How to Write an Academic Project Proposal

The theories that propel academic disciplines do not spring from the ether. After thorough research within an academic discipline, countless hours spent poring over published articles and books and seemingly endless debates with colleagues, researchers finally conclude they don’t know enough about a topic to formulate any substantive conclusions -- but they do know enough to propose an academic project that can allow them to formulate these conclusions, usually in the form of an academic or research study, article or book. Writing an academic project proposal requires you to demonstrate your understanding of a specific problem within your discipline.

Introduce both your topic and your proposed research plan in the first section of your proposal. Contextualize your proposed project within contemporary research specific to the field in which your project is being proposed. This will demonstrate your awareness of the current academic dialogue taking place in the field.

Explain the problem your academic project responds to within the field. This could be framed either as a response to an unanswered question in a recent publication or research study or as a criticism of what you perceive to be a shortcoming in a recent publication or research study. Though rarer, the problem framing your academic project proposal could represent an entirely new research avenue that has been unexplored by contemporary research in your field.

Present the objectives of your academic project. Include current research you will analyze and evaluate, as well as experiments, surveys or other empirical research you will conduct during the course of the academic project. Your objectives should relate directly to the problem articulated in the section after your introduction.

Describe the solution you believe your research will yield. This will be the working hypothesis of your academic project. It must be reasonably detailed so as to indicate your understanding of both the project and related research, as well as sufficiently open to being changed. The section describing your section should indicate both how your hypothesis will guide your project, as well as the ways in which your project could eventually yield results other than those you expect in your hypothesis.

Outline the methodology you will use during the course of the project. This builds directly upon the objective section of the proposal, specifying a bibliography and experiment guide, as well as a detailed schedule for your project and an outline for how you will keep track of data and information produced during your project.

Conclude your proposal by re-emphasizing the problem to which you believe your project responds. Emphasize the significance of the problem to your field, as well as how your proposed academic project will further research in that field.

  • "Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach"; Paul V. Anderson; 2010
About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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