The research proposal will be an important part of the larger research project. Additionally, for many of you in your careers, the ability to write an effective research proposal will be important in terms of career tasks like submitting a research design to institutional review boards (IRB's), or to grant-funding agencies. (If you don't think those things are important, ask your professors, or professionals in your fields.)
The research proposal should be about 1200 words long.
Your research proposal will describe should explain the topic and purpose of your proposed research, in a way that interests the reader in the topic and provides historical and cultural context for your larger research project. You should include your research question. If you have a hypothesis(a proposed explanation for a phenomenon, offered as the basis of further research), you should include that as well.
A good way to think about what brings a research proposal together is to think in terms of Context:What has been going on, historically and/or culturally, that helps provide a background-level understanding of the issue? Problem/Complication:What is the specific problem that comes out of that context? Why is it of particular interest to you? Proposed Argument or Research Question:What can you bring to the study of this problem that contributes something new?
One of the ways in which you can contextualize your research is by reviewing scholarly articles about the topic and demonstrating how your proposed research fills a gap in existing knowledge regarding the topic. How have other researchers approached the topic, and how does your approach offer something new? When you look at what other scholars have said about your topic, you are conducting a literaturereview.A strong literature review enhances your own credibility as a scholar.
Your research proposal will also engage the research methodsthat you plan to use to conduct your study. What sites, databases, core texts, or authors might be particularly important to your research? Additionally, depending on your topic, other methods of research, such as ethnographic field research, interviews, surveys, and visits to chat rooms, might be useful. This section of your research proposal should be written in the future tense, and should include specific plans regarding how you plan to collect data. It is good at this point to troubleshoot, to anticipate possible problems that you might face in your research, and to consider the possible benefits and drawbacks of the research methods that you are choosing.
Finally, you need to address the "So What?" factor. Why, aside from your inherent interest in the project, should the project matter to other people besides you? Why is this a project that should matter, at the very least, to fellow scholars in your field, and perhaps to members of the general public as well?
Your research proposal should include a Works Cited or References list.