Elements of a Research Project or Proposal: Questions to Consider
Introduction: Problem or Question
- What exactly do you want to study?
- What is your research question or questions?
- Why is it worth studying?
- What is the purpose or significance of your study?
- Does the proposed study have practical significance?
- How are you defining your terms?
- What are the limitations of your study?
- What is the researcher’s perspective or viewpoint?
- What have others said about this topic?
- What theories address it and what do they say? What research has been done previously?
- Are there consistent findings or do past studies disagree?
- Are there flaws in the body of existing research that you feel you can remedy?
Methods & Subjects
- What inquiry approach are you using?
- Will you conduct an experiment or survey?
- Will you undertake field research, or are you going to focus on the reanalysis of statistics already created by others?
- What is the setting for the research?
- Who or what will you study in order to collect the data?
- Who are the subjects in general and who is available for study? How will you reach them?
- Will it be appropriate to select a sample? If so, how will you do that?
- If there is any possibility that your research will have an impact on those you study, how will you ensure that they are not harmed by the research?
- What are the key variables in your study?
- How will you define and measure them?
- Do your definitions and measurement methods duplicate or differ from those of previous research on this topic?
- Are you developing your measurement device (for example, questionnaire) or will you be using something previously developed by others?
- When developing a measurement device to measure your study group, how will you determine the validity of the instrument?
- For existing instruments, how do you know it is valid for your sample and how will you establish reliability for your sample? (Reliability should always be reported for the study sample, not the development samples reported in manuals.)
- How will you actually collect the data for your study (observation, interviews, document analysis, focus group, photography and video, etc.)?
- What kind of analysis do you plan to conduct?
- What is the purpose and logic of your analytical approach? Are you interested in precise description?
- Do you intend to explain why things are the way they are? Do you plan to account for variations in some quality (for example, why are some students more liberal than others)?
- What possible explanatory variables will your analysis consider, and how will you know if you’ve explained the variables adequately?
- How can you verify and establish the trustworthiness of your study?
- How will this research lead to scholarly work?
- What level of scholarly work makes sense?
- What is your end goal?
- What are the avenues for presenting or sharing your research findings?
- Where do you want to share your work?
- What did you learn?
- What worked and what didn’t?
- How does your data answer or inform your research question(s)?
Conclusions & Recommendations
- How can you apply or use what you learned?
- How might others use it?
- What were the limitations of your research?
- What implications are there for further research?
If you are writing a research proposal, include:
- Schedule – provide a schedule for the various stages of research (this is good to do for any project).
- Budget – If you are asking someone to give you money to pay the costs of your research, you will need to provide a budget specifying where the money will go. Large, expensive projects include budgetary categories such as personnel, equipment, supplies and expenses such as telephones and postage. Even for a more modest project which you will pay for yourself, it’s a good idea to spend some time anticipating any expenses involved: office supplies, photocopying, computer disks, telephone calls, transportation, and so on.
Source: Babbie, E. (1992). The Practice of Social Research, Sixth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company; Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Newberry Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Excerpted and adapted from Lisa Phelps and Judith Graham, Elements of a Social Research Report or Proposal: Questions to Consider (2002).