How to Write a Proposal for a Research Paper in Chicago Style

Writing a research proposal is about organizing and planning.

Writing a research paper requires focus and attention to detail, and the Chicago Manual of Style lays down specific guidelines for students to follow. This is because since 1906, the Chicago Manual of Style has been one of the most widely used guides in the United States. To get started on their assignment, many students prepare a research proposal so the instructor can get an idea of what direction the paper is heading in and if the student is on the right track.

Develop an idea. The key to a well-researched paper is a good topic. Follow your professor's guidelines for the paper and select a topic that is within those instructions. Since Chicago style is often used for humanities courses papers, it is likely that your focus will be on a social science topic.

Once you have selected your topic, you should begin organizing your research. Plan on what kinds of materials you would need to support your paper's main idea. One helpful tool is to write down facts on index cards. Number the cards to correspond with the source that the information originated from. You will be able to quickly reference these sources when you are organizing your thoughts for your proposal.

After your research is organized, it is time to group the pieces of information for a proposal outline. The outline describes how the student will write the research paper. For the proposal, you will want to include your paper's main idea, how you plan to support this idea and a conclusion to wrap up all the details collected through your research. While you do not want to include everything that you are using for the assignment, the proposal should still be a condensed version of the research paper.

Use examples and interesting facts for your proposal. Your intent is to provide a preliminary look as to what will be further described in the paper. You want your professor and other readers to want to read more about your topic.

Format according to Chicago-style rules. Chicago style requires one-inch margins on each side of the page and double spacing for the body of the text (except for block quotes). Add page numbers in the top right-hand corner. Endnotes, footnotes and references should be single spaced.

Proofread your proposal for grammar mistakes. Chicago style has strict rules for grammar and punctuation. Hyphens can be particularly tricky. For example, Chicago style requires a writer to use "rock-and-roll" when the phrase is used as an adjective and "rock and roll" when used as a noun. Glance over your work to ensure that you have no typographical errors or misspellings that could not be picked up from spell checker software. Also, pay attention to word flow to make sure that you were able to correctly explain your argument points. You will also want to pay attention to margins, citation uses and other elements of writing that might have been missed during past revisions.

Make sure you cite your sources correctly. One of the main differences between Chicago and the other style guides is how each guidebook requires citations for references. Most of the lines end in periods. For example, a copy of the "The Chicago Manual of Style" would read like this: University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style: For Authors, Editors, and Copywriters. 14th ed., rev. and expanded. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

  • Plagiarism is taking someone else's work and representing it as your own. Many colleges do not tolerate acts of plagiarism, and the results of someone caught engaging in it may include failing the assignment or the course. Some schools even expel plagiarism offenders. Be sure you are following the proper citation guidelines outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • If you have any questions about your assignment, contact your professor or, if available, your class graduate assistant. Both would be able to clear up any questions you may have.

Leah Williams has written for many newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites, including the "Mt. Vernon Register-News" and "Nightlife." She has her bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University and is now working on her graduate degree. Williams likes to write about parenting, arts and entertainment, education and features.