Research Paper Prospectus Template

A description of the general subject that you intend to investigate, and the general state of opinion regarding this topic. This is not a bibliographic essay or literature review (see #4 below): rather, it should describe the area of research in which you will work.

In a couple of sentences -- no more -- your particular subject. These are the lines you will fall back on when I ask you, "what is your paper is all about?" The question must be just that -- a live question, not a rhetorical one, and one which must have at least two, and preferably more plausible answers to it.

An outline of each of the main segments of the paper; you may use bullets, or paragraphs may stand in the place of something more telegraphic. The purpose of this section is to show the logical components into which you have divided your subject. If you have done the job properly the links between these sections should require little explanation.

A literature review, in the form of either a list of articles and books or a more discursive and heavily footnoted essay.

Describe (1) the sources you will examine; (2) the methodology you will use (if applicable); (3) your time table for completion of research and writing.

 Prospectus Examples   

These examples are all in draft form and should not be confused as the final prospectus.  The Bibliographies are not in current APA style and there are mistakes throughout the papers.  They are examples to give you an idea of what a prospectus is and what it should contain.  Hopefully, they will also give you ideas for your research topic.  The latest version of theguide should be used for the paper.

Action Research Project Prospectus

 Example 1

Data Collection Activities in Algebra 1

     Algebra has long been taught in the same way.  This usually means teachers rely heavily on the textbook.  Though some textbooks have changed in recent years, the central focus is till on paper and pencil, memorization of rules, and use of algorithms.  The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM 1989) asks mathematics teachers to seek activities that “model real-world phenomena with a variety of function” and “represent and analyze relationships using tables, verbal rules, equations, and graphs”.  The standards also urge teachers to give students the opportunity to be actively involved in math through data analysis and statistics that are integrated into the curriculum.  My hope is to show that these types of activities can be incorporated into an algebra I course as a way of teaching slope, y-intercept, and linear equations.

     I plan to teach a unit on linear equations during the third nine weeks of an eighth grade algebra I course next semester.  The project will begin with one class learning the material typically covered in most algebra textbooks.  I do not plan to pretest the students because this is new material for them.  This class will also go to the computer lab and complete a lesson on the computer covering linear equations.  In addition, they will work in pairs using T1-82 graphing calculator to explore slope and y-intercept.  All of these methods are what I have typically taught over the past 5 years.

     Another eighth grade class will be given several data collection activities as a unit of study for linear equations.  The primary resource for this class will be Algebra Experiments I by Mary Jean Winter and Ronald J. Carlson.  My focus will begin with a whole class participation data collection activity.  The class will perform “the wave” in small sections at a time until the entire class has completed it.  As a group will record the number of seconds it takes (for example) 3, 5, 8, 13, 15, 20, etc. to complete the wave.  Students will then use a prepared activity sheet that requires them to draw a diagram of the experiment, describe the procedure, identify the independent and dependent variables, create a table of data, graph data, choose two representative points to connect and create a “line of best fit”, find the slope and y-intercept of this line and describe it algebraically and verbally, then interpret the data through certain questions designed to create understanding of the purpose of the data and using the data to make predictions.  This same format will be used for all subsequent activities during the unit of study.  The authors of the book say “Algebra Experiments I reflects the basic philosophy of the NCTM standards for learning, teaching, and assessment.  Students have an opportunity to work collaboratively, to interact, and to develop communication skill.”  The whole idea is to “bring the real world into your algebra classroom.”

     I plan to require the class that does the experiments to keep a daily journal.  It will include hot they felt about the daily activities, a description of any specific new topic or topics they learned and a list of questions they still have.  Each day the class will address any concerns from the previous day's activity.  After several activities have been done by hand, I will instruct the class on how to analyze the data on the T1-82 graphing calculator.  They will then be given the opportunity to use the calculator on another experiment.  This class will also do the same graphing calculator activity on slope and y-intercept that the other class will do.

     I will give each class the same test and compare scores.  I will also give each class a survey to compare attitudes, interest and understanding of the use of the material in a real-world application.  My hope is that the students in the experiment class will have grasped the basic concepts of linear equations as well if not better than the other class and be able to relate this knowledge in a very real way.

     My search for articles about my proposed topic was lengthy and I have chosen to comment on a few.  My goal next semester is to read and use each of these articles in my actual action paper.  I have only read one article in its entirety.  What I gathered from the abstracts was the importance of using real-world applications and incorporating the use of the graphing calculator.

     Since my goal is to show that data collection activities can provide a way to teach the basic concepts of linear equations in a real-world setting, I tried to find articles that would bear this out.  Mercer (1995) presents lessons that teach slope-intercept concepts of linear equations through the use of the graphing calculator.  Held (1995) uses Computer-Intensive Algebra (CIA) to focus on the use of technology and real-world settings to develop a richer understanding of algebraic concepts.

     Dugdale (1995) has written about technology and algebra curriculum reform.  She focuses on “current issues, potential directions, and research question”.  Assessment issues are addressed.  Algebra is “a way of reasoning involving variables/functional relationships, generalizations/modes of representation and mathematical investigation/argument.

     Harvey (1995) was the keynote speaker at the Algebra Working Group of the Seventh International Conference on Mathematical Education in Quebec City, Canada.  He spoke of how important technology was in new algebra curriculum reform based on the NCTM standards.

     Bell (1995) was also a speaker at the Quebec conference.  He suggest curriculum modifications and reviews research on students' performance.

     Menghini (1994) “claims that, to be meaningful, algebra must be linked to real-work problems.”

     Wallace (1993) offers a data collection activity similar to one I have used in the past.  I would like to include this one in my lesson plans.  It “compares the trends of women's and men's world records for the 800-meter run using the linear and power

Regression capabilities of a graphing calculator.

     A very promising article by Magidson (1992) “addresses the challenges, risks, and rewards of teaching about linear functions in a technology-rich environment from a constructivist perspective.  Describes an algebra class designed for junior high school students that focuses on the representations and real-world applications of linear functions.”  I hope this will help me next semester as I begin to encounter problems.


     Bell, A., (1995).  Purpose in school algebra.  Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 14 (1), 41-73.

     Dugdale, S. and others, (1995).  Technology and algebra curriculum reform: current issues, potential directions, and research questions.  Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 14 (3), 325-57.

     Harvey, J. and others. (1995).  The influence of technology on the teaching and learning of algebra.  Journal of Mathematical Behavior,

Heid, K. (1995).  A technology-intensive approach to algebra.  Mathematics Teacher, 88 (8), 650-56.

Magidson, S. (1992).  From the laboratory to the classroom:  a technology-intensive curriculum for functions and graphs.  Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 11 (4), 361-37.

Menghini, M. (1994). Form in algebra: reflecting, with Peacock, on upper secondary school teaching.  For the Learning of Mathematics, 14 (3), 9-14.

Mercer, J. (1995).  Teaching graphing concepts with graphing calculators.  Mathematics Teacher, 88 (4), 268-73.

Wallace, E. (1993).  Exploring regression with a graphing calculator.  Mathematics Teacher, 86, (9), 741-43.

 Example  2

Use of Algebra Tiles to Enhance the Concept Development of Operations on Polynomials and Factoring in Ninth Grade Algebra Students

The purpose of this action research project is to find out if the use of Algebra Tiles will enhance the concept development of operations on polynomials and factoring in ninth grade algebra students.

     Mathematics teachers are guided by the Arkansas State mathematics Framework.  The following three student learning expectations are covered by this research project.

2.1.5 Describe, visualize, draw and construct geometric figures in one, two, and three dimensions.

2.3.7 Represent problem situations with geometric models and apply properties of figures in meaningful context to solve mathematical and real-world problems.

2.3.8 Represent one, two and three-dimensional geometric figures algebraically.

Algebra Tiles allow students “hands-on” experience with polynomials.  The tiles give students the opportunity to model, to create a mental image, to draw, and to then symbolically manipulate polynomials.  They are based on area and multiplication concepts that students are familiar with.  Howden (1985) states “It is generally recognized that understanding the meaning of a mathematics concept, as opposed to merely performing the associated computation, is an essential element of true learning and achievement” and “research shows that modeling and visualization promotes such understanding”.


     Both teachers will teach two of their own classes each of these two polynomial units.  One class will receive traditional instruction by symbolic manipulation only.  The other class will use the Algebra Tiles along with the traditional method.  The student's scores for each unit using Algebra Tiles will be compared to the scores based on the traditional method only.  Differences will be compared and noted.

     In addition, students receiving instruction with the tiles will keep a journal each day describing how they feel about using the tiles.  According to Sharp (1995), students using algebra tiles “found it easy to think about algebraic manipulations when they visualized the tiles” and “the majority of students stated that the tiles added a mental imagery that made learning `easier.'”  Another possible comparison will be to see if there is any difference in scores or perception between boys and girls using the tiles.

     The goal of this research project is to see if Algebra Tiles or “modeling” will enhance the understanding of polynomials and make the process of factoring “easier”.


Howden, Hilde.  Algebra Tiles for the Overhead Projector.  New Rochelle, NY:

Cuisenaire Company of America, 1985.

Sharp, Janet M.  Results of Using Algebra Tiles as Meaningful Representations of Algebra

Concepts,  ERIC search, 1995.


 Example 3

Concept Mapping in Science Teaching


     In the constructive theory, new learning is accomplished only when based on past ideas and concepts.  New information is organized and added to past knowledge and concepts already developed (Appleton, P 303).  One of the main tools in constructive learning can be the Concept Map.  “Concept maps can reveal a) the concepts already present in the students mind b) the conceptual linkages between the concepts c) the evolution that takes place as a consequence of teaching learning activities” (Regis, P. 1084).  Concept mapping has probably formalized the way students have always reviewed for tests.  My college-age daughter would often drive home for help in organizing her information before chemistry tests.


     For a control group, test grades earned from the same group of students during the first semester will be used.  The chapters will be matched according to difficulty using the following diagram:   


 Experimental Group                 Control Group

      Chapter A (introductory)            Chapter A (introductory)

      B (advanced)                               B (advanced)

      C (introductory)                           C (introductory)

      D (advanced)                               D (advanced)


     The effectiveness of the maps will be measured by comparing the average of the scores on the chapter tests.  The tests will not include concept-mapping techniques, in order to measure achievement on traditional tests and not the students' ability to construct concept maps.  The scores will be factored into groups based on the student's final grade for the fall 1997 semester.  A comparison will be made between a) the top students, those with final grades above 90% b) middle students, those with final grades between 74% and 89% and c) students with final grades below 73%.


     The strengths of this project design include the range in ages, 8th and 9th, and the teachers familiarity with the students.


     Appleton, Ken. (1996).  Analysis and Description of Students' Learning during Science Classes Using a Constructivist-Based Model.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching.  34, 30318.

     Regis, Alberto, and Albertazzi, Pier. (1996).  Concept Maps in Chemistry Education.  Journal of Chemical Education. 73, 1084-88.

     Wandersee, James H. (1990).  Concept Mapping and the Cartography of Cognition.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 27, 923-36.

     Novak, Joseph D. (1990).  Concept Mapping: A Useful Tool for Science Education.  Journal of Research in Science Education. 27, 937-49.

 Example 4

Drug Education: Does It Prevent Drug Abuse?


     One of the most serious problems among adolescents in many countries is the use and abuse of drugs.  According to the 1988 Statistics Canada report, the problem began in most countries in the 1960's.  In order to reduce the rate of drug taking, drinking, and smoking, it has been suggested that the schools provide intervention programs.  Such programs were implemented because they seemed a rational response to a serious problem (Shamai, et al 1992).

     However, there were several problems with the first substance abuse prevention programs.  First, the principal target was knowledge rather than behavior, and now a wealth of research shows that the links between knowledge, attitudes and behavior are tenuous, and that increased knowledge does not necessarily lead to behavior change (i.e. Proshansky and Seidenberg, 1965).  Second, empirical evidence has consistently shown that ineffectiveness of these programs.  (Shinke et al, 1991).  Increasing knowledge and changing attitudes toward substance use do not necessarily prevent or reduce substance abuse.  Third, some programs were associated with increased drug use (Shinke et al 1991).


     In the 1980's curricula were developed to assist teachers in implementing interactive strategies to prevent substance abuse.  Among these Project D.A.R.E.  Availability of federal funds for schools to implement prevention programs affected the popularity of such curricula (Bosworth and Sailes, 1993).

There are a number of reviews of the literature that have been critical of alcohol and drug education as an effective means of prevention of alcohol and drug related problems (Braught, G and Braught, B, 1984).  The Sixth Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health NIAAA (1987:6) states  “Although educational programs in schools have increased alcohol and drug knowledge, few have been effective in preventing alcohol abuse or delaying experimentation by young children and adolescents.”

     The majority of the programs in alcohol and drug education have been limited to programs that provide information about the substance and its effects.  Many of the programs have been presented to students as a part of health-education courses or other curricular approaches.  Alcohol and drug educators hoped that the increase in knowledge individuals might acquire as result of such informational programs would result in attitude and behavior change.  Goodstat in 1978 examined the knowledge-attitude-behavior model of alcohol and drug education and found these assumptions to be seriously flawed.  He then proposed re-orientations toward a greater behavioral focus with a special emphasis on learning new behaviors through small incremental steps.  Specifically, Goodstat suggested that in order for drug education efforts to effect behavior change they might first have to elicit a desire to change, then an expressed intention to change, a small behavioral expression of a commitment to change, and later a larger public demonstration to change (Gonzales, 1988).  Educators have continued to search for ways to “inoculate” young people against alcohol and drug abuse primarily through informational and affective approaches (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1984).

     The Missouri Student Health survey included questions about knowledge attitudes and behaviors related to drugs and other health issues.  Twelfth grade students were asked to rate the value of Drug Education to students.  In 1991, 45% of the students responded that drug education was of great or considerable value, 35% some value, and 20% stated that drug education was of little or no value.  The 1993 report show that only 37% described drug education as having great or considerable value, 37% some value and 26% little or no value.  According to the results, students increased their use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana compared to the 1991 survey.

     A recent survey commissioned by the National Center on Addiction Substance Abuse at Columbia University concludes that young people and their parents do not see drug use as a crisis.  Nearly half of the parents said they think their children are going to use an illegal drug.  The report stressed that as teens grow older, their proximity to drugs increases as the more they regard drug usage as “no big deal” (Nelson, 1996).  The PRIDE survey which was released one week prior to the Columbia report, found that parents seem to have become passive in educating their children about drug risks.  Leaving that to the schools.  Is it realistic to place the burden of drug use prevention entirely on schools?  The National Education Survey reports that virtually no parents felt that teachers should have the primary responsibility for teaching children about drug abuse (National PTA).


     Washington students were asked to choose among a variety of prevention activities which one they though was the most important in helping reduce Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use in school among students their own age.  While one fourth of the sixth grade students indicated that they thought class presentations and having someone at school to talk to were most important, only a little more than one-tenth of the students indicated these two activities at the twelfth grade.  Instead older students indicated that they thought having groups of students working together to persuade other students not to engage in AOD use was the most important form of prevention.       

     Interestingly, at all grade levels about one-fourth of the students thought bringing people in from outside the school to talk about the problems of AOD use was the most important method of reducing student use.  While only ten percent of the students in grade six thought none of the prevention activities mentioned could reduce student use.  Twenty four percent at the twelfth grade did not think any of the mentioned activities could reduce student use (Einspruch & Pollard, 1993).  About one half of the twelfth grade students thought that nothing is really helping prevent AOD use in schools.

     The purpose of this project is to determine which drug education strategies will help reduce alcohol and other drug use of sophomore honors biology students at Little Rock Central High School.  It is hypothesized that cooperative learning and role-playing will help reduce alcohol and other drug use.


     A Study of Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Children's Education, The Third PTA National Educational Survey.  National PTA; Chicago, IL.

     Bosworth, K. & Sailes, J. (1993).  Content and Teaching Strategies in 10 Selected Drug Abuse Prevention Curricula.  Journal of School Health, 63, 247-53.

     Braught, G. N & Braught, B. (1984).  Prevention of Problem Drinking among Youth.  Prevention of Alcohol Abuse, 253-59.

     Dusenbury, L. & Falco, M. (1996).  Keys to Drug-Abuse Prevention, Journal of School Health, 40, 36-39.

     Einspruch, Eric L. & Pollard J. P. (1993).  Adolescent Health Behaviors among Public School Students in Washington, 1988-1992. (ERIC ED379556).

     Fife, Brian (1994).  An Assessment of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program in Fort Wayne, IN.

     Finn P. & O'Gorman P. A. (1982).  Teacher Training in Alcohol Education: Goals, Approaches and Content.  Journal of Drug Education, 12 (3), 255-72.

     Gonzalez, G.  Should Alcohol and Drug Education be a Part of Comprehensive Prevention Policy?  The Evidence from the College Campus.  Journal of Drug Issues, 18, 355-65.

     Goodstadt, M. S. (1978).  Alcohol and Drug Education Models and Outcomes.  Health Education Monographs, 6, 263-79.

     Missouri's Student Health Survey, 1993 Summary Report.  Missouri State Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jefferson City, Div. Of Instruction.  (ERIC ED380753).

     National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Drug Abuse and Drug Abuse Research: First in a Series of Triennial Reports to Congress (DHHS Publication No. ADM 85-1372), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

     Nelson, Jack (Sept 1996).  Many parents shrug, expect kids to use drugs.  Arkansas Democrat Gazette.  1A.

     Pruitt, B. S. (1993).  Which Drug Abuse Programs Work?  Education Digest, 59, 9-12.

     Sandlin, Jake (Sept 1996). Drug Use in Grades 6-12 Last Year nears 30%, National Survey Says.  Arkansas Democrat Gazette. B1.

     Shamai, S. & Coambs, R. B. (1992).  The relative Autonomy of Schools and Educational Interventions for Substance Abuse and Prevention, Sex Education, and Gender Stereotyping.  Adolescence, 27, 757-70.

0 thoughts on “Research Paper Prospectus Template

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *