The Research Proposal

New: UCARE Proposal Writing Strategies Event Recording

Not sure where to start? Watch this video to learn about effective strategies for developing and writing a competitive and persuasive research proposal. This workshop was led by Courtney Santos, Director of National & International Fellowships, on January 7, 2022.

Writing Your Research Proposal

The UCARE Research Proposal offers a detailed outline of the research project and serves as a roadmap for your research. The research proposal should be developed with feedback and consultation from the faculty advisor.

A proposal includes the following elements:

Statement of purpose states the problem you are trying to solve. A statement of purpose might begin:

  • This study will examine ...
  • This study examined …

Research question includes the question(s) you are trying to solve. The research question is a concise statement that flows from your statement of purpose. The research question translates into a thesis statement that you prove or disprove with research:

  • Graduate students in AAE classes who use the e-Instruction responders will score higher on mid-term and final exams than graduate students in AAE classes who do not use the e-Instruction responders.
  • United States government regulation has little effect in the fight against air pollution.
  • In the United States, government regulation plays an important role in the fight against air pollution.
  • All of these thesis statements can be proven or disproven, and they cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Significance of research argues for the significance of your research and how it will contribute to the field or the community. Address:

  • Why the research is important.
  • To whom the research is important
  • How the research will contribute to scholarship and/or the community.

Methods of data collection explains in detail how you plan to collect your data. Will you be using quantitative (numbers or amounts) or qualitative (quality or kind) data? Define the terms and variables that you’re using in the study, and be sure to describe how you’ll collect, analyze, and interpret your data. If you are using data that’s already been collected as part of another project, describe where the data are from and how you will access it.

Analysis of data outlines how you plan to analyze the data. How you analyze your data will depend on the research question. Make sure that your analysis will clearly answer your research question.

Benchmarks includes a realistic and thorough timeline, presented as a series of benchmarks. Benchmarks are clearly defined tasks that you can check off as “done.” Some examples: IRB certification, library research/review, collecting data, data analyses, producing a work of art/installations, writing a research paper, presenting research at a conference, and preparing a poster.

Write your proposal to include these elements in order and you’ll be off to a good start. Have a roommate or trusted friend read through your abstract. Is there anywhere that you’re too general? Are your methods not clear? Is your writing clear, or are your sentences unnecessarily complex? Having a friend ask these questions helps you create a better draft. From there, you’ll want to share your proposal with your research advisor for feedback.

Most proposals will be approximately 1,000-1,500 words. If you’ve addressed each of the elements well, don’t add extra words just to hit a specific word count.