Guidelines on Writing a Research Proposal

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Guidelines on writing a research proposal


This is a guide to writing M.A. research proposals. The same principles apply to dissertation proposals and to proposals to most funding agencies. It includes a model outline, but advisor, committee and funding agency expectations vary and your proposal will be a variation on this basic theme. Use these guidelines as a point of departure for discussions with your advisor. They may serve as a straw-man against which to build your understanding of both your project and of proposal writing.

For USM students, the same rules apply as for proposals everywhere in the world.

Proposal Writing

Proposal writing is important to your pursuit of a graduate degree. The proposal specifies what
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One problem with this type of research is that you might find the perfect succinct answer to your question on the night before (or after) you turn in the final draft --- in someone else's work. This certainly can knock the wind out of your sails. (But note that even a straight-ahead science thesis can have the problem of late in the game discovering that the work you have done or are doing has already been done, this is where familiarity with the relevant literature by both yourself and your committee members is important.)

A Couple of Models for Proposals

A Two Page (Preliminary Proposal) Model

Here is a model for a very brief (maybe five paragraph) proposal that you might use to interest faculty in sitting on your committee. People who are not yet hooked may especially appreciate its brevity.

In the first paragraph, the first sentence identifies the general topic area. The second sentence gives the research question, and the third sentence establishes its significance.

The next couple of paragraphs gives the larger historical perspective on the topic. Essentially list the major schools of thought on the topic and very briefly review the literature in the area with its major findings. Who has written on the topic and what have they found? Allocate about a sentence per important person or finding. Include any preliminary

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