Psychology Research Proposal Writing Guide

To prevent procrastination on completing a thesis paper, a professor may ask you to submit a research proposal, which is basically an outline of the research project to which you intend to commit the rest of the semester (or year). At this point, you have thought long and hard about the mental functions (and dysfunctions) that interest you and even have a vague inkling of what you hope to contribute to the academic world before you walk off triumphantly with your diploma. Once the idea has circulated through your mind a few times, then you will be ready to outline your research proposal for approval. Extra care should be taken in writing the proposal because its purpose is to convince a panel of experienced academics that your research topic should be explored in greater detail.

Know Your Subject

At this point, your task is to introduce the topic that you want to research and highlight the importance of studying the issue. This requires spending hours reading journals and articles on the subject both inside and outside your specialization, so that you would avoid the pitfall of exploring territory that had already been scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb. Look at other papers that have cited the studies you are using for your thesis and take note of how the authors have interpreted your sources. Although it is expected, it can still be surprising how two different writers can interpret the same work so differently—a phenomenon that will be most common in the humanities and social sciences where observational bias plays a role. Looking at sample proposals will help you learn the proper format and tone to implement when you are ready to construct your own.

Use Resources to Prove a Gap in the Knowledge

For the purposes of a research proposal, the list of sources is necessary for showing the gaps in knowledge, and how you hope to look among several disparate sources to synthesize an entirely new idea. Quite often in the discussion section, research papers will recommend areas where further research needs to be completed, especially if the project is not designed very well. This is the area in which you need to concentrate your research. The best places to look are academic databases such as JSTOR and Sage Publications for peer-reviewed journal articles and the library for books. Most professors would prefer that you restrict your source-findings to these media. However, if there are news articles, movies or unpublished dissertations relevant to your research, then by all means include them as well. Usually, teachers would want you to refrain from using open-source media such as Wikipedia or because they have not been edited by the appropriate authorities and arguments from there are not considered definitive proof in most academic circles. This process needs to be completed before you present your line of inquiry to your committee.


For a psychology proposal paper, it is important to follow the guidelines for APA formatting unless otherwise specified. No matter which style is specified, you can find the information in the reference section of the library in a handbook, and there are free websites that offer examples on how to properly list the citations for a paper. Alternatively, you may prefer to purchase your own guide from bookstore or through

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