Thesis Proposal

The following is an outline for the “deliverable” for the spring semester of your junior year: a detailed research proposal, in academic format, for your honors thesis. Remember, this is a blueprint for the research you will conduct as part of this program; it is not merely a literature review. In preparing this proposal, you should be as precise and complete as possible, so that it can become the guide for your actions over the next two semesters.

General outline for the proposal:

I. Introduction (not necessarily in this order)

A. Importance ($ volume of business, % or markets, etc.) of the issue

B. Background and history of the issue

C. Objective of the research

II. Literature Review

A. What is known to date?

  • About the phenomenon under study
  • About methodologies of studying that phenomenon (you may find it useful, but not required, to draft a summary table; e.g., Issues x Papers)
  • How are existing studies or papers related one another?

B. What is not known that you intend to address?

C. Hypotheses, tied in to prior research that led you to adopt those hypotheses (if a scientific study)

III. Methodology (not necessarily in this order, but including these elements if a scientific study)

A. Data

  • What concepts? (what operational measures for those concepts?)
    [For legal theses: what statutes or cases? What commentary?] 2. How will you obtain the data?
    • a. Primary research? What methods? Are you SURE it is feasible? Draft measurement instrument/questionnaire.
    • b. Secondary research? What source(s)?  Are you SURE you will have access to that source/those sources?

B. Sample (size, method of drawing the sample, justification if necessary)

IV. Data Analysis

A. What do you plan to do with the data after you’ve collected it? [For legal/policy theses: you may find it helpful to add an appendix that summarizes the pros and cons of your position]

B. “Dummy Tables” (optional). What will your results look like when you’ve obtained them?

V. Potential Contribution(s): What do you hope to be able to contribute?

A. To practitioners

B. To scholars

C. How does your work fit into the current literature?

VI. Costs and timeline (list any out-of-pocket expenses that will be incurred and deadlines for:)

A. Institutional Review Board application (should be done far before winter break of your senior year – refer to deadlines at

B. Beginning and completion of data collection

C. Data entry

D. Data analysis / statistical analysis

E. First draft to advisor and director, including an abstract for publication on the Gabelli Honors Thesis web site

F. Final hard copies of your draft to advisor, director and Dean Rapaccioli. Submit professional, carefully proofread hard copy and email file to the director.

VII. References (APA/Chicago Style (not MLA) or legal citation style)

Length of this proposal

Students can expect their proposals to be dense; it could be long as well, but not necessarily so. There is no set page requirement for proposals. As a student in one of these programs, you have proven yourselves to be capable and independent thinkers. You are expected to be able to judge, with some feedback, the appropriate amount of space to dedicate to the development of your ideas. Instead of focusing on the length of your proposal, focus on comprehensiveness and clarity in developing your research questions and methodological plans. If you do so, you will find that your proposal will be exactly as long as it needs to be.

When properly written, the proposal will constitute a foundation for your final thesis. In an ideal situation, all you will have to do is add your results and substitute conclusions (limitations, contributions) for “potential contribution” in order to complete the thesis paper. For legal (as opposed to empirical) papers, you may find that more work is required in fall of your senior year because you do not have data to address in the spring of your senior year. However, for legal papers, you must continue to refine your paper in the spring of your senior year, including carefully updating for recent developments.