Quick Hints on How to Write a Research Paper Proposal

The reason for writing a research paper proposal is to give your professor, T/A, or academic advisor a chance to provide feedback on your topic before starting your research. The process of writing a proposal can seem tricky at first, but following these suggested hints will help you create a great proposal:

Justification / Reason for Your Topic

Within any given subject there may be hundreds of research topics worth writing about. No matter what you choose make sure you explain why you chose your particular topic. Think about how your topic is relevant to the coursework, lectures and readings. Are there common themes or issues from your coursework that you can use?

What Are Your Research Questions?

You should do a little bit of research before submitting your proposal. The purpose for this is that you search for questions within your topic that you would like answered. If your research paper prompt gives you one or more questions to use then your work is halfway done. If you are asked to come up with your own topic be sure to try to answer something that isn’t already available in another work. Your research should be original or an extension of someone else’s work.

What Is Your Answer to Your Main Research Question?

Using your list of research questions you should be able to narrow your focus to just one single question which will be the foundation of your entire paper. Next, you will want to provide a preliminary answer in the form of a thesis. At this stage your thesis statement doesn’t need to be fully developed but it should be narrow and specific enough that it brings focus to your research paper.

Preview Your Argument

Your proposal should include a sort of preview of how your main arguments will be arranged and how they will logically unfurl to prove your thesis. You can also use this preview as the basis for your outline, saving you time as well as giving you some idea about what connections you need to make to achieve a more effective argument.

Give a Preliminary List of Resources

Your research paper prompt will usually specify how many academic resources you should include in your work, but if you aren’t sure you should immediately check with your professor or TA before writing your proposal. For each resource you choose, explain how it contributes to your research paper and give reasons why you have selected each one.