Research Proposal

Writing a Research Proposal
The thesis or dissertation that it part of the MS/PhD experience is produced by defining a problem, designing a means to solve it, gathering and analyzing the necessary data, and finally, interpreting the results in context of the published literature. The relevance of your research may be identifying or solving a critical natural resource problem, adding new understanding to management or ecological theory, demonstrating the practical applications of a new technique, to name but a few topical themes. It all begins with writing the proposal and ends with distribution of your findings to your intended audience. Proposal writing is a transferrable and marketable professional skill. The information provided here is intended to get you started on this process and facilitate effective work with your committee on this part of your degree. In general, newcomers spend too much emphasis on the literature review and not enough time demonstrating how the proposed problem is to be solved. A good design demonstrates competence and proficiency.
FW Proposal Resources

The Department offers a class (FW 599: Proposal Writing) that student's can take in Winter term if they require assistance developing a proposal.

Structure of Proposal - the length guidelines (click here) should be discussed with your major professor so you are clear about their expectations.
  1. Introduction (Background and Justification)
    The role of the introduction is to present critical background material from which the objectives are formulated. This synthesis provides context that justifies the novelty and importance of the proposed work. This does not have to be an exhaustive review; you should be very selective and cite only the key work upon which your ideas were developed. This is what musicians call the hook. Tell the reader what is needed, why it is needed and how the needs will be addressed. Why is your study important and interesting? The proposal should show the immediate application of the research. (2.5-3 pages).

  2. Methods (Hypotheses, Approach and Study Design)

    Translate the objectives into testable hypotheses. Both descriptive and experimental research objectives can be posed as hypotheses. Once that is done, establish the flow of the study. The purpose of a schematic diagram of the study design is that it provides a quick, clear explanation of the research theme because it is organized. If there is considerable understanding concerning the ecological process in question, a flow chart may be easily developed, essentially a schematic model of the process itself. If not, the flow of study can be constructed using different methods (e.g. strong inference scheme, Chamberlain’s Multiple Hypothesis Scheme, Path Analysis. It is worthwhile spending most of your effort on the methods section (7-8 pages).

  3. Anticipated Results

    What are the alternative scenarios or outcomes that can be anticipated? What are the implications of each possibility? Are there those that do not make biological sense? Are there results that are counterintuitive, but ecologically meaningful? Is there the possibility that a result may challenge a cherished paradigm? Do you anticipate an intellectual or management break- though? How can the results of your thesis be immediately applied? (1 page)

  4. Literature Citations: (2-3)

    Use the best (Classics). Use the latest (shows you are hip and up to date).

  5. Time Table

    Tasks, milestones, decision-points (follow the hot lead), reporting schedules. Is your study efficient? Overburdened with tasks? Are you organized? Will you graduate on time (i.e., your GRA-ship has not expired? (1 page)

  6. Budget

    How will you allocate your financial resources? Can you afford all the supplies including repairs and breakage? How much buffer do you have in your finances for mistakes (re-sampling needed)? What will mileage and travel cost? Have you factored in student help correctly? (1 page)


Process and Procedure For a Research Review

What is a research review?

The Research Review is a Departmental requirement for all graduate students. It is a mechanism whereby the research proposed by a student is exposed to the academic diversity of the Department. It provides the opportunity for students to describe their research in writing and orally, and to obtain comments, criticisms, and suggestions by a research review committee. The Research Review is conducted by a committee consisting of a student’s regular graduate committee, and a Departmental Reviewer who is a member of the Department's Graduate Faculty and serves on the student's committee for the Research Review only.

It is the student’s responsibility to request a list of potential Departmental Reviewers from the Graduate Program Coordinator before they have scheduled the time and day for their Research Review meeting. Submit the appropriate Request for Research Review form to fw.gradadvising@oregonstate.edu to request a list of Departmental Reviewers. Students will be given a list of potential Department Reviewers from the opposite discipline. They must contact each of these faculty members until a faculty member agrees to serve as their Departmental Reviewer. The student should send the name of that faculty member back to the Graduate Program Coordinator. If no faculty member can be found from the original list, the Graduate Program Coordinator will send another list of potential reviewers for the student to contact.

Immediately prior to the research review meeting, the student should download and print the research review form and bring it to their meeting.


Conduct of the Review

What Happens During the Research Review?

The departmental reviewer, who represents another field (e.g., a fisheries professor for a wildlife student), administers the review. Usually the student is asked to briefly describe their background and academic preparation, and to give a quick overview of the nature and evolution of their research problem and their planned approach. The departmental reviewer, regular members of the student's committee, and invited guests have the opportunity to discuss any aspect of the proposed research with the student and to question or comment as they see fit. It is the role of the departmental reviewer to ensure that all members of the review committee have an equal opportunity to question or comment.

Timing of the Review

When should the Research Review Take Place?

Except for extenuating circumstances, the Research Review must be completed before major data collection and analysis begins. The review should be completed within the first two terms by those seeking Masters degrees and within the first five terms by those seeking Doctoral degrees. Students who fail to schedule a review within these periods should provide an explanation for not scheduling the review in their required Annual Review and explain their plans to schedule a review. The Departmental Graduate Committee will apprize the Department Head of situations where delay in the Research Review may be hampering the academic progress of the student.

Scheduling the Review

How Should the Research Review be Scheduled?

Students are responsible for scheduling the Research Review at a time, date, and location agreeable to members of the Review Committee including the Departmental Reviewer. A research proposal in which the research is described must be provided to all members of the Review Committee at least two weeks before the review. Two hours are to be allotted for the Research Review.

Completion of the Review

How Much Time is Given for the Review?

The departmental reviewer is responsible for transmitting to the Department Head the consensus of the committee regarding the timeliness of the review, the depth of student's understanding of the background of, and approach to, the research topic, and the nature of the advice provided to the student by the research review committee. Departmental reviewers or regular members of the committee who dissent from the prevailing consensus regarding the timeliness of the review, the student's depth of understanding of the topic, or the advice provided during the review may so indicate on the review form and transmit their opinions to the Department Head by letter. If two or more members of the review committee (includes the departmental reviewer) consider the oral and written presentation inappropriate or consider the student's depth of understanding of the research problem inadequate, the research review will be suspended for a period not to exceed one month to provide the student time to prepare.

The research review committee may request that the proposal be revised if a majority of members agree that the original draft was inadequate or inappropriately prepared and to ensure that suggestions by members were given serious consideration. Such a request by the committee is appropriate even if the review is not to be reconvened.

Students are to be apprised that although the Research Review is strictly advisory, criticisms and suggestions provided should be given serious consideration as members of their committee and the Department Head will examine their completed work and must approve their thesis.