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Sustainability: Research Proposal (aka Research Design Plan)

Page history last edited by julie.staggers@unlv.edu 14 years, 4 months ago

Links:  Stage 1: Research Proposal / Stage 2:  Progress Report / Stage 3: Recommendation Report / Stage 4:  Project Assessment Memo 



To help your client solve their sustainability problem (or to locate and persuade a client to take on a sustainability issue that you've identified), you will have to plan and set up appropriate research activities. To gather good, quality information, you need to carefully avoid setting up research activities that gather irrelevant or even misleading information. To help avoid research problems, each group will submit a research plan. This plan is essentially a proposal for carrying out the research you need to do in order to make effective recommendations about solving the problem.

 Your research proposal (also called a Research Design Plan in some settings)  should contain all of the following information:

  • primary research questions (see this handout)
  • research sources and strategies
  • potential obstacles or problems
  • a request for approval in the conclusion
  • a gantt chart outlining the timeframes for completing the project (and individuals responsible for specific tasks)



You'll find a some sample research proposals (careful! these have both strengths and weaknesses) in our Word Documents folder.



The Research Plan should contain the following sections:

  • Opening/Introduction

    The introduction should explain the context for the project and your choice of client.
  • Background

    The backgound section should describe your research goals and rationale for your research, including your primary research questions, and the secondary questions you need to answer in order to answer the primary question. You should explain your initial knowledge of the client. Finally, the team members should also be introduced and the roles (specialty) each team member brings to the project.

  • Method

    This section should describe how you plan to perform your research, including strategies and your initial list of topics. This section also requires the possible primary and secondary sources you plan to use, and how each source may be utilized most effectively. Make sure you outline a clear and specific plan for carrying out primary (interviews, surveys, observations, etc.) and secondary (library, database, internet, etc.) research.

  • Potential Obstacles or Problems

    In this section, describe what potential obstacles you may have to account for when doing your research and how you plan to overcome them.

  • Schedule

    In this section, describe your schedule for completing the project. Also, create a gantt chart for the entire project (or any chart that shows the dates when activities will be completed). This chart is not written in stone, and you may have to make adjustments to it during the course of the semester, but I would like to get a sense of when you will do each segment of the assignment and how long you foresee each segment taking.

  • Conclusion

    End the memo with a courteous message and request approval for this project. Your request should reiterate why your group is particularly qualified to do this research. Finally, be sure to leave an open avenue for communication and an offer to answer any questions the reader may have.


Grading Criteria

Your project will be evaluated using the criteria on the project criteria sheet and the evaluation sheet. You'll find them in the Word Documents folder under the following titles:




Red Team Review


When you finish the first draft of the Research Design Plan, your team will publish your drafts in Web Campus for Red Team reviews.  with another team and provide review/feedback. You should refer to the Research Proposal Criteria and the Research Proposal Evaluation Sheet as you conduct this review. Using the Top-down Editing process also will help you save time and deliver more useful feedback.


Please use the following prompts in responding to the work of your peers. You are not required to answer all of the questions, but you should use the most appropriate questions in order to offer the best feedback possible.


  • Is the Research Design Plan written in memo format, with proper heading, opening, body, closing, and end notation?
  • Does the Research Design Plan follow the organization and heading- subheading structure outlined above?
  • Have the research goals (including initial knowledge of the city) been described in sufficient detail?
  • Are the research goals clear? What does the researcher want to learn from the sources?
  • Does the Research Design Plan offer a rationale for research, including a preliminary list of topics and potential sources?
  • Is there a discussion of the schedule and does it reference a Gantt chart illustrating major tasks, milestones, and timelines?



Links to resources in the books and elsewhere that you might find useful:



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