RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Researchers are always writing proposals. They write them to explain a resarch project in order to obtain the funding they need to do the research or to find a publisher once most of the work is done. A research proposal explains what the research is about and how the researcher will do it. It has five major components.

1. A general description of the topic

2. A statement of the hypothesis or thesis that the researcher will investigate or test.

3. A list of the research questions that will guide the work

4. An accounting of the primary sources that the researcher will consult

5. A brief bibliography of the most important secondary sources.

Your research proposal should be two or three pages long (typed, double spaced). You should submit it through the Discussion Board in the Communications section of this Web site. You may find the following explanations helpful as you write.

HYPOTHESIS: All good historians use data to make an argument, and the core of any argument is its thesis or hypothesis. In his book THE UNFINISHED JOURNEY William Chafe argues that World War II shaped the course of American history both at home and abroad for a generation after 1945. Thus, he hypothesized that the Second World War was the defining event in American life in the mid twentieth century. Think of your hypothesis as the historical argument that you hope to make in your final paper. But remember that a hypothesis is not the same as your final argument. It may change as you do your research because the evidence that you unearth may not turn out to be what you expected.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Research questions are the cues that guide your research. If you want to test the hypothesis that World War II affected every aspect of American life after 1945, what sources will you consult and what will you look for in these sources to demonstrate the truth or error of your hypothesis? Would it make sense to look at American foreign policy? What aspects of this would you chose? For example, would you look to see how the partitioning of Europe that resulted from the war affected American foreign policy in the 1950s? On the home front, would it make sense to look at education to see if it was affected by World War II? What would look for in the schools to demonstrate that education was affected by the war? Would you look to see if the curriculum was more patriotic than before or that foreign languages were thought to be more important than ever, perhaps to promote better uderstanding among nations?

PRIMARY SOURCES: Because sources help drive research, it is important to show that you know where you will go to find out what you need to know. So, for example, if you plan to use a collection in the Urban Archives to develop our project, you need to identify it in your proposal.

SECONDARY SOURCES: Most historians do not begin research on a topic without having read some key books and articles first. The brief bibliography in your proposal should identify the two or three books and/or journal articles that you will use to orient you to your topic. Remember that there has been a conversation among scholars about this topic before and you need to know something about what already has been said.