Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
December 2006


How to Write Your Research Proposal


In the research proposal your main purpose is to demonstrate that you have identified an issue worthy of consideration and that you know in which direction to take it.  Dealing effectively with this issue in your paper will require that you sort through extensive, and often contradictory, evidence and literature, that is submitted to analysis. Thus, your work will be more analytical than descriptive. Ultimately, you will have to argue and demonstrate a contention.


In particular, in your proposal you should deal with the following:


Description of the subject: Outline briefly the topic you have decided to explore. Explain what is involved in this topic. Define clearly the chronological framework. Focus on the importance and on your rationale for selecting this topic. Explain how it ties-in with one of the issues we will examine in the course.

The research question: What is the precise research question you intend to answer in writing your paper? What are the main elements of debate around this question? Review briefly the literature on the subject. At this stage, what is your hypothesis on this question?


Resources available: Identify three scholarly sources available on your subject (at least one book, one journal article and one website – or substantial webpage) and at least one primary source. Which of these sources do you think will be the most useful (and why).


The common pitfalls to avoid are to propose a question that is either too broad or too narrow, or to suggest a subject that is merely descriptive or where the answer is self-evident and universally agreed upon, or where there is too little scholarly literature available.


Your proposal should be 300-400 words long. Follow professional norms, especially for the bibliography; make a title page following the assigned format. If uncertain about your subject, come to see me in my office to discuss it.




© 2006 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College