Guidelines for Student Research Proposals

Ben Jacobson explains his research at national AADR meeting in Vancouver.
Ben Jacobson explains his research at the national AADR meeting in Vancouver.

Face Page
Writing a Student Research Proposal - by Dr. Teresa Marshall

The entire proposal should be no more than 6 pages (single spaced) in length, plus the face page. Be sure to follow these directions and format carefully.Include page numbers as part of formatting. 

I. Aims, Objectives, and Significance (1/2 page or less)

  1. Describe the specific problem you will investigate: State the hypothesis to be tested or questions to be addressed. In this section, be sure to list and describe the specific aims of your project.

  2. Describe the significance (potential usefulness or importance) of your project.

II. Background and Rationale for the Study (2-3 pages)

This section should show why the proposed research needs to be performed (e.g., not done before, previous results were conflicting, new materials or techniques to be evaluated). Any review of literature goes here. 

III. Materials and Methods (2-3 pages)

This section should show how, when, and where the experiments will be performed.

  1. Describe the materials to be used (e.g., animals, humans, specific tissues).

  2. Describe the method of data acquisition including any of the following that are relevant to your project: selection of sample and sample size, type of data to be obtained (qualitative vs. quantitative), specific measurement techniques, flow chart of experimental design (strongly encouraged). Identify the student’s specific role on the project, if training will be required, and who will do the training.

  3. Describe the methods to be used to evaluate the data and (if appropriate) to test hypothesis (e.g., descriptive comparisons, all or none observations, statistical analysis).

  4. Briefly discuss any limitations or potential pitfalls of the proposed study (e.g., techniques not perfected, experiment may not work as planned, etc.).

  5. Identify student roles. 

IV. Future Directions

Briefly describe (2-3 sentences) possible future research projects or interests that might flow from this work.

V. Bibliography (1/2 page or less)

List the references that were cited. Give authors, title, journal or book, volume, pages, and year.

VI. Budget (1/2 page or less)

A small supply budget (up to $250) is available. Itemize and briefly justify any supply requests. Equipment purchases are not allowed.

Deadline: April 1

Send your face page and proposal as an e-mail attachment to