Research Proposal

Part 1: Research Proposal (due Tu 11/19: post to site as one group–make sure to your project site and all group members’ names in the title–and categorize as “Research Proposal”

How do I narrow down my topic?
Make sure to pick a research question that appeals to your group on personal levels (a site here at City Tech that you want to learn more about and that you have a desire to improve for the well-being of the City Tech community), is important/relevant in the larger social context, and is related to the themes of the course (well-being, happiness). Don’t stay on the surface of your site: make sure to create a new/interesting entry point into what may be an over-discussed topic.

For this phase of the assignment, your goal is to be as specific as possible.  As discussed in class, don’t just write, “We want to look at the computer labs at City Tech” or “Our topic is the bathrooms at City Tech.”  Your task in the early draft of the research proposal is to try to focus your topic and to consider what the important issues involved with it are.  Therefore, your ideas should be in paragraph form (at least two full paragraphs) and should consider the following issues:

  • Why does this topic interest you?  Why does/should this topic interest others (students–both current ones and future ones, faculty, staff at administration)? This is a crucial aspect of your proposal. You must make the case for this project mattering to the City Tech community. You are ultimately aiming to convince people to invest time, money, resources (etc.) in improving your “site,” so you need to clarify how/why it is significant in terms of over well-being at City Tech.
  • What kinds of sources will you use in your project?
  • How can you focus/narrow down your topic so that it is manageable in this short-term, short (in length) research project?  Remember, you don’t want your topic to be too broad or general … isolate just one variable (focus is very important).  What kinds of questions do you hope to address through your research?  What, specifically, do you want to learn about this topic?
  • Is your proposal “argumentative” (or is it just a statement of fact)?

You should do some preliminary research on the Internet to learn a bit more about these possible topics (however you do this for Thursday 11/15 is fine: Google, Wikipedia, etc.).  You may realize in your initial search that your topic has a lot more to it than you previously thought, or conversely you may realize that your topic is too straightforward and you don’t want to go ahead with it. Your goal at this early stage of the research process is exploratory: to gain an overview view of your topic, brainstorm useful keywords, refine your search, ask additional questions.


Why do I need a Research Proposal?

  • When you start this project, it is normal for you to be unsure of the particulars of your topic or research question; you may even decide to change your topic or position as you find more information.  Altering your argument/plan of action is OK and expected.  Your task is not to find sources that only back up what you already know/believe (you won’t be learning anything this way!).
  • However, by the time you start the next phase of your project (writing the first draft of the project), you should have a focused topic and a plan of action.  So this part of the assignment will help you to gather your ideas.

Here are some helpful guidelines for the final draft of your Research Proposal:

1.  Your proposal should be very specific/clear.  Although you will first start out by brainstorming ideas and getting a handle on your research, the final draft of your research proposal should do more than just provide a general idea of your project and list a few questions.  Before turning in the first draft of the research project on 12/5, you should have a clear idea of what your research question and thesis statement are, what the main issues at stake are, important points to discuss, etc. Think about it this way: if you were going to send your project to a journal for publication and they asked you to send a summary of your work (not your whole paper), what would you tell them so that your argument/point is very clear and concise?  What kinds of information would you not need to include?

2.  Don’t use the 1st person (I, me, my, we, our, us) or the 2nd person (you, your, yours).  State your argument/ideas in a formal/impersonal/authoritative way.

3.  Make sure that you have connections among your various points, sentences, and paragraphs.  Don’t just list one point after the next (stacking up details) without considering their connection to another and to your overall argument.  Your proposal must be coherent, connect the dots for your readers, and answer the “so what?” question.  Don’t be afraid to “give away” your ideas here … that is what you want to do.  And as always, be as specific as possible (you don’t want to leave questions unanswered, statements vague/general, etc.).

4.  Eliminate any unnecessary “behind-the-scenes” narration; don’t spend time telling stating, “When we first started, we were going to do this topic, but then we changed our minds and … .”  This type of conversation is OK for the initial stages of the proposal, but in this final draft you should just present your project as it stands now (not the process you went through to get to this point).

5.  Similarly, for the section on the research you’ve done already, don’t waste time stating, “Our research looked at databases, and we searched on, and we found some good books.”  Instead, actually tell your readers what your research has taught you (content).

6.  This final draft should be updated significantly from your previous proposals.  Just like when you revise an essay you also must update the outline that accompanies it, here too you must update your proposal as your research progresses/solidifies.

Your thinking will likely change as you write the first draft of the project and then revise to the final draft.  This is OK (and good!).  You do not have to stick to exactly what you present in your proposal.  Change is a natural part of the writing/learning process.

7.  Research proposals should be approximately 500 words, single-spaced (1-2 paragraphs).


*There will be peer review and in-class workshops on Research Proposals in various stages
*Here are some sample Research Proposals (earlier drafts; the final draft will be streamlined). (to be posted soon)

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