How to Write an Outline for a Proposal in APA

The rules of American Psychological Association (APA) style, offer guidance for clear and concise writing. They were first developed 80 years ago with the purpose of creating a style that would serve best for presenting facts with minimal distraction and diversion. Since then the rules of APA style have been adopted by various disciplines and are commonly used for writing documents in nursing and social sciences.

Outline and object of the proposal

Create a title page. Type your name, centered, in the top part of the page. Move one line under and type the name of the school or organization you are writing the proposal for. Type the title of your proposal below that.

Move to the next page and list the following titles: "Introduction," "Background and review of the Literature," "Rationale," "Method and Design," "Significance and Conclusion" and "References." These are also going to be the titles of sections in your paper. List them in that order and one under another in the outline.

Explain what you are going to be researching and why your research is important under "Introduction." Describe the general area you will study. For example, if you are writing about discrimination, introduce the populations subjected to it that you will be writing about. Also use the introduction to explain whether your studies will contribute to current knowledge or test an existing theory.

Describe what existing literature says about the problem under "Background and review of the Literature." Reference the theoretical framework of your research when you do this. Note briefly why the studies are not sufficient and introduce your own questions. For example what has already been tried to fight discrimination, what worked and what didn't. Your question can be why are specific populations still faced with discrimination.

Use the "Rationale" title to introduce your hypothesis and further describe the dilemmas you will be addressing in the research. For example, your hypothesis can be "There is no sexual discrimination in the labor market and the difference in employment and pay between men and women are caused by other factors." Note how you will test this.

Methodology and references

Expand the title "Method and Design," to include subsections: "Method," "Design" and "Analysis." List the sections in that order and one under another. Under the title "Method" note the most commonly used methods in existing literature and what method you will be using. Introduce who you will study and include age and language background and socioeconomic information to your description.

List what statistics you plan to collect in order to test your hypothesis under the "Design" title. Note how these statistics relate to your hypothesis. Also add if the methods you are using have any limitations. For example, are participants going to be honest and the number of participants you will be able to include.

Go to the "Analysis" title. Define what kind of results would confirm your hypothesis and what kind of results would disprove it.

Note how your research is beneficial to the field under "Significance and Conclusion." List how your research adds to the already existing data and why is it important for you to conduct this research.

List all the references you used in alphabetical order according to the authors surname under the "Reference" title. Book references must include the authors name, date of publication, title, place of publication and the name of the publisher. For example, Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (11th ed.). (2003). Springfield, MA: Merriam- Webster.


Read through the outline to check if it makes sense to you as a whole and make changes where necessary. Use the outline to write your complete proposal.


Keep the outline simple and concise. The purpose of the outline is only to offer you guidance for when you start writing your paper so always stick just to the basic ideas.

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