Department of Politics - Princeton University Princeton University


A good proposal provides a blueprint for research. Most successful applications for Bobst Center support provide the following information in roughly the order set forth:

  1. Clear statement of the question the project will try to answer. Devising a clear and feasible research question is often the toughest part of the job. Remember that a question ends with a question mark; it is not an allusion to a broad topic area. “I want to understand why some people decide to vote while others do not” is a question, while “voting behavior” or “turnout” are both topics.
  2. A paragraph on the significance of the project. Social resources are scarce. Why is it important to find an answer to the question you have posed? Does the question have policy significance? Will it produce insight important to a lot of people? To whom does your answer potentially matter? Have others pointed to the importance of the subject?
  3. A paragraph that shows the link between the question and the center’s focus on “peace and justice.” Be explicit.
  4. Two or three paragraphs on the answers others have offered to this question or to related questions and a note about why you consider these answers inadequate. In a short proposal, we do not ask you to go into great detail, but no one should offer a proposal without having done some investigation first. In a few rare instances we may accept proposals that simply state your thoughts about the likely answer to the question, but in almost all instances reviewers want to see that you have done some homework.
  5. Your own tentative answer, hunch, or hypothesis and why you think it holds promise.
  6. A short description of your research design or methods for answering your question. What information must you obtain to determine whether your favored answer is wrong or whether alternative plausible answers are wrong? How will you secure this information? Through case histories? Small surveys? Examination of patterns in client records?
  7. Remember that interviews and surveys usually require university human subjects clearance, under federal law. Please consult the university websites on this subject (OPR). If you are using historical materials or other people’s survey data, you generally won’t need this clearance. You should be familiar with the rules and prepare your project for review. If you do not have clearance by the time the committee makes its decisions, the Center may make an award pending receipt of the IRB waiver or approval.
  8. If you propose to carry out work abroad, you are required to register in accordance with University regulations before your departure.
  9. A working bibliography and/or footnotes that clearly show you know the scholarship related to your topic even if you have not read everything on the subject.
  10. A budget which offers a reasonable overview of expenses related to your research (transportation, survey costs, accommodation and meals, visa costs, etc.)
Note to Graduate Students
  • Please make sure you discuss the proposal with at least one adviser who can provide a letter of reference.
  • Normally the Center transfers the amount awarded to your account through the Graduate School. In rare instances, if your work involves payment of one or two invoices, it can pay the invoice directly.
  • There is a five-page limit for your proposal submission, including your budget page.