How to Write a Research Proposal in History?

When you write a research proposal in history, it is important to make sure that your writing is always analytical and moves beyond just a simple description.
Professional historical writers tend to evaluate and interpret each source carefully, connect causes and effects, as well as weigh up events’ significance.

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In general, the research proposal in history should be up to 2000 words in length. The main goal of the project is to demonstrate that you have research worth performing and manageable within the set period of time. In order to be worth performing, your research proposal in history must have solid foundation, and must make significant contribution within the field of history.
Make sure to read the following recommendations carefully in order to ensure that your project includes the sections we describe below.

Title Page

  • Give personal information (your name, academic title, your position in your college, your birth date, contact details, nationality, etc.)
  • The title of your future research report or history dissertation. Be careful when choosing the words for your title, and make sure they work well together. Provide a short, accurate, comprehensive, clear and descriptive title that will indicate the subject of your research.

In order to come up with a concise title for your research proposal in history, the author has to be clear about the research focus. We recommend to build up a title that includes no more than 60 characters. For example, your research proposal title might be ‘The Rise of Independent African Countries’, ‘Potential Change of Pope’s Political Power’, ‘The Influence of Hippie Culture on Today’s Culture’, ‘The Role of Women in Prehistoric Britain’, etc.

Summary Statement/Abstract of the Research Proposal

This one page summary provides a quick overview of the research topic. Besides, you have to focus on your proposal’s new, relevant and current aspects. While striving for clarity, you have to sum up the whole research – its question, the study’s rationale, its hypothesis, all the methods you have used (for instance, analysis procedures, design, instruments, etc.) and the key findings. At the same time, you also have to mention some of the biggest challenges of your research.

Review of Research Literature

In your research proposal, you have to provide a precise and brief overview of the current state of history research that is related to your research proposal.

  • Talk about the most significant contributions that were made by the other historians. For instance, when the subject of your research is the well-known hippie culture, you may mention the works like ‘Influence of 1960’s Hippie Counterculture in Contemporary Fashion’ by Abdullah Jaman Jony, Md. Asiqul Islam and Tanzila Tabassum or ‘The Hippies – An American “Moment’ by Stuart Hall.
  • Discuss the theoretical part that you will use in order to support your research.
  • Shows you are familiar with the ideas that you’re discussing and that you’re 100% conversant with their methodological implications.
  • Specify the central problem that will later become the motive for your research. Be clear and concise about in what way your work and your findings will eventually contribute to the research base that already exists.


The importance of methodology section in a history research proposal can’t be underestimated because it lets your funding committee know how you’re going to deal with the problem of your research. It will become the kind of a work route that will help you to describe all the activities that you’ll have to take in order to complete the project successfully.

  • Selection of the location for your historical research.
  • Participants of subjects of your research. Who is going to participate in your research? Notable or famous historians? Bloggers or professors from reputed institutions?
  • Study instruments. Are you going to use questionnaires? Are they reliable? Why are you using this method exactly? For instance, for the topic like “Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination” we’d recommend you to approach the experts of the Abraham Lincoln Association or Abraham Lincoln Institute (if possible) and ask them all important questions to make sure you’re able to support your research.
  • Collect data. In what way are you going to carry out your research? What kind of activities do you plan to include? How much time do you need for this? If you’re going to watch documentaries, communicate with the representatives of the organizations that we’ve just mentioned, use library sources or anything else above that, sort this out in your methodology section.
  • Data review, analysis and interpretation. At this point, you have a strong plan to process and code any sort of information, use some software (Zotero for free and easy citation management; Social Explorer to get access to current and historical census data; Mapping Social Movements that was created by Professor Jim Gregory at UW History Department and includes visualizations of loads of social movements that influenced the USA in the 20th century, and so on), sketch up some primitive tables for the historical data that you’re going to analyze in your research.

In your methodology section, you have an opportunity to also discuss all the ethical issues together with possible obstacles on your way to collecting data and other relevant material.

Describe Relevant Academic Resources

If you’re doing some historical research with institutional background, we recommend including the section titled as ‘Description of the Relevant University Resources’. In this part, you have to let your committee know what your university has to offer on the chosen topic.
Mention the past contributions of the institution in the sphere of history, the research facilities if any.


Without a doubt, you do not have results when you’re at the stage of writing a research proposal. Nonetheless, you have to give some idea of what information you’re going to gather, what statistical data will be investigates, and what procedures will be used in order to answer the question of your research.

Include Appendices, If Required

In most types of academic projects, students are required to include appendices. Appendices usually contain all sorts of supporting documents that the author believes the committee will need in order to understand his proposal work. Besides, the author of the research proposal will often refer to his appendices providing his readers with an opportunity to get back to them and read again.

Editing & Proofreading

Once you are done with the conceptual work on your history research proposal, it is time to read it several times in order to edit and proofread it carefully.
Here are the points that we recommend you to check when writing a research proposal in history:

  • Check your titles, your abstract and the general content of your research proposal to make sure they all correspond to each other.
  • Make sure your project has a clear and logical structure. Your paper has to be intuitively simple and your readers should get throughout your text without feeling lost at this or that point. All headings have to tell your readers where they are now and what should be expected next.
  • Check your writing style to make certain it is declarative, reasonable, clear and meets the existing requirements in the sphere of history.
  • Add visuals and lists if necessary in order to demonstrate some abstract issues, dates, events or people in a more understandable manner.
  • Check if you highlighted important sections with white space.
  • Ensure that your research proposal in history doesn’t include any spelling, style or grammar errors. Typos should be corrected as well.

If you have such an opportunity, we strongly recommend approaching some experienced academic and asking him to check and proofread your research proposal. This will help you to make sure that the paper conforms to internationals and academic rules of your institution.

A Few Errors to Avoid

Even though a research proposal writing in history is a completely your work and you decide what data to include, the rule is the same for everyone – it has to be free from errors. Here are some of the most common mistakes that a research proposal author usually makes:

  • Lack of evidence. No matter how many points or conclusions you make in your history writing, you have to support each with detailed and evidence-based examples. Do not just say something like ‘The document that I attached proves my point’. Instead, tell your supervisor in what way this piece of evidence is related to the argument of yours.
    The bad examples in this case might look like this: ‘The Mexican War dominated the short congressional career of Abraham Lincoln’. At the same time, the good one may sound like ‘According to the ‘Congress and the Mexican War’ by R.D. Monroe, Lincoln opposed the war that he believed was just a vote-getting trick, and he hoped that the fact that he doesn’t support the war would make his reputation in the US House of Representatives’.
  • Vagueness. In case with the research proposal in history, you have to stay away from all the truisms, empty unsupported statements and broad generalizations. All these elements are usually seen in the opening parts of the research proposals, where the authors overuse general and grand claims. First of all, it makes you project uninteresting to your supervisor. Second, it prevents any sort of deeper reflection of whatever you’re trying to say in your research. It is crucial to remain specific, concise, as well as support your claims with solid evidence. In case your research proposal contains a sentence that starts with ‘Since the beginning of our times’ or ‘Everyone knows that…’, you are making this mistake.
  • Messy chronology. In case with the research proposal in history, you will have to deal with many important dates. At the same time, your supervisor will be interested in now only how good you are at remembering them, but also how and what you think about them. This, however, does not mean that the chronological facts do not matter. You have to check every date to make sure that the World War II doesn’t appear before the Battle of Waterloo.

Take your time to read your research proposal over and over again. This is not your research or dissertation yet. However, correcting all spelling, chronological or grammar mistakes is a must. Approach your supervisor to see if he has any additional requirements for your work. Make sure that all of the historical facts that you include flow in a logical order, while your introduction and conclusions do not contradict each other.

Finally, be careful not to judge historical events or people from the past. In other words, make sure to stay away from moralizing. Cheap statements are not going to take you into productive historical analysis that you actually should be doing.

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