If done well, a research proposal will almost serve as a preliminary outline of your paper. It offers your working thesis (hypothesis) and explanation, which should list the points you want to make. The sub-points are the main points of your paper. And the objections represent the other side of the argument.
This is a good time to reconsider the initial thoughts you had earlier in the module about your thesis (or hypothesis): do you need to rewrite it? If you have trouble filling in the sections below, an improperly formed thesis might be the problem.
The research proposal has 5 parts:
Working Thesis: a one-sentence paragraph; no introduction is necessary.
Explanation: a statement that includes the points you think you will be discussing in your paper.
Subpoints: each sub-point explains more fully a point mentioned in your explanation.
Possible Objections: a brief discussion of the opposition’s point of view.
Reply to Objections: your brief answer to the opposition.
Your research proposal should look like the five parts listed above. The number of sub-points may vary, but if you have only two, you may not have enough material for a good paper. For a simple undergraduate paper, limit your sub-points to 4 or 5.
The point of this exercise is to give you a focus, to force you to think about your topic independently of any research you may do or have done. This will probably serve as a basis for your paper, although it is quite likely that, once you begin your research, some of your ideas will change. That is the point of research: working to find an answer to a question!
Although your early research may have given you some great information, it is not necessary to rely on research for a good research proposal: you are simply outlining the argument that you expect to make in your final paper.
How can you know if you have done well with this assignment?
Is well written if:
Working Thesis (making your claim clear)
You state your thesis (your main point) in a single, declarative sentence that can be argued using scholarly research. Your thesis is neither too narrow nor too broad. You use no conjunctions.
Explanation (what do you expect to cover in your argument)
You offer a short overview of the main points that you expect to cover in your paper.
Subpoints (explaining the points covered above in detail)
You expand on your overview, with a statement of what you already know about the subject that supports your claim, as well as areas where you will need to do research to fill in your knowledge.
Possible Objections (What does the “other side” think?)
You fairly and completely offer the strongest arguments against your position.
Response to Objections (How do you plan to answer those objections to your thesis listed above?)