How to Write a Research Proposal in Classic English Literature: What Is a Proposal?

Writing guide
Posted on April 11, 2021

Students have to cope with a dozen writing assignments monthly. They differ in complexity, volume, and purpose. Sometimes students can cope with essays but have difficulty in writing research proposals. What is the difference between writing a thesis paper and a proposal to it? First of all, a person has to find out what a research proposal is.

Research proposals serve to give basic information about the paper you are going to write. As a rule, students write research proposals when they want to create a thesis paper to obtain a PhD or Master’s Degree. Tutors and professors need it to understand whether the paper is worthy of their attention or not. The main goal of a person who composes a proposal is to follow three basic rules. This method is also called “3C”.

“C1” – clear
The main task of a student is to write a summary that can definitely describe the topic and the idea within several pages or a discussed number of words.

“C2” – concise
A student must make a proposal brief. The purpose of this assignment is to inform readers about the idea of the chosen topic but not to tell everything in detail. Consequently, its goal is to tell exactly what you are going to speak about in your paper and what outcome you expect to get.

“C3” – coherent
Sometimes students have many ideas but they express them chaotically. A professor does not catch the core idea and rejects the paper. Consequently, each sentence must be logically connected with the previous and the next ones.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Classic English Literature: How to Start?

Imagine that you are in the library or bookstore? How to choose a book? Firstly, you will pay attention to its cover. Then you will search for the author and its title. Finally, you will read an abstract that gives a summary of the plot. That is how professors and college tutors check your papers. They look at your proposal and evaluate its formatting and structure. Then they read the title and the abstract to estimate its value. That is why a student must create an excellent title. It is possible to do only in case the topic is striking and catchy.

Where to look for a captivating topic? There are two possible options:

  1. Watch and read the news to see what interests people.
  2. Look for unexplored fields connected with the topic that you are interested in.

You can visit websites that offer 100 best books everyone must read. Then you can look through the list and try to explain readers’ choices. For example, one can find “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen in almost all existing lists. Find books that have the same topic but are not considered to be classic. Try to put a clever question and answer it. What makes “Pride and Prejudice” worthy compared to other similar books?

In case you are not fond of different genres of literature but like to read books about some event or personality, you can find something unexplored and unique about your favorite to intrigue the committee. Look at the sample topics below.

  • ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Shakespeare: a Tragedy of Love or Book about Mercenary Society and Suicide
  • ‘Lord of Flies’ by W. Golding vs ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by D. Defoe: What Could Change if Robinson Crusoe had Found Children on the Island?
  • Would We Become Dorian Grays if Religions and God’s Punishment together with Hell and Heaven Disappeared?
  • ‘Utopia’ by Thomas More: Why Such World Cannot Exist
  • ‘1984’ by G. Orwell: Who Are the Chosen and Who Are the Doomed in the Totalitarian Countries

As soon as you find the topic, study pre-writing tips that experts recommend following.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Classic English Literature: Know WHAT to Write

A valuable research proposal must provide unique and verified information. How to do that? A student must select only trustable sources. Reliable literature does not include personal blogs, articles in the yellow press, posts of people who do not support information with results of experiments or links to trustable websites and books.
Before you start writing a proposal, explore and make sure your sources belong to trustable ones. These are websites where you can look for the required information and see what makes them trustworthy. (discussions about books; has .com at the end of the link; gives info in About US section) (spots the difference between classic and classical literature; has .com at the end of the link; has contact information and About Us section) ( Free Public Domain Books from the Classic Literature Library; abbreviation of the country at the end of the link states for its reliability) (speaks about trustable and unrustable web sources; provides contact and personal data; has .org at the end of the link)

As soon as you find sources, study them, make notes, create an outline and decide what you can offer. It often happens that students want to discover something but soon realize that their mission is impossible. Therefore it is important to know what you know, what you can learn, and what discovery you can guarantee.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Classic English Literature: Structure

Each academic paper has a structure. This is the required structure of a proposal.

The title of the research can be changed. Nevertheless, a person must try to make it catchy and impressive. The limit varies between 50-60 characters without spaces and should include keywords or phrases.

DO: Make it concise
DON’T: use general notions and words like ‘investigation’ or ‘research’
Sample: ‘Great Gatsby’: Does the Jazz Age America echo with the America of the XXI century?
This part needs from 200 to 250 words. It should have a question of the research, hypothesis, methodology, and discoveries.

The introduction must be strong. Its task is to explain the choice of the topic and its background. You should directly connect your proposal with the researched question. That is why a question is not to cover many topics and be too general. Narrow it down to make your paper focused. It is better to start it with a thesis statement that reflects the core idea you are going to investigate in the paper.
To write an excellent introduction to your proposal, you should answer the following questions:

  • Why do I want to write a paper on this topic?
  • What do I know about previous researches related to the topic?
  • What issues do I want to highlight in my research?
  • Are there any hypotheses and theories connected with my topic? What are they? Can I prove or reject them? What facts can help me do that?

Answer these questions and you will get an excellent introduction.

Remember! A research proposal gives minimal information to make the college to let you write a research paper. Details of the research one must find later in the paper.

Thesis Statement
To create a good thesis statement for the introductory part one needs to present a thesis statement there. It is a sentence (maximum 2) that aims at including the core value of the paper. To create a top-level thesis statement one has to:

– know the most precious information of the research paper
– know the target audience (interests and erudition)
– select strong words
– connect the problem with the present situation
– consider all the pros and cons
– suggest knowledge gaps it can fill in
– present the significance of the paper

So, the introductory part includes aims, objectives, questions, problems, hypotheses, and tells in what order the information is going to be highlighted.

One should also differentiate between the proposal for a Master’s Degree and Philosophical Degree. Ph.D. covers more details and, consequently, needs more time and pages.

Literature Review

Research is impossible without sources one must analyze to understand the problem or issue. This part of a proposal tells about other works related to the topic. A student has to mention all the used sources and, in case of a website, give links to them. Literature helps a student learn more about the chosen topic, fill in the gaps, and give suggestions concerning the creation of tests, interviews, and experiments.

For example, World War II happened 80 years ago but there are some gaps a person could fulfill. Students can interview people to find out something about unknown or unpublished works. They can find someone who lived next to outstanding personalities and who could share some useful information about them. Perhaps, somebody can have original papers or catchy information about a poet’s or writer’s biography. Facts help a researcher convince the reader of the importance of their paper.


  • They read it without having the required structure of the paper and its logical connection
  • Students are not focused on the topic
  • Researchers avoid citation of the used papers
  • They study only the already known information and are not able to find updated information or something unique

This part of a research proposal often seems to be boring for readers. Try to make it engaging. Moreover, you should remember to look only for trustworthy sources (scientific publications, encyclopedias, researches, textbooks, etc.).

Significance of the Research
This part informs the reader about the precise value of your research. A professor can first read this part and then other parts of the proposal. So, it must be convincing and striking.

Research Methodology
Here you should say how you are going to research to achieve the goal. Describe the chosen methods and steps you are going to take. You can deal with qualitative and quantitative methods.

  • Qualitative (literature review, interviews, case studies, focus groups, ethnography): analysis of theory (lexical units and their meaning). This method tests hypotheses and theories, involves numbers and diagrams, needs numerous respondents, and objectiveness.
  • Quantitative (experiments, surveys, content analysis, observations): a collection of statistics and its analysis (numbers). These methods aim at testing ideas, formulating hypothesis and theories and they are expressed in words through summarizing, categorizing, and interpreting information.

This part speaks about the potential influence of your paper and the reasons for your topic choice. Never exaggerate your merits! Inform about limitations you can face (lack of budget, time) and what perspectives you see for future investigations.

Plagiarism equals breach of the law. That is why students have to cite sources used for the creation of the research proposal and research paper. Don’t forget to format it. A college can demand MLA, Chicago, APA, or Harvard Style.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Classic English Literature: Failure to Avoid

Experts identify TOP mistakes that lead to the rejection of a research proposal.

5 Basic Don’ts
These are things professors hate to observe in their student’s research proposals:

  • a hypothesis is weak and uncertain
  • lack of uniqueness and goals that are impossible to reach
  • a paper lacks logic and necessary details
  • review of the literature is not accurate
  • a paper is plagiarized

To make your research proposal spotless, you should also do some after-writing tips.

Students often forget or are too lazy to reread the ready assignment. When everything is ready, check your paper. There might be mistakes you could not notice. To make the task easier, you can scan it through online grammar checkers and generators of formats (it concerns the reference section). Nevertheless, one should not depend on online checkers completely. Free versions recognize only basic mistakes and only premium versions suggest deeper analysis.

Students can ask experienced friends or professional writers to read it to have an expert opinion.

A student can look for free online samples and study them. It is essential to find out whether the published sample was successful or not. A person can compare works and correct the assignment. Sample research proposals serve to guide student’s attention to formatting, structure, and volume. Students should study but not copy them. Professors use plagiarism checkers and will surely unmask cheaters and ban their work.

One should mention a realistic timeline, tools, expected results, budget. It is better to predict real goals, expenses, and time frames.


  1. Streefkerk, R. (2020, March 13). Qualitative vs. quantitative research. Retrieved from
  2. Royal Roads University. Thesis statements/ Research Questions/ Problem Statements. Library.RoyalRoads
  3. “Classics Books.” Classic Books, 2020,
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