Research Proposal




Proposal Checklist: Quality Assurance Cover Page with Abstract Body of the proposal 1. Introduction (1-2 pages) 2. Conceptual Framework/ Literature Review (3-4 pages) 3. Research Design/ Methods (2-3 pages) 4. Concluding Section (Expected Outcome/ Deliverables) (1 pg) Bibliography Appendix (optional)


The items on this checklist are what we look for when grading your proposal. Before you turn in your proposal please use this checklist to confirm that you met all the requirements (you should be able to check off each box). Ask one of your fellow students and/or others you respect to read your proposal and see if they think all boxes can be checked off.

Cover page

The cover page includes all the required elements and is formatted properly.


1. Clearly indentifies the research question, argument or problem and why the topic is significant.

2. Outlines how the study will be conducted. Identifies the methods you will use to answer your questions.

3. Places your proposal in a scholarly context. In other words, it tells us how your investigation will add value to the literature in this area. Additionally, the abstract contains a clear statement of your objectives: e.g., what you expect to “deliver” as a result of this study.

Body of the proposal

The body of your proposal can be up to 10 pages long (double-spaced, 12 point font) not including the cover page or the bibliography. This is a serious limit. Do not turn in more than 10 pages for the main body of the proposal (approximately 2,500 words). You can turn in less— quality, not quantity is what matters. Your total page count may be a maximum of 15 once you add the cover page, bibliography and a possible page or two of attachments. Most funding agencies asking for proposals have very strict page limits. If they say 10 pages for the main body of your proposal, and you turn in 11 pages— it will be rejected, simple as that. Often proposals have to be read by a team of people and they want short concise statements. This is the logic behind our limits. We are trying to help you get acclimated to a real proposal writing culture. Keep in mind, you will have more room to flesh out the substance of your argument, findings, etc., in the thesis.




The body of the proposal should include the following parts:

1. Introduction (1-2 page)

The opening paragraph (or first page at most) conveys your central question or argument immediately, crisply, and forcefully.

You provide a thumbnail sketch of what we are going to learn as the result of the proposed project that we do not know now. You tell us why it is worth knowing (i.e., the study’s significance). You acknowledge the study’s limitations.

2. Conceptual Framework and Literature Review (3-4 pages)

Elaborates on your research question, argument, or problem. Provides more specifics/background/evidence on why it important. Outlines your specific objectives, including how you expect your research to provide insight into the general topic or problem.

Spells out how the research you propose to do relates to other previous and ongoing research. Tells us if anyone else doing what you propose to do. Meets the two criteria for writing a literature review spelled out by Neuman (2000: 446):

(a). You show the path of prior research and how a current project is linked to it. “A review outlines the direction of research on a question and shows the development of knowledge. A good review places a research project in a context and demonstrates its relevance by making connections to a body of knowledge” (p. 446).

(b). You integrate and summarize what is known in an area. “A review pulls together and synthesizes different results. A good review points out areas where prior studies agree, where they disagree, and where major questions remain. It collects what is known up to a point in time and indicates the direction for future research” (Box 16.1)

3. Research Design and Methods (2-3 pages)

Your research design, or methodology, is your “action plan for getting from here to there, where here may be defined as the initial set of questions to be answered, and there is some set of conclusions (answers) about these questions” (Yin 1994:19).

This section tells us how you will do the research. Your strategy is spelled out. The specific methods you will use are listed. Your competence for this type of work is noted (not in generalities such as “I am determined,” but in terms of skill sets: e.g., I am proficient in GIS).

This section includes a timetable for your research





4. Concluding Section (Expected Outcome/ Deliverables) (1 page)

The proposal ends with detail about the expected outcome (deliverable) of the research (e.g., a causal explanation, a thick description, applied policy input, an evaluation, and/or strategy suggestions).


Has at least 10 scholarly sources from journals and/or books.

Meets the criteria we spelled out for properly formatting the text and references.

Appendices (optional) An appendix can be attached if you have significant material to present that would otherwise obstruct the flow of your proposal. For instance, you may want to attach a map, an organizational chart, or copies of letters from research site administrators who have promised you access and cooperation. But don’t over do it. Don’t include more than one or two attachments.

Format Requirements:

* Use 1″ margins all around and include page numbers! *Double space all text except extended quotes, tables, and other elements that stand apart from the main text (like the caption to a figure or photo). Use single-spacing for the bibliography and abstract.


FORMAT YES NO Does you cover page conform to all the requirements, e.g., title, name, date, USP186 section, etc.?

Are the pages numbered?

Does the entire body of the proposal contain useful subheadings to help the reader navigate the text?

Did you get someone else to read over your proposal?

Are paragraphs coherent?

Are your paragraphs the right length (not too long)?

Did you check spelling and grammar?

Did you eliminate all unnecessary jargon and empty phrases or words (e.g., “really”, “actually”, “with regards to”)?

Did you use the Chicago Maunal of Style for formatting?

Are all the sources cited in the body of the text also in the bibliography?


  • Body of the proposal
  • Bibliography
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