Research Proposal


In preparation for their main research project, each student will draft a research proposal, which is meant to focus their research and help to organize their thinking about their topic. This proposal will include a research question, some preliminary thoughts toward how the student will tackle their question, and a list of five possible primary materials from the Rose Library that could contribute to their research. During Week 9 of the course, I’ll be meeting with each student individually in lieu of class. During this time, we will review together your research proposal and plan for next steps.

Expectations for the Research Proposal

The research proposal should contain the following elements:

A Research Question

What is a research question? For the purposes of this assignment, a research question is a short statement (1–2 sentences) that lays out the topic the student wishes to tackle in their research, and the specific aspects of the topic that will orient their thinking, reading, and writing. Though the question one starts out with on a research project will inevitably shift and change over time, it is important to frame a guiding idea at the outset to organize the research to come.

Most importantly, try to pose your research question in relatively narrow terms. Instead of, say, “What does the term ‘Beat’ mean?”, a more effective research question might be, “How do authors x, y, and z use the term ‘Beat,’ and in what ways do their approaches to the term align with and diverge from one another?” The goal here is to give yourself a topic of the right size to approach over the course of the semester, and to which you can give a well-researched and persuasive answer.

A Research Plan

In 500 words, explain the steps you will take to begin researching your question. This plan should include your tentative hypotheses about answers to the question you’ve chosen, what you need to know to answer it more fully, and how you will go about getting that information. Note that your research will include both primary and secondary materials, though at this stage, identifying primary texts will be most important. The purpose of drafting this plan is to give you a preliminary roadmap for conducting your research project, and a place to begin our one-on-one conversations during Week 9.

list of possible archival materials

The final item to include in the research proposal is a list of five primary materials housed within the Rose Library collections that you believe may be useful to you in your research. You need not actually examine these materials in advance of turning in your research proposal. At this stage, I only want you to identify five individual items from the Rose that you intend to examine as part of your research. These items may include published materials (books, periodicals, broadsides, etc., discoverable through the normal library catalogue but housed in the Rose) or manuscript materials (items from manuscript collections located using a finding aid).

Click here for an overview on how to get started navigating the Rose Library. If you are unable to find answers to your questions on the Rose Library website, you may email me for more information.

Submitting your Research Proposal

Please submit your research proposal via email by midnight on Friday, October 13th. When submitting your proposal, please do so in a Word document, with the title formatted as follows: lastname, firstname_research proposal.docx. Please be sure to follow these formatting rules; it makes it much easier for me to manage incoming documents.


The research proposal is worth 5% of your grade. I will grade the assignment based primarily on completion of the aspects of the assignment (research question, research plan, list of primary sources). Again, we will be meeting individually to discuss the proposal in detail during Week 9 of our course.