Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Writing a Research Plan and Bibliography for a Proposal

Writing a Research Plan and Bibliography for a Proposal

In the final sections of your proposal you show the plan for your research, give a timeline, and show the reading you’ve already done and still plan to do.

Hypotheses and Expected Results

Very briefly state your hypothesis about the research question. What do you expect your data analysis will reveal? What do you think the research outcomes will be? Your expected results shouldn’t cloud your research or be overly deterministic; instead, you should show that you’ve thought about where you are likely to end up. Most of the time, the outcomes will be either slightly or often drastically different from where researchers expected at the start. Scientific studies will require a hypothesis, and social studies or literature reviews will instead list expected results.

You can also list here how your research might impact the field, and the future research it might inspire.

Limitations of the Study

Some types of studies, particularly in the social sciences, might require a separate section for possible limitations of the study. List any of these concerns here. These could include the fact that you have a small sample, that you only look at certain types of literature, or that you or not using more theories to analyze your data. Even if it seems like you’re shooting yourself in the foot by listing possible mistakes before you’ve made them, you’re actually strengthening your research by showing that you’ve considered the possible shortcomings but you still feel like your study is valid and reliable despite these concerns. At the same time, you’re also identifying research gaps for other scholars or for your own future research.

Chapter Outline

List all of the planned chapters in your thesis. Try to give each planned chapter a heading and a brief description (only one or two lines). You could even give a planned word-count for each chapter.


List all of your planned dates for handing in drafts to your supervisor. You could list dates for each chapter. Don’t go into too much detail here, but simply show a clear timeframe and demonstrate that you know how much work is ahead of you. You can give the date when you’ll start your fieldwork, the date you’ll complete your analysis, and any other important dates here.


Here you list all of the articles, books, films, discussions or other sources of information which you’ve consulted, as well as the sources you would like to consult for your final thesis. It doesn’t need to be incredibly long; about one to two pages for master’s and two to four pages at doctoral level should be sufficient for your proposal. Your final thesis will have a much longer list of references, at least ten to thirty pages. But you don’t have to worry about that for now. For all of the skills you need to write a good thesis, you can find help at the Academic Coaching website.

Your bibliography should be formatted well. Your proposal will be incomplete if you have formatting errors in your bibliography. There are books and resources on referencing on the Academic Coaching website, but the main thing you need to remember is to keep everything in the same format. Use commas, full stops and italics in the same way for all of your references, and you’ll usually be forgiven if it’s not exactly the way it should be for a particular referencing style.

A great online source for learning different referencing styles is the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. It’s easy to navigate, and you won’t have to read the endless pages of the official style guides. You can access it at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. Just search for the style your department uses. This could be the APA style, the MLA style, the Harvard or the Chicago referencing style, or others that are not as widely used. Be sure you’re using the correct style and stay consistent throughout your bibliography.

List your references alphabetically by the first letter of the author’s surname.

Review Your Learning:
·         List your hypotheses or expected results. These will either be supported or challenged by your findings during your research
·         Pointing out the limitations to your study can show that you’ve considered all of the factors involved in writing your thesis, and shows balanced thinking
·         Your chapter outline should list chapter numbers, titles and brief descriptions of planned chapters
·         Give a realistic timeline of when you’ll hand in drafts and when you’ll complete your data collection, analysis and write-up of your thesis
·         Your bibliography should be listed alphabetically by author surname, and should have consistent style