A literature review will help the student to formulate the problem that s/he is tackling, to know what research has already been carried out on your subject and what aspects are under-researched. Moreover, it will also tell you about the relevant theories, important variables etc.
A good starting place to find further relevant literature is to look at the articles and books your textbooks refer to. A better review can be done using the academic databases and search engines like EBSCO, Scopus and Google Scholar. Often, you will find a large amount of literature relevant to your topic. References in articles can be used to find older literature and the option ‘cited by‘ can be used as well. The advantages of using ‘cited by‘ is to find newer literature.
Make sure to keep a good record of where you get your information from. You are advised to use a programmes like EndNote which will help you to manage your references and bibliography. Most of the well-known databases and search engines allow direct and automatic importation of citations into EndNote (and similar programs).
When creating a list of references at the end (bibliography) of the paper, use one single style. At the University of Zakho, we suggest using the APA style.
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A research proposal sets out what you intend to achieve and how you will go about it. The requirements of research proposals differ depending on the question you want to address. It should at least include (although not necessarily in this order):
Chapter 1: Introduction
This part includes a brief introduction about the topic and how it is important. It explains the background of the project, focusing briefly on the major issues of its knowledge domain and clarifying why these issues are worthy of attention. The introduction should endeavor to catch the reader’s interest and should be written in such a way that can be understood easily by any reader with a general science background. It should cite all relevant references pertaining to the major issues described.
Many researchers prefer to postpone writing the Introduction till the rest of the document is finished. This is apparently make sense, since the act of writing tends to introduces many changes in the plans initially sketched by the writer. Therefore, at finishing from the document the writer gets a clear view of how to construct an introduction that is, indeed, compelling.
Normally, the last paragraph of this section gives hints about the problem that is going to be consider within the proposal research. In other words, the last paragraph works as a bridge that serves as preface of the next section which is research problem.
Chapter 2: State of Art
The State of the Art, also known as the Literature Review. First of all, it demonstrates that you have built a solid knowledge of the field where the research is taking place, and that you have critically identified and evaluated the key literature.
The Literature Review must give credit to the researchers who laid the groundwork for your research. In this way when your research objectives are further clarified, the reader is able to recognize beyond doubt that what you are attempting to do. This will confirm of what has not been done in the past and that your research will likely make a significant contribution to the literature.
The Literature Review is usually the more extensive part of a research proposal, so it will expectedly develop over various paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. It should be accompanied by comprehensive references. Ideally, all appropriate books, book chapters, papers and other texts produced in the knowledge domain you are exploring which are of importance for your work should be mentioned here and listed at the end of the proposal. The popular reference style conventions are American Psychological Association (APA) style.
Chapter 3: Research Problems, Objectives, Questions, And Hypotheses
Research Problems: The research problem is a general statement of why the research should be done. This is something that is not well-understood or solved and can be addressed by research. The fundamental questions could be as:
Research Objectives: These are statements of what is expected as the output of the research. Each of the objectives must be at least partially met at the end of the project. The clarification of the research objectives should build solidly on the Literature Review and relate your research to the work carried out by others. It should elucidate the measure to which your work develops from their work and the extent to which it diverges from theirs to open up new and yet unexplored avenues.
There is usually a single general objective which is not operational. This is broken down into a list of specific objectives which are then formulated as research questions, which are then operationalized as research methods.
Research Questions: This section must specify what the research will actually address. Each research question must be answered by the thesis, therefore it must be a specific question to which an answer can be given. Questions follow objectives and may be simple re-statements in operational form, i.e. where an experiment or sample can answer it.
Research Hypothesis: As a definition: It is an idea or suggestion that is based on known facts and is used as a basis for reasoning or further investigation.
Chapter 4: Research Methodology and Materials
Research Methodology: Provides a discussion of the research strategy (general approach) to be adopted with appropriate justification including:
Research Materials: This addresses the range of data that will be gathered from the research techniques and how this information will be used and analyzed. It also may include description of the study area, software and equipment and other needs that to be used and present in the research.
Chapter 5: Work Plan and Implications
In general, it is not easy to create a detailed work plans for the research proposal. However, (in some cases) it is possible do build a detailed description of what the researcher plans to do (literature to explore in depth, principles or theorems to formulate and prove, experiments to carry out, sub-systems to build, systems integrations to perform, tests to accomplish). The plan should anticipate the problems likely to be found along the way and describe the approaches to be followed in solving them. It should also anticipate the conferences and journals to which the work in progress is expected to be submitted along the way, and schedule it in a Goals for Publication section of the work plan.
Whatever its nature, comprehensive or sketchy, your work plan should be able to put in perspective the implications of the successive steps of your work, reinforcing, in the mind of the reader, and that the outcomes of the project will contribute significantly to the enhancement of the field. It would be very clear for the reader if the anticipate plan of the research proposal can be shown as a time table.
Template of the PhD Research Proposal can be downloaded from here.
The most difficult part of the research project is formulating a good research question. Commonly, you start with a topic (energy policy, or human rights) or with a general problem (something is wrong with political participation, human resource management, or this production process). Most important issue is that you have to be clear about the type of research question you want to answer. There are several types of questions: