Tips for writing research proposals

Acabo de toparme con estos “tips para hacer propuestas de investigación” que escribí en mayo de 2006 para mis alumnos de economía política. Son notas al vuelo de una desvelada pero creo que publicarlos en el blog es un mejor lugar que tenerlos perdidos en mi disco duro.

SOME TIPS FOR WRITING RESEARCH PROPOSALS

I. Substance. 

Some questions your proposals need to answer one way or another:

  • Why is it important to study this broad phenomenon?
    Motivation.
  • Why focusing in your particular proxy (Municipios/Reformas/Controversias/Fallos?
    Justify your dependent variable.
  • Why Mexico/states/muncipios/corte/congreso? What is so special about the Mexican case? Why this sample period?
    Justify your case/sample/period selection.
  • What are the limitations of the current lit focusing on this or similar issues?
    Identify an opportunity area for research
  • What is the main question or questions you are trying to answer?
    Identify your hypothesis.
  • What does your project contribute?  How does it expand the lit?
    Identify your contribution (be ambitious but feasible here).

 II. Formato.

No deben usar formato pregunta-respuesta, pero nada les impide “sugerir” directa o indirectamente la pregunta que estan respondiendo en cada parrafo:

  • “Este fenomeno es importante porque ….”
  • “La contribución de esta tesis/propuesta será…”
  • “La experiencia mexicana es relevante porque…”
  • “Este periodo es particularmente interesante porque ….”
  • “Algunas limitaciones de la literatura existente son….”

III. Style, etc.

  • Remember, clarity is your best ally.  Baroque prose and long sentences are your enemies.
  • Do not try to be elegant or eloquent. GET TO THE POINT in each paragraph.  This means SHORT paragraphs.
  • State the main point at the beginning, not the end of your paragraphs.
  • State the main goal of your project on the first page, not on page 3.
  • State your contribution before, and not after whatever limitations your study may/will face.
  • Read out loud your main paragraphs to someone not stupid—if you find yourself having to make pauses, adding extra info, extra adjectives, or giggling—your paragraph STILL needs work.
  • State what you know (or others know) not what you “believe” or “think” you know—if you cannot prove or cite evidence of an important claim, don’t make it, or make it a cautious claim.

Suggested readings:

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