Topic Proposal Essay Example

Model Proposal #1

This Island’s Mine: Shakespeare’s Romances and the Power of Language in Ulysses

Much has been made of the role of Shakespeare’s tragedies in James Joyce’s Ulysses, particularly the allusive, even allegorical role of Hamlet in shaping the trajectory and consciousness of Stephen Dedalus. Yet surprisingly little has been said on Joyce’s relationship with Shakespeare’s romances (namely, Pericles; Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest)[1]. Very little scholarly work has discussed either the direct or implicit references to these later plays, and even less has addressed their structural relevance to Joyce’s work. Though Hamlet may be the primary Shakespearean reference point for Ulysses, seemingly surface allusions to the romances are in fact essential to the novel’s interests in redemption, art and most importantly language. More specifically, I propose to explore the ways in which Joyce uses Shakespeare’s romances to articulate the dynamic between mastery over language and mastery over artistic self-expression of the interior.

I plan to begin at the beginning—that is, with “Telemachus,” and a seemingly offhand quip by Buck Mulligan: “The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you!” (Joyce 1.143). I contend that this early reference to Caliban frames Stephen’s struggle for independence as an artist as one also for control over the presentation of his own image through language. Joyce introduces Shakespeare’s monster through the gregarious Mulligan, a man whose flashy linguistic and textual fluency overwhelms Stephen’s more cautious persona. The remark is characteristically intertextual, a rephrasing of Oscar Wilde’s epigraph to The Picture of Dorian Gray, a piece of brief yet incisive commentary on the tension between Realist and avant-garde art: “The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. / The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass” (Wilde 3). Two potential readings surface. Most scholars contend that Joyce is engaged primarily with Wilde as a fellow, near contemporary Irish writer. In this case the question is semi-historical and largely abstract. Realist art has the possibility for honesty, yet the portrait it produces is often unlikable; it depicts an accurate exterior at odds with the interior and the desired self-perception. Romantic art demonstrates the artist’s ability, creating an image too beautiful to be representative of either the subject’s exterior or interior. Yet an interpretation that prioritizes Joyce’s engagement with Shakespeare provokes prioritizing Caliban as a key touchstone for Stephen throughout the novel; if Caliban is the focal point, rather than Wilde, the concern shifts to the—far more comprehensive—question of Stephen’s desire for mastery of self-expression.

Both Stephen and Caliban are highly aware of their relative lack of control over language, and a consequent lack of control over self-presentation. Two passages seem particularly relevant to this method of analysis: Prospero’s introduction of Caliban,

[I] took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour

One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,

Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like

A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes

With words that made them known. (Shakespeare, 1.2.354-358)

and Caliban’s reply, almost a second introduction, this time by himself:

You taught me language; and my profit on’t

Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you

For learning me your language! (Shakespeare, 1.2.363-365)

Language is power, not only as a marker of self-expression, but as one of the civilization and, perhaps more importantly, artistry. It is Prospero’s command of language, much like Mulligan’s, that enables him to continue this twisted master-slave, master-student relationship.

I propose that this brief, yet deeply intertextual moment is a critical lens through which to examine the rest of Ulysses. I plan to trace this paradigm first through the Telemachiad, honing in on Joyce’s combined incorporation of Ariel’s song into Stephen’s extended meditation on a corpse on the beach at the close of “Proteus.” “Aeolus” is likewise a point of interest as it most directly addresses Joyce’s preoccupation with rhetoric and style, and Stephen’s linguistic reticence, self-consciousness, and susceptibility to persuasion. I also plan to examine the various mentions of Tempest in “Scylla and Charybdis,” particularly those focusing on Prospero and his powers of artistry.

This helps to open up a conversation about Shakespeare’s other romances. Of the already minimal scholarly discussion of these plays, there is still less on Pericles, Cymbeline, and Winter’s Tale than Tempest. I contend that the relevance of Winter’s Tale has been particularly overlooked, and that Stephen and Bloom’s frequent corrupted references to this text have important implications for Ulysses’ linguistic and artistic schematics. Firstly, the Bloom family unit is uncannily similar to Shakespeare’s Sicilian royalty, most notably in the unspoken grief of both protagonist’s lost sons, and the ways in which the authors address the modes of atonement and recovery. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to draw connections between Stephen’s cynical discourse on wives in “Scylla and Charybdis” and Bloom’s museum musings in “Lestrygonians” as the King’s competing theories of female sexuality. Both men think and verbalize permutations of Leontes’ angry ramblings in Act I Scene II, and both scenes are contextualized by discussions of linguistic and artistic control—here, one and the same—and perhaps more importantly, explicit discussions of attaining freedom through those mediums. While I have less experience with Pericles and Cymbeline and their particular employment in Joyce’s work, I think there is a lot of potential supplemental material on the gender politics and the place of women in Ulysses’ larger schematics on the role of mastery of language in self-presentation.

As yet, I am uncertain of the role of scholarly research in my thesis plans. The only substantive body of work on this topic as yet is largely concerned with Caliban’s potential Irishness, and the difficult dynamics of artistic self-definition for a colonized island. My planned methodology is, admittedly, largely internal to Joyce and Shakespeare’s work, even closed-off from much current scholarship. I hope to counteract this potential danger with a firm grounding in the precise intellectual history surrounding Shakespeare’s romances in early twentieth century Ireland.

Model Proposal #2

Pranks, Winks, and Knowing Artifice: J.D. Salinger as a Master Trickster

“I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.”

—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

            While enduringly popular with the American reading public, particularly young people and aspiring writers, the works of J.D. Salinger have, somewhat perplexingly, failed to generate much in the way of serious scholarship. Shortly following the near-universal acclaim of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger’s “Franny” and “Zooey” and subsequent installments meditating on the Glass family were met with increasingly critical resentment and weariness of Salinger’s devotion to a set of precocious, misunderstood geniuses, so much so that by the time “Hapworth 16, 1924” appeared in The New Yorker in 1965, it was “greeted with unhappy, even embarrassed silence” (Malcolm). Since then, many authors and fans have sought to redeem Salinger from a writerly perspective (Samuels; Kotzen and Beller), while his status in the world of literary criticism remains uncertain. What qualities do readers (especially writer-readers) admire in Salinger’s stories? And what about these qualities and others make Salinger’s body of work difficult or unappealing from a critical standpoint? Devotees often speak of Salinger’s writing in terms of its mysterious, heightened quality—Janet Malcolm notes “its fundamental fantastic character,” and Adam Gopnick refers to the recurrence of “childlike enchantment” in the work.

            I plan to explore the mysterious, heightened quality of Salinger’s writing by putting language to the techniques and devices that contribute to a sense of the fantastical. And I propose to talk about these techniques and devices in the context of writerly tricks, games, and pranks. Perhaps much of what lends Salinger’s work its magical character is, in fact, magic, in the sense of sleight of hand and intentional artifice and trickery. Salinger’s writing is full of feints and winks and a willingness to play. For example, Salinger’s signature snappy vernacular dialogue often takes on properties of theatrical improvisation through which characters play off one another with the aim of keeping the conversation going to reach a point of emotional payoff. This is particularly evident in the exchange between Seymour and Sybil in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which the collaborative back-and-forth between the two players leads to the creation of the myth of the bananafish. A kind of prank Salinger plays on the reader is the couching of his narratives in the authorship of the fictional Buddy Glass and the creation of a Glass superstructure of linked stories. In the opening section of “Zooey,” Buddy says, “what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie” (Franny and Zooey 47). Buddy’s proclamation of documentary is complicated by the fact that we know this is fictional story by Salinger and, even within the logic of the Glass family chronicling, it’s clear that Buddy was not there for the events of the story. Buddy, like his trickster creator, seems to be almost daring the reader to accuse him of invention. Salinger also incorporates visual tricks in his narratives in what Martin Bidney calls “aesthetic epiphanies” (117). Bidney talks about how the turning point in a Salinger story is often accompanied by a game of fort-da with a coded aesthetic object, such as the blue-coated Phoebe disappearing and reappearing as she goes round and round the carousel in Catcher, or the little girl turning her doll’s head to face Seymour in the poem in “Zooey.” Other forms of games and tricks in Salinger include the use of framing devices, the employment of a play-set New York that is at once familiar and fake, and the winking italicization of words and syllables to inflect layers of meaning.

            By using literary tricks and games and playfully drawing attention to his fiction’s constructedness, Salinger leaves his secrets hiding in plain sight. In this way, Salinger is not giving us the typical things to interpret—characters don’t stand for things; plots are abandoned ambiguously—which may point to the frustrating quality that has made Salinger difficult from a critical standpoint and has contributed to many critics’ dismissals of Salinger as cute or gimmicky. There’s a quality of beating readers to the punch and explicitly showing them how his effects are achieved. Moreover, by working in framed miniature, Salinger does not take on the big social issues that often invite literary analysis—George Steiner once complained that Salinger “demands of his readers nothing in the way of literacy or political interest.” When thinking about Salinger as troublesome to critics, it is important to note that, conversely, critics and analysts were difficult for Salinger. His works contain a number of scathing portraits of academia and psychoanalysis, including the pompous Lane Coutell bragging about his A-grade English paper in “Franny,” the hopeless teachers at Holden Caulfield’s lousy prep school, and the amateur-analyst figure of Muriel’s mother, who tries to diagnose Seymour in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.” Salinger’s work seems to favor a phenomenological approach, emphasizing the experience of reading over interpretation, one that might win the embrace of Holden, who reflects, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot” (24).

In analyzing Salinger as a purveyor of tricks, who in some ways defies critical study, I will look at his earlier, uncollected stories to track the development of mastery. How does Salinger’s playful technique change over time? Are the tricks in the earlier stories more transparent, less well pulled-off? Are they more gimmicky? Many of the early stories, including “The Varioni Brothers,” “I’m Crazy,” and “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” contain precursors and initial sketches of characters and situations that feature prominently in The Catcher in the Rye and the Glass family stories, allowing for the tracking of specific approaches and tropes. As part of my investigation of Salinger’s early work, I plan to visit and perform research at Princeton’s Firestone Library, which houses a sizeable archive of letters and stories, including several unpublished manuscripts.

            To contextualize Salinger in the tradition of the American short story, I will examine him against two of his contemporaries—Ring Lardner and William Saroyan. Both Lardner (whom Salinger refers to with admiration in Catcher and “Zooey”) and Saroyan once enjoyed popular success as short story smiths while retaining a kind of hack status in the literary world. Lardner was known first as a sportswriter, and Saroyan was also a playwright and pop songwriter. They each employed tricks and gimmicks similar to Salinger’s, but neither has endured to the degree Salinger has. I am interested in the ways in which Salinger imitates and explodes these tropes, and what role his aligning himself with these perceived hacks plays in his critical reception. The overall goal is to examine J.D. Salinger as a popular success and a critical difficulty, putting language to the literary trickery that renders his work at once enigmatic and completely captivating.

Works Cited

Bidney, Martin. “The Aestheticist Epiphanies of J.D. Salinger: Bright-Hued Circles, Spheres, and Patches; ‘Elemental’ Joy and Pain.” Style. 34.1 (2000): 117-131. Print.

Gopnick, Adam. “Postscript: J.D. Salinger.” The New Yorker. 8 Feb. 2010. Web.

Malcolm, Janet. “Justice to J.D. Salinger.” The New York Review of Books 21 Jun. 2001. Web.

Salinger, J.D. Franny and Zooey. New York: Little, Brown, 1961. Print.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.

Samuels, David. “Marginal Notes on the Inner Lives of People with Cluttered Apartments in the East Seventies.” Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love. ed. Anne Fadiman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. 3-17 Print.

Steiner, George. “The Salinger Industry.” The Nation. 14 Nov. 1959. Print. 360-363.

With love and squalor: 14 writers respond to the work of J.D. Salinger. ed. Kip Kotzen and Thomas Beller. New York: Broadway Books, 2001. Print.

Additional Resources

Chabon, Michael. Introduction. The Wes Anderson Collection. By Matt Zoller Seitz. New York: Abrams, 2013. 21-23. Print.

Geismar, Maxwell. “The Wise Child and the New Yorker School of Fiction.” American Moderns: From Rebellion to Conformity. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958. 195-209. Print.

Kazin, Alfred. “J.D. Salinger: ‘Everybody’s Favorite.’” Contemporaries. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. 230-240. Print.

Lardner, Ring. Selected Stories. New York: Penguin Group, 1997. Print.

Salinger, J.D. Nine Stories. New York: Little, Brown, 1953. Print.

Salinger, J.D. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. New York: Little, Brown, 1963. Print.

Saroyan, William. The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. New York: New Directions, 1934. Print.

Smith, Dominic. “Salinger’s Nine Stories: Fifty Years Later.” The Antioch Review. 61.4 (2003): 639-649. Print.

Model Proposal #3

A Portrait of the Artist as a Murderer:

Distant Star, Hegel, and the Aesthetics of Human Rights

Roberto Bolaño’s novella Distant Star tells the story of Carlos Wieder, a Chilean avant-garde poet who commits a series of brutal murders during the Pinochet regime. The novella is narrated from the perspective of Arturo B., another poet whose simultaneous attraction and aversion to Wieder motivate both the novella’s plot and its thematic concern with the relationship between art and violence. This concern permeates the entire structure of the novella and informs its internal logic: the poet-murderer Wieder unites the creative and violent impulse in the psyche of a single character; the strange affinity between the murderous Wieder and artistic Arturo combines them in the interpersonal relationship between two characters; and the portrayal of Santiago’s art world during the brutal Pinochet regime merges them in both setting and plot. Combined, these relationships suggest that one can only understand violence and art in relation to one another.

            Furthermore, if one admits—as Bolaño certainly does—that all violence is in some sense political, Distant Star’s insistence on the intimacy between art and violence calls attention to a broader relationship between art and politics. It links the artistic activity of Wieder, who in addition to being a murderer is an air-force pilot in the Chilean army and a self-proclaimed fascist, with the brutality and human rights violations of the Pinochet regime, urging the reader to seek a language common to both aesthetic and political experience. This in turn raises a host of critical questions regarding both areas. How, for instance, does a creative act commonly associated with the individual affect a political act commonly associated with the social? Can the application of aesthetic theory to politics yield novel insights in political theory, or, conversely, can the application of political theory to aesthetics yield novel insights in aesthetic theory? Is it even possible to theorize either as an autonomous domain, or do they both flow from a common source?

            For my senior thesis, I would like to draw upon my background as double-major in English and political science to address these questions through a specifically Hegelian reading of Distant Star. I believe Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit—both in itself and through the critical discourse it has inspired among later theorists such as Lacan, Kojeve, and Butler—provides a particularly fruitful theoretical framework with which to study the intersection between art and politics, as it describes the development of self-consciousness in a manner that lays the foundations for both artistic activity and political organization. It underlies the former in positing that the world is socially constructed—that it is, in other words, malleable and open to the kind of existential reinterpretation that is the domain of art—and it underlies the latter in describing the emergence of individual, historical, and desiring entities; in other words, the preconditions that both enable and require politics. Hegelian philosophy thus provide a single vocabulary with which to analyze both aesthetic and political impulses, both of which shape the formal, thematic, and narrative logic of Distant Star and the aforementioned theoretical questions that it raises.

Within this framework, I would like to focus more narrowly on the novella’s treatment of human rights. Hegel’s dialectic may prove particularly illuminating in this regard due to two important traits it shares in common with both popular human rights discourse and Bolaño’s specific political and aesthetic vision. First, the endpoint of Hegel’s historical teleology is a state of “mutual recognition of equals,” an ideal that sounds strikingly similar to the utopic society imagined in legal human rights documents, which are also premised on the concept of recognition, and to Distant Star’s formal structure that makes incessant narrative detours into the lives of seemingly peripheral characters and which democratically allocates to these characters through its stylistic consistency a voice of high literary quality. Second, both Hegel’s dialectic and human rights discourse encounter the same semantic challenge of attempting to affirm in the present tense a phenomenon—self-consciousness for Hegel and universality for human rights—that has yet to come into being at the moment of its theorizing, a paradox that the schema of Bolano’s novella brings to the fore.

A Hegelian reading of Distant Star may thus untangle the linkages between art and politics within the specific context of human rights. Indeed, one can understand the novella in one sense as a literary enactment of the abstract relations posited in Phenomenology: the duality of Wieder’s creative and violent nature; the ambiguous relationship between the murderous Wieder and artistic Arturo; and the implied kinship between Santiago’s art world and Pinochet’s rights-violating regime appear as concrete manifestations of Hegel’s simultaneously creative and destructive self-consciousnesses. The final aim of my project is to leverage this interdisciplinary framework and the reading of Distant Star that it engenders to lay the foundations for an argument that equivocates the political notion of the universality of human rights with the aesthetic notion of the intentional fallacy, and which applies the latter’s insights—as explicated by theorists such as Wimsatt, Focault, and Barthes—to the former.  Ultimately, I hope that this argument may illuminate both the aesthetic and political shape of the “mutual recognition of equals” that Bolaño, Hegelians, and human rights advocates all envisage as their ideal.


[1] I have decided to exclude the occasionally included The Two Noble Kinsmen, on the grounds of both its contested authorship, and of Joyce’s own apparent disinterest in the play.

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing a regular academic paper, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. Proposals vary between ten and twenty-five pages in length. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like--"Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"


In general your proposal should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea or a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in one to three paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions:

  1. What is the central research problem?
  2. What is the topic of study related to that problem?
  3. What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  4. Why is this important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. This is where you explain the context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is relevant to help explain the goals for your study.

To that end, while there are no hard and fast rules, you should attempt to address some or all of the following key points:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted.
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing. Answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care].
  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain how you plan to go about conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Set the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you will study, but what is excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation. The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methods they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, where stated, their recommendations. Do not be afraid to challenge the conclusions of prior research. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your study in relation to that of other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you read more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

To help frame your proposal's literature review, here are the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  1. Cite, so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  2. Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  3. Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate?
  4. Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  5. Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader has to have confidence that it is worth pursuing. The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of these operations in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe].
  • Keep in mind that a methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method is perfect so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your reader.

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, it doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications. The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policymaking. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.
 
When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to the theoretical framework that underpins the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented, and what innovations will come about?

NOTE:  This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence. The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.


VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study. This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done,
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer,
  • The decision to why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options,
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem, and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your proposal. In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  1. References -- lists only the literature that you actually used or cited in your proposal.
  2. Bibliography -- lists everything you used or cited in your proposal, with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to make sure the project will complement and not duplicate the efforts of other researchers. Start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [i.e., education=APA; history=Chicago, etc] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.


Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning. Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills. Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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