Delta State University

SSC 470/570

Fall 2003


Group Project:

Preparing a Research Proposal


For the semester project, each student will pair up with another student in the class to prepare a research proposal.  The guidelines below should help you prepare your proposal.


In a research proposal, you are suggesting a research project that you intend to undertake.  Proposals are generally submitted to funding agencies that finance research projects, and to oversight committees that evaluate research projects.  Note that this is NOT a research paper, and requires no original research, other than preparing a literature review.  Your job is to DESIGN a research project, and prepare a proposal that outlines how you intend to carry out this research.


Your proposal should be 12 pages, and should include the following elements:


(1) An executive summary:  This is a one-page (maximum) summary of your proposed research project.  What is the question that your project will address?  In what context?  How will you study this (i.e. what methods will you use?).  Who will benefit from this project?  Be concise, and just give the most important information in the executive summary.  You should probably write this last, after you have completed the proposal.


(2) An introduction:  Introduce your project, and say what you intend to cover in the proposal.


(3) A context and research question:  Briefly state the context in which you intend to undertake your study.  This context should frame your research question.  The research question is a concisely worded statement (in the form of a question) of exactly what you intend to study.  Make sure it is worded in a way that suggests a nuanced answer (e.g., do not write a yes/no question).  The question should provide you an ability to discuss an issue and develop an argument.  The question should also reflect the overall research strategy.


(4) A literature review:  Your literature review provides the theoretical context for your study.  What is already known on this topic?  You should find articles, books, or book chapters on your topic, summarize them briefly (in 2-3 sentences), and combine them to show where your study fits into the issue you are studying.  A review of existing literature is a good place to start when you are developing a research project, as it provides clues as to what sort of research is necessary.  Your literature review should summarize the results of at least eight articles.


(5) An hypothesis:  You should clearly state what hypothesis you are testing, or what working hypothesis will guide your research.  You may also suggest anticipated findings.


(6) A methodology:  How do you intend to study the issue you have identified?  Your methods should stem from your research question, and should address your hypothesis.  You should discuss the general approach you intend to take, how you intend to collect data, and how you intend to analyze your data.


(7) A justification:  This is the so-what issue.  Prepare a clear statement summarizing the utility of this research.  Who will benefit from the results of your research?  Why is your research important?  What contribution will it make?  This is where you “sell” this project.


(8) A conclusion:  Provide a one- or two-paragraph conclusion that summarizes the study and leaves the reviewer with a sense of how important this project is.


(9) Attachments:  Provide a c.v. (resume) for each project member.


Turn in the following (short) assignments on the specified dates:


(1)  General Topic (Due September 18):  Submit a sheet with the names of your group members and a general idea of the topic of your research proposal.


(2)  Annotated Bibliography (Due October 9):  Submit a list of five references pertaining to your topic with a short synopsis of each article.  This should assist you in preparing your literature review.


(3)  Research Question (Due October 21):  Submit a concise research question that will guide your proposed research project.  By this point you should have an outline of a research strategy, and your research question should reflect your general approach.


NOTE:  Your final proposal is due on December 4.


Tips for Preparing an Effective Proposal:


• Be concise.  You must present enough information that the reviewer can understand what it is you intend to do, how you intend to do it, and what purpose it will serve.  You do not need to present any research findings or extensive theoretical discussions, however.

• Take time to develop a clear research question.  A well-conceived and well-written research question will make the rest of the proposal much easier to prepare.

• Be clear how you intend to address your research question.  Use the frameworks provided in the text and the other course material to develop your methodological approach.  Develop a strong research design (given the topic of this class, this is probably the most important element in the proposal).

• Make sure there is a consistent and logical link between your literature review, your research question, your methods, and your justification.