Research Paper Proposal

A research proposal is an overview of the argument contained in your working thesis statement, sometimes called a hypothesis. It is not based on research, but on what you already know, or think you know, about your topic.

If done well, a research proposal will almost serve as a preliminary outline of your paper. It offers your working thesis (hypothesis) and explanation, which should list the points you want to make. The sub-points are the main points of your paper. And the objections represent the other side of the argument.

This is a good time to reconsider the initial thoughts you had earlier in the module about your thesis (or hypothesis): do you need to rewrite it? If you have trouble filling in the sections below, an improperly formed thesis might be the problem.

The research proposal has 5 parts:

Working Thesis: a one-sentence paragraph; no introduction is necessary.

Explanation: a statement that includes the points you think you will be discussing in your paper.

Subpoints: each sub-point explains more fully a point mentioned in your explanation.

Possible Objections: a brief discussion of the opposition’s point of view.

Reply to Objections: your brief answer to the opposition.

Your research proposal should look like the five parts listed above. The number of sub-points may vary, but if you have only two, you may not have enough material for a good paper. For a simple undergraduate paper, limit your sub-points to 4 or 5.

The point of this exercise is to give you a focus, to force you to think about your topic independently of any research you may do or have done. This will probably serve as a basis for your paper, although it is quite likely that, once you begin your research, some of your ideas will change. That is the point of research: working to find an answer to a question!

Although your early research may have given you some great information, it is not necessary to rely on research for a good research proposal: you are simply outlining the argument that you expect to make in your final paper.

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