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Apr 15th 2014

The Principles of Research Proposal Writing: How to Handle this Stressful Project

Your research proposal is a question and a statement of how you intend to answer that question. That definition is a little restrictive, so consider it in broad terms. For example, there are some questions you may not be able to answer, in which case your aim would be to further human knowledge on the subject, and sometimes it works.

 For example, until recently we did not how to work out the age of a lobster, and somebody discovered that its eyes grow rings every few month so that all you need to do is count the rings. This was only a recent discovery, but when the people researching it required a research proposal, they most likely said that they were going to further human knowledge on the subject. They were probably unaware that they were going to actually answer the question.

Consider highlighting its significance or originality

 This may be a little counter intuitive because you already know you are not the first person to research this topic to the point where there are probably people in your class that are going to research the exact same thing. But, even if it seems futile, or even if it sounds obvious, you should still highlight its significance or originality. 

 For example, you may decide to research into infectious parasites on bees, and you may consider the reasons obvious because there is a very big threat of the honey bee going extinct. But, you need to highlight this fact because everything is open for interpretation. The person that reads your research proposal may have studied infection disease all of his or her life and may think you are doing it to see if parasites carry diseases. You also need to show on a basic level that “you” know why you are doing your research. 

Highlighting its originality is surly too difficult!

 Not at all, and you would be surprised at how the most mundane pieces get high scores because they are quite original. In Britain, a guy got a first for a piece he did on the migration of the common woodlouse within a part of a county called North Yorkshire. This seemingly and atrociously boring, dull and mundane research project scored incredibly high and one of the reasons was that it was original. 

 As a byproduct, it also showed the landfills had on woodlice, how cutting down forest affects woodlice, how fertilizers affect the woodlouse, and how they do migrate (albeit not far) during different seasons. Why was this relevant? It helped people in the scientific community understand why some areas seemed to have more rare birds (woodlouse) eaters, when other seemingly perfect locations did not. His work was of importance to the academic community and not just as a research paper, and the work was in itself (albeit because it was so specific) quite original.

It is a persuasive document

 Some may say it is a selling document, and it is, but think of it as appealing to the better judgment of someone. And, with that in mind you need to be 100% sure that your research proposal is worth the time and effort. If you have picked a topic because it seemed easy, or if you did it without justifying it to yourself, then you are going to have a hard time convincing other people that the work needs to be done. You should be heavily invested in the project, and if you are not then you have not picked the right topic or research question. As an extra pointer, you should sell your research project on logic primarily, but you can also sell it on emotion and even sentiment if you think it will help.

 

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