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Outline of a Full Research Proposal in APA Style

Your Name

Your Affiliation

(Tithe must be specific and concise, reflect the variables of your proposed study, mention the population and not exceed 12 words)

Research Proposal in APA Format: Title Page

Line Spacing, Margins and Font Your paper must be double spaced and APA recommends using 1″ margins and a 12pt Times Roman font. Your title page should include a running head, page number, article title, author name, author affiliation and author note.

The running head

The running head flush left at the top of the page and page number 1 is flush right at the top of the page. The running head should have no more than fifty characters, including letters, spacing between words and punctuation, of your title in uppercase letters. The running head should appear on all pages (without the words “running head”

The Title

The title should be a brief statement of what the paper will elaborate on. In many cases, the title will identify the major variables and the relationships between them. For example, “Effect of Parental Control on Eating Disorders” is an example of a concise title that clearly describes what the paper is about.

The best way to structure your title is to look at your hypothesis and experimental variables..

For e.g. The effect of X on Y

Y and its effects on X

Y as a function of X

The APA suggests that the title be no more than 12 words in length. The title should be placed at the top half of the page and centered between margins. Use both upper-case and lower-case letters. The author’s names, and school affiliation should be placed right under the title, centered and double spaced.

Author note

An author note is optional for students writing class papers. When used, it should appear as follows.

First paragraph: Complete departmental and institutional affiliation

Second paragraph: Changes in affiliation (if any)

Third paragraph: Acknowledgments, funding sources, special circumstances

Fourth paragraph: Contact information (mailing address and e-mail)


The abstract page is the page after the Title page and is numbered 2. The RUNNING HEAD (all letters capitalized and not exceeding 50 characters, including punctuation, letters, and spaces) is already flush with the top left corner and the page number is flush with the top right hand corner. On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” with no formatting, i.e., not in bold or caps, italics or quotation marks.

The abstract is written as one paragraph and is not indented five spaces from the left margin. It should be double spaced and typed in Times New Roman, 12 point and written as one paragraph of 150 to 250 words. Just begin the abstract on the first line after the centered title “Abstract”. The abstract includes a summary of all the various elements of your research paper. Therefore, the abstract is a concise report of your research area, research question and goals, sample size and composition, sampling strategy, research design, measures of data collection, procedure, and statistical tests that will be used to analyze data. Use the active voice and future tense in the abstract. Avoid using Acronyms or abbreviated words unless they are defined in the abstract.

After the last line of your abstract, on the next line you can list about 3 to 5 keywords from your paper. To list your keywords, indent 5 spaces as if you were starting a new paragraph, and type the word keywords (italicized and followed by a colon, Keywords:) and then list your keywords. The keywords enable researchers to locate your paper in databases.

Outline of a Full Research Proposal in APA Style

(Writing the Introduction, 2-3 pages)

The first section of the main text of the report is the Introduction. The introduction begins on the third page of the manuscript. (Page 1 is the Title page and Page 2 is the Abstract page). It does not have a heading that says “Introduction.” Instead, the heading at the top of this page is the full title of the manuscript, with each important word capitalized as on the title page. The title should be centered, but not in bold.

The Introduction should provide information about the importance of the area of research, a literature review, the objectives of the study and a justification for it. Therefore, begin the introduction with a definition and explanation of the area of your study, which is usually the dependent variable in an experimental and quasi-experimental design and the criterion in a non-experimental design. Sometimes it may be the participants in your study who come from a population of specific interest. Remember that you are writing for an educated audience. Therefore, do not start with the basics. Assume that your reader knows them and begin by defining and explaining terms specifically pertaining to your study. Define the terms conceptually. Cite any theories relevant to the dependent or criterion variable or the population. All citations should be in AP style. You need to cite from other authors. Mention only last names of authors and leave out initials. Do not use direct quotes. The entire section should be in your own words.

In the next paragraphs, move on to the other variables in your study, the independent variables, the subject variables or other variables of interest. Define each variable conceptually and clearly. Place your study in context by providing findings from previous research. This means, you need to provide a concise description of the current knowledge in the area of research based on claims made by previous studies. Explain where the gap in knowledge exists. Or say what findings are inconsistent or contradictory. The studies you cite should serve to provide the rationale for your study. What did the researchers do? What did they find? What did they conclude? Do this for each study cited. Typically, one or more paragraphs are necessary to explain each study. Or you may present a few relevant studies in the same paragraph. Make the transition from the previous paragraph smooth using appropriate linking words or ideas. Use transition words for example, Similarly, Jones, Hong and Anderson (2015) found that…or, In contrast, Smith (2016) reported that…

The following are tips when writing your literature review.

· You should discuss studies that are directly related to your problem at hand and that logically lead to your own hypotheses.

· You do not need to provide a complete historical overview nor provide literature that is unrelated or only tangentially related to your own study.

· Studies should be presented based on themes or concepts relevant to your research, not in a chronological format.

· You should also consider what gap in the literature your own research fills. What hasn’t been examined? What does your work do that others have not? Or if you are replicating a previous study, say so.

The studies you cite should be ones that are relevant and important to your proposed study. Do not just provide background information. You need to critically assess the studies and use them to set the stage for the justification of your study. All sources you use should be cited. When citing work done by multiple authors, use the ampersand before the last name instead of the word ‘and’ when the citation is in parentheses. If the author names are part of your sentence, use the word ‘and’. Also mention all authors’ names the first time and use the first author’s name et al., year of publication every subsequent time the same source is cited.

The literature review should lead directly into the last section of the introduction—your study overview. In the last paragraph, state the purpose of your current study and the research hypothesis in conceptual terms. State the hypotheses as an expectation or prediction in active voice and future tense. Do not state the null hypothesis and do not use operational definitions here. State explicitly what your study proposes to do. Make sure that your objectives are clearly articulated. Is your study going to examine a new question or is it going to examine a new aspect of an old question or phenomenon, or are you replicating or expanding a study or are you going to examine a new population? Whatever your purpose, say why you selected that as your purpose. That is, you need to provide a justification for your study and its hypotheses. This is done by positioning your research study within a specific conceptual or theoretical framework. In other words, whichever framework you adopt should inform your study. The literature review you provided should have made the importance of your study clear. Explain the potential utility of your study, which may be an expansion to the existing database of a certain phenomenon or population, a better understanding or clarification of a relationship between variables, an empirical test of a theory, or the evaluation of a program or treatment method. The study overview functions as a transition to your methods section.


The Method section contains a number of subsections. People are sometimes confused about which sub-heading should contain which kinds of information. You should be guided by the purpose of the Method section, which is to ensure that you have supplied enough information for someone with no knowledge of the research to understand how exactly you intend to carry out your study. Once written, you may wish to read over your Method section and ask yourself: “Could I carry out this study if I knew nothing about it, simply from reading the Method?” If the answer is no, it will need to be tidied up.

The essential subsections of the ‘Method’ section are Participants, Materials (or Measures) and Procedure. Separate sections with headings like Ethics Statement, Research Design and Data Analysis may appear or the relevant content may be included within the essential subsections of the Method section.

Ethics Statement

The ethics statement is not necessarily a subsection of the research paper. It can be included within any appropriate section (Participants, Research Design, or Procedure). The important points that need to be mentioned are

1. that approval from the IRB will be obtained (can be included at the beginning of the ‘Procedure’ subsection)

2. that participants will provide informed consent (can be included within the ‘Participants’ subsection

3. that data will be collected anonymously (included within the ‘Procedure’)

4. that all data will be kept confidential (included within the ‘Procedure’)

You could state, for example,

The research protocol will be approved of by the Ethics Committee of Queens College and all participants will be recruited after they have provided written informed consent.


IRB approval and consent from participants will be obtained before the study is conducted.


The sample size and composition need to be explained in detail here. You should describe the number of participants, their mean age range, and how many males and females you intend to recruit for your study. If your study is investigating sex or other group differences, then you would need to provide participant details for these individual groups as well as for your overall sample. State as much demographic information as possible about your sample. Mention any inclusion and exclusion criteria you will use to select your sample. The intended sample size along with the reason why a certain size is being targeted and the sampling strategy along with a justification for its selection should be provided. Both the statistical and the non-statistical considerations taken into account before settling on a certain sample size should be described. The non-statistical considerations may include factors affecting the feasibility of the study such as availability of resources, manpower, budget, ethics and the sampling frame. The statistical considerations will include the desired precision of the statistic to be estimated. If relevant, the inclusion and exclusion sampling criteria should be clearly mentioned.

Measures/Materials/Apparatus (Use one of the three not all)

This subsection describes the equipment and/or materials that will be used, and the name depends on its content. For example “Measures/Materials” (covers content of questionnaires), “Apparatus” (covers details of specialist equipment such as computers and programs), or “Materials and Apparatus” (covers details of both). You do not need to describe any “standard” equipment such as normal office stationary, stopwatch etc. For example “reaction time will be measured using a hand-held stopwatch” is fine.

Where any existing questionnaires or scales are used, these should be referenced in full and you should provide details of reliability and validity found by previous researchers (note that if the material is central to the research question, then details of its reliability and validity can be covered in the Introduction as part of your rationale for using this instrument). In the text, you should refer to examples of any stimuli or materials used e.g., “see Appendix A, and then remember to include these examples in the Appendices.

Research Design

This section appears after the Measures/Materials, but it can be combined with Procedure if both sections would otherwise be very brief. This section must provide a clear overview of what will be measured and/or manipulated (or possibly observed). The best way to achieve this is to begin with a description of the variables and whether or not they will be manipulated, as well as any details of randomization and counterbalancing.

An example:

“The experiment will manipulate two independent variables. The first, dosage of caffeine, is a between-participants factor and will have three levels: low, medium, and high. Equal numbers of participants will be randomly assigned to the three groups. The second variable, target discriminability, is a within-participant factor with two levels: low and high. In the low discriminability condition, the target is very dim, with a luminance barely distinguishable from the background. In the high discriminability condition, the target is very bright and clearly identifiable. Equal numbers of low and high luminance targets will be presented in a random order within a single block of 120 trials.”

The critical information to communicate in the Design (for experimental, quasi-experimental and correlation designs) is:

· The variables measured or manipulated, or participant variables, including:

1. a description of the independent variables (the different types of manipulation) and their levels

2. A description of the dependent variables (behavior measured), and how they will be operationalized “The dependent variable is participants’ reaction time measured in milliseconds.”


3. A description of variables measured (no independent or dependent variables in correlation studies)

· Whether the variables represent within-participant or between-participant manipulations

· The number of trials per condition

· Procedures of randomization and counterbalancing used in the experiment or study

Note that you should not report any statistical treatments in this subsection


The Procedure section should begin with a short description of the ethical considerations that you will take into account before conducting your study. Next, describe exactly what will happen in the study. You do not need to repeat large amounts of information already provided in the Research Design; rather, the procedural aspects of the task are described, often via a description of what will take place in a typical trial in the study. It is often useful to describe the procedure for one experimental condition, and then just to report the ways in which other experimental conditions differ from the structure of that trial. Timing information must go in the procedure. If there are practice trials, this should also be outlined in the Procedure.


“Participants will signal that they are ready to begin testing by pressing their response button. The first trial will be delivered 5 sec later. Targets will remain on the screen until a response is made; or, if they are undetected, until 5 sec have elapsed. The presentation of trials will be s continuous, and the testing session will last for approximately eight minutes.”

You do not need to state details such as participants will be asked to sit down. However, you should state a basic outline of the instructions given to participants and refer to full (written) instructions in the Appendices if these are too detailed to include in the Method. You do not need to state that the data will be collated and entered into SPSS (or similar); this is assumed.

This section should leave the reader feeling that they know “what will be done” and being in a position to replicate in general terms, with the Appendices (if needed) providing the further and more specific details.

Data Analysis

This can be presented as a separate section or the content can be added at the end of the ‘Procedure’ or at the beginning of the ‘Results’ sectionIn this section, you have to write what statistical tests you intend to use to analyze your data: descriptive/univariate statistics (frequency, central tendency, etc.) Inferential statistics (Pearson’s r, ANOVA, etc.) Bivariate, multivariate statistics, and how do you plan to do your analysis? You need to begin with the descriptive statistics and then mention the inferential statistics selected to test your study hypotheses.

For example, you can say

Descriptive statistics including means and standard deviations will be calculated and the

study hypothesis will be tested using an ANCOVA.


In this section, state what you are deliberately not going to study. That is, based on the literature review you have an idea of what the problem regarding the phenomenon is. but you are only addressing a part of that problem State what aspects of the problem are outside the scope of this study. Also if possible, what are some of the things that would improve about your design, sample, analysis, etc.


For your proposal you are required to use a minimum of 7 journal articles. All reference material must be from “peer” reviewed scholarly journals, edited books, official government documents, or reliable agency and organizational reports and documents. Newspapers, internet sites such as Wikipedia, and non “peer” reviewed reference material are not acceptable.

Start the reference list on a new page, center the title “References,” Do not underline or italicize the title. Double-space all entries and use the hanging indent. That is, he second and all the following lines of an entry are indented. Every source mentioned in the paper should have an entry. List the entries in alphabetic order. Mention only last names with the initials of the first and middle names. Make sure the name of the journal and its volume number are italicized. Examples are provided below.

Caudy, M. S., Folk, J. B., Stuewig, J. B., Wooditche, A., Martinez, A., Maass, S., Tangney, J. P.

and Taxman, F. S. (2015). Does substance misuse moderate the relationship between

criminal thinking and recidivism? Journal of Criminal Justice, 43, 12–19. doi:


Dove, E. R., Byrne, S. M., and Bruce, N. W. (2009). Effect of dichotomous thinking on

the association of depression with BMI and weight change among obese females.

Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 529–534. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.02.013 Appendix

(This heading is centered on the page and not bolded)

Include a copy of your survey/questions/instrument, IRB approval, and Informed Consent form in the Appendix section


This section reflects within a table the estimated time devoted to each stage of the research process, from data collection to the writing up of the dissertation/thesis.

PSY314 Method and Results Worksheet

For your research proposal provide the following:

1. Identify the variables studied, include conditions and/or levels where necessary.

Independent Variable(s):

Dependent Variable(s):

2. Identify the research method and the types of variables (experimental, correlational, etc.).

Correlation (skip to #3), Quasi-Experimental, or Experimental? _____________________

Between-Subject variable? __________________________

Within-Subject variable? ____________________________

Mixed design? ____________________________________

3. State your hypothesis and prediction with regards to relationship status (correlation) or difference status (quasi or experimental)

4. Design a flowchart of your method and include details where necessary

6a. If Correlation, what correlational test will you run?

How many correlational tests will you conduct?

6b. If Quasi or Experimental design, what type of difference test will you use?

Will there be any post-hoc tests?

7. In terms of the statistical test outcomes, what will the results look like if your hypothesis or hypotheses are supported?

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