The Research Paper Proposal Structure: Things You Should Know
Research papers will be a major part of your educational career. For many of these assignments, the first step in the process will be to submit a proposal to your instructor. This will provide a summary of what you plan on writing about, along with a generalized outline of the paper. It informs your teacher or professor that you’re on the right track with your research. If your topic is irrelevant or inappropriate, they’ll let you know immediately so that you can choose something else to write about. Proposals usually have a certain generalized structure. It isn’t particularly rigid, unless your teacher mandates otherwise, but here is the general form that your paper proposal will probably take.
- Description and justification of your topic. This will describe what topic you chose, as well as why you decided to write about it. You should discuss why it’s relevant to the class for which you’re writing the paper, and what themes from the coursework will factor into it. Naturally, this won’t be necessary if you don’t get to choose your own topic.
- Research question. Any good research paper will have a central “research question.” In some cases, this will be assigned by your instructor, but you’ll usually be able to choose it for yourself. You should discuss the relevance and significance of the question. Make sure your research question is neither too narrow to write enough material about, nor too broad to cover in the length of a typical paper. “Why” and “how” questions are often a good place to start looking for suitable topics.
- Thesis statement. The thesis statement is essentially your “answer” to your own research question. You should have done a bit of reading prior to creating your proposal, in order to have a good understanding of what your thesis should be. For the sciences, mention any dependent variables and independent variables, along with control factors. A typical thesis statement is one to two sentences long.
- Overview of your argument. You should provide a general outline of the argument you plan to make in your paper. You will usually need a number of smaller arguments that support your main premise, which will comprise the body of the paper.
- Preliminary source list. Again, you should have done a little bit of reading on the subject when creating your proposal. It’s a good idea to contain a few sources that you’ve consulted so far.
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