Delta State University
Social Science 470/570

Preparing a Research Proposal

The task of your group project is to prepare a research 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.

Your proposal should be 10-15 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.

(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.

(5) A methodology:  How do you intend to study the issue you have identified?  Your methods should stem from your research question.  If you want to study the effect of alcoholism on crime rates in Mississippi counties, you should propose methods derived from a post-positivist perspective.  If you want to study how Cleveland residents living below the poverty line understand their options at assistance from social services agencies, you should propose methods derived from an interpretivist perspective.

(6) 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.

(7) 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.

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

Tips for Preparing an Effective Proposal: