Students entering the 5th Year Program often have little or no training in the scientific method. Their concept of research is vague. More often than not, initiating research training is very intimidating and many students do not have confidence in their abilities. Please remember that very few individuals are born with the innate ability to conduct science and that learning the process of research requires time.

As part of the program you will write a masters thesis. Before you start this advanced project, however, you will prepare a written proposal of research. This will outline the specific goal(s) of the project and indicate how it will be attained. A typical research proposal will be 8 to 14 pages (typed, double-spaced) and should include the following elements:

  • Title Page: The title page will provide a descriptive, informative title of your general research project and include name, date, and additional text that is found on the title page of theses and dissertations (see the UAB Format Manual for Theses and DissertationsTheses and Dissertations).
  • Specific Goals (Aims): This section is an abbreviated description (not more than one page) of the long- and short-term goals of your research. It should provide the reader a basis for understanding the primary purpose (specific objectives) of the research. Questions and hypotheses can be stated here (your mentor can provide examples).
  • Background: This section should be highly developed and contain a history and description of the basic scientific problem or question you are addressing, citing relevant literature by author and date. It will provide the rationale for your specific goals. The final paragraph should restate the purpose of the proposed research. When appropriate, a null and alternative hypothesis should be presented.
  • Approach or Materials and Methods: This section should include the experimental design and the methods used for evaluating your research question. You should outline your methods in reasonable detail, although complicated procedures previously addressed in other literature can be cited. Methods can vary significantly with discipline, so pertinent literature can often provide appropriate models. The appropriate statistical evaluation should be presented and include the statistical tests that will be used as well as any statistical applications (e.g. SAS).
  • Significance: This section is generally a short paragraph and suggests the importance and relevance of the proposed research.
  • Literature Cited: All literature referenced within the text should have full citations. You may choose a citation style that is found in one of the refereed journals within the discipline of study.

Mentors can provide examples and assist with development of your proposal; do not hesitate to go to them for help. Variations in style may be used when approved by a mentor. Your mentor will discuss the preparation of the proposal, including:
  1. frequent discussions of the appropriate content
  2. reviewing various ideas and drafts of the proposal prior to submission to the Supervising Committee and the Graduate Program Director