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Nano-sized zirconia (ZrO2) powder is synthesized using sol-gel technique involving hydrolysis and condensation of zirconium(IV) n-propoxide in an alcohol solution, utilizing hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) polymer as a steric stabilizer. It is demonstrated that ZrO2 nanoparticle size can be reduced using high R-value (defined as the ratio of molar concentrations of water and alkoxide). It is also shown that ZrO2 nanoparticle size can be reduced further by synthesizing these particles in the presence of HPC polymer. The agglomeration tendency of ZrO2 nanoparticles is demonstrated to decrease due to the steric hindrance created by the adsorbed polymer. The nanocrystallite size and their 'hard-aggregates' formation tendency are observed to affect the high temperature metastable tetragonal phase stabilization at room temperature within ZrO2 particles.