Background of the Problem

Remember all of that reading you did to choose your topic?  This section of your proposal is where you share that knowledge with your reader.  In this section you should:

  • Demonstrate that you have thoroughly researched your topic; show this by discussing the breadth and depth of prior work in this area
  • Provide the foundation to support your specific hypothesis as the next logical step in answering your research question  

Additional Guidance

This section should be more than just a general overview of your topic. You should show what experts in your field have already asked and answered. You should also illustrate the range of methods or approaches being used in your research area. Make sure you carefully reference all of your sources, using the standard style for your field (APA, MLA, or CMS).

Organize the Information

You are making a case for your hypothesis, based on what has already been done by the experts. You can present this information either chronologically or topically depending on the scope of existing research needed to support your new work.

Support your Hypothesis

This part of your proposal should be comprehensive, as it will subsequently serve as the introduction to the thesis. It is expected to be more exhaustive than the 2-3 paragraphs of background found in a journal article. It generally builds toward, and concludes with a restatement of, the specific hypothesis you are going to evaluate; if you lay it out elegantly enough, your reader should wonder why s/he did not think of it first!