These notes are aimed at helping students write an effective research proposal for the University of Queensland. The first part of the notes focuses on a process which you might find helpful when writing your proposal, while the second part includes an annotated example of a proposal. The annotated example aims to help you see in a concrete way what is expected in the different components of a research proposal. As with all general guides, you will need to work out how to adapt was is given here for the level of sophistication and structure required for your specific proposal.
University of Queensland : Research Proposal Outline in Terms of Focus Questions
Introduction [Addresses the significance of the research]
- What have been the drivers of the calculus reform movement at the tertiary level?
- What are the motivations for introducing modeling as part of this reform?
- Why do reform approaches need a sound research base in general, and why in particular does using modeling as a reform approach need a sound research base?
- What then is the broad aim of the proposed research?
Previous research [Addresses questions about originality + uses previous research as a foundation for further research]
- What research has already been done in this area? What deficiencies or gaps need addressing?
- What other research in related areas has been done that could inform research on the proposed problem?
Theoretical framework and hypotheses [What theories about learning guided the directions taken by the research and in particular, the hypotheses to be tested?]
- What assumptions about student learning framed this research?
- What theories about student learning were believed to be of potential use and what hypotheses came out of these theories?
- What methodological issues needed to be addressed by this research?
- How were the hypotheses tested? Why use multiple methods?
- How was the sample chosen and does this choice pose a threat to external validity?
- How were the findings validated?
- What ethical issues are raised by the proposed approaches and how will these be addressed?
Research proposals (and research papers and theses) should consist of arguments for what is proposed to be done and how it is proposed to be done. Consequently, mapping out your arguments in skeleton form can be useful for making sure you are actually making arguments, that your arguments are complete, and that they are comprehensive and logically ordered. Such maps can be done before writing as a planning tool or after writing as a tool for checking and refining what you have done (or both: as you write you might find you need to refine an initial map because additional arguments and opposing arguments to counter are thought of!).