How to Write a Research Proposal in Film and Theatre Studies from the Ground Up?

Writing guide
Posted on February 1, 2021

So you’ve decided to follow your dream and passion for film and theatre. Great choice! Who knows, maybe you can be the next Scorsese, Benicio del Toro, or Meryl Streep? But before you become one of the outstanding thespians, you are to walk a very long way. Consider drafting a research proposal in film and theatre studies as one of the assignments in this way. We believe, there is no need to show how important this task is!
To begin with, there are several reasons why your supervisor has assigned this task:

  • to speed up the pace of developing your academic investigation skills.
  • to help you in conducting a literature source review according to all requirements to make sure that the issue which is under research is really burning and must be answered.
  • to work on improving your writing expertise.
  • manage to build up logical steps to reach the aim of the academic investigation.
  • to become one of the proactive participants in the area of movie and theatre study.

Sometimes, it is only one of the reasons. Sometimes, two or more are combined. Whatever your reason is, you need to apply all your efforts to work on the key elements of writing a research proposal. What are they, by the way? Keep reading to learn more about how to create a decent research proposal in film and theatre studies.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Film and Theatre Studies in 5+ Steps

  • Step 1. Find YOUR topic

Start with the topics which are in trend today or there is a chance for you to go back to the issues that you have always been interested in. If it happened so that you have no idea what to start with and your supervisor didn’t give you any clue, below, there is a register of topics that could be of interest to your academic investigation:

  • Musicals as a Separate Part of the Film Industry;
  • How Modern Movies Impact the Aesthetic Taste of Modern People;
  • What Is More Important: Sound or Picture?
  • The Elements of Theatre and Opera in Modern Movies;
  • The Impact of Hitchcock on the Entire Movie Industry;
  • Racism in Movies: Then and Now;
  • The Elements of Comedy in Horror Movies;
  • Evolution of Love to Theatres;
  • The Typical Characteristics of a Successful Film Director;
  • The Same Character Played by Multiple Characters;
  • Are TV-shows Modern Extensions of Movies?
  • Why Video Editing Should Be Referred to as a Form of Art?

As these are very general topics, you can use them as a basis and choose a narrower path of them to discover the tiniest details.

  • Step 2. Give a short overview of your research (Introduction)

What is a short overview? It is a part of your research proposal in film and theatre studies that is focused on where your potential research can fit within the debates, discourses, and academic sources. A short overview is mostly about sketching out the context in which your study will become a perfect fit or match, call it whatever you want.

In this block, they expect you to interlink your potential research and those already fulfilled on this topic or similar. Do not limit yourself to printed editions solely. Turn to the internet too.
Work on the framework of your investigation. This can be made really solid thanks to these three major rules:

  1. Write a catalog of study questions and show that you are ready to answer them all (see step number 3 below).
  2. Define the approaches to conducting the study. You may go with a theoretical or conceptual. Many students also choose normative or empirical. While choosing the most appropriate one, do not forget to consult your supervisor on what he/she can recommend.
  3. Talk on the current position of the investigation. In this part, you are supposed to give a very short overview of the gaps in the issue you would like to learn. But you are not supposed to provide any detailed analysis.
  • Step 3. Define the questions for research

Usually, there is more than a single question you may wish to disclose in your proposal. That is exactly why more than a single question must be specified in your academic proposal. We suggest you go with narrow questions rather than broad ones as the initial ones give more way to studying details.
How to decide what questions to ask? Rule number one — they must be the ones that haven’t been well-studied in all previous researches. Rule number two — they are to possess some unique elements that could make your research worthy. Rule number three — after you manage to find a few questions that could be of interest, you need to check whether upon answering the questions below, you will still consider your narrow questions worthy:

  • Are your questions interesting to anyone but you?
  • Do your questions possess any practical/theoretical/social value?
  • Are they realistic enough to have answers?
  • Will you manage to answer these questions within the set time limits?
  • Do you know what directions to work in to find answers to the questions of your research?

If you know that your questions aren’t just tricky hypothesis without answers, then you can come up to the next stage.

  • Step 4. Speak about the contribution

The first and foremost thing that your supervisor will want to know about is a possibility that your study makes a contribution to the field of film and theatre studies. In this block of your academic proposal, you will need to provide answers to the following:

  • Why is the study worth to be conveyed?
  • How has it happened so that the current study lacks evidence in published editions?
  • Will your investigation manage to somehow extend the already published knowledge?
  • Will it become a solution to any problem?
  • Will it prove any theory?
  • Can it challenge one of the existing theories?

Your main intention is to show how outstanding and innovative academic investigation is going to be. To support your work, you can even cite others to demonstrate what benefits the study will bring to the existing body of knowledge.

  • Step 5. Provide a profound overview of the literature sources

Now you will need to spend much time to find how to put your potential investigation in film and theatre studies with a much larger scope of what has been already explored to date. You should better concentrate on the top questions that other scholars have asked. Upon collecting all of those questions, you are expected to say what is absent and that your investigation will concentrate on these missing parts.
Experts often refer to a literature source review as the most crucial part of crafting a study proposal. To make it successful, a student has to follow the rule of 5 C’s:

  1. Use citations as these are helpful in concentrating on the literature resources that are topical to your issue.
  2. Apply a comparative approach here and there while working with multiple theories as well as diverse arguments. Try and find what was the thing that others agreed on? Specify if there was anyone who applied any similar approach to working on the same problem that you intend to study.
  3. Bits of contrast should be applied to themes and arguments in the published sources that you have studied. You need to make it clear what the fields of debate and controversy are.
  4. Be rather critical to everything you have studied. Make a list of arguments that were more persuasive. Write another list of those that were invalid, unreliable and inappropriate.
  5. Choose the sources that should be connected to your approach to the study and explain in short how you are planning to use the gathered details.
    After you underpin your own academic investigation in relation to the studies and theories of other scholars, proceed to the methodology section.
  • Step 6. Explain the methodology

You have already set a list of questions you plan to answer while researching the issue in film and theatre studies. Now your main task is to explain what methods and methodologies you will apply to give answers to them.
The outlined methodology must give a broad interpretation of:

  1. The vision for research in its broadest meaning. Whether the approach is quantitative or qualitative, explain why you give way to it. Sometimes, students choose to combine these two approaches — this makes the investigation way more powerful.
  2. The approach in its narrow meaning. You have to show exactly what methods will be used: questionnaires, experiments, interviews? Or maybe you are planning to use them all. But by enumerating the methods, you also need to give clear academic reasons for your choice.
  3. Be honest concerning the weak parts of these approaches. Since you are aware of them all, you are expected to show ways of overcoming these weaknesses.
  4. Explain at what stages you are planning to link back to the main research questions.
  5. Define the process of analyzing the gathered results.

It is obvious that since you do not know all ins and outs while researching you can be dragged to parts other than expected. But, in any case, before that, you need to show the readers of your academic proposal in film and theatre studies that you are knowledgeable about everything you are writing about.

  • Step 7. Edit the work

Read through the draft of your academic proposal to check if you didn’t miss any part of the piece. Apart from the presence of the required structural components, it’s also essential to make sure the quality of the extract is the highest:

  1. The sentences should not be very long. If you see any immensely long sentence, divide it into two or three shorter ones.
  2. The paragraphs should not be too long either. When they are extremely long, reading the entire research proposal is very difficult.
  3. Make sure your writing does sound awkward or informal. To create a winning research proposal, you need to stick close to the point and omit all types of superfluous words.
  4. Check the style for citing books and articles. As styles are various, ask your supervisor to provide specifications.
  5. Avoid plagiarism. That is hard to do if you cite too much. But to upgrade the originality of your work, you need to refuse from citing: when you must share the thoughts of others, juts paraphrase them in own words. And do not forget to use free plagiarism checkers online — they will show the percentage of original content in your research proposal.
  6. Even though your research proposal in film and theatre studies is not a completed study, your supervisor still expects it to be written in accordance with the rules of good academic writing, which means that poor grammar and sloppy writing should be corrected at once.

And finally, when you are writing a research proposal, do not go with a huge number of details on some minor problems. We suggest you disclose details of the problems that are huge, can support the arguments and dominate the narrative. Stay coherent and persuasive, be critical and don’t be afraid to argue for the truth.
As long as you are focused on the issue more than on the number of literature sources that you need to look through, you are on the route to academic success with your research proposal in film and theatre studies.
A research proposal that is grounded on a profound and long-lasting study is destined for success. We believe yours will become the one.


  1. Bell, J. (1999): Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education & Social Science, (Oxford University Press, Oxford).
  2. Cryer, P. (2000): The Research Student’s Guide to Success, (Open University, Milton Keynes).
  3. Baxter, L, Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (2001): How to Research, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
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