Objective: Write a formal research proposal in which you define a research topic, make a case for why this topic is worthy of investigation, review relevant research on the topic, propose a research question, and develop a plan for finding sources and collecting knowledge (using both primary and secondary research) to answer the proposed research question.
So for this research proposal, you’ll need to convince your instructor that you have developed a topic and set of research questions worthy of study and prove that you have a plan for successfully completing that research. In turn, it will provide a means for your instructor to provide you feedback on your topic ideas and research plans.
Develop a Topic
There are opportunities in this class to explore any number of research topics. Here are a few things to consider, though, as you develop a topic to research for your proposal.
Exigence– The research proposal is an opportunity to develop a topic of research that you really care about. Be sure to think about why YOU want to research this topic. Don’t merely select a topic because it is “typical” or “safe” or because you think there might be a lot of sources available on it. Instead, find one that actually matters to you. This is all the more important because you will be writing about this topic, in one form or another, throughout the rest of this class.
Kairos– Your topic must also be one that is of current interest and relevant to one or more audiences. As you develop a topic, consider who cares about the issues or problems related to the topic and why the topic matters now. Understanding this will help you develop a relevant research question and think about the information and sources you need to address these issues or problems.
Scope – Developing an effective research topic is a balancing act. You must narrow your topic down enough that you can manageably research the topic. It does you no good if your topic is broad and you’ll need to read and evaluate too many sources in order to be adequately informed about it. At the same time, your topic needs to be broad enough, with connections to related issues or problems in other contexts, that you can find a range of research that is relevant to it.
To help you address all of these concerns, make use of the readings assigned in Modules 1 and 2. In particular, Part 4: Introduction to Research, Part 6: Developing Research Questions, and Part 7: Research Proposal provide guides and approaches for developing research topics that address these concerns. As well, M01 Discussion: “Possible Research Questions” will prompt you to explore and begin researching possible topics.
The research proposal itself will present the following information, organized with the following section headings.
- Definition of Topic and Rationale – Your proposal should open by describing the issue or problem you are researching, what areas of conflict you hope to explore and why. It should discuss what you hope to accomplish by researching this topic and the outcomes you hope will result from it, not just for you but for other potential audiences. Thus, your research proposal should explain the kairos and exigence of your subject (see above). This section will include not only your own observations and experiences regarding your research problem and purposes but should also include cited information from secondary sources that help you articulate the relevance and importance of this issue or problem.
- Review of Preliminary Research—Your research proposal should include what is called a literature review. In a literature review, a researcher identifies central themes and perspectives they’ve discovered so far in their secondary research that relate to their research question and compares the ideas and information these sources contribute to the issue. A thorough examination of the various positions on your topic as a whole will help you to narrow the scope of your research and develop a guiding question. To help you identify relevant themes and perspectives in your sources, you can use the Synthesis Grid, found in Module 2, to chart those themes and perspectives and what sources contribute to them. In the literature review itself, you will synthesize ideas drawn from at least four (4) credible sources from Ivy Tech library databases, and will compare the secondary source information you found so far to determine and identify what aspects of the topic the secondary sources have left unanswered. This will likely be the longest section of your research proposal.
- Guiding Research Question: Once you have explored some of the current literature relating to your topic, you will pose a clear guiding research question to be explored through your research for the remainder of the class. Your guiding research question should reveal the specific aspect of the issue that you wish to explore, and should be phrased as an open-ended question to make available a variety of possible answers (in other words, it should be debatable in nature). In this section you may also ask additional supporting questions. Supporting research questions may be informative and may help you identify gaps in your knowledge. For your guiding research question, you may draw from your initial post in M01 Discussion: “Possible Research Questions” or come up with a new question. Also see assigned readings in Modules 1 and 2, including Part 6: Developing Research Questions and Part 7.1, “Steps in Developing a Research Proposal,” for help developing a research question and supporting questions.
- Intended Target Audience – Your proposal should briefly describe the potential audience(s) for the research you conduct. Who do you think will be most interested in such research? Who do you think will stand to benefit from it? Who would you like to reach out to with this research? Why? What values or expectations do these audiences hold about the problem or issue you are researching? How informed are they about it? As part of this, you should explain why these audiences should be concerned about or interested in this problem or issue. Why does/should it matter to these people? Please note that “Americans”, “parents”, “students”, “citizens”, “anyone who…” are not acceptable answers to this section. As you determine who the potential audience will be, ask yourself – as a general rule, would this audience read/review formally presented research in a paper to make decisions? If your purpose/goal involves a solution (which is one of the best routes to follow with this), you have to consider who can make the solution *directly* happen.
- Research Plan – Your proposal needs to offer a research plan, previewing the steps you will take to collect additional information that will help you answer the research question you proposed. Your research must include BOTH primary and secondary research, and thus you need to discuss, in detail, your plans to conduct both primary and secondary research in order to find relevant information. See assigned readings, in particular Part 4.6, “Forms of Primary Research,” and Part 7.1, “Steps in Developing a Research Proposal,” for help thinking about and planning your primary and secondary research.
To plan your secondary research, it is helpful to discuss the following:
What kinds of information (statistics, historical background, definitions, policies or laws, etc.) do you think you need to collect in order to answer your research question? Why?
What kinds of sources (books, magazines, newspapers, professional journals, websites, blogs, etc.) do you think you’ll need to look for in order to find this information? Why?
What online library databases (and other search tools) will you use to find these sources? Why? What search terms will you use?
For your primary research, you must make a plan to conduct at least 2 interviews. Your research plan, then, should identify, in as specific detail as you can, who you would like to interview. In addition, your plan for primary research might discuss how you plan to get in contact with these individuals, how you would like to conduct your interviews, what information you hope to gain in your interviews, and/or some questions you might ask respondents. Note: Primary research is due to be completed by Module 05—keep this in mind as you are planning interviews.
Research Proposal Specifics
A minimum of 3-4 pages, double-spaced, using 12 point Courier New font (this assignment may need to be longer in order to present your proposal effectively).
A complete proposal that addresses your purpose and audience, defines your research topic, reviews preliminary research, presents a research question, and develops your research plan.
Observation of the conventions of Standard English
Use of at least 4 secondary sources