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A Format for Research Proposals

by Jeffrey Stern, Graduate Student, Program in Social Networks, School of Social Sciences,
University of California Irvine. This advice is at

Jeffrey Stern offers these simple and straightforward set of considerations for a student preparing to submit a research proposal:


A paragraph summarizing your topic of research, who or what will be the object of data collection, how the data will be collected, how it will be analyzed, and what results you expect (possible outcomes).

The Problem

"What problem do I want to address or what question(s) do I want to answer?"
- Elaborate on the variables and their relationships.

Background to the Problem

"Why is this problem or question important?"
"Who else has worked on this or similar problems?"
"What methods were used?"
"What were the results or conclusions of previous research?"

- In this section, show the relevance of your research to other research that has been done.

Research Design

"How will I limit my study?"
"What data do I need to collect?"
"What methods will I use to collect the data and how will I justify them?"

- In this section, show how you will avoid doing it all.

Expected Results

"How will I analyze my data?"
"What results do I expect from my research?"

- In this section, elaborate on how you will use your data to answer your research question(s), to make generalizations, to defend assertions, to examine possible alternative outcomes to construct a plausible argument.


Make sure these follow a recognised format, and do so consistently.