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How do I Write a Research Paper Proposal?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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When writing a research paper proposal, you must make sure to follow the guidelines set up by the class, institution, or professor that the paper is for. If the paper is an assignment of any sort, there are usually well-established components that are expected in the final proposal. These may include a thesis statement, a literature review, an outline, or a bibliography. Making sure that the document meets all of the specified requirements is the most important step in writing a research paper proposal.

If no guidelines are provided, there are some basic writing strategies that will produce a good research paper proposal. The first step is to do research on the topic in order to get a clear idea of what the topic will be. A research paper proposal is written after significant research has been done, and it should demonstrate that the author understands the topic thoroughly. While studying the available sources, it may be a good idea to write an annotated bibliography, which may be included with the research proposal.

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Once the majority of the research on the topic is completed, a thesis statement can be created. This statement and a general explanation should constitute the first few paragraphs of the proposal. After the aim of the paper has been established, a good strategy is to follow up with a review of the relevant literature with notes on how those sources relate to the thesis. After identifying what has already been said about the topic, the next step is to explain how the research will represent a new or unique point. It is a good idea to close with a section on methodology, explaining how the final paper will go about accomplishing these goals and justifying the argumentative strategy used in the paper.

The length of the resulting document will vary based on the target length of the finished paper. In general, it is excessive to write a research paper proposal longer than five or six pages. The proposal should fully represent the paper in as little space as possible. Being concise is more important for a proposal than going into detail.

While writing a research paper proposal may seem challenging, it is really just another step in the composition of the final paper. If you later discover errors in the proposal, such as research that had been undiscovered when it was written, it's not too late to change it in the final paper. Additionally, being very clear in the proposal can help any readers to point out possible problems later on. Certainly, a research paper proposal should be well thought out and free of grammatical errors, but its purpose is to represent the project as it stands, not as it will appear in its final form. As such, it is best to take risks in the proposal and allow criticism and editing to smooth out the final product.

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