Writing a Proposal
Once you have decided on your experiment topic, you need to work out the details and write a
proposal based on your plans. You need to be sure you have a solid question. Your hypothesis
should be more than an “educated guess”—it must be a proposed explanation or possible
answer to your question. In addition, it must be testable, falsifiable, and the basis for
When designing your experiment, you must include independent and dependent variables.
Consider how you will set up treatments or establish groups. You must decide on
measurements. You may need to measure several different things. Also consider replication.
Looking ahead, you will be writing a lab report that will include graphs and tables. Averages are
a common way to present data, so having multiple replicates that enable you to collect reliable
data in an experiment is key. Don’t forget about controls and constants. You will need controls
for comparisons and proper constants ensure that you don’t have outside factors skewing your
Sections of a Proposal
The proposal is broken into several sections: Title, an Introduction that includes background
and significance of the research, Methods for the proposed research, and References. Below
are brief descriptions of each section.
The title should be descriptive and indicate the independent and dependent variables
for the project (what your treatments will be and what you will measure. You should
also include your name as well as course/section information and your TA’s name.
The introduction of a research proposal will have background information to help
familiarize the reader with the topic. The background information should be detailed
enough that the reviewer has sufficient information to understand the logic behind the
research question and hypothesis. It is essential that the proposal reviewers understand
the significance of the proposed work. The information should be supported by reliable
references. All of these combined will help put the proposed research in context of
what is already known and highlight is to be learned the proposed experiment or study.
Proposed Research Methods
The proposed research methods section should be a thorough description of how you
plan to carry out the experiment. Since the work has not yet been done, this section
should be written in future tense. You must indicate independent and dependent
variables, any controls and constants, and the number of replicates needed to acquire
meaningful data for analysis. It is important to explain how the treatments will be set
up and measurements will be made. In addition, address the type of data analysis to be
used (e.g. averages, totals, or other calculations). Remember, your goal is to convince
the reviewers of the proposal your methods are well thought out and will enable you to
support or refute your hypothesis.
This section is a list of all references used for the proposal. If you cite a source in the
text, it must be listed here, and if you list a reference here, it must be cited in the text.
For this course, references are formatted using the CSE name-year style. Your research
proposal should be supported with a minimum of two reliable sources. Textbooks and
scientific journal articles are examples of reliable sources. The Internet undoubtedly is
source of vast amounts of information, but while some websites may be acceptable for
use as a reference, many others are not. If you questions the validity or reliability of the
source—internet or otherwise—it is best to avoid it.
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