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All three of these are stages in doing professional research. You can kind of think of it in architectural terms: sketches, blueprints, and finally building the house.
- Concept paper -- A concept paper is putting your idea onto paper. It includes what the question is, what is already known about that question, and why the question is worth expending energy on in the first place. It also typically includes information about areas that might be problematic from a research standpoint, and also a proposed list of sources. In a lot of ways, a concept paper is used to focus your thoughts and it might not be seen in an "official" way by anyone else.
- Research proposal -- This is the bit that actually can get a "green light" and allows a person to begin research. It is usually what would be examined by "experts" in an academic setting. It is more detailed than the concept paper because it has to prove that the research is needed, and it also has to detail the methods that are going to be used in collecting data. There is also typically an extensive "literature review" of what's already known about the topic.
- Research report -- This is actually doing the work of putting the report together. It includes your research and conclusions. It is the work that will either be accepted as valid or rejected by those who read it. A research report follows a strict outline and must be created with a high level of professionalism.
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