Acing the Research Proposal

Acing the Research Proposal

acrp1It may seem as though creating research proposal topics is an easy task, but it’s really anything but easy. In fact, getting started (on any type of project) can actually be the hardest part of any research proposal. Once you take a few higher level academic classes, it’s likely that your professor won’t assign any proposal topics—instead, students need to submit research proposal topics for approval. The approval process can be more daunting than actually writing the research paper. Why? Good question! Let’s take a look at what goes into selecting a good research topic.

Good Research Topics

Good research topics involve thinking about issues that are both broad and new. These means that good research topics should have a variety of notable, reliable resources. Such resources should include both primary and secondary resources, and be available in both print and/or digital forms. Good research topics should have a variety of credible sources to ensure the accuracy of the research; this means that as a student, you should seek out topics that have verifiable studies published in appropriate journals or notable websites in the particular field being studied. 

Additionally, research proposal topics should be broad without being vague and narrow without being pigeon-holed. What exactly does this mean? Great question! You want you research topics to be broad enough to include diverse research in the field but not so narrow that no information will be available on the proposal topics. This means that before submitting a research proposal topic, you should ensure that enough current information exists to create a thorough Works Cited and/or Bibliography page—whichever (or both) one the professor prefers.

Define Proposal

acrp2Ah. The proposal. Research proposal topics are exactly what they sound like: they are a written statement, typically one to three pages in length that outlines what you as the student plans to research in the formal research paper. Proposal topics are then reviewed by your professor or a panel of academics to ascertain the validity of the research topic being proposed. Good research topics tend to be well thought out, relevant to the subject, and of general interest to the population at large. When debating on good research topics, it’s important to consider what the research will give to people; in other words, how will the paper you write help people? How will the current research you synthesize and the new research you complete help to improve the lives of others? When a student works to define proposal, he or she should ask: “How are these research proposal topics relevant?” After asking this important question, a student should select the topic that most strongly answers this question and then being the research proposal outline.

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Research Question Examples

Good research question examples focus not only on posing a broad question but examining different parts that contribute to it. Here are a few excellent samples of a broad range of research question examples:

  • How have increasing global temperatures affected animal and human populations worldwide?
  • Do companies sourcing raw materials from recycling plants show higher profits than companies sourcing raw materials from original sources?
  • Does increasing the minimum wage positively affect families living in the defined middle and lower class strata?
  • Why do audiences respond more strongly to Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies than to his historical plays?
  • Historically, to societies supporting communist or democratic governments provide better for their citizens?
  • Red wine or coffee: which drink more positively affects the human body on a weekly basis?
  • Which 5 superfoods offer the most nutrition to the human body?
  • Life After Death: Does the afterlife actually exist?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: How acknowledging racism is the first step in overcoming it.
  • Man’s Best Friend: How dogs became the best-domesticated animal

As you can see in these research question examples, research proposal topics can span an extremely wide range. Good research topics should be broad enough to cover significant ground while allowing an opposing party to argue the opposite side. Remember: if someone else can’t argue the opposite of what you’re planning to argue, it isn’t a very good research topic!

Proposal Topics

acrp3We should take a moment to review what proposal topics are NOT; we’ve spent a good deal of time talking about what good research topics are. A proposal topic is not a fact; a fact cannot be debated because it exists as a truth. Facts include statements such as the world is round, mammoths are extinct, and humans contribute to climate change. In academic classes, your professors are well aware of universal facts; there is no need to research already established facts. Doing so would be a waste of your time and the professor’s time since the world has already acknowledged the existence of these facts. Therefore, proposal topics should focus on an issue still in debate; the purpose of the research paper is to convince the audience of one side or another. Before beginning to write any research proposal topics it’s a good idea to take a list of several potential proposal topics to your teacher or professor and discuss the best options. Your academic advisor exists as an excellent resource; he or she will likely know which topics will have the most sources and he or she will be able to help you decide on the best wording for your research proposal.

Sometimes, the first steps prove to be the hardest to take. This is true whether you’re hiking a difficult trail or you’re tackling a hard academic assignment such as deciding between research proposal topics. Once you’ve narrowed your brainstorming down to a few good research question examples, it’s time to set a meeting with your teacher during his or her office hours. Take your best ideas and be open to feedback. Putting the time in at the beginning of the research proposal topic selection process is the best time you’ll ever spend — it will most certainly save you time throughout the project. Remember: good research topics should be broad enough to find research but narrow enough to address a specific problem. 

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