Outline for a Research Proposal
The proposal uses a modified portfolio model. That means that most of the proposal should come from assignments that you did during the semester. You should revise these assignments based on the comments you received on them and your own developing understanding of research methods. There are a few sections where you will have to do original work.
For future reference, you should know that in addition to the sections below you would usually have to include a budget section and a section of the statistical techniques to be used in a proposal to a funding agency. You would also most likely have a separate literature review section. In addition, you would have to fill out a complete set of IRB forms. There is an online example, but it is much more developed and polished than yours will be.
1. Front matter
abstract (1-2 paragraph summary)
table of contents
What is the proposal about and why is it interesting and/or important?
3. Hypotheses or research questions
Hypotheses or research questions
For each hypothesis, provide a detailed explanation of why you believe that the hypothesis will be true. This should include the relationship of your hypothesis to existing theoretical and empirical literature.
For each question, provide a detailed discussion of the question, why it is important and what the likely answer will be. This should include the relationship of your question to existing theoretical and empirical literature.
4. Study Description
How would the study actually be done? Why have you made the choices you have? This includes method, sampling, measurement of key variables.
Other study information such as ethical issues and expected problems.
Summary and restatement of why the study is important.
For example, statistical information, description of the study location,
Title Page: The title page should include the title of the study; the names, titles and affiliations of the principal investigator (you); and the date of submission of the proposal.
Abstract: The abstract should express the goals, methodology, anticipated results and significance of the proposed research. It should be no more than 250 words (about two-thirds of a page, single spaced). Much of the abstract can be drawn from the text of the proposal. I recommend writing the abstract last.
Table of Contents: The table of contents should list all of the major subheadings of the proposal and note the page numbers on which they first appear.
Introduction: This section will be largely based on the bibliography assignment and the follow up work you do on it in addition to in-class writing and discussions.
Purpose: This should be a brief statement answering the following questions: What research question are you attempting to answer? Why is this research needed? How does it contribute to the field of sociology, criminal justice, and/or social work? This should draw the reader into the rest of the proposal and give him or her a sense of the project as a whole. You will cover some of the same items in more detail in other sections.
Goal: State the overall general aims or long term goals of the proposed research. Describe the general nature of the problem to be addressed. This should be a more detailed and specific explaination of what the study will contribute.
Hypotheses or Guiding Research Questions
State the hypotheses to be tested or the guiding questions to be explored. Generally, proposals of this length will have between 1 and 5 hypotheses or questions. Make it clear whether your hypotheses are derived from someone else’s work.
Each hypothesis or question should be relatively simple, but in the paragraphs before or after them, they should be discussed in detail and tied to the existing scholarly literature on your topic.
Description of the Proposed Study: This will be outlined for assignment 10.
Describe how the research is going to be conducted. What research design is to be employed? (some possibilities are experimental, “quasi-experimental,” longitudinal, cross sectional).
Present concisely your reasons for the proposed method of studying the problem. Is the proposed research a replication, a new approach, etc.?
Explain in detail how the data are to be collected – survey, participant observation, case study, or through unobtrusive measures such as the use of existing data. Say why you chose this method, providing support from authorities in the field.
Describe the key variables or themes to be studied. These should correspond to those in your hypotheses or research questions. Discuss any control variables. Ideas for control variables should come from the existing literature or from your own ideas.
Explain how each variable or concept will be measured and discuss the issues of reliability and validity of measurement that are involved. If you borrow measurement instruments from somewhere else (that is, if you copy questions), make sure to give that source credit. This will probably come from the survey assignment or the in-depth interview assignment.
This should not be a copy of the complete questionnaire, but it should refer the the questionnaire or interview guide which should be included as an appendix.
Subjects of the Study:
This section should be a revision of your sampling assignment (which will also be revised for assignment 10).
Describe the unit of analysis to be studied. Justify this selection.
Describe the population and/or the sampling frame from which specific subjects will be drawn.
Describe any sampling procedure to be used.
Discuss any problems you might encounter.
Point out the limitations of your study.
Identify any procedures or situations that may be hazardous and discuss the precautions to be taken. If the research utilizes surveys or interviews, describe the steps the researcher will take to protect the privacy, confidentiality and personal security of the human subjects.
If you will be dealing with vulnerable populations, make sure to discuss their needs.
Facilities and Special Resources:
Describe the facilities available or needed for the project.
Describe any special resources you would need to carry out the project or any special expenses you would have (not including paying yourself, but, for example, you could include any payments you would make to interview subjects).
If the proposed project requires collaboration with other institutions, describe it and indicate how you expect it could be obtained.
What is the potential importance of the proposed research? Is it important for theory, practice or policy? Does it offer new ideas or contribute to the bulk of knowledge in this area? Does it open doors for new research? How does it improve studies within this particular field?
This section is the conclusion so it is the final chance for you to convince the reader that this is a project that should be done. You should reiterate the main points and emphasize the contribution of the project.
Include all works cited in the text of the proposal, including the sources of any existing statistics. Each citation should include the name of the author(s), the date of publication, the title of the article or book, the name of the journal and the volume, number and page numbers of the article (if the source is an article) or the name and location of the publisher (if the source is a book) using the ASA Style. See below for some models for this. Make sure that your bibliography is in alphabetical order. Do note separate different types of publications.
Writing and Documenting Your Work
For this class, use the ASA style for citations. Some of these documents also discuss the issue of plagarism (as does Babbie, pp. 430-431 and the Guide to Writing Sociology Papers.). Any plagarism will be grounds for a failing grade FOR THE COURSE. Please be careful, and make sure that you have read the guidelines.