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Research Paper Proposal-University of Chicago

By an eHow Contributor.

For any student writing a research paper, the proposal is the most important step in the process. The quality of your proposal can be the deciding factor in whether the review board accepts your topic. Here are some steps to help you write a proposal for a research paper. (1500 – 1800 words)


  1. Write a catchy title. Think of something that will grab the reader’s attention and keep them interested. Be as concise as possible.
  2. Write the introduction. State the purpose of the study, demonstrate your knowledge of the topic and its importance, describe any major issues and key research points, pinpoint the variables, and explain any boundaries of the study.
  3. Provide a resource review. This section outlines all sources you have used in your research and shows your knowledge of the topic. It also gives credit to those who have done previous research on this subject and developed the framework for your research.
  4. Explain the implementation of your methods. Demonstrate your knowledge of the methods you used and explain how they benefit your research.
  5. Predict your results. You have no results at this stage, but it is suggested that you have some idea of the data you will collect and what kinds of procedures will be used to answer your question or hypothesis.
  6. Discuss the potential impact of your results. Readers will want to know the benefits and possible drawbacks of your research.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to thoroughly understand the structure and functions of each part of your research paper proposal.
  • Be confident in your potential results. This will improve the credibility of your paper and make readers more apt to identify with your research and approve your proposal.
  • Have a third-party review and edit your proposal.

How to Make an Introduction

Effective research papers are not written in one day. It takes weeks of preparation to create a well-researched paper with a strong structure and authoritative references. Students assigned research papers are sometimes required to submit a proposal — usually three to four pages in length — that demonstrates the manner in which they will write the paper. This proposal is an important step because it will become the foundation upon which you write your paper. Before writing the proposal, create an outline that addresses all the main points you will cover.

Your introduction sets the tone for your research paper and provides the reader with the first impression of your writing and your thesis. Follow a few guidelines listed below and find yourself writing effective introductions that convince your readers that your thesis and research are worth their time and attention.

Grab the reader’s attention with a fact, question, quote, analogy, or short, interesting narrative supporting the thesis. This should set the tone for your paper while triggering the reader’s interest in the subject. Spend time and effort on this part of the introduction, because it may be the key to convincing the reader to read further.

Throughout the introduction, state the main points that your paper will cover regarding the thesis without going into detail. These points provide further framework and organization clues for the reader that help him understand your paper as he reads it. They also provoke questions in the reader’s mind, causing him to want to read further. For example, if the thesis statement concerns the advantages of free, public prekindergarten education, then the points that organize the thesis research may include developmental needs, societal needs, and available funding sources.


  1. Write down the main topic of your paper. For example, if your paper is about the correlation between crime and economic hardship, your topic could be, “Crime rates and poverty: the causal link between violence and the lack of economic opportunities.”
  2. Write two or three short sentences under the main topic that explain why you chose that topic. These should be facts, supportable by the initial research you have done. For example, if you are writing a paper about the relationship between high crime rates and chronic unemployment, state how this problem is relevant socially, politically, and economically.
  3. Write a thesis sentence that states the angle and purpose of your research paper. For example, if your topic is about the link between crime and poverty, your thesis statement could be, “Job creation is the most important factor in reducing the crime rate in many inner-city communities.”
  4. List the items you will cover in the body of the paper that support your thesis statement. For example, under the thesis statement in step three, you could write, “I will begin by giving background information on rising crime rates in the inner city. I will then cite statistics that demonstrate the correlation between high areas of unemployment and crime. I will then discuss various solutions advanced by sociologists and government officials, and their effectiveness or lack thereof.”
  5. Provide a list of preliminary sources to give whoever may read the outline and idea of the authority of your references. In a paper about the crime rate’s relation to joblessness, you could list government studies, sociological sources, and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Index, a recognized authority that compiles crime statistics in the United States.

Tips & Warnings

Limit your outline to one page. Your goal is to provide a concise, logically constructed document that serves as a roadmap for the actual proposal.

How to write a bibliography

Turabian Quick Guide

Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations presents two basic documentation systems, notes-bibliography style (or simply bibliography style) and parenthetical citations–reference list style (or reference list style). These styles are essentially the same as those presented in The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, with slight modifications for the needs of student writers.

The bibliography style is used widely in literature, history, and the arts. This style presents bibliographic information in footnotes or endnotes and, usually, a bibliography.

The more concise reference list style has long been used in the physical, natural, and social sciences. In this system, sources are briefly cited in parentheses in the text by the author’s last name and date of publication. The parenthetical citations are amplified in a list of references, where full bibliographic information is provided.

Below are some common examples of materials cited in both styles. Each example is given first in a bibliography style (a note [N], followed by a bibliographic entry [B]) and then in reference list style (a parenthetical citation [P], followed by a reference list entry [R]). For a more detailed description of the styles and numerous specific examples, see chapters 16 and 17 of Turabian’s Manual for bibliography style and chapters 18 and 19 for reference list style.

Online sources that are analogous to print sources (such as articles published in online journals, magazines, or newspapers) should be cited similarly to their print counterparts but with the addition of a URL and an access date. For online or other electronic sources that do not have a direct print counterpart (such as an institutional Web site or a Weblog), give as much information as you can in addition to the URL and access date. The following examples include some of the most common types of electronic sources.

One author
  1. Wendy Doniger, Splitting the Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 65. Doniger, Wendy. Splitting the Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. (Doniger 1999, 65)
  2. Doniger, Wendy. 1999. Splitting the difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Two authors
  1. Guy Cowlishaw and Robin Dunbar, Primate Conservation Biology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 104-7.
  2. Cowlishaw, Guy, and Robin Dunbar. Primate Conservation Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. (Cowlishaw and Dunbar 2000, 104–7)
  3. Cowlishaw, Guy, and Robin Dunbar. 2000. Primate conservation biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Four or more authors
  1. Edward O. Laumann et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 262.
  2. Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994
  3. (Laumann et al. 1994, 262)
  4. Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. 1994. The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 


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