Sample Research Proposal Paper on Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a category of psychological disorders that generally affect fewer people compared to other psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. The effects of eating disorders are, however, profound, making it necessary to establish effective treatment methods for the conditions. Various challenges are often faced in explaining the epidemiology of eating disorders, primarily because of the low prevalence of such disorders and the tendency of those suffering from eating disorders to conceal their conditions. Individuals suffering from eating disorders also rarely seek professional help, making the disorders a challenge to researchers seeking to understand more and explore available approaches for the treatment of eating disorders. The effectiveness of various treatment approaches, such as psychological treatments, therefore, is still under-researched and requires a combination of several research approaches to explain effectively.

Background Information

Eating disorders affect a relatively small percentage of the population. According to Galmiche, Dechelotte, Lambert, and Tavolacci, eating disorders affect only about 8.4% of women and 2.2% of men across the world (1402). However, these authors suggest that the observed low prevalence of eating disorders can only be attributed to complexities in collecting data on eating disorders and the challenges in reporting patterns for such conditions. The most common instances of eating disorders are, however, projected to affect a large percentage of the population, especially women and girls. From adolescence, the risk of eating disorders grows significantly among women and girls, despite their tendency to hide this information from their families and to avoid seeking professional help. The characterization of eating disorders as per DSM-V includes three categories of disorders anorexia: Nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating (BED); any other forms of eating disorders are conventionally described as atypical eating disorders (Galmiche et al. 1404). Such disorders are linked to significant clinical distress and various forms of social life impairments, which require psychological treatment to be addressed.

Most of the previous studies on eating disorders have been focused on exploring the characterization and prevalence of eating disorders across various population categories. The physical and psychological impacts of eating disorders are commonly used as the key attributes upon which their characterization is based (Mitchison and Mond 2-3). However, most of these past studies are also limited in content because of the relatively low prevalence of eating disorders among the adult population. Therefore, there is evidently a gap in the literature, both in the characterization and prevalence of eating disorders and in the treatment approaches for those disorders. In the proposed study, therefore, the objective is to contribute to this existing gap in the literature by exploring the different types and prevalence of eating disorders both from a literature review perspective and from a qualitative research design based on surveys among past and present victims of eating disorders. The study will contribute positively both to academia and clinical practice in the treatment of eating disorders. To academia, the study expands the dearth of research available on eating disorders, which is currently limited by the low evidence levels on the subject. In clinical practice, evaluation of the effectiveness of psychological treatment for eating disorders will be useful in recommending an approach to treatment, which could be applicable for a large number of victims in the long run.

Aims and Hypothesis

The proposed study is aimed at exploring the concept of eating disorders in a more detailed form, expounding on its various forms to understand their causes. The research will also aim at determining the effectiveness of psychological treatment as an approach to addressing eating disorders among the adult population. In order to attain these aims, the proposed research hypothesis is:

H0: Psychological treatment results in positive outcomes in the management of eating disorders.

The core objective of the proposed research will be to explore the effects of psychological treatment on all categories of eating disorders and thus to confirm the accuracy of the hypothesis.

Participants, Recruitment, Power

The study will be conducted with a minimum of 10 participants. The participants for the study will be recruited based on various criteria, including having experienced eating disorders within the past three months and having undergone psychological treatment for the conditions; patients who are currently undergoing treatments for eating disorders; and participants who suffer from eating disorders and are yet to be subjected to any treatment. All the participants also have to be above 18 years of age and thus capable of giving informed consent. The recruitment for the research will be conducted through the purposive sampling technique. Purposive sampling is suitable whereby the study focuses on a specific category of people, and in which random sampling would result in less than optimum results. The recruitment will, therefore, be conducted within the context of a hospital, particularly among psychotherapists. From this set of participants, it is expected that the probability of finding a link between psychotherapy and improved outcomes in eating disorders will be higher than 50%.


When conducting the research, the key measures will include the percentage changes in the weight of participants and the rated feelings of wellness based on patients’ self-reports. The percentage change in the participants’ weight following diagnosis and treatment is considered an indication of changes in eating habits depending on intended treatment objectives. For instance, individuals who have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa would be expected to gain weight following psychological treatment, and a percentage increase in weight would be considered an indication of treatment effectiveness. Contrariwise, individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa would be expected to report a decrease in weight following psychological treatments. Both categories of patients would also be expected to report behavior changes following treatment, and a positive change would indicate treatment effectiveness.


The study will be conducted using a mixed approach to research. A comparative survey aimed at evaluating the performance of the selected psychological treatment processes on individuals with eating disorders will be utilized. For participants who had suffered from eating disorders and had been subjected to psychological treatments within the three months prior to the study, data will be collected from the medical records provided by healthcare providers. For those who are currently undergoing psychological treatment for eating disorders, evaluation data will be collected from provider records as well as from the patients; the provider records will give data on measures such as the weights of the participants at the start of therapy and the self-reports of participants regarding behaviors such as binge eating and inducing vomiting or self-starvation. The participants who are yet to start the psychological treatment process will give their own data at the start of the treatment and the end of the treatment. The data collection will be carried out using a survey sheet in which the participants’ weights will be recorded before and after the treatment processes. A period of 4 weeks is expected to be sufficient for monitoring the effectiveness of psychological treatment and observing behavior change in the patients. The survey will also contain questions relating to patients’ behaviors that are considered indicative of eating disorders and the frequencies at which they are involved in such behaviors every week. Each participant will be assigned a single survey sheet on which the records for the start of the treatment will be shown alongside those obtained at the end of the treatment.

Ethical Issues

The research will involve working with human subjects. For such research, various ethical issues have to be considered in order to ensure the validity and reliability of findings. The primary ethical principles that are important in any research include respect for autonomy and informed consent, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, and confidentiality (truthfulness) (Yip, Han, and Sng 686). These principles will be applied when working with the participants in various ways. For instance, autonomy and informed consent will be realized through a developed informed consent form, which participants will be expected to sign prior to engaging in the study. The researcher will be responsible for explaining to the potential participants the objective of the research, the implications of research findings, and the importance of their participation towards achieving the goals of the study. Additionally, the potential participants will also be made aware that participation is out of the individual will and that they had the right to refuse to participate without any ramifications. Only participants who accept to participate willingly will be expected to sign the informed consent form.

The key requirement to adhere to the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence will be for the researcher to respect the dignity of all participants.  Beneficence relates to doing well, while non-maleficence relates to not harming participants (Burles and Bally 6). In adhering to these principles, therefore, there will be a clear explanation that besides the treatment, there would be no individual benefits to the participants; hence they should not expect any form of compensation through the process. They would, however, not be forced to participate or threatened in any way. All information pertaining to the participants will be held confidential to adhere to the requirement for confidentiality. The participation will be on an anonymous basis and no identifying information for the participants or any other crucial information, such as medical histories, residential addresses, and phone numbers, will be availed. The data collected during the research will be stored solely by the researcher over the entire period of research and thereafter. After data analysis and research conclusion, the data will be destroyed by burning the collected sheets.

Anticipated Results

From the research, it is expected that one category of eating disorders may be found to be more prevalent than the others and that the prevalence of eating disorders is most likely to vary by age, gender, and lifestyle characteristics of participants. Specifically, past research has shown that women are more likely to suffer from eating disorders compared to men and that AN is the most prevalent form of eating disorders (Mitchison and Mond 4). Similar or slightly different patterns may be obtained during this study. On the effectiveness of psychological treatments on eating disorders, no variation is expected in terms of the type of eating disorder, gender, or the age of the participants. Figure 1 below shows the expected patterns of change in various symptoms associated with eating disorders following the treatment. Previous researches on psychological treatment of eating disorders have shown that the treatment is effective for various kinds of eating disorders (Herpertz-Dahlmann 440), and the same patterns are expected in this study.

Figure 1. Frequencies of various symptoms of eating disorders before and after treatment

Implications of the Study

The study is expected to have implications for research and clinical practice. In research, one of the most prevalent challenges is obtaining information on eating disorders, and this is attributed to the low prevalence rates for those disorders. With the proposed study, the information available on eating disorders will be more expansive. Additionally, the study will be using mixed-method research with a literature review as well as primary data on eating disorders. The findings of the study will, therefore, be relevant for research. Similarly, the implications of the findings on clinical practice will be widespread. Through the study, it will be possible for the psychiatric and somatic complications associated with various types of eating disorders to be recognized more clearly in presenting patients. Besides the recognition of symptoms, the research will also expand the applicability of psychological treatments for eating disorders. It is expected that by confirming the effectiveness of psychological treatment methods, it will be easy for therapists to select the most appropriate treatment methods for the condition.




Works Cited

Burles, Meridith C. and Jill M. G. Bally. ‘Ethical, Practical, and Methodological Considerations for Unobtrusive Qualitative Research About Personal Narratives Shared on the Internet.’ International Journal of Qualitative Methods, vol. 17, 2018, pp. 1-9. Accessed 11 August 2020.

Galmiche, Maria, Pierre Dechelotte, Gregory Lambert, Marie Pierre Tavolacci. ‘Prevalence of Eating Disorders over the 2000–2018 Period: A Systematic Literature Review.’ The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 109, no. 5, 2019, pp. 1402-1413. Accessed 11 August 2020.

Herpertz-Dahlmann, Beate. ‘Treatment of Eating Disorders in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.’ Current Opinion in Psychiatry, vol. 30, no. 6, 2017, pp. 438-445. Accessed 11 August 2020.

Mitchison, Deborah and Jonathan Mond. ‘Epidemiology of Eating Disorders, Eating Disordered Behaviour, and Body Image Disturbance in Males: A Narrative Review.’ Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 3, no. 20, 2015. Accessed 11 August 2020.

Yip, Camille, Nian-Lin Reena Han, and Ban Leong Sng. ‘Legal and Ethical Issues in Research.’ Indian Journal of Anesthesia, vol. 60, no. 9, 2016, pp. 684-688. Accessed 11 August 2020.