The key to a successful proposal is to write it in a manner that matches the expectations of scholarship in your field. This means that if you are in the humanities, you are not expected to write a proposal the same way a scientist would. Similarly, if you are in the social sciences, try to write your proposal in the manner that matches the way successful social scientists write their proposals. However, keep in mind that your proposal will be read and evaluated by faculty outside of your discipline. It is recommended that you define terminology that may not be commonly known to those outside of your field and likewise explain specific technical methods and processes.
The URCA Associate proposal should be no longer than five typed pages. Budgets, reference/citation pages, and appendices such as illustrations or glossaries are not included in this page total. It must contain all of the following sections, in the order provided:
Introduction and Significance
Context, Background, and/or Literature Review
Goals, Objectives, or Operating Hypothesis
Materials, Procedures, and Time Line
Use the Microsoft Word form provided. If you experience difficulty opening the Microsoft Word form, you may use the PDF form provided. This two-page form includes the title of the proposed project, the name of the mentor(s) and detailed information about the applicant. It also provides a budget summary and identifies specific clearances the project requires. Signatures of the applicant, mentor(s), department chair, and dean must be on the application/cover page when the URCA Associate proposal is submitted.
Please note: Your cover page will require the signatures of your Department Chair and Dean. These are very busy people whose work often takes them off-campus. Don't wait until the last minute to obtain these signatures, or you may find they will not be available to sign for you! Please plan accordingly to have your application complete and signed by the deadline. (You may need to make an appointment with your Department Chair and Dean to get their signatures.)
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The abstract is a brief but comprehensive summary of the contents of the proposal in plain language, approximately 150 words. Readers receive their first impression of the flavor of the topic from this abstract. The information in the abstract needs to be concise, well organized, self contained, and understandable to persons outside the discipline. This should be placed on its own separate page, behind the cover/application sheet but before the text of the proposal itself. The abstract does not count towards the proposal page total.
In all cases, please realize that some members of your audience are skilled in areas outside of your discipline, so engage them in your idea via a plain-language introduction. This beginning section of your proposal should contain thorough statements that orient the readers to the overall area of investigation, arouse their interest, and communicate information essential to their comprehension of your proposal. What general question are you trying to answer and, overall, how are you going to approach doing it? Choose a topic with which you can identify enthusiastically. Your thinking and consulting with your mentor should help you to create a research question that excites you and that is doable at the undergraduate level.
It is important that you provide a statement of the significance of your study or creative activity. Where does your work fit in the scheme of things in your discipline? Readers want to know why you are doing your study and why it should receive approval and financial resources from the University. This section answers the “so what?” question. Reviewers want to know what contributions your study will make to your discipline.
This section allows you to set the scene for your own work. It allows you to review relevant background knowledge and investigations. This section might address “What is the origin of your particular project?” and “How does your project complement or contrast with prior research?" In reviewing the literature, your task is to capture the main contributions and directions taken by experts on your topic. Select those works that provide both classic and contemporary foundations for your proposed investigation. Limit the review to what is germane to your main topic. Your discussion of the literature will reveal your appreciation of the evidence that has already been published. Your job is to find or create a niche where your own project fits. That way, your readers can see how it will enrich other works that have already been done in your field.
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Here is where your idea occupies center attention. What do you wish to explore in this scholarship? (i.e., the problem you identified in the above literature review). Please phrase your goal, objective, or hypothesis clearly and unambiguously. Explicitly state the goals for your project in language that the reviewers can understand. Why does this problem capture your attention and what do you plan to do with it? If your proposal is part of a larger, ongoing project undertaken by your mentor, what part of the larger one is identified as your idea to pursue?
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This section of the proposal contains the step-by-step plan of action and the schedule for conducting your research or making your artistic creation. Be sure to explain your role in the overall project, especially if your work is part of a larger one being carried out by your mentor. Depending on the topic and procedures, this section should discuss and explain in detail (1) the target population and sampling methods, (2) materials required and their use, (3) instruments and techniques, (4) design and method for data collection or artistic creation, (5) procedures for data analysis or critique of performance, and (6) a reasonable schedule of steps for successful completion of your work within two semesters. All studies have inherent limitations. This section also assures the readers that you have considered these limitations, including time and scope, during the formulation of your proposal. Rejection sometimes results from readers not clearly understanding the project, its foundations, and its limits. If there is reasonable doubt as to whether particular language is going to be understood by the reviewers, it is wise to provide definitions and explanations.
Regarding timeline, it is important to note that the $500 equipment fund will likely not be available until September. While Associates are certainly encouraged to start working on their project before September, it should be noted that this work should not require funding. Associates and mentors are strongly encouraged not to pay for equipment out of pocket prior to September in the hopes of getting reimbursed; reimbursement will likely not be possible! Finally, students should plan to have their project finalized, with poster ready to be printed, by the middle of March.
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Be sure to fully cite all works mentioned throughout your research proposal. Use the reference style that is accepted in your discipline (for example, MLA, APA, ASA). The main point is to be consistent and accurate. You may indicate citations within the text of your proposal with numbers in parentheses (1) in order to save space, but the full citations should appear in numerical order on a separate reference page according to your discipline specific style (with the addition of a number in front of it!). See also the specific examples below:
(1) Name, I.I., Year. Book title (edition if necessary). City: Publisher, page-page.
(2) Name, J.J. and D.D. Name2, Year. Article title. Journal title, volume (issue): page-page.
(3) Name1, Q.Q, R.J. Name2, and X.X. Name3, Year. Chapter title. In Book title (edition if necessary). City: Publisher, page-page.
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A budget justification of no more than two pages is required. Needed items should be listed in categories that conform to University purchasing practices. Keep in mind that the University owns site licenses for certain types of software and has purchasing agreements in place in areas such as office supplies. Be careful to not make the common error of assuming that readers know why you requested the budgeted amounts in each area. Give a detailed explanation of each budget item. The total budget should not exceed $500. If other funding beyond $500 is necessary to complete the project, you must provide clear evidence of its source!
Students must create a poster for the Symposium. Students may use the Provost's color printer to create their poster free of charge, but you should be aware that your poster will likely need to be ready by mid-March in order for your poster to be finished in time for the April Symposium. Students are also able to purchase their poster printing elsewhere, but this should be built into their budget. Students wishing to laminate their posters should also build this expense into their budget.
Most students and many mentors may not be familiar with the University budget categories. Please speak with your departmental secretary or budget person for additional help with your budget. Additional information can be found from the following document: URCA Associate Budget Considerations.
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For more information on the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Program,
contact Dr. Laura Pawlow at (618) 650-2608 or firstname.lastname@example.org.