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Faculty of Humanities

University of the Free State

Ten simple rules for structuring papers

Proposal writting guideline

The following are some guidelines to adhere to:


You and your Study Leader should have come up with a concise well-focused title that is context specific and demarcated in a meaningful way


In your introduction, you are attempting to inform the reader about the rationale behind the work, justifying why your work is an essential component of research in the field.
You should define your problem in the introduction. By the end of the introduction, the reader should know exactly what you are trying to achieve
The first sentence should be a broad generalization of your specific topic that you are writing about. You should introduce the title with a well-researched topical sentence that relates to the title and sets the context for your paper in the first sentence of the introduction
The next few sentences of your introduction should become increasingly more focused on your topic, thereby narrowing the scope of your subject with each sentence
Present your ideas in the introduction in a theoretical/academic context showing evidence of adequate research on your title
The introduction should therefore be a mini literature review on the overview of your title
It is necessary to use several introductory paragraphs to sufficiently introduce the contents of your paper in the introduction
Your research thesis should be the last sentence of your introduction. This is a statement that summarize your entire paper in just one sentence

Formulation of Research Problem (half a paragraph not more than a page)

After providing a clear introduction your problem, stating your problem stating your problem should be simple.
Your problem statement as the word goes should be one sentence accompanied by at most two paragraphs that elaborate on the problem.
The statement may be in a declarative or in a question form
A persuasive statement of problem should be written in three parts:

Part A (The ideal): Describes a desired goal or ideal situation; explains how things should be (provide evidence in literature)

Part B (The reality): Describes the present condition that prevents the goal, state, or value in Part A from being achieved or realized at this time; explains how the current situation in your study falls short of the goal or ideal. Outline the problem – what is the key issue? Explain why you think this is worth investigating

Part C (The consequences): State your problem in a sentence and identifies the way you propose to improve the current situation and move it closer to the goal

Aim and objectives

Aims are statement of intent written in broad terms. Aims set out what you hope to achieve at the end of the project. In other words, the aim is your title in reverse


Objectives describe how you are going to achieve those aims. They should be SMART
It is advisable to limit these objectives to three and not more than five at this level
Research questions

Your research questions set the goal for your research. It is advisable to limit the research questions to three and not more than five at this level. Research questions are in question form as the word indicates. The number of objectives stated must relate to the number of research questions
The questions should focus of the title and topic
The questions have the potential to contribute to the gap in the study

Importance of the study

Provide the gap of knowledge about the title and how your study will help fill the gap
Brief definitions of concepts

Ensure that all concepts used are briefly defined


Ensure that the boundaries of the research should be clearly stated

Research methodology

Differentiate and choose one either qualitative quantitative or mind your re advised to choose one and fully explain what the approach is and why you chose this approach. The choice of approach will be influenced by the aim of your study

            Research design

Indicate design chosen and explain why providing references it may be survey case study, experimental etc.

            Data collection tools

Indicate data collection tool chosen and explain why providing references Note that the type of approach and design informs the choice of tools.

            Population and sampling

This should be meaningfully described
The total number of population should be stated and sampling procedures meaningfully describe. Note that the type of approach and design informs the choice of population and sampling.

            Data analysis method

The method of data analysis chosen and the reason for the choice should be explained. Note that the type of data analysis chosen is informed by the choice of research approach

Validity, reliability, trustworthiness and ethical considerations

The type of approach informs validity, reliability, and trustworthiness. For example, validity and reliability are only used in quantitative studies and issues of trustworthiness are used in qualitative studies

Literature review

Literature should relevant, important, and balanced. It should be related to your topic and your research questions

It should include a discussion of all your research questions
Use a descriptive writing approach
Describe the existing and established theory and research about your topic in your review providing a context for your work.
Show where you are filling a perceived gap in the existing theory or knowledge
Accurately references all sources mentioned in the literature and gives a full citation in the Reference List.

Provide at least 20 sources related to the research topic and at least 8 different sources on methodology

Annexure A

All Annexure A items should be included at the end of assignment 02

Technical aspects

Format work accordingly, ensure that the following are in place:

Table of contents
Page numbers
Readability and scientific writing style
Logical structure
Division into sections with thoughtful supporting sentences that develop the main idea

Careful editing/proofing

The reference below is useful

Walliman, N 2014 Your undergraduate dissertation: the essential guide for success. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE

Prof MC Fombad,UNISA

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