Sample History Research Paper Proposal Example

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Lucy Burrows
WR 123, Prof. C. Agatucci
Research Proposal:  Final Draft
18 April 2002

Research Proposal

1.  Research Topic Introduction

            (a)  The research topic I have chosen for Writing 123 is focused on our mental health system, what services are provided in Bend, and what services are needed.  The research question I wish to answer is:  Homelessness among the chronically mentally ill is a community problem in Bend as well as elsewhere in the United States:  As a community, how can we address this problem?  I have chosen this topic partly as a result of my interest developed from my psychology professor last term.  She mentioned in class that there are some chronically mentally ill (schizophrenic) people who live in Juniper Park.  Additionally, I recently viewed a program on 60 Minutes which profiled a community in Geel, Belgium, that has a unique way to care for the mentally ill in their community.  I was intrigued by the total community commitment and support of the mentally ill.  In Geel, Belgium, you never see someone sleeping on the street.  I wanted to further investigate their system for caring for the mentally ill and see if their methods could be duplicated in other communities, such as in the United States. If some of the methods used in Geel, Belgium, could be used elsewhere, as in Bend, this might have significant implications for the services we can provide in Bend.  I feel as a community, we have a responsibility to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.  I do not feel it is acceptable to have the chronically mentally ill living in our community parks or on the streets. I think some of our social problems are just accepted as part of living in a community and perhaps they are not addressed as they should be.  In my research, I discovered a model program that was started in Long Beach, California, as a result of the frustration and dissatisfaction of family members of mentally ill, as well as professionals and business people who had an interest in improving the mental health system. As a result, the Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, California, has received a growing amount of attention and commendation as a model mental health program.  It incorporates a number of innovative approaches that may be valuable in effecting widespread system change.

            (b)  I believe this is a very appropriate topic for Writing 123.  It fits in with the courses I have studied and presents a very real problem in Bend that can be addressed in a research topic.  Until I viewed the program that focused on Geel, Belgium, and their unique methods for providing for the mentally ill, I had not considered other community options for addressing the problem of homelessness of the mentally ill.  It is a very effective method to view problems from other perspectives to arrive at real solutions that may be helpful and appropriate in our community in dealing with this social problem.

            (c)  I intend to use the American Psychological Association (APA) documentation system for this research topic.  When I consulted our textbook regarding citation formats, I learned that “The APA form is a variant of the author-date system of citing sources, used in the field of psychology and often in other behavioral sciences” (Hubbuch, 2002).

2.Research Question and Working Hypothesis

            (a)My research topic is:  Homelessness among the chronically mentally ill is a community problem in Bend as well as elsewhere in the United States:  As a community, how can we address this problem?

            (b)Working hypothesis:  This is a problem not only in Bend, but in large, economically sound communities, as well.  It is a problem that must be addressed as a community to have a working, caring system to provide for the mentally ill who are homeless.  This involves having a community home to provide for these homeless individuals, having a foster care system that supplements a community home and having  people receiving these servicesbe treated with “respect, dignity and without labeling or discrimination of any type” (CareLink, 2002). 

3.  Research Strategy Description

            (a)What do I need to discover in my research?

Assumptions

            In the US you see many homeless people.  In Bend we have homelessness.  My psychology professor stated there are probably five or six schizophrenic people living in Juniper Park.  Our mental health system fails to care for the chronically mentally ill.

Research Questions

            Is our mental health system adequate?  What services are provided in Bend?  Why are the chronically mentally ill homeless?  What services are needed in Bend?

Assumptions

            There is a different approach for the care of the mentally ill in Geel, Belgium.  You never see a person sleeping on the street there.  They seem to have a successful way to care for the mentally ill.

Research Questions

            How do the people in Geel, Belgium care for the mentally ill?  What accounts for the success of their methods?  Would this model be transferable to other places, i.e., cities in the United States?  Bend?  If not, why not?

Assumptions

            The Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, California, has received a growing amount of attention and commendation as a model mental health program.  It incorporates a number of innovative approaches that may be valuable in effecting widespread system change.  Dr. Mark Ragins, who is involved with the Village Integrated Service Agency, visited Geel, Belgium, and observed their system of care for the mentally ill in his process of gaining a worldwide perspective of psychiatric rehabilitation.

Research Questions

            What is the Village Integrated Service Agency?  How did it get started and why?  What is it doing differently and what is successful, not successful?  Would this approach work elsewhere?  In Bend?

            (b)  Where will I look for answers?

            I used Ebsco Host database for a web search of key terms:  mental health; mental illness; psychiatric rehabilitation, Geel, Belgium.  I have also searched Google.com.  I have found useful journal articles relating to my topic, including an article in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Summer 2000, outlining and describing the Denver approach which combines “the best rehabilitation models and influences into one system of rehabilitation services.”  Additionally, I discovered information about The Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, California, which incorporates a number of innovative approaches in care for the mentally ill.

            I asked the librarian at the COCC library for sources of information about services provided in Bend.  She directed me to the appropriate website and the new Deschutes County Mental Health office located at 2577 NE Courtney in Bend to obtain information on what services are currently available in Bend.  I visited the new office in Bend and obtained a pamphlet of information describing the services currently provided.

            I have requested two books through interlibrary loan, Introduction to Psychiatric Rehabilitation and The Role of the Family in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, which I hope will offer some valuable insight into how the family and community can integrate care for the mentally ill.

            Additionally, I have ordered a transcript of the 60 Minutes program concerning the unique care the community of Geel, Belgium, provides for the mentally ill.  Viewing this program provided me with a new awareness and heightened interest to investigate this topic further.

4.  SourcesConsulted

Anthony, W. A. (2001) Vision for Psychiatricrehabilitation Research.  Psychiatric             Rehabilitation Journal, 25, 1. (Journal Article)

Baxter, E. (1997) An Alternative Approach to Recovery-St. Dimpna.
       mentalhealthconsumers.org.
        <http://www.mentalhealthconsumers.org/connet/cnn/9711/alternative.htm> [Accessed 4 Apr 2002]. (Article)

Fallot, R. D., Ph.D.  (2001)  Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and             Recovery from Mental Illness.  International Review of Psychiatry, 13, 110.  (Journal Article)

Hubbuch, S. M. (2002).  Writing Research Papers Across the CurriculumBoston:Heinle & Heinle. (Book)

Principles of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.  CareLink [accessed 12 Apr 2002]. (Website)

Ragins, M., MD.  History and Overview of the Village.  The Village Integrated Service             Agency. <http://www.village-isa.org/Ragin”s%20Papers/Hist.%20&%20Oveview.> [Accessed 4 Apr 2002] (Article)

Ragins, M., MD. (2000)  A Personal Worldwide Perspective of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.   The Village Integrated Service Agency.            <http://www.village-isa.org/Ragin’s%20Papers/worldwide_perspective.htm>             [Accessed 4 Apr 2002]. (Article)

Shern, D. L.; Tsemberis, S.; Anthony, W.; Lovell, A. M.; Richmond, L.; Felton, C. J.;            Winarski, J.; Cohen, M.  (2000)  Serving Street-dwelling Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities:  Outcomes of a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Clinical Trial.  American Journal of Public Health, 90, 1873.  (Journal Article)

Smith, G., (Executive Director).  Deschutes County Mental Health. N.p.:n.p., n.d.

            [Pamphlet obtained 12 Apr 2002]

Spaniol, L., et al. The Role of the Family in Psychiatric Rehabilitation.  (Book requested through interlibrary loan 4/12/02)

Spaniol, L., et al. Introduction to Psychiatric Rehabilitation.  (Book requested through interlibrary loan 4/12/02)

© Lucy Burrows, 2002

Effective Proposal-Writing Style (for History students)

Contributed by B. Zakarin, Office of Fellowships, b-zakarin@northwestern.edu
Posted: 2010
Originally written for History students writing proposals for a senior honors thesis, but applicable to all proposal writing                  

                                                                                                                                                 printable file (Word)

Personal pronouns

Writers use first person (“I,” “my”) when discussing their own interests and plans.  This is appropriate in a research proposal because you will be admitted to the Senior Thesis Program and/or awarded a summer grant.

Well-organized paragraphs and headings

For the most part, writers use topic sentences to signal a paragraph’s key point.  That point often corresponds to a required element, such as “what I want to learn,” “what scholars have previously studied,” or “where I plan to find sources.”  Writers then add details that explain the topic sentence or argue the point it makes.  Also, paragraphs should not be overly long.

In addition to well-organized paragraphs, writers sometimes use headings to identify key sections.  Such organization is helpful because readers often skim the beginnings of sections and paragraphs to find a proposal’s main argument before they go back for details.  Headings and topic sentences highlight a proposal’s structure.

Action-Oriented sentences

A preponderance of sentences should use active voice.  In other words, sentences emphasize who (or what) performs the action:

  • My project will use…
  • The current literature does not show…
  • I contend…
  • I have prepared for this work by…
  • To answer these questions, I will analyze…
  • This project will allow me to…
  • This study focuses on…
  • Bibliographies mention…
  • I need to visit…

Active voice makes sentences shorter and clearer and makes writers sound confident.  Use passive voice when you have a legitimate reason for doing so, such as when the actor is not important or when passive voice promotes coherence.  Consider these examples from the model proposals:

  • Actor is not important
    • “Several Connecticut newspapers circulated in Windham were known for their extreme zealotry.”  It is not necessary for Alex Jarrell to say that the public knew these newspapers for their zealotry.
    • “In the 18th century, prostitutes were increasingly considered to be outside the sphere of womanhood. In the late 1760s, 2069 women were arrested.”  Who “considered” or “arrested” the women is obvious and unimportant for Arianne Urus’s purposes.
  • Promote coherence
    • “Elisabeth Julie Lacroix, for example, was a 49-year-old woman arrested in 1778, who had been abandoned by her husband, out of work four to five days, and without food for one day. Her story is replicated countless times…”  Arianne’s use of the passive voice allows her to keep the focus on Elisabeth’s story.

Active or passive voice is only an issue with action (transitive) verbs, which have objects.  Some sentences simply use state-of-being (intransitive) verbs, such as “is” or “was”:

  • “The New London Gazette is available at the Northwestern Library on microfilm.” (Alex)
  • “Martin Luther King’s status in the community was under fire.” (Casey Kuklick)

These intransitive verbs are often necessary, but in a well-written proposal, active verbs in the active voice will dominate.

Conciseness

Good proposal writers explain their ideas as succinctly as possible.  Most writers start with a proposal that is a little too long.  Then they solicit help from advisors and peer reviewers to trim the fat.  Along with unnecessary background information, you should be vigilant about clunky phrases and excessive qualifying words.  The following strategies for revision will help.

  • Change passive to active voice (see above) 
  • Eliminate “stretcher” sentence openings
    • Wordy: “It is these three facts that call Jones’s theory into question.”
      Concise: “These three facts call Jones’s theory into question.”
    • Wordy: “There were numerous laws in the 1890s that led to the arrests.”
      Concise: “Numerous laws in the 1890s led to the arrests.”
    • Wordy: “It is my contention in this proposal that…”
      Concise: “In this proposal, I contend that…”
    • Wordy: “It is the belief of most scholars that…”
      Concise: “Most scholars believe that…”
  • Avoid nominalizations (i.e., nouns comprised of “hidden” verbs)
    • Wordy: “This project focuses on the analysis of…”
      Concise: “This project will analyze…”
    • Wordy: “Identification and evaluation of the first problem are necessary for resolution of the second.”
      Concise: “We must identify and evaluate the first problem before we can resolve the second.”
    • Wordy: “Most critics are in agreement with this assessment.”
      Concise: “Most critics agree with this assessment.”
  • Eliminate wordy phrases that represent personal writing ticks
    • Wordy: “at this point in time”
      Concise: “now”
    • Wordy: “due to the fact that”
      Concise: “because”
    • Wordy: “at a later time”
      Concise: “later” or “next” or “then”
    • Wordy: “for the purpose of” (as in “for the purpose of determining”)
      Concise: “for” or “to” (as in “for determining” or “to determine”)
    • Wordy: “a majority of”
      Concise: “most”

Effective use of transitions

Transitional words and phrases show how sentences and ideas are related to each other.  Used correctly, they make it easier for readers to follow your argument.  The following transitions at or near the beginnings of sentences will make your logic come through clearly and coherently to readers. 

  • To show results—“therefore,” “as a result,” “consequently,” “thus,” “hence.”
  • To show addition—“moreover,” “furthermore,” “also,” “too,” “besides,” “in addition.”
  • To show similarity—“likewise,” “also,” “similarly.”
  • To show contrast—“however,” “but,” “yet,” “still,” “conversely,” “nevertheless,” “on the other hand” (if you have used “on the one hand” previously).
  • To show examples—“for example,” “for instance,” “specifically,” “as an illustration.”
  • To show sequence or time—“first,” “second,” “third”; “previously,” “now,” “finally,” “later”; “next,” “then.”
  • To show spatial relations—“on the east,” “on the west”; “left,” “right”; “close up,” “far away.”

Repetition and parallelism

As the model proposals show, it is often effective to repeat key terms and phrases:  “I will pursue research in three areas…; I will travel to X in July in order to…; I will then go to Y so that I can…“  The repetition in these sentences helps readers focus on the student’s proposed actions.

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