SJSU URBP 298A - Spring 2009
Instructors: Agrawal, Ezzet-Lofstrom, Mathur, Nixon,
Draft and Final Research
For this set of
assignments you will prepare two drafts and a final version of a research
proposal for your Planning Report. The first draft is due to your advisor
on Monday, February 9, at 9:00 a.m.; a second draft is due on Monday,
February 23; and the final version is due on Monday, March 9.
Preparing a research proposal is the first and most critical step in developing a credible, manageable research project. Writing such a proposal
will help you to:
- Think carefully about what you want to
study and how you can accomplish your research goals.
- Communicate your ideas clearly and completely to
others so that you will receive useful feedback.
Keep in mind that you
are not committed to the first proposal you write. As your
research progresses, you will likely want to modify the proposal.
Draft Research Proposal #1 (due Monday,
Write a research proposal consisting of the following ten elements:
Email the proposal as an MS Word document to your advisor
by 9 a.m. on 2/9. In the subject line of the email,
write: "Submitting URBP 298A Draft Research Proposal #1 from Your-Last-Name."
Write a descriptive title for your
- Audience. Write down your intended audience for
the paper. Although you should write your report so that it will be
intelligible to any reasonably informed member of the general public, you
nevertheless want to write the report with a particular audience in mind.
Examples of audiences relevant for a 298 report are: city
council members and planners in San Francisco; water resource planners
anywhere in the Bay Area; or land use planners anywhere in the U.S. who are
interested in form-based zoning codes.
Explain any background information your reader needs to know to understand
the research question. Make sure this material does not duplicate what you
write in the "relevance" section, below. The background section may be
quite short, even just a couple of paragraphs; you only need to give readers a general introduction to
your topic so that they can understand the research question.
- Research question.
The question should be SPECIFIC, such as in these examples:
- Has the use of transferable development rights in
California over the past ten years led to the protection of significant amounts
of farmland that would otherwise have been developed?
- How should the County of Little Green Hills revise
its agricultural preservation plan to stop the recent explosion of
large-lot subdivisions in agricultural land, while still allowing farmers
enough flexibility of land use to remain economically sustainable?
- Is Transit Company X's proposed bus rapid transit
plan likely to increase or decrease overall system ridership in the next
- How can SJSU redesign the plaza in front of the Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Library to create a vibrant public space where
students and community members gather and interact with each other?
(Examples of unworkable questions would be vague ones like “Is smart growth
a good idea for California?” or "What can Los Altos do to become
- Relevance. To prove that your question is an
important one worth studying, you must answer for readers the "who cares?"
question. To do so, this section must explain two things. First, you must explain why answering
your specific research question will provide valuable information to improve
either planning practice in general or the conditions within a specific
community. In writing this section of the proposal, think both about the
relevance of your general topic and also about the relevance of
your specific question. Second, and as a related point, you must show
how your project is unique and will not duplicate research or planning work
that has already been completed.
This section of the paper must cite at
least ten sources to justify your claims, and at least four of these sources
must be peer-reviewed journal articles.
Make sure that this section of the paper does not duplicate material you
present in Section 3 (Background).
- Hypothesis. State your hypothesis in a few
sentences. In other words, what do you guess will be the answer to your
research question? Explain briefly why you predict these results and cite at
least five sources (including at least two peer-reviewed journal articles) that support
- Methods. Describe the methods you plan to use
to find the information that will allow you to answer your research question
convincingly. Examples of methods you might use are statistical
analysis of existing data sets, interviews, a review of published literature,
or a survey.
When you design your methods, you should review at least one textbook to help
you with this process. If you are using quantitative methods, for example,
you can review relevant texts you read in URBP 204A or URBP 204B. If
you plan to do a policy or program analysis, you should review relevant texts
from URBP 236. For both quantitative and qualitative methods, you will
find a good list of suggested readings at
This section should be very detailed—in essence, you
are writing a plan, laying out each step of the data collection and
analysis that you will do. Think of this section as analogous to
writing a recipe that you want someone else to be able to follow.
Imagine writing out your methods in so much detail that you can give them as
instructions to a research assistant who will do all the data-collection work
for you. You don't want the research assistant to collect the wrong data because you
provided vague instructions! Similarly, you want to describe your data
analysis methods so clearly that an assistant could do the analysis for you
if you gave him/her the raw data and the instructions written out in the
For each method that you plan to use, at a minimum you must describe the
a) Data source: Be sure to describe the source precisely. E.g., 2000
Census data for Santa Clara County, your own mail survey of residents living
within 1/2 mile of Berkeley High School, or your own phone interviews with
transportation planning consultants working on high speed rail projects in
b) Reason for collecting the data: Explain how the data collected help you to
answer your research question. When writing this section, mention the
specific sections of your proposed outline that the data will help you to
c) Data collection procedures: Explain these in as much
detail as you possibly can. For example, if you plan to do interviews,
you would at a minimum write down what type of people you will interview, how many interviews you will conduct, whether
you will do phone or in-person interviews, and what specific information you
collect from the interviews. Remember the recipe analogy—a good recipe
doesn't just say "cook the eggplants"; it says something more like, "roast the
eggplants for 45 minutes, wrapped in foil, in a pre-heated 350 degree oven."
d) Method of data analysis: Explain what methods you will use to
analyze the data after you collect it. For example, you might plan to
analyze statistical data using simple descriptive statistics and factorial
ANOVA analysis. For interview data, you might assess your notes to
identify key differences and similarities in the ways interviewees
responded to the questions.
The methods section of the research proposal will likely be at least 750
words and could be considerably longer.
- Report outline. Write a very detailed outline of the report, as you
imagine it might look when you are finished.
Include all chapters, as well as at least one or two levels of sub-headings giving
more detail for each chapter. Also, for each chapter note in parentheses the number of pages
you estimate it will be.
Remember that to prepare a good outline, you must write very specific
headings like, "History of how San Jose zoning codes have become more
detailed in the last 20 years." Do not include vague headings
like "Background" or "History of the zoning code" that don't
tell your readers anything about the specific content you plan to discuss. Students who took URBP 213
should review the Makay reading on how to prepare a detailed outline.
- Bibliography. Create a bibliography
divided into three parts:
(a) items you cite in the research proposal, (b) other relevant items you have already
read, and (c) items you have identified that
look useful and that you plan to read. The bibliography can include books, journal articles,
magazine articles, newspaper articles, government reports, web pages, etc.
Put an asterisk (*) at the beginning of each item that is a
peer-reviewed journal article. Make sure the
entries in the bibliography are properly formatted according to the standards
set out in the greensheet.
- Schedule of tasks. Prepare a two-semester schedule
that identifies when you will finish each task needed to complete the report.
Keep in mind that tasks to schedule include but are not limited
to: library research for the literature review, testing and refining your
research methodology, collecting data, drafting individual chapters, revising
individual chapters, preparing at least two drafts of the complete report for
your advisor's review, and producing the final report. Look at the various due dates for
URBP 298B students listed on the 298 website to
help you create this
outline for the second semester.
Draft Research Proposal #2 (due Monday,
Prepare a revised proposal that incorporates the feedback
you received from your advisor.
Email a copy in MS Word form to your advisor
by 2/23. In the subject line of the email, write: "Submitting URBP 298A Draft Research Proposal #2
Final Research Proposal (due Monday,
Prepare a final
proposal that incorporates the feedback you received from your advisor.
Email a copy in MS Word form to your advisor by
3/9. In the subject line of the email, write: "Submitting URBP 298A Final
Research Proposal from
Drafts: You will not receive a letter grade, but
you will receive comments from your advisor on the following criteria:
- Is the research question well defined and clearly
- Is the relevance of the research clearly and
convincingly explained, and does the section cite at least ten sources in total,
including at least four peer-reviewed journal articles?
- Is the hypothesis clearly stated and convincingly
explained, and does the section cite at least five sources, including at least two
peer-reviewed journal articles?
- Is the methodology appropriate to answer the research
question, and is it explained in detail?
- Is the report outline detailed and logical?
- Does the bibliography demonstrate that sufficient
material is available to complete the research project?
- Is the proposed schedule of tasks detailed and
- Is the writing grammatically correct and free of typos?
- Is the writing clear and easy to understand?
- Are the bibliography and footnotes properly formatted,
and are citations included where necessary?
Final: Your advisor will assess the paper on the
above criteria and assign the proposal a letter grade. To pass the
course, your paper must receive a grade of B or higher.
Note on late
papers: Be sure to submit the assignments on time, as late submission may
result in substantially delayed feedback from your advisor.
Page last modified 1 January