Final Research Proposal Outline
The outline for a research proposal is similar to the outline for a research study (which you
should observe in the studies you include in your annotated bibliography). You should include
three main sections – headers are recommended for clarity. Please see Creswell & Creswell
(2018), the optional text, for additional guidance.
This section builds a case for your proposed study, and should be approximately 4-6 pages. It
presents a problem, and summarizes what we currently know (via a literature review). This
contextualizes your research question.
Problem Statement – This section should be a few paragraphs and no more than a page. It
should explain what the social problem is, and why we should care about the social problem.
Literature review – This section summarizes what we currently know about a topic. As
such, an appropriate number of studies depends on the topic, as some topics have
many studies (e.g., etiology of juvenile delinquency) and some topics have very few. The
goal is to identify and present an integrated summary of existing research, including
what is clearly known, what is uncertain, and/or what hasn’t been examined. As a
guideline, include at least 15 citations, with at least eight (of the 15 citations) empirical
research studies from peer-reviewed journals. Students are encouraged to use
appropriate academic or professional libraries to locate the resources needed.
Early drafts of a literature review often focus on the lower stages of learning (e.g.,
knowledge and comprehension, Young, pp. 78-79), but later drafts should reflect higher
stages of learning (e.g., analysis and synthesis, Young pp. 80). For this reason, multiple
drafts of the literature review are necessary to produce a strong product.
This section will vary depending on your research study design. Please see class slides for
This section reflects your application of the knowledge you are learning in class, and there are
opportunities in class to start to discuss ideas for your proposal with your classmates. You
should also include any questionnaires or surveys.
In a research study, the discussion section presents the researcher’s interpretation of the
results. Since there are no results in this proposed study, please describe the anticipated results
of your study if you were to conduct the study.
Limitations – Every research study has limitations. Please describe the limitations of your study
– this provides another dimension of understanding research methods.
Social Work Implications – Please explain how any results or findings from your proposed study
(if you were to actually conduct the study) could be used by a social worker.
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