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Research Paper Proposal

Most students who have to submit an extensive term paper or research paper will have to first submit a research paper proposal. This is the initial stage in getting permission from your professor or academic institution to conduct research, to be sponsored during the process, and to write on your chosen topic.

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If your topic requires you to undertake long-term, expensive or unusual research then you will definitely need sponsorship. This is usually financial in nature, but can also involve access to facilities, previous research, academic oversight, and association with a respected name in your field.

There are numbers of pieces of information that should be included in any research proposal. These are:

  • Student background, including ability to perform the research
  • Subject matter background, including recent findings on the problem
  • Definition of the exact problem you are tackling
  • Methodology
  • Rationale behind the proposed research
  • References for materials used

This information can be arranged as you see fit, but the most common structure tends to be: title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, conclusion and discussion, bibliography. Some proposals will include a budget section.

A research paper proposal will include less financial detail than a grant proposal, which must prove that the return on investment in the research will be worthwhile. In addition, grant proposals are usually addressed to an agency that may or may not be academic in nature, and the objectives of your research have to be linked to the aims of the agency, whatever its nature. 

In any case, a research paper proposal must still persuade those reading it that your work will be a valuable addition to the body of knowledge in your field. To do this you have to define the problem you intend to address very clearly and make sure your theoretical solution is relevant. Academic studies are constantly being made, so be sure your proposal covers the most recent work on your specific problem. If your proposed solution is out of date, it becomes irrelevant, and it’s back to the drawing board.

Keep in mind that your writing style is important as well as the completeness of the information provided. A research paper proposal is short (maximum 30-40 pages, more often 5-15) compared to a full research paper, and your audience will form an impression of your writing abilities from it. The readers will not want to have to trawl through a long thesis or dissertation that is badly written, so they will reject your proposal if it is not well crafted.

Overall, you should focus on being up to date with the subject matter you have chosen, knowing where your research fits in the field of knowledge, and writing concisely.

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