A research proposal is an overview of the argument contained in your working thesis statement, sometimes called a hypothesis. It is not based on research, but on what you already know, or think you know, about your topic.
If done well, a research proposal will almost serve as a preliminary outline of your paper. It offers your working thesis (hypothesis) and explanation, which should list the points you want to make. The sub-points are the main points of your paper. And the objections represent the other side of the argument.
This is a good time to reconsider the initial thoughts you had earlier in the module about your thesis (or hypothesis): do you need to rewrite it? If you have trouble filling in the sections below, an improperly formed thesis might be the problem.
The research proposal has 5 parts:
Working Thesis: a one-sentence paragraph; no introduction is necessary.
Explanation: a statement that includes the points you think you will be discussing in your paper.
Subpoints: each sub-point explains more fully a point mentioned in your explanation.
Possible Objections: a brief discussion of the opposition’s point of view.
Reply to Objections: your brief answer to the opposition.
Your research proposal should look like the five parts listed above. The number of sub-points may vary, but if you have only two, you may not have enough material for a good paper. For a simple undergraduate paper, limit your sub-points to 4 or 5.
The point of this exercise is to give you a focus, to force you to think about your topic independently of any research you may do or have done. This will probably serve as a basis for your paper, although it is quite likely that, once you begin your research, some of your ideas will change. That is the point of research: working to find an answer to a question!
Although your early research may have given you some great information, it is not necessary to rely on research for a good research proposal: you are simply outlining the argument that you expect to make in your final paper.
A good research proposal follows the standard format described in this module.