How to Write a Research Proposal for a Sociology Paper

Sociology is an examination of human beings in social contexts. Observing how people in specific communities interact, taking surveys and conducting experiments yields new data to build sociological knowledge. Research often takes money, however, and a research proposal to a governing body in the field, such as the American Sociological Association or a project approval committee at a college or university can be the key to getting out into the field. Writing a research proposal for a sociology paper involves articulating the problem, hypothesis and research methods you plan to use in the project.

Step 1

Compose an abstract of three paragraphs. The abstract acts as your proposal in miniature and as a stand-alone document. The first paragraph introduces the problem your proposed project will address. The second paragraph explains the importance of the problem, contextualizing it in contemporary sociological research and publications. The final paragraph explains your project’s operating hypothesis and how the project will propel contemporary sociological research.

Step 2

Focus on the problem and hypothesis in your proposal’s introduction. Indicate the type of hypothesis you are operating with. Sociological projects typically fall into two categories: non-causal investigations and causal arguments. The former seeks to explore a topic generally, and the latter seeks to articulate the causes or effects of a specific sociological topic.

Step 3

Put the problem in context and indicate the research that led to your hypothesis in the literature review section of the proposal. This section should incorporate multiple sources representing the most recent publications and research in the sub-field of sociology you are working in.

Step 4

Articulate your methodology for the project. Describe the nature of the experiments, surveys, interviews or observations you plan to use to address the articulated problem propelling your proposal. Explain clearly how you plan to maintain objectivity and accuracy in your experiments and data-gathering.

Step 5

Conclude your proposal by emphasizing the significance of the problem your proposal addresses and why your study, hypothesis and findings could advance the sub-field of sociology you are working in.


If operating under a causal hypothesis, indicate the variables you hold as standards in making your claim. For example, if your hypothesis is that incentives cause good behavior in children, your project will assume as truth the variable statement that “most children generally act in a similar fashion.”

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