[Note: This is the third blog of a series I've written primarily for my current and prospective students. The first post is called "So you want me to write you a grad school reference letter, eh?". The second is "So, you want me to be your graduate research supervisor eh? Some thoughts to consider". I hope these help!]
OK, inevitably if you're putting together a research paper in one of my upper year undergrad courses or grad seminars, and especially if you are completing an MRP or thesis or dissertation, I will ask you to put together "a brief outline of your research project". I see this as a preliminary map of your project, a solid "skeleton" upon which you could build your more detailed proposal and/or your final paper. The most important thing I want to say here is don't underestimate the importance of dedicating a significant amount of time RESEARCHING the topic BEFORE you even craft the outline... having a good 'lay of the (research) land(scape) is key to putting together a useful OUTLINE that will guide your project. [Here are a number of Resources my colleague Raul Pacheco-Vega has produced on how to conduct a Literature Review - these may come in handy as you embark on the preliminary research into your Topic].
OK... here is a flowchart that I hope will help guide the various steps of your Research Project Outline. This can be used to craft anything from a 2 page very brief outline to a 15-25 page very detailed project proposal. The main sections that I'd expect to see are (usually in this order): A Introduction of the Topic; Brief Review of the Literature; the Research Problematique; your Research Question; your Theoretical Approach; your proposed Methodology; your (Hypo)thesis or (Hypo)theses (remember, the Research Question you're proposing hasn't yet been answered so it doesn't make sense to provide a thesis yet!); the Relevance or Importance of this research (as tied into your Intended Contribution to the discussion); and a (SUCCINCT) Summary Conclusion is always nice to park it all it one place! Good luck!