how to format a research proposal

how to format a research proposal

How to Format a Research Proposal

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1. Introduction

What makes people effective in their professional roles? While much attention is given to “the science of effective practice” – what individuals do matters – insufficient consideration has been given to the important related question of how their professional knowledge and skills are typically developed. This is no small oversight. Understanding the nature of professional education and learning in typical settings is of great importance both for promoting the professional competence of individuals and for achieving the highest possible standards of practice in the various occupational and professional fields in which our society has substantial stake. Professional education, arguably, is the powerhouse for improvement in professional practice, effectiveness, and efficiency. Without understanding how professionals generally learn to do what they are doing better, it is difficult to improve both the learning process and the practice itself. It was an understanding of the mismatch between what mattered for the development of professional competence and what was being studied in education research that led Lee Shulman some 25 years ago to create a new field he called “the preparation for the professions.” In doing so, he and other leaders in professional education suggest that professional education needs something different from the general or theoretical and abstract. It needs something that speaks directly to the nature of professional practice and can help someone develop their practice in ways that lead to better service and better results for clients and patients. A critical part of the preparation for the professions is learning through on-the-job experience, the aim of this guide is to improve the learning process during professional practice and maximize the outcome in terms of developing advanced practice.

2. Formatting Guidelines

Indented, italicized, and ending with a period.

Centered, uppercase and lowercase heading.

Periods and parentheses are the last sentence in your 5th level heading.

Next, type “Title of Your Paper” within the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation. With active voice, “Section 3.08, Consistency in Style, of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” guides the effective use of textual enhancement; i.e., italics, boldface, and underlining. APA style prescribes a set of specific typefaces and sizes for headings: you use a five-level heading structure to organize a paper. The number of levels needed for the paper is determined by the extent of the paper. The number of levels is given by the depth of the information delivery. The fifth-level heading is italicized, indented five spaces from the left, and follows a period. It is also followed by a text. The text should be shown in regular font, then start with a parenthesis.

The content of the paper in each of these sections is marked by a level one heading. To format this, in the insert menu of the word processing software you are using, select “Header,” then click on “Edit Header,” then “Insert Page Header,” which will insert the page number to each page automatically like it is for the title. If the title is very long and you are making a running head, it will be an abbreviated form of the title.

The essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5″ x 11″) with 1″ margins on all sides. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font. Include a page header at the top of every page. To create a page header, type the first 2-3 words of the title of the paper, insert five spaces, and then give the page number. Then you should organize your paper into the following sections: (Title, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References, Footnotes, Tables, Figure Captions, Appendices).

3. Structure of a Research Proposal

A proposal is a blueprint for the study. It is a persuasive document – its goal is to convince society. This “society” could be a person or group of persons, such as a funding agency, an institution, a government, or even a community. Whether the “society” to which you are addressing your proposal is a person or a group of persons, one thing never changes – it is always an individual. All “society” is the aggregate of how people are related to one another. As individuals are the unit of analysis for all of the social sciences, the ability to convince an individual is the crucial test of a good proposal. How to frame the research problem is perhaps the biggest problem in proposal writing. If the research problem is framed in the context of a general, rambling literature review, then the research question may appear trivial and unimportant. However, if the same question is placed in the context of a very focused and current research area, its significance will become evident. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to frame your research question just as there is no prescription on how to write an interesting and informative opening paragraph. A lot depends on the judgement of the researcher, the nature of the subject, and the preferences of the target ‘society’. What follows is a short proposal for a paper on the rapid growth of convenience store chains in America. Note how admirably the proposal takes advantage of the stylistic tips noted in the list on the previous page.

4. Writing Style and Tone

Use a persuasive tone in your response. Avoid a formal academic style. It is better to adopt a less formal, more clear, concise, and direct style of writing. Be sure that you are specific and realistic. Explain the significance of your research project. Underscore why this research is important and what impact it will have. In short, try to say what you are trying to do and why it is important to do this. Avoid overly intellectual or complex wording; write as clearly and simply as possible. Remember, your proposal has to sell to the committee the fact that your research is important and that it will actually be successful. The easier it is to understand your proposal so that they can grasp the main idea and rationale for what you are doing, the better your chances are of getting their approval. Be sure to write in an active voice; it will be sure to sound more convincing than a passive voice.

5. Finalizing and Proofreading

Reading the entire proposal out loud and slowly is crucial. This will enable you to catch awkward phrasings, poor transitions, and grammatical or spelling errors. If your proposal is well written and well thought out, it will be evident to the reader. This will make the proposal easier to read. You want those evaluating your proposal to really understand it. If they do not understand what you are trying to accomplish, there is no way they can approve of your project. Writing a great proposal is the best way to ensure it is approved. Proofreading ensures that can happen. Another effective method of proofreading is to have a friend or colleague read your work. A new set of eyes can often catch mistakes that you have glossed over. Combine the advice you receive from your friend and yourself, and the final draft should be considerably stronger. A stronger proposal will mean approval, giving you the opportunity to conduct your research.

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