How to Write a Research Proposal for English Class

A good research proposal can make the research process much easier.

Whether you're in first-year composition or senior seminar, you may have to write a proposal for a research paper, which you must get approved before you can begin the paper. For example, a literature professor may ask you to identify the piece of literature you are critiquing, the type of critical theory you will be applying to it, and where you are going to look for resources, before she allows you to begin working on a critical research paper. A well-written research proposal must be convincing and cleanly written. It also helps if you know what the instructor-professor expects. You want to put considerable time and effort into this proposal.

Select a topic for the paper, such as business ethics or two-party politics, and do some primary research to identify the current controversies within that field. Select a topic that aligns with your interests and knowledge. Research the basics of your topic to show that you already have knowledge of the topic.

Write a research question that is problematic, significant, and interesting. Make sure the answer to your research question is something that is arguable, such as, "What contemporary leadership model best fits how George Washington led his troops?"

Answer your research question to create a working thesis. Revise this thesis to be sure the topic and your argument about the topic are clear.

Show how you will go about answering your research question and supporting your thesis, such as listing a preliminary bibliography or a description of the primary research that you have already done and how it has influenced your thoughts.

Ask questions of your instructor or point out places where you feel you might have difficulty. If your professor does not ask you to ask questions in the body of the proposal, attach them to the paper as a note or request a meeting.

  • Many professors require their proposals to come in a specific format. Make sure you ask you follow your professor's instructions or use his template to complete your proposal if one is provided.
  • Do not put a research proposal off to the last minute. While you should complete a proposal before you complete your paper, a good proposal must start with preliminary research and critical thinking.
  • An arguable, interesting research question is the key to a quality research proposal. Research questions should attempt to do more than simply describe something; they should aim to answer "why," and to propose to examine a problem that needs solving.

Miranda Morley is an educator, business consultant and owner of a copywriting/social-media management company. Her work has been featured in the "Boston Literary Magazine," "Subversify Magazine" and "American Builder's Quarterly." Morley has a B.A. in English, political science and international relations. She is completing her M.A. in rhetoric and composition from Purdue University Calumet.