Good Research Proposals

Don't fear the narrowing process; it allows you to go deep.QUALIFICATIONS: Does your qualifications section come out to more than half a page?

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You need that precious space for your background and justification and your plan!

To trim it, remove anything that's covered elsewhere in the application. The beauty of having headings in your proposal is it means you don't need transitions.

Here is an example: "Some scholars argue that Latin American national governments are moving toward the political center (Dickovick and Eaton 2013, [FIND OTHERS]), while others argue that political polarization is increasing [FIND OUT IF THIS IS TRUE; IF SO, CITE.]" ..move on to your next point.

Note in brackets everything that you will need to put in the final draft, but don't stop to find it now.

(If possible, actually do this and record the conversation.) In doing so, you will probably end up distilling your ideas into their core components, making your assumptions explicit, and defining key terms.

..give one or two of these strategies a try, and you'll be well on your way to getting a complete first draft!(For example, you have worked with a non-profit that seems very successful to you, and you ask the question, "Is this program effective? If so, try to rework it so you are asking a "how", "why", or "what does it mean" question, one that is, broadly speaking, about cause and effect.The previous example, for instance, could become "Which element of this program is most essential to its success?This is the way to perfect your proposal as well as to get encouragement with what can be a challenging process.If you would like to self-critique, though, here are a few questions to guide you, based on the most common shortcomings found in early drafts of proposals: QUESTION: Is your question a really a foredrawn conclusion that you're trying to prove?Pretend that you are explaining your research question (i.e.what your research is about, and why it matters) to someone who is interested, but by no means an expert on your topic.Once you have a list of all the parts you'll need, choose the part that is easiest to write and start there.Just get words down on paper for the section you are most comfortable with. " (Check out a You Tube clip here.) The idea behind this approach is to give yourself a time limit--maybe 10 minutes, maybe 40--and just keep writing continuously.Read through your plan and make sure it has approximate dates for each phase of your research, amounts (number of people to be interviewed, number of samples to be gathered, number of subjects in the experiment, etc.), is precise about what will be done, and justifies these choices.BUDGET: The main problems encountered with budgets are that they are not specific, that expensive equipment is requested but its use is not justified in the proposal, or, conversely, that the budget is unrealistically low. More information on creative project proposals, including advice from successful Haas Scholars applicants, will be posted soon.

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