Chapter 1 of a Research Proposal
Universitas Kristen Indonesia
Chapter 1 or the introduction of a research proposal is the most important part of a proposal, because the rest parts of the proposal are merely supports of this section. The introduction sets the scene for the study, establishes the problem that the study addresses, targets an audience, identifies the relevance of the problem for the audience, defines key concepts, specify the purposes and significance of the study, and clarifies any term that might cause different perceptions.
The followings are brief and practical description to each subsection of the introduction section of a research proposal.
In general, this section is written in some short introductory paragraphs (three to four pages at most). The primary goal of these paragraphs is to inform the readers the general area to be addressed by the study and to create a sense of interest in the topic. To achieve the goal, the writer typically establishes the nature, and context of the topic, presents his interest in and experience with it, the reasons why the research is important, relevant findings of previous researches, and arguments how this research will solve problems or add to knowledge in this area. In short, these paragraphs set the stage for the paper and put the topic in perspective.
Look at the following background subsection of the research proposal entitled Short Stories Use in Language Skills Classes: Students’ Interest and Perception (2010).
The inclusion of literature, in general and short-stories in particular, in of the Second Language (SL) or Foreign Language (FL) classroom has been one of the most controversial issues. Used as a notable source of material during the domination of the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) until the end of the 19th century, literary works were absent from the curriculum of SL/FL teaching until 1970s when GTM was successively replaced by the Direct Method, Audiolingual Method, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, the Silent Way, Total Physical Response, and the Natural Approach which tend to regard a SL/FL teaching as a matter of linguistics and emphasize more on structures and vocabulary. Literature became even more ignored ESL/EFL classrooms were dominated by dialogues under the ascendancy of the communicative approach (Liddicoat & Crozet 2000). But since the 1980s, literature has found its way back into the ESL/EFL classrooms due to the realization that when used appropriately, with their authentic nature, literary genres are functional tools for language classes for all levels.
Starting from the last two decades the use of literature, in general and short-stories in particular, in ELT classroom has been advocated due to the various advantages they can offer to teachers and learners. Literature, in the form of short-stories, makes English learning enjoyable and attractive. Stories also help to stimulate students’ curiosity about the target culture and language. Integrating short-stories in EFL classrooms also paces the way to the EFL learners’ involvement with rich, authentic uses of the foreign language (Collie and Slater, 1991). Stories foster reading proficiency which is very important for enriching EFL vocabulary. The use of short-stories encourages language acquisition and students’ language awareness. Stories stimulate language acquisition by providing contexts for processing and interpreting new language. They also supplement the restricted input of the EFL classroom. Stories also promote an elementary grasp of English to internalize vocabulary and grammar patterns.
Although the renewed interest in the inclusion of literary works in worldwide SL/FL curricula has flourished since 1980s, its initiation in the curriculum of the English Department of FKIP-UKI is relatively new. It could be traced back to the curriculum revision carried out in 1995 when, for the first time, three classes of literature (2 credits each) were put in to the curriculum. However, these classes were designed to introduce literature for literature’s sake. Literature I—placed in Semester V—is an introduction to English poetry analysis. Literature II—placed in Semester VI—is to an introduction to fiction analysis. Literature III—placed in Semester VII—introduces how to appreciate dramas. Such condition made the students unable to see the mutual relationship of literature and language skills.
In practice, the inclusion of literary works in language skills classes of the English Department of FKIP-UKI took place since the curriculum was revised in 2000. The new curriculum contains four levels of listening class, five levels of reading class, four levels of speaking, and four levels of writing, and in each level of those language skills classes some literary works were incorporated. For instance, reading classes not only prepared expository passages to read. Some poems, short stories or short plays were also included.
Theoretically, the use of literature in language teaching is very advantageous. Collie and Slater (1991) list four benefits: authentic material, cultural enrichment, language advancement, and personal growth. First of all, literary texts can be more beneficial than informational materials in stimulating the acquisition process as they provide authentic contexts for processing new language. Since literary texts contain language intended for native speakers, literature stands as a model for language learners to become familiar with different forms and conventions. Second, using literature in language teaching has the advantage of providing cultural information about the target language. Literary texts increase foreign language learners’ insight into the country and the people whose language is being learnt (Collie and Slater, 1991), which fosters learners’ ability to interpret discourse in different social and cultural target language contexts (Savvidou, 2004). Third, containing real examples of grammatical structures and vocabulary items, the literary texts raise learners’ awareness of the range of the target language and advance their competence in all language skills (Povey, 1967). Finally, since literature enables students to understand and appreciate other cultures, societies and ideologies different from their own, it encourages personal growth and intellectual development (Carter and Long, 1991, 2-4). In line with that, Erkaya (2005) notes four benefits of using of short stories to teach ESL/EFL, i.e. motivational, literary, cultural and higher-order thinking benefits.
Therefore, the inclusion of short stories in the language skills classes of the English Department of FKIP-UKI is expected to provide greater opportunities for the students to enjoy the learning activities, to enhance their language skills, to develop their cultural sensitivity, and to sharpen their thinking skills. In addition, the practice is also expected to increase the students’ skills in using short story to teach English. So, when they have graduated, they will also be able to provide the same benefits to their students.
Despite the curriculum designers and lecturers’ enthusiasm and interest in the inclusion of short stories in the language classes of the English Department of FKIP-UKI, students’ perceptions of short story in this context, and its impact on them, have never been investigated or adequately considered in a systematic way. To a certain extent, this may be accepted as a proof of Edmondson’ (1997) anxiety that the inclusion or exclusion of short stories in the curriculum of English programs was mainly based on assumptions and theories. It was conducted without providing any empirical evidence that the use of short stories develops students’ language competence.
Such practice is fundamentally risky. By doing this students are assigned to deal with materials whose suitability with their’ needs, interest, and perception is still uncertain. Since the role of curriculum designer and lecturer is not just to facilitate, but to maximize, students learning, it is therefore vital to delve into students’ interest and perception of short story, and their perception of the importance of using short story in the curriculum they are dealing with.
B. Research Question(s) (or Problems Statement)
The term ‘research question’ is used in qualitative or action research, while ‘problem statement’ is used in quantitative research. This section is the focal point of a research proposal, because this is the place where writer identifies and clearly and precisely states the specific problem to be investigated. The question(s) should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).
To illustrate, the followings are the research questions derived from two studies. The first one belongs to Using BALL to Develop Writing Skills: Students’ Interest and Perception and the other belongs to Improving Students’ Vocabulary by Using Video: An Action Research.
The problems to be addressed in this study are the students’ perception and interest in the use of blogs to develop writing skills. Although the nature of blogs emerge them advantageous to be used to develop writing skills, blogs are a relatively new internet application. Thus, using them in writing classes without exploring the students’ perspectives is fundamentally risky. Thus, knowing what students think and whether they are interested in the use of blog or not are very crucial before implementing them in writing classes.
The problems are formulated as follow:
1. What do students think of the use of blogs to develop writing skills?
2. Are students interested in the use of blogs to develop writing skills?
Based on the description in the background section above, through this study the writer wants to know whether the use of videos can improve students’ mastery of English vocabulary. The writer hopes that this study can provide the answers to whether or not videos can improve students’ vocabulary mastery and how far the students’ vocabulary mastery improves after being taught by using video.
The problem is specifically formulated as follows:
1. Can videos improve the students’ vocabulary mastery?
2. How videos improve the students’ vocabulary mastery in teaching and learning process?
The objectives (or purposes) is a single statement or paragraph that explains what the study intends to accomplish. The objective statement should be directly based on the identified and formulated problem(s) in the previous section, so that readers are be able to realize immediately that the purposes are directly related to those problem(s). The objective statement should be phrased in line with the nature of the problem. This is done by communicating the purpose using ‘action verbs’, such as discover, describe, compare, develop, overcome the difficulty with, investigate, understand the cause or effect of, refine our current understanding of…, or understand what makes ____ successful or unsuccessful which accurately indicate your research objectives.
The followings are the objective statement derived from Using BALL to Develop Writing Skills: Students’ Interest and Perception:
The goal of this study is:
1. To discover and examine the students’ perception on the use of blogs to develop writing skills.
2. To investigate whether the students are interested in the use of blogs to develop writing skills.
D. Significance of the study
This section creates a perspective for looking at the problem. It points out how the study relates to the larger issues and uses a persuasive rationale to justify the reason for the study. It makes the objective worth pursuing. The significance of the study points out the benefit(s) to get if the study is done and to whom it is important. In Using BALL to Develop Writing Skills: Students’ Interest and Perception, for instance, the writer states the significance of the study as follows:
The researcher wills this study could give useful information and contributions to the teachers, and other researchers.
1. To teachers, the results of this study will hopefully provide information about students’ perception and interest in the use of blogs to develop writing skills.
2. To other researchers, the results of this study can provide a basis for conducting researches on the same area.
E. Scope of the study
All studies have limitations and a finite scope. Limitations are often imposed by time and budget constraints. Therefore, a researcher should precisely list the limitations of his study, and describe the extent to which he believes the limitations degrade the quality of the research. The “Scope of the Study” section is therefore where you set the boundaries of your study, limitations, and drawbacks that will possibly emerge due to the scope and limitation. The boundaries cover the issues (or variables). The limitation of the study precisely describes the sample/participants and the method and data to be collected and describe the extent to which he believes the limitations degrade the quality of the research. Look at the following example taken from the proposal of Using BALL to Develop Writing Skills: Students’ Interest and Perception.
(SCOPE) This study is set to discover and examine the students’ perception on the use of blogs to develop writing skills and whether the participants are interested in the use of media to develop writing skills. (LIMITATION) Due to the researcher time and budget constraints, the participants in this study will be limited to students of the English Education Study Program of UKI only. The data to be collected are limited to attitudinal information only. In addition, the data will be collected through a survey and interview at one point in time (cross-sectional study). (POSSIBLE DRAWBACK/ QUALITY DEGRADATION) Therefore, the findings may be valid only to students in the single study program. It cannot be generalized to other students in other institutions.
F. Operational Definitions
The operational definitions section is used to define special terms used in the research. Thus, this section is included in a proposal only if it uses terms that are unique to the field of inquiry or that might not be understood by the general reader. Look at the following example:
“For the purpose of this research, improvement is operationally defined as post-test score minus pretest score”.
The introduction (Chapter I) is essentially a ‘miniversion’ of the much larger review of literature (Chapter II) and can be thought of as highlighting certain segments or pieces of it. That is why some researchers prefer to write the introduction after they have actually completed much of their literature review. This section can certainly be written early in the research process, but the researcher should revisit it after he has completed his literature review to ascertain that both sections are consistent one to another.
Write your group’s research proposal chapter 1 in the reply section below. Include these elements:
- Background (2-4 pages)
- Problem Statement
- Research Objective(s)
- Research Question(s)
- Research Scope
- Research Significance
- Operational Definitions (quantitative only)
Please note that each group should write the proposal in accordance with the research method assigned, i.e.: