Term Paper Proposals

A proposal is supposed to help your reader (i.e. professor, baccalaureate committee, IRB, potential funding source, book editor) understand what it is you plan to work on for a specific research project. Generally speaking, a good proposal should help you anticipate potential challenges that will inevitably come from working through a research project and why your specific project matters. Most proposals have at a minimum a few crucial components:

  • statement of purpose, the problem or research question you are addressing, and why it is relevant (especially in regards to the themes of the course). Since you haven’t done the work yet, I don’t expect a thesis. I do, however, expect you to show that you are thinking of research question whose answer could result in a thesis.
  • literature review. Here is where you position your ideas in relation to the ideas of others. The point of this is to help you more easily engage in a larger intellectual dialogue.
  • anticipated problems and how you will work through them (i.e. our library catalog  and/or Uborrow has limited holdings…).
  • Attached bibliography (at least 3 secondary academic sources, either journal articles or books, apart from the textbooks).

In a college setting, proposals help you think through the planning of writing a term paper. Since this is a medium-length paper, I expect them to be on the short side (3 pages should be plenty). Most of the feedback I will give you will be geared toward making the project better and/or more realistic to manage. I expect these proposals to show that you have spent some time thinking about your projects in advance and that you are aware of what other people have said about related topics.


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