Proposal Development







Proposal Outline Construction

A proposal serves as a contract between you and your research advisor. It is a plan for Why, What, and How you are going to proceed in completing your study. It usually consists of the following components:
Proposal Components:

Title of the Study
Statement of the Problem

Introduction-Abbreviated Purpose
Context of Problem
Background of the Problem

Purpose of Study - fully stated
Significance of the Study
Literature Review
Design of the Study
References used in Proposal
Bibliography for Study
Outline of Chapters
Time Activity Program

The following are general descriptions of these components. They may vary in relation to the programatic option you have chosen (thesis, project or capstone). These variations will be discussed in class.

Title (top)

A title should be brief, concise, as meaningful, and as clearly related to the contents of the proposal and to the definition of the study as possible. It should contain any key words which you believe will be helpful in retrieving it for research. It should reveal at a glance the nature of the study. Although this is first, retitling is frequently done after the study is complete

Statement of the Problem (top)

Introduction - Abbreviated purpose of the study

This is an optional feature which I believe is helpful. It should occur at the very beginning of the problem statement. It should state, in not more than two sentences, what the purpose of the study is. This feature allows the reader to understand why they are reading the items contained in the rest of the problem statement. That is, this brief feature allows the reader to put this study in the context of the larger problem before reading the full problem and the full purpose statements. This brief statement should be put in bold type on a separate sheet of paper and hung on your wall where you work. Continually referring to this statement will assist you in remaining focused on your study and not pursuing tangential aspects of the larger problem.

Context of Problem
What is the nature of the larger problem which this study addresses in part by addressing its particular purpose? The purpose statement gives direction to the study, while the problem statement describes the larger setting in which this has significance. Each study is a contribution to knowledge. This section puts the small piece that this study may contribute into the larger context of the field of study.
No single study could solve the larger problems faced in any field of study. However, each may make a contribution to some portion of their resolution.

Background of the Problem
This section describes the history of the problem. That is, it is an overview of factors which have led to the problem, comprise the problem and are of historical significance relative to the problem, especially as it related to the purpose of the study.

Purpose of Study (top)

This is a clear description of what you are going to do. It should describe exactly what portion of the problem you are going to address. It should also describe and justify the theoretical and philosophical framework of your study. What questions will be asked and/or what hypotheses will be tested should be delineated.
The full statement of purpose should be an expansion of the brief statement of purpose which preceded the problem statement. This section should provide unification to the study. The literature to be reviewed, the research method to be chosen, the data analysis methods, the report of findings, and the conclusions of the study should all follow logically from this statement of purpose. In short this part of the proposal is most important. It provides the logic for the limits of the study, it controls all the other factors relating to the study. This is frequently the most difficult part of the proposal to write. However, time spent writing, rewriting and refining this portion of the study will be well worth your time. It will save a beginning researcher from collecting superfluous data, working on insignificant portions of the problem, utilizing conflicting theoretical bases and generally being confused and lacking direction.

Significance of the Study (top)

If the problem and purpose statements have been well constructed this section should be easy to write. It should address the questions, Why would anyone want to do this study? What is the importance of this study? In answering these larger questions, the following smaller questions may be helpful:
Why have I selected this particular aspect of the larger problem?
Why does this study have to be done?
Why should I be authorized to proceed with this investigation?
Will it revise, extend, or create new knowledge?
Is it a replication of older studies that needs to be done in light of events following the older studies?
What potential applications are there for this study, (theoretical and practical)?
What difficulties have resulted because this study has not been done?

Literature Review (top)

The literature review consists of a description of your plan to review literature and a description of the literature which you have reviewed which is relevant to the study. It also refers to the larger bibliography included in the proposal. This larger bibliography contains literature which you believe is relevant to the study, but which you have not referenced in your proposal.
The description of your plan to review literature includes items such as:
What are the parameters of the literature which you plan to review? For example, what topic areas are you going to review? How are you going to limit your search, ( by time periods, sampling procedures, utilizing 'landmark' articles,etc.)? How do you plan to obtain the literature (hand searches of what indices, computer searches with what strategies, following 'quoting circles', etc.)? What justifications do you have for these choices? By what criteria are you going to assess existing studies? If there are no existing studies, how are you going to assess related studies?
In constructing your review of literature, it may be useful to construct a columnar annotated bibliography in which the first column contains the full citation in correct form, the second column a brief description of the work , the third column a symbol for valuable, some value, little value, and the fourth column and explanation of the valuation. This will prove useful as you outline and write the review of literature. Many students choose to construct a database in Procite, Endnote or other software to contain this information rather than creating a columnar chart.

This section describes the references that you plan to cite throughout your paper. It describes the categories of information that you gathered to support your work. It also describes the information gathering strategies used in your research. For each content and method area addressed it consists of describing what types of primary and secondary references were used.

Ask these questions: What books articles, web documents, etc. were used? How were these obtained? What indexes, sources, document search strategies, identifying terms were used? What criteria were used for selection of those used? What criteria were used in discarding others?

Each of these questions needs to be addressed not only for the content areas of papers but also for method (conducting and analyzing interviews, synthesizing literature, summarizing and reporting descriptive statistics, qualitative or quantitative on-site observational studies).

This section includes a description of limitations related to references, (for example, references limited to 1995-97 for virtual teams, 1987-97 for general communication within corporate teams, five key seminal works in small group processes selected in the following way, etc.). Other limitations may include whether or not the study is replicable or is anecdotal in character, to what extent generalizability is claimed, etc.

Note: It is important to move from most validated sources to least validated sources, giving reasons for choices of each for this study.

Design of the Study (Methods) (top)

This section includes the research design or procedures which you plan to utilize in the study. What research methodology or methodologies do you plan to use? What is their theoretical base? What is your justification for choosing that methodology? Why does that method suit your specific purpose?
What procedures do you plan, in what order, how long will they take, how much are you going to do? What is your basis for data collection, selection, analysis or processing? Why were these chosen?
In short, this section describes exactly what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and to what extent. Check again after writing the design: Is this congruent with the purpose of the study, andwith the theory underlying the study?
Remember, this section describes in detail how you plan to do the research -- and why you plan to do it in this particular way. You must describe how information will be gathered, analyzed, interpreted, and presented and why? For example, if your paper is based on interview data, ask these questions: are interviews closed question, open, a combination and why? How will they scheduled and why? How will participants be selected and why? Will interviews be conducted face to face, by phone, video conference, paper surveys, etc. How will they be recorded: written notes by researcher or by assisting secretary, audio tape, video tape, etc. and why? How will they analyzed and why?

Definitions (top)

This section contains any terms which are unique to your study, or which have varying definitions in the literature which your study covers, or which have varying definitions from differing perspectives. This permits you to define what the meaning of the terms are for your study and how you justify the choice of the meanings. Concepts, words and phrases which have unusual, restricted or varied meanings are given precise definitions for the purpose of your study.

Limitations (top)

This section describes major and minor limitations of your study. It allows you to clarify or qualify aspects of the problem which are difficult or impossible to address. It describes what you have chosen to ignore relative to what you have chosen to include and why. It justifies the qualifications you have placed upon your study. It explains why you have chosen as you have.

References Used In the Proposal (top)

This is a list of references which appear in the proposal. It is in the appropriate format.

Bibliography (top)

This is a list of references which you believe will be used in the final study. It need not be completely exhaustive, but should give your advisor some indication of the thoroughness with which you have examined the area which you intend to investigate in your study. Annotations are recommended.

Outline of Chapters (top)

This section provides an outline of the various sections of the study as you believe they will appear.

Time Activity Program (top)

This is a time line with associated activities relative to the study. It provides your advisor with your projected work schedule by activity and time you believe necessary for each activity.







Dr. Beverly Jones