Dissertation Proposal Template Sociology Terms

An effective introduction discusses the meaningfulness of the study along while it presents the problem or issue.  Because it advocates for the need for your investigation and gives a clear insight into your intentions, the introduction presents a background and context for your investigation. If your introduction gets your audience's attention, they will stay with you throughout your proposal.     

Because it includes all of the sections listed below, your introduction may be several pages in length. Use your new knowledge of the research proposal and Crafting a Research Proposal:  The Introduction to assist you in your organizing and writing of your own research proposal introduction.

As explained before, not all elements of the introduction are discussed separately.  Many times several elements are discussed in one paragraph.  This list just reminds you of all of the things that should be discussed at some point in the introduction. Although these aspects of an introduction are described separately, some parts may, in reality, be combined together when the actual proposal is written. 

1. These elements should all be included in some form in the introduction.  Each link has suggestions and tools to help you to plan for each.

  • As a part of the Introduction, effective problem statements answer the question “Why does this research need to be conducted?”  The clear statement of the problem is the focal point of your research. It should state what you will be studying, whether you will do it through experimental or non-experimental investigation, and what the purpose of your findings will be.  In it, you are looking for something wrong, something that needs close attention, or something where existing methods no longer seem to be working.

    In your wording, be succinct and on target. Give a short summary of the research problem that you have identified.  A research proposal may not be considered acceptable or credible if you fail to clearly identify the problem.  Your biggest difficulty might be narrowing the topic since the topic is still relatively unfamiliar to you.  Your Literature Review should be a helpful source. 

    While the problem statement itself is just one sentence, it is always accompanied in the larger Introduction by several paragraphs that help to elaborate and that may include other elements of the research proposal.  You might present persuasive arguments as to why the problem is important enough to study or include the opinions of others (politicians, futurists, other professionals). Explain how the problem relates to business, social or political trends by presenting a bit of evidence from your Literature Review that demonstrates the scope and depth of the problem. Try to give dramatic and concrete illustrations of the problem. After writing the Introduction, however, make sure you can still easily identify the single sentence that is the problem statement.

    Complete the following tutorial and Crafting the Research Proposal:  The Introduction to help you to compose and record your own problem statement for your research proposal. 

  • Planning My Explanation of Purpose for the Study
  • Planning My Definitions Section
    Your proposal needs to be understandable to a general audience, not just individuals in your field of investigation.  You should define important terms and concepts that are usually stated in the objectives, hypothesis, and research questions, especially considering subject-specific and technical terms.  Words that differ in meaning in the context of your experiment from traditionally accepted meanings should also be defined.  Especially be sure to explain any operational definitions, special definitions that you have created just for your study. Be sure to refer to authoritative sources in your definitions to add to your authority and credibility in your audience's eyes.

    Crafting the Research Proposal:  The Introduction and the information located in this website will help you to write this section of your proposal.

    As you begin to write your introduction the clearest way to arrange your definitions is to list terms in alphabetical order, with definitions stated in complete sentences.  The can be observed in the following example of a definitions section from a proposal entitled “On the Home Front: Gender Disruption and the Great War.”

    Definition of Terms

    “The Great War”: World War I (WWI), general armed conflict between the Allies and the Central Powers, 1914-1918.
    “Modernism”: a post-Victorian artistic and literary movement marked by disillusionment with industrialism and imperialism, by the rise of capitalism and commercialism, and by the decline of religious certainty in an age of anxiety.
    “The New Woman”: a term coined around the turn of the century to denote the emergenceof women into the public sphere, a term closely associated with the suffrage movement, and connoting profound social transformations of the time.

    NOTE: Both terms with precise historical meanings (“The Great War”) and potentiallyambiguous ones (“Modernism” and “The New Woman”) are defined. Theseare not the only possible definitions, but are the ones chosen by the author to fit herown needs in the thesis.

    The following are excellent sources for defining terms:

  • Planning My Explanation of Problem Significance
  • Incorporating My Literature Review

    Your review of literature is already completed and has been through the process of revision and editing, so you have done the bulk of the work associated with this section of the introduction.  It just needs to be added to the rest of this part of your proposal.  Sounds easy, right?  Just a simple Copy-Paste?

    Well, it is easy, but it does require a little more than mouse clicks to make the literature review "fit in" with the rest of your proposal.

    You have three main things to consider:

    • Because you wrote the literature review before you learned about research design and methodology, you may now have new terms and concepts to associate with the summaries and explanations in your document.  Revise your literature review to be sure that there is alignment in your terminology and analyses.
    • Because you wrote the literature review some time ago,  you need to revise it to have the same voice, tone, and styleas the rest of your proposal.  This is something that you may want to wait to do until you have finished the methodology section of your proposal, but it is good to begin to at least consider it now.  Your proposal should sound like it was written by the same person, something is surprisingly difficult to do when a document is created section-by-section.
    • Because your review of literature has its own bibliography, those references must be incorporated into the reference list for the rest of your proposal.  Both reference lists need to be combined into one list that is alphabetized, formatted appropriately, and eliminates duplications in entries.
  • Although you do not have to plan anything for this step, your planning guide directs you to complete a Reflection Journal entry. 

  • Planning My Research Questions or Hypothesis

2. The way that introductions are crafted is as individualized as the proposal that follows.  You already saw actual introductions when you reviewed Sample Research Proposals and you may have recorded some of ideas about them in your Reflective Journal.  Here are some "How To" procedures that you've seen before that explain some ideas for the construction and composition of the introduction section of the research proposal.  

Suggestion A.

  • Begin with something interesting, e.g., a quote or story, to capture the reader's interest.
  • Introduce your question or curiosity. What is it that you want to know or understand? How did you get interested in the topic? If your question has evolved since you have begun, describe the process.
  •  Tell why there's a need for the study. Cite relevant literature that calls for the need for the research in this area, or demonstrates the lack of attention to the topic. In your own words, describe how you think this study will be useful.
  •  Describe the intended audience for your research (e.g., the public, family therapists).
  •  Describe your research product. What form will the report take (e.g., scholarly manuscript, magazine article for the public, script for a documentary video)?
  •  Conclude the introduction with an overview of your proposal.

Suggestion B. 

Introduction (2 pages) 

1. What is the topic of your research?

2. What area of sociology is concerned with questions related to your research interest?

3. Formulate your research question(s) or the problem you want to address as clearly as possible. What is your research goal?  Is it descriptive, exploratory, explanatory, or an evaluation?

4. Explain how you came to this question/problem based on your previous interests (research you might have been involved in, other courses you have taken, your work experience, discussions, etc.).

5. Explain the assumptions you are making in researching your question.

Explain the concepts you are using; what indicators/variables will you need to measure these?

What is your hypothesis and your independent/ dependent variables? Or what are you trying to explain?

6. Tentative thesis (argument) (your best answer to the research question based on your work to date)

7. Significance of this research question: Explain why this research is worth pursuing. Why is answering this research question important?

Suggestion C.


  • this section sets the context for your proposed project and must capture the reader's interest
  • explain the background of your study starting from a broad picture narrowing in on your research question
  • review what is known about your research topic as far as it is relevant to your thesis
  • cite relevant references
  • the introduction should be at a level that makes it easy to understand for readers with a general science background, for example your classmates

Once you have drafted your proposal introduction, use the revision checklist to help you to self-revise your document.  When you have made your own revisions, post your proposal introduction to the course Wiki so that others can comment and respond to your introduction using the same revision guide.

When  you have completed soliciting feedback and have made your revisions, use the editing checklist to help you to polish your document.

Back to Planning My Proposal

Sociology Research Proposal Writing Guide

If you are going to undertake a comprehensive research project, your professor may ask you to first submit a research proposal. Although ‘proposal’ may have a strong association with the grant application process—which can involve pages of assessment, evaluation, and justification—the research proposal merely offers an outline of your project. Moreover, it has the added benefit of convincing your professor that you do know what you are doing, that you have seriously considered your topic and that you are prepared to commit a semester or a year to completing this. In addition, if you hope to continue your work in academia where so much is dependant on grant money, you may as well get accustomed to writing these now.

Without further ado, here is your short answer on how to put together a research proposal.

Become an Expert on Your Subject

At this stage of the game, you already know exactly what you want to research. However, at this point, you do not know exactly how you are going to pull this together. The first step is to absorb everything you can on the subject. Academic books, peer-reviewed journals, documentaries, and news stories will form the bulk of your working bibliography at this time. In sociology, observational bias plays a role thus the only way to establish some approximation of truth would be to compile as many reliable sources as possible. Now that you are a human encyclopedia (at least on your topic), you are now ready to make your proposal.

Putting Your Proposal Together

  • Make sure that you have a short, but descriptive title. A smart, but pithy title will make your professors more excited about your research.
  • Your abstract will be approximately 300 words long. These will include your question, hypothesis, relevance of the study, methods, and existing findings you want to reconcile.
  • The introduction will provide background information and context for your research, and is a forum for you to elaborate on the relevance of your project.
  • Your review of the literature will solidify your context, and shows your ability to critically engage and integrate multiple sources with respect to your novel idea.
  • The methods section will discuss your research design, procedure, participants (if any) and the selection process.
  • Results—since this is a proposal, you will not have any results yet, but you might want to write about what you might expect as well as mention any analysis procedures you will use.
  • The conclusion will underscore the importance of your research and re-emphasize the existing gaps in the literature, but do not pour it on too thick.


In order for your professor to sign off on the project you proposed, you would want to provide her with a representative list of references. A complete list is not required this early in the research process. However, you would need to find the best sources possible to show that your project is valid and that the field is not ‘full.’ Your professor will most likely ask that you complete the paper in APA as the author-date citation style is generally more favored by social scientists than the author-work style of MLA. To make sure that all in-text references and the bibliography are properly formatted, consult the latest style-guide, which is available at the local library, bookstore, or Amazon.com.

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