Writing a Research Proposal
These are guidelines to writing a research proposal. The same principles can be applied to dissertation proposals as well as to proposals to most funding agencies. Use such guidelines as a point of discussion with your advisor.
- Research proposal writing is significant to the pursuit of a graduate degree. A research proposal is a scholastic contract between you and the committee. It specifies what you'll do, how you'll do it, and how you'll interpret the results.
- In specifying what exactly will be done, it gives criteria for determining whether it is done. In approving your proposal, the committee gives their best judgment about whether your approach to the research is reasonable and also likely to yield the anticipated results. They are agreeing that they will accept your result as adequate for the purpose of granting a degree. Both parties have advantages from an agreed upon plan.
- The objective in writing a research paper proposal is to describe what you'll do, why it must be done, how you'll do it and what results will be produced. Being clear about such things from the very start will help you finish the thesis in a timely fashion. A vague or weak research paper proposal can lead to a long, painful, and usually unsuccessful thesis. A clean proposal makes the backbone for the thesis itself.
A good example of a research proposal hinges on a good idea. Once you have a very useful idea, you can draft your proposal in an evening. Having a helpful idea hinges on familiarity with your topic. This means a longer preparatory period of observation, reading, discussion, and incubation. Read all that you can in your sphere of interest. Find out what are the significant and missing parts of your understanding. Find out how to build or discover those pieces. Talk about the topic with someone who is in your subject. Then simply write the significant parts as the proposal. Filling in the information which we don't know and which will help us know much more: that's what research is all about.
Proposals help to estimate the size of your project. Do not make the project too large. Nowadays, 60 double spaced pages, with different figures, tables, bibliography, would be too long of a paper. The proposal can be shorter, perhaps 5 pages, or no more than 15 pages. Shoot for 5 pithy pages which indicate to a well-informed audience that you know your topic well and how the logic hangs together, rather than 15 or 20 pages that indicate that you've read many things, though you have not boiled it down yet to a number of prioritized, linked questions.
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