Structuring Effective Assignments to
Encourage Effective Research and Writing and Discourage Plagiarism

Writing a Topic Proposal

Topic proposals can be made as simple or complex as an instructor wishes them to be. Proposals can range from having the students complete and submit a worksheet to four or five sentences or a page or two in length.

The important concept for the students to gain from writing a topic proposal is to think through what they want to write and how they think they want to address the issue. To curb cheating in the classroom, some instructors prescribe a list of topics from which the students can choose. The topics offered should be unique, such as assigning topics that would require a small mixture of books (references and stacks), periodicals and online resources and more interviewing and local resources.

Requiring a proposal also helps lock them into a topic at the beginning of the assignment. I do not allow them to drastically change the topic after they have submitted one, and I do not allow students to turn in the remaining assignments (worth 190 points total) unless they have submitted the topic proposal. Instructors should make comments and suggestions on the proposals to model scholarly topics and academic commentary, establish a dialog, and narrow the topic.

See Appendix A: Topic Proposal (Word or Rich Text Format) for a sample proposal worksheet, keeping in mind that providing a worksheet may stifle creativity. Part of the proposal is to help them think on their own and reflect about what they would like to learn.

| © February 2004 Shannon Phillips, Lake Land College