Dr. Hoppes and the Procrastinator's Domain

Writing a Paper Proposal

A Paper Proposal is the first step to writing a Research Paper. The purpose of the proposal is to get clearance from the instructor that the topic you have chosen will meet the requirements for the course, and that the topic is a good historical topic. Most students and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research proposal means, nor do they understand its importance. To put it bluntly, one's research is only as a good as one's proposal. An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project almost from the beginning. A high quality proposal, on the other hand, promises success for the project.

A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. Generally, a research proposal should contain all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.

Regardless of your research area and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions: What you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it. The proposal should have sufficient information to convince your readers that you have an important research idea, that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and the major issues, and that your methodology is sound.


A. Introduction:

The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the necessary background or context for your research problem. There is no prescription on how to write an interesting and informative opening paragraph. A lot depends on your creativity, your ability to think clearly and the depth of your understanding of the historical problem. Try to set the historical stage for your topic. Keep it brief, but powerful.

B. Literature Review:

The literature review section will constitute the majority of the proposal. The literature review serves several important functions:

·Gives credit to those who have laid the groundwork for your research.

·Demonstrates your knowledge of the research topic.

·Shows your ability to critically evaluate relevant literature on your topic.

·Indicates your ability to integrate and synthesize the existing literature.

If you are having difficulty in the review of literature, keep in mind that most literature reviews suffer when the student lacks organization and structure, lacks focus, unity and coherence, is repetitive or verbose, or fails to cite influential historical viewpoints.

C. Research Question:

The research question is a simple paragraph telling the reader what you intend to study. Frame out a question, or even a series of questions, that you think are necessary for your topic. A good set of questions will help you structure the research paper. How to frame the research problem is perhaps the biggest problem in proposal writing. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to frame your research question.

D. Methodology:

The last part of the proposal gives you an opportunity to identify the resources available to you that will be important to your research paper. Identify primary and secondary sources. Use this section to frame out the parameters of your paper.


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