Statement of the Problem – The statement of the problem is a rational and reasoned argument that posits the problem and indicates the necessity for the research. This should be supported by a literature review of critical studies that provide sufficient information to identify the “gap” in the current research that will be addressed by the proposed study. This will set the stage for how your research will contribute to already-existing attempts to address the problem. This section also will incorporate definitions of key concepts.
Significance of the Research – Significance should be established by presenting an integrative review of key sources that establish the need for the study or studies. The far-reaching implications of the project findings should be addressed, as well. This should include a brief review of the literature, with relevant citations. It may also include an outline of additional topics to be included in the review of the literature conducted while in the dissertation phase for the main study or collection of studies.
Research Question(s) – The research questions should be presented. This section also shows how the methods will be designed to answer those questions. Bear in mind that any questions should be answerable within the timeline and framework of dissertation research. Consider the nature of the data that will be gathered and analysis techniques that will be used to answer each question or set of questions. One way to do this is by providing a table that will show the independent and dependent variables and analysis tools that will be used for each study.
Method(s) – The methods description(s) should include data sources, instruments, research methodology, procedures, and analysis methods to be used in each study. It will be important to gather the committee’s input and tentative approval of the methods, which the student will tighten and elaborate for the formal proposal.
Concept Paper Approval – The concept paper must be discussed in a face-to-face meeting with the student’s approved dissertation committee. Distance technology may be used as needed. Concept Paper approval must be obtained from all committee members before preparing the dissertation proposal for formal defense.
Typically, a concept paper contains these elements:
1. A title, in the form of a research question. This may be the last part of the concept paper that you write, but it should appear at the heading of the paper.
2. A clear description of the research topic, including a summary of what is already known about that topic.
3. A one-sentence statement of the research question that the project will seek to answer. The concept paper should elaborate on how this question can be answered — something that almost always takes more than one sentence to accomplish.
4. A demonstration of why it is important to answer this research question. What good comes of this answer? Why is this project worth writing?
5. A description of how the researcher plans to answer the research question. This includes:
a. a description of the data or evidence that the researcher plans to gather or use;
b. a description of how the researcher will analyze these data; and
c. a demonstration of how these data and this analytic method will answer the research question.
Concept papers typically range from 5-10 double-spaced pages in length. The point of a concept paper is to provide a clear summary of the research project. It should enable a casual reader to understand what the researcher is investigating, why it is important, and how the investigation will proceed.
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