How To Write A Research Proposal
The starting point for every paper, be it a term paper or a finals’ paper, should be a thoroughly worked-out research proposal. Investing sufficient time and thought into writing a research proposal will yield a good return and can save you a lot of time, confusion and disappointment when actually writing your paper. A research proposal serves several purposes: - It gives an overview of the relevance and objective of a research project. - It gives an overview of the content, the procedure and the timing of a research project. - It shows whether a research project is manageable in scope and timing. A research proposal has six key components: - A title page - An abstract which summarizes the project - A detailed description of the project - A time schedule for the project - An overview of the structure of the paper (Gliederung) - References The following sections give an overview of each component. Although each research proposal should follow this guideline, you will find that not all sections are (equally) applicable for each project, since every research project is different. For instance, a paper that focusses on literature review or a theoretical analysis requires a somewhat different research proposal than a paper that reports an empirical study. Identify the aspects in each section that are relevant to your paper. In total, the research proposal should not exceed 4-5 pages. Useful resources are listed at the end of this guideline. I. TITLE PAGE Give the title of your research paper, your name, your student ID, your course of study, the semester you are in, your contact details, and the course details for which you are submitting the proposal. II. ABSTRACT The purpose of the abstract is to give the reader a brief introductory summary of the project. The abstract should not be longer than 100-150 words. It should address the following questions: - What is the topic of research? - What is the research question? - Why is this relevant? - How do I study the topic? - What kind of findings do I anticipate? - How will I interpret the findings? - What are the implications of my research paper? (c) November 2007, Holger Hopp 1
Even though the abstract comes first in a research proposal, it is advisable to write it last, i.e. once you have spelt out all information in detail in the later sections. III. PROJECT DESCRIPTION In this section, you give a detailed account of what, why and how you are going to write about. Write this section in a goal-directed manner. Do not attempt to give an exhaustive overview of the literature you have read and do not try to look at every angle of a problem. Rather, everything in this section should relate clearly to your research question. 1) What is the research question? In the research question, you succinctly express the objective of your paper. If you feel your project cannot be formulated in a research question, there is something wrong with it. Every suitable project addresses a clear research question! 2) Why is this relevant? In this section, you briefly explain why you consider the research question to be relevant. What does your paper add to previous research in the field? 3) What do you want to study/write about? Here, you zoom in on the particular topic/phenomenon/problem your paper addresses to answer the research question. Make clear why your topic, etc. is suitable for answering the research question. 4) What did previous research find? In this section, you provide a brief overview of the relevant literature. Typically, you outline the different positions/approaches/theories in the field, identify flaws or lacunae in previous research, pinpoint open questions and show how your study follows up on or relates to previous research. It is important to keep this section goal-oriented and brief. Typically, you do not need to cite more than 5-7 sources in this section. 5) What is your hypothesis? Formulate a clear and testable hypothesis. Unlike the...
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