A proposal is a three-four page (approx. 1200 words, double-spaced) formal plan that outlines your objectives
for writing your research essay, specifying the main research question you’ve developed so far out of your
research. Your research question should be “issue-based” in that it considers a current issue or “problem” in
your field of study and indicate your proposed direction of inquiry—what you want to find out about your
particular topic. Please note that you should not have a thesis yet. Instead, think about what, exactly, you are
interested in studying and why you are interested in it. Think of this as furthering and clarifying the work you
did in your Idea Sheet.
After introducing and explaining your research question, your Proposal Essay will build on your annotated
bibliography by grouping your sources by idea and strategically summarizing them, with the aim of identifying
key differences or commonalities between them (Literature Review). Please note that the sample student
proposal in From Inquiry to Academic Writing does not have a literature review, so the student refers to
sources throughout the proposal. While you may briefly refer to a source or two in your introduction, it is not required or encouraged since you will have plenty of time to do so in your literature review. Follow the format
below for your proposal.
Required elements: Your research proposal will have four sections and a Works Cited page, each clearly
1. Introduction/Purpose (2 paragraphs):
First paragraph: provide an overview of your research question, explaining why it is of academic and/or
practical importance. (Why is your research question relevant and timely for your audience to consider? Think
of your audience as others in your field of study and/or academic major.)
Second paragraph: outline the main objectives of your research, providing details of two or three key aspects.
Also discuss what you already know about your topic and your personal ties to it. See “Describe Your
Purpose” on p. 377 in From Inquiry to Academic Writing for specific suggestions.
2. Literature Review (2-3 paragraphs): Write a few paragraphs indicating the importance of previous related
research and other relevant sources. (You should begin by grouping sources by idea and then strategically
summarizing them, with the aim of identifying key differences or commonalities between them). Also discuss
how your own topic might make a useful contribution to the field (look for “gaps” in the research—what isn’t
discussed–and how your paper might “fill in those gaps”). You should discuss about 3-5 of what you think will
be your “main” sources here. However, it is not necessary to discuss all of them in this section. See “Review
Relevant Research” on p. 377 in From Inquiry to Academic Writing for specific suggestions. (Note: Hopefully,
you will be able to use many of the sources from your Annotated Bibliography for this section. You may,
however, need to find some additional sources.)
3. Method (1-2 paragraphs): Explain how you will answer your research question. State your main research
techniques: how you plan on using your sources; interviews (if you are conducting any), etc. Discuss how you
will analyze and apply any information collected in your sources and indicate any possible difficulties you may
encounter in the research and writing process. See “Define Your Method” on p. 378 in From Inquiry to
Academic Writing for specific suggestions.
Note: “Method” section should be written in the future tense: “I will do the following kinds of research…”
4. Implications (1 paragraph): Think of this as a preliminary answer (or at least a plan to answer) the “So
what?” question for your research question. Why is it a significant question to ask and do research on? Why
do you care about the answer(s) to your question, and why should your audience? (Remember, your audience
includes those in your field of study and/or academic major.) What do you hope to learn and to demonstrate
about writing in your field of study? See “Discuss Your Implications” on p. 378 in From Inquiry to Academic
Writing for specific suggestions.