Information Resources for the Marine Options Program

Steps in Writing a Research Proposal

Search in databases for materials on your topic and read the books and articles you find.

Look for unanswered questions, or aspects of your topic on which you find little or no existing research.

You're likely to start with a broader topic, and as you read, you'll then focus more on a narrow problem or question.

Come up with a question that you will try to answer with your research, and let that guide you as you continue your reading.

Write your introduction, in which you will summarize the literature on the topic. In this section, outline the important previous research on which you base your research question. Cite your sources carefully to give credit where it's due, and to avoid plagiarism.

In the Methods section, you'll describe your research question, and why ist's important. Put forth your hypothesis, and describe in detail how you will gather data to prove your hypothesis.

In the next section, give a timeline to show what steps you will conduct, and when. If your research project has associated expenses, outline a budget with clear and acurate details about those costs.

Write your bibliography. This lists all of the sources of information you consulted in your literature review. Format your references in the standard format appropriate for the area of study.

Finally, write the abstract - a concise summary of your proposal, including a description of your research question, its importance, you hypothesis, what is going to get done and by whom.

Adapted from Endlund, John. "Teaching the Research Proposal: A Brief Process-Oriented Overview." Writing Center News. Spring 2003. Web.

Research Proposal Writing Resources

Typical Sections of a Research Proposal. Pomona, Ca: California State Polytechnic University, 2007. Web.

Chapin, Paul. G. Research projects and research proposals: a guide for scientists seeking funding. New York: Cambridge, 2004. (ebrary)

Krathwohl, David R. How to prepare a research proposal: guidelines for funding and dissertations in the social and behavioral sciences. 3rd ed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1988. Print.

Orlich, Donald C. Designing successful grant proposals. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Currriculum Development, 2002. Print.

Finding Books

Hawaii Voyager Catalog. Find books (including ebooks), pamphlets, videos and more in the University of Hawaii libraries. Hint: if you want an item that's at another UH library, you can go there to use or borrow it, or ask the WCC librarian to request it to you.

Ebrary. Over 32,000 full-text books on a wide range of topics.

NetLibrary. Hundreds of books from the University of Hawaii Press, plus many public-domain books. Hint: set up a username and password while on the WCC campus, then you can log in from anywhere.

Hawaii State Public Library Catalog. Books and more. Hint: You can request items from other libraries (even other islands) to be transferred to the branch of your choice (Library card needed - they're free).

Google Books Advanced Search. Limited preview or full-text books.

National Academies Press. Ebooks in various science, health, and technology fields. Hint: look for the "Download Free PDF" button.

Finding Articles

Hint - if you want to get a whole article that you can't get online for free, don't pay for it - ask a librarian to get it for you.

Science Direct. This article database provides abstracts (summaries) and full text articles.

Academic Search Premier (EBSCO). This database has full-text articles on a broad range of topics. Hint: You can search this and other EBSCO databases even after you leave WCC - by going to the Public Library website.

Agricola (via EBSCO). This database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library. Citations to journal articles, books, theses, patents, software, audiovisual materials, and technical reports related to agriculture.

GreenFILE (EBSCO). Has "scholarly, government and general-interest" information on "all aspects of human impact to the enviroment".

Google Scholar. "Peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations."

Following Citations

Because all good research builds on previous research, follow the citations within the literature you review carefully in both directions.

In other words: What research did this author cite, and who, in turn, cited this author?

If you find a good article on your topic, look at its bibliography to see what important studies came before it. Also look to see who cited the article in the bibliographies of subsequent research.

Search Engines and Web Directories This search engine helps you find information on government websites in the US.

Scirus. A science-only search engine to find journals articles, scientists' homepages, and information from institutional repositories and websites.

Citing Your Sources

You must tell your reader where you got your information, whether it's from a book, podcast, blog, journal article, personal interview, email exchange, photo, sound recording, video clip, or wherever. Why?

  • To give credit where credit is due.
  • To increase your own credibility in the eyes of your audience.
  • To help your audience find those items for their own research.
  • To avoid plagiarism. 

There are TWO parts to citing sources:

  • Cite the source of your information when/where you use it (called "In-text citation").
  • Provide a list of Works Cited or Bibliography

WCC Library's Citing Sources Page

Check out NoodleBib Express! The librarians at WCC can also help you cite your sources (Tara, in particular, likes the tricky ones).

Compiled by Tara Severns. Updated 9/25/09