Specific Claims in Proposals

Today we’ll take a brief look at some early drafts of  Research Proposals and compare them to one that makes clear and specific claims. A good proposal does more than state what a source is about. The content of the source, while important, is merely raw material to be shaped by the author into arguments. A good proposal offers up those arguments and indicates how the source supports them.

Best language: The source supports my argument that . . . .
Language to avoid: The article is about . . . .

Here’s a sample from the assignment that does a fair job of describing how the source will support the author’s specific argument. Please notice it uses two very clearly labeled paragraphs to identify 1) the information the source provides, then 2) the argument the source will support.

3. 250 Exonerated, Too Many Wrongly Convicted

Background: This extraordinary document from “The Innocence Project”details the cases of 250 convicts falsely imprisoned, many for 20 years or more, on the basis of misidentification, false testimony, questionable evidence, or flawed test results. The Innocence Project is dedicated to helping free innocent victims that were falsely convicted. It uses DNA evidence to exclude convicts who have consistently and loudly protested their innocence of the crimes they’ve been convicted of.

How I Intend to Use It: I plan on using the information found in this document to provide concrete examples of people that were helped by the discovery or reopening of DNA or other evidence. This will further prove my point that so many innocent people go to prison for crimes they do not commit because law enforcement did not take the time to intensely go over every detail in a case.

Below the line, let’s take a look at an early draft, and a revision.


The Proposal

Proposed: 72 percent of professors teaching at an American university are liberals while only 15 percent are conservatives. Consequently, there is a high likelihood that teachers will bring liberal beliefs into the classroom. Most  professors will persuade liberalism with the further consequence that students become indoctrinated with liberal beliefs. Such behavior fails to adequately challenge entire generations of students to think for themselves and form their own world views. Finally, indoctrination rather than an open exchange of competing ideas sends graduates into the world ill-prepared to contribute to real-world challenges.

An Original Source Description


The article touches on how teachers value intellectual achievement more than moral achievements which essentially states that they care more about the “parrot effect” where a student repeats what the teacher has taught them rather than showing what a student has learned. Which brings me back to how teachers bring liberalism into the classrooms with only their beliefs in mind.

Revised Source Description

Admit It, American Colleges Do Indoctrinate Students

Background: The article is a 500-word opinion piece from a popular but somewhat elitist magazine that generally leans liberal. Its value is that it urges a liberal readership to admit what they ordinarily deny, that colleges indoctrinate their students. Instead of focusing on what professors teach, it offers examples of the ways colleges urge a set of values on their students: careerism, racial equality, openness toward non-procreative sex and the expression of nontraditional sexuality.

How I Intend To Use It: The quote that will serve me best is, “Institutions of higher education generally value reason more than faith; they value intellectual achievement more than moral achievement . . . they advance a whole host of value judgments under the banner of diversity, some of them uncontroversial, others deeply contested.” While this will not directly support my argument that professors indoctrinate their students, I can easily transition from what the college “generally values” to the claim that professors at such colleges tend to reinforce the values of the colleges they teach at.


About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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