted by the University of Edinburgh must comply with the highest standards of integrity and ethical practice, as set out in the UKRIO Concordat to Support Research Integrity. Research activities conducted in low and middle income countries (LMICs) and/or with partners in LMICs present additional ethical challenges, throughout all stages of the research, including but not restricted to:

  • Place: The context in which the research takes place (including cultural, political, economic and social forces), and its impact on the research activities
  • People: All those involved in the research (including the research team, funders, partners, participants, and potential beneficiaries), and their needs and concerns
  • Principles: The multiple values and standards that guide the research (from the UK, in other countries, in different disciplines etc.), and how these may intersect
  • Precedent: Learning from and building on past individual and/or collective experiences and insights

The University of Edinburgh has funded the development of an ethics toolkit for researchers, practitioners and others who conduct or support research in complex, low income or fragile settings.

This toolkit is the result of a series of discussions with more than 200 global researchers from more than 30 countries designed to inform and support ethical choices in global research.

We recommend using the toolkit as a framework to consider many ethical issues that can exist throughout the lifecycle of a global project – from idea and proposal development, to data collection and analysis, through to dissemination and impact.

Ethical Action in Global Research - Toolkit

Further information

Read further information on UKRI gender equality and international development research.

Information about genderED 

Writing research for development proposal

In 2018, we developed a toolkit to assist academics in writing a GCRF proposal. The guidance was based on analysis of successful and unsuccessful GCRF proposals, feedback from GCRF assessment panels, and available advice from UKRI and other GCRF delivery partners.

Due to significant reductions in the allocation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding made available for research, the GCRF is no available but much of the content of the toolkit is applicable to other ODA funding streams, as well as more general international development research calls.

Download Toolkit: Writing a Research for International Development Proposal (University of Edinburgh access only)


International development research resources (University staff only)

Keep in touch

Read our posts on the Edinburgh Research Office blog

Email us