280: Research Paper Proposal Version 1 (RPPv1)

Preparing Your Research Paper Proposal

The purpose of preparing a Research Paper Proposal (RPP) is to help you organize your work on your Research Paper and get early advice from the course staff, so you are able to define a suitable research question and complete your RPv1 on time. You are strongly encouraged to seek guidance from the course staff before preparing and submitting your RPP.

You must choose a research question within one of the Approved Research Topics.

Your RPP must identify a research question that has both technical and policy aspects and you must address both aspects in your RPP. Your research question must be narrow enough to be addressed adequately in a paper that is only six pages long.

To complete an acceptable RPP, you must think deeply about your research question and how you will address it, do a substantial amount of library research, formulate a thesis, and provide a list of the references on which you expect to base your RP.

The research paper's purpose is to come to a conclusion and provide a recommendation on what to do about the issue discussed in your paper.

You must submit both electronic and paper copies of the first version of your Research Paper Proposal (your RPPv1) by the deadline listed on the Writing Assignments page.

Your RPPv1 will be evaluated and marked either acceptable (A) or unacceptable (U) based on the research question you have chosen and your thesis. Your RPPv1 will also be graded as a writing assignment and given a numerical score between 0 and 100.

You must submit a paper copy of the second, improved version of your Research Paper Proposal (your RPPv2) by the deadline listed on the Writing Assignments page. You must do this even if your RPPv1 was judged acceptable.

Like your RPPv1, your RPPv2 will be evaluated and marked either acceptable (A) or unacceptable (U) based on the research question you have chosen and your thesis. Your RPPv2 will also be graded as a writing assignment and given a numerical score between 0 and 100.

To assure that you will have time to prepare your RPv1 by the time it is due, you must produce an RPP that is judged acceptable (A) before you leave for Spring Break.

Once your RPP has been judged acceptable, you may begin writing your Research Paper, faithfully following your RPP.

Required RPP Structure

Your RPPv1 and RPPv2 must have:
  1. [10 points] At the top of the first page, where the title would normally go, the topic of your research paper, which must be identical to one of the topics in the Approved Topics List.
  2. [10 points] An initial paragraph in which you (a) identify a specific research question that is within your chosen topic but is narrow enough to be addressed adequately in six pages and (b) state your thesis regarding the research question. Your research question should be much narrower than the topic you have chosen.
  3. [40 points] A detailed, bulleted outline of your planned RP. The outline must be divided into several sections, using headings. Each bullet point within a given section should be the topic sentence of the proposed paragraph in your Research Paper. Each topic sentence should be a complete sentence, with a subject and a verb. We do understand that the paragraphs in your actual Research Paper may differ slightly from the list given in your RPP.
  4. [10 points] A statement of your tentative conclusion. (Your conclusion may evolve somewhat during preparation of your Research Paper, as your thinking evolves.)
  5. [30 points] On a separate page, under the heading "References", a list of at least 6 but no more than 8 sources (articles, books, chapters in books) which you plan to use in writing your RP. Your reference list is not a bibliography: you must cite every one of the sources in your Reference list at least once in the text of your RPP. See the Further RPP Guidance below for a detailed description of the kinds of information that must have supporting references, the style to use in citing your references, and the style to use in listing them in your References section. Note that only approved online sources may used.
  6. A length of more than 1 page but no more than 2 pages, with 1 additional page on which you list your references. If your RPP is longer than 2 pages when printed, the score it would have received will be marked down heavily.
The point numbers in the square brackets above indicate the total number of points each of these items is worth in determining your RPP writing score.

Further RPP Guidance

You should devote substantial effort to choosing a good research question, because having a good research question is vital to the success of your RP. Your research question will guide your research and help you collect the evidence you will need for your RP.

Do not choose a rapidly evolving research question, because events during the semester could then render your Research Paper obsolete or even irrelevant. Do not choose a question on which there is little or no publicly available information. As an example, "Nuclear Terrorist Sleeper Cells in the United States" is an interesting topic, but you would not be able to find much publicly available information about this topic.

In preparing your RPP, you should begin by consulting at least two books, chapters from books, or review papers on your topic, to ensure that you have an adequate overall perspective on your research question. You must cite at least one of these in your RPP and your RP.

You should write a tentative statement of the thesis of your RP early in the preparation of your RPP. Formulating a thesis will help you choose your evidence and develop your arguments in an organized and logical manner. You can modify your thesis as your knowledge and understanding of your research question increases.

You are strongly encouraged to read and cite articles in professional and scholarly journals, such as Arms Control Today, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Foreign Affairs, and International Security, or high-quality magazines that address current affairs, such as The Atlantic.

You may use the online documents posted on the course Documents page and documents posted on the web sites of the U.S. government and the nongovernmental organizations listed on the Documents page. You may not use any other online resources without express written permission from one of the senior instructors. You must include the complete URL and the date and time that you last consulted that reference, for every online reference included in your list of references

You may use one or two newspaper articles from high-quality newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, if they are essential to your thesis, but see the caution above against choosing a topic where the facts may change substantially during the semester.

See pages 122-208 of The Little Brown Essential Handbook for Writers and Purdue University's Online Writing Lab for further guidance on picking a research topic and identifying a research question.

Reference Section and Use of Supporting Citations

Just as in your essays, statements that are common knowledge (e.g., "the United States is in North America") need not be supported by citations. Information may be considered common knowledge if it is surely known by University of Illinois undergraduates who have not previously taken and are not currently taking Physics/Global Studies 280. All other statements must be supported by citing works in your list of references (for details, see Article 1, Part 4 of the Student Code).

In the reference section: you are free to use any standard style (e.g., APA, MLA,...) for the information in your numbered reference list, but you must be consistent. For books, list the title, author(s), publisher, and the year. For journals and magazines, list the journal or magazine title, the month or year, the volume number if available, the author(s), and the pages on which the article appears. If no author is given, indicate this by placing an "em" (long) dash "—" where the author would be listed. Cite newspapers sparingly, if at all, and then list the newspaper's name, the title of the article, the author(s), and the month, day, and year of the issue in the References section. For stand-alone documents, list the title, author(s), date (in as complete a from as possible), and the organization that produced the document. Titles of books, journals, and magazines and the names of newspapers should be italicized. The title of an article taken from a journal, magazine, newspaper, or stand-alone document should be put in quotes.

You may simply cite the relevant chapters of a book, unless you are supporting a specific fact, argument, or quotation, in which case the citation must include the number or numbers of the specific page(s) on which the fact, argument, or quotation appears. For example, suppose that you wish to cite a statement on page 37 of the book Teller's War, by William Broad. This statement could be supported in the text by the citation [1, p. 37] and in the References section by the entry

[1] William Broad, Teller's War (Touchstone Books, 1993)

Footnotes and endnotes: Do not use footnotes (consecutively numbered textual comments placed at the bottom of the page to which they refer) or endnotes (consecutively numbered textual comments placed at the end of the paper). If you wish to include information that is parenthetical, simply place it in parenthesis in the text.