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Research proposal-thesis sections

How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
How to Write Research Proposals/Theses
Masood Siyyari, PhD
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at Science & Research Branch, Islamic Azad University
- Concise, informative, mentioning all the variables, not ambiguous
o Forms of a topic
 Statement
 Phrase
 Question
 Keyword: statement/phrase/question
o Creative topics
 Changing sayings, proverbs etc.
- Concision
- All chapters summarized in very few sentences but chapter 2
- Not longer than a page for a thesis
CHAPTER I: Background and Purpose
- Introduction
o Establishing a research territory
 Define the area of research
 Citations needed
 Arouse interest
 Why is the area important and relevant
o Based on citations or researchers’ argument
 Definition of the main issue or sub area under study
 Definition and concise elaboration of the main Construct/Variable/underlying
theory/model/ of the study
o Citations needed
 Very brief, general, and to the point literature review
- Statement of the Problem
o Establishing a niche
 Indicating a research gap in the literature
o Unexamined/contradictory/controversial theory/model
o Unexamined situation/variable/interaction
o Examined area with contradictory findings
 Citations needed
 Extending previous knowledge
o Relating other areas/theories/relevant studies (directly/indirectly)
 Citations needed
 Gaps/problems/intriguing points found in personal/others’ practice
o Relating it to theoretical/empirical literature
o Indicating how the literature is not sufficient
 Citations needed
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
Concluding and specifying the problem by introducing a statement-like paraphrase of
the questions
o Enumerating the variables briefly
Research Question
o Descriptive
o Correlational
o Cause-effect
- Statement of Hypothesis
o Null/non directional
o Alternative/directional
 Positive
 Negative
- Significance of the Study
o Restating the purpose and problem
o Restating the theoretical position
 Citations needed
o What benefits might be there for researchers and practitioners?
o What contributions may your research have to the field?
- Definition of Key Terms
o Operational definitions
 How the variables are measured or are made observable in the study
o Accepted definitions in the field by a scholar
 Citations needed
- Limitations
o Unintentional
 Later used to recommend further research
- Delimitations of the Study
o Intentional, to narrow down the scope
 Later used to recommend further research
CHAPTER II: Review of the Related Literature
o Citations from the most relevant theoretical/empirical studies published in high-standard books,
journals, and theses/dissertations
- Background information and theory
o Definitions
o Models
o Classifications
o Theories
o Methods
o Argumentations
- Reporting related studies
o Seminal studies done in the world
o Important studies done in the context of the present study
 Citations from internationally/nationally acknowledged journals
 A published article is preferable to its relevant unpublished thesis/dissertation
 Avoid cheap journals/books/theses/dissertations published/conducted by cheap
publishers/universities/non-professional-academic researchers
o Examine the weak and strong points of cited works
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
 Say how your study avoids the weak points of previous works in CH 2 and CH 3
- Concluding the review
o What has been missing/ignored/addressed but ambiguously
o Any contradictory/controversial findings
o Any unresolved conflict to justify your topic
o Any issue not addressed in the literature, but going to be addressed in your research
o What theoretical framework based on the review is going to be employed in your study?
- Introduction
o Restatement of the problem/purpose, questions, hypotheses
o Restating the theory/model which underlies your study
- Participants
o Gender, age, nationality, major, background knowledge, course, location, school, university,
institute, proficiency level …
- Instrumentation
o Proficiency test, questionnaire, tasks, books, materials, audio-visual aid, realia, and whatever
treatment/data collection instrument
o Elaborating on the validity/reliability of the instruments
 Either your own evidence or other researchers’ evidence on validity/reliability
 Citations needed
- Procedure
o Steps of sampling, data collection, treatment, pretest, posttest …
 Elaborated in a replicable way
- Design
o Variables
 Dependent, independent, moderator, controlled, intervening
 Measurement scales
 Nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio
 Schematic presentation of the procedures (optional)
o Sampling
 Specifying why a particular sampling method was employed
 Random sampling
 Systematic sample
 Stratified sample
 Cluster sample
 Non probability sample
o Convenient, volunteer, snowball, purposeful
 Corpus specifications for corpus and genre analysis studies
o Method
 Quantitative
 Experimental
o Pretest-treatment/placebo-posttest
 Pre-experimental
o One shot case study
o One group pretest posttest study
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
o Intact group study
 Quasi-experimental
 Qualitative
 Case studies
 Ethnographies
 Action research
 Surveys
 Introspective studies
 Corpus analysis
 Detailed elaboration of the theory/model which guides the data collection procedures
 Citations needed
- Statistical Analysis
o Summarize the analysis techniques
 Descriptive statistics/graphs
 Standard scores
 Correlation
 Comparing means
CHAPTER IV: Data Analysis
- Introduction
o Restating research questions
o Summary of the data collection procedure
- Analyses
o Why a particular technique or approach is adopted in the analysis
 Citations needed
 Tables/Figures
 In-text report of table values
 Detailed results of qualitative analysis
 Interview/content excerpts
o Organization of analysis
 Question by question
 Hypothesis by hypothesis
 Explicitly testing the hypotheses and answering the questions
- Discussion (some departments put this section in CH V)
o Summary of the findings
o What theoretical/empirical literature supports your findings
o What theoretical/empirical literature contradicts your findings
o What reasons and arguments do you or the literature provide to support your findings
o What is still ambiguous in your findings ….
 Citations are needed for all the above
CHAPTER V: Conclusions, Implications, and Applications
- Overview and Restatement of the problem
- Summary of the Procedures and Findings
- Conclusions
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
o Citations might be needed
Pedagogical Implications
o Relevant implications
 E.g. Implications for language teaching, language testing, teacher training, syllabus design,
and materials development, educational policy-making and administration etc.
 Citations might be needed
Suggestions for Further Research
o Suggesting the research be done in a different context, place, time, with different subjects,
instruments, research design etc.
 Usually based on limitations/delimitations
o All suggestions should be well-justified
 i.e. why further research is suggested
 Citations might be needed
Final Remarks
o Wrap up everything by stating a thought question, raising a new area of research, calling for actions
- Alphabetically ordered based on APA format
- Instruments
- Tasks
- Treatment materials
- Tests
- Sample data
- Extra or lengthy figures and tables from chapter 3
What tense to use:
- For a proposal
o Use future tense in Chapter 3: Method
- For a thesis
o Use past tense for the introduction, method and results sections
o Use present tense for your discussion.
o The lit review should be in past tense (The researchers found...) or present perfect (The researchers
have shown...).
o For theories and arguments that still hold true, use present tense
o The methodology should be in past tense if it has already happened.
o The results section of the thesis or paper should also be in past tense
o Implications of the results and conclusions should be in present tense.
How/when to paraphrase/cite directly/indirectly
o Citations must be from internationally/nationally acknowledged journals
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
 A published article is preferable to its relevant unpublished thesis/dissertation
o Avoid cheap journals/books/theses/dissertations published/conducted by cheap publishers/low
ranking universities/non-professional-academic researchers
o Quote directly from a source
 Do not overdo it (maximum 20% of the whole text)
 to show that an authority supports your point
 to present a position or argument to critique or comment on
 to include especially moving or historically significant language
 to present a particularly well-stated passage whose meaning would be lost or changed if
paraphrased or summarized
o Summarize or paraphrase when
 what you want from the source is the idea expressed, and not the specific language used to
express it
 you can express in fewer/simpler words what the key point of a source is
o How to paraphrase
Change a word from one part of speech to another
Original: Medical professor John Swanson says that global changes are influencing the spread of disease.
Paraphrase: According to John Swanson, a professor of medicine, changes across the globe are causing diseases to spread
(James, 2004).
Use synonyms
Original: The U.S. government declared that the AIDS crisis poses a national security threat. The announcement followed an
intelligence report that found high rates of HIV infection could lead to widespread political destabilization.
Paraphrase: The government of the United States announced that AIDS could harm the nation's security. The government
warned the population after an important governmental study concluded that political problems could result from large numbers
of people infected with HIV (Snell, 2005).
Use synonyms of phrases and words.
Original: There was a resurgence of tuberculosis at the start of the decade.
Paraphrase: At the beginning of the 1980s, the incidence of tuberculosis increased.
Change numbers and percentages to different forms
Original: Minority groups in the United States have been hit hardest by the epidemic. African Americans, who make up 13
percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 46 percent of the AIDS cases diagnosed in 1998.
Paraphrase: The AIDS epidemic has mostly affected minorities in the United States. For example, in 1998, less than 15
percent of the total population was African, but almost half of the people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States that year
were African America (Jenson, 2000).
Change word order: this might include changing from active to passive voice or moving modifiers to different positions.
Original: Angier (2001) reported that malaria kills more than one million people annually, the overwhelming majority of them
children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Paraphrase: Every year, more than a million people are killed by malaria, and most of the victims are children who live in subSaharan Africa (Angier, 2001).
Use reversals or negatives that do not change the meaning.
Original: This unusual species is only found underwater.
Paraphrase: This species is not found on land.
Use different definition structures
Original: Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease caused by a bacterium transmitted by ticks (small bloodsucking arachnids
that attach themselves to larger animals). The disease is usually characterized by a rash followed by flu-like symptoms,
including fever, joint pain, and headache.
Paraphrase: Lyme disease-a disease that causes swelling and redness-is caused by a bacterium carried by a small arachnid
known as a tick. The ticks attach to and suck the blood of animals and humans, transferring some of the Lyme disease bacteria
into their hosts and causing symptoms similar to the flu (Wald, 2005).
Use different attribution signals
Original: “That’s because there are so many different ways the diseases could have arrived,” veterinarian Mark Walters
declared in his recent book, Six Modern Plagues.
How to write research proposals/theses
By: Masood Siyyari, PhD
Paraphrase: According to Mark Walters, a veterinarian who wrote Six Modern Plagues, the disease could have arrived in
numerous ways (Peterson, 2004).
Change the sentence structure and use different connecting words
Original: Although only about one-tenth of the world’s population lives there, sub-Saharan Africa remains the hardest hit
region, accounting for 72 percent of the people infected with HIV during 2000.
Paraphrase: Approximately 10 percent of the world’s population resides in sub-Saharan Africa. However, this area of the
world has the highest percentage of AIDS-related illnesses. In fact, in 2000, almost three-fourths of the population had the HIV
virus (Bunting, 2004).
Caution: When paraphrasing, do not change key terms or proper nouns.
Original: In the northeastern United States, people are building homes on the edge of woods, where ticks that carry Lyme
disease hitch rides on deer. In addition, in Africa, hunters bring back the meat of animals that scientists think may transmit
Ebola, a usually fatal disease that causes massive hemorrhaging in its victims.
Paraphrase: In the United States, residential areas are being built near wooded areas in the northeast. These areas are also the
homes of ticks carrying Lyme disease. Also, according to scientists, hunters in Africa kill animals that may carry the Ebola
virus (an often fatal virus that causes massive hemorrhaging) (Yaya, 2004).
To paraphrase long passages, it is better to take notes and outline the passage and then write your paraphrase from
your notes, without looking at the original passage.
Change the words, not the meaning
Use a good dictionary to find synonyms and to check their usage and context.
Do not change the tone.
Do not add information.
Do not leave anything out.
Check your paraphrase with the original. Be sure you have not unintentionally used the same words or phrases.
Try to sound like "you."
Include all the citation information when you are taking notes.
When is Citation Unnecessary?
When you are using your own original observations, thoughts, or opinions.
When you are using "common knowledge" or information which can be found in many places and is likely to be known by
many people. Examples:
George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Many people decorate evergreen trees at Christmas.
Elizabeth II is the Queen of Great Britain.
Final remark:
As long as you do not improve your general English and writing skill (i.e. grammar, vocabulary, paragraph/essay
writing), none of the above can help you write an acceptable proposal/thesis/article