Morality and Empathy

Instructions for the Research Proposal

Research Proposal

As one of the cumulative activities in this course, students will write a professional, APA style research proposal on the topic of empathy. A research proposal describes a persons plans to conduct a study. Several assignments throughout the course will help you gain or practice skills to complete this task. The Mitchell, O’Shea, and Jolly (2013) text will also be invaluable in reaching this end.

Steps in the process.

After reading a literature review on the topic of empathy, students will develop a hypothesis involving the broad construct of empathy and at least one other variable. Then students will read scholarly sources related to their topic of interest (based on the hypothesis each person developed), and revise their hypothesis as needed (i.e., after reading literature in one’s area one may want to make changes to the original idea). Finally, students will develop a research design to test their hypotheses. You should aim to learn as much as possible about your topic area by reading scholarly papers. This will allow you to create a well informed, well-justified, and convincing introductory section. It will also allow you to develop the best research hypothesis and design. At least 7 sources must be cited in your proposal, but you may read more than 7 papers to fully understand this area of literature. When I have taught this course in the past, students have developed a wide range of interesting and worthwhile ideas regarding empathetic concern or helping behavior, empathy or compassion, or perspective taking.

The specific requirements.

The research proposal will include a title page, abstract, a well-justified introduction section (3 pages minimum), method, expected results section, and references page with at least 7 scholarly sources (add appendixes of specific measures or manipulations if needed). The main text should be approximately 6-9 pages. APA style guidelines should be followed closely. The components of this report are:

  • An abstract that includes a short (one sentence or more) description of each section of the paper (introductory sentence, predictions, methods,expected results)
  • An introduction section
    • A review of the literature that describes the gaps and justifies your research hypothesis and method. This should be succinct and focused.
    • This section should include a description of your research question (i.e., your specific prediction) and explanation of how your methods will allow you test this question just prior to the method section.
  • Method section
    • Including procedures for participant recruitment, materials and the steps or process that participants will go through in order
      • Identify cited measures used or describe measures in detail
  • Expected Results section
    • Describe what statistical tests you will use to test your hypothesis
  • Reference section (with at least 7 scholarly citations)
  • Appendix
    • Include appendices with your scales or stimuli (written in MS word, no image copies)

 Things to keep in mind

Your introduction section should justify your research by

  • Placing your study in the context of other work that has already been done in the field
  • Informing the reader about the theories upon which your study is based
  • Establishes the need for the research by identifying how it fills a gap in knowledge
  • Establishes the logic behind your specific research question or methods (e.g., explains the basis for your research strategy)

Do’s and don’ts for your research report

  • Do
    • Organize your paper before you begin writing
    • Provide strong transitions between the discussion of one idea and another (e.g., transitional statements help the reader follow your line of thought and create “flow” throughout the paper [see Mitchell, Jolley, & O’Shea, 2013, pp. 18-19])
    • Reference appropriately
    • Write well and see someone at the virtual success center or smart thinking (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. if you need help
    • Use complete sentences in the method and results sections.
    • Seek help when you need it!
  • Don’t
    • Simply paraphrase an existing literature review
    • Use more than one or two quotes
    • Rely heavily on secondary sources (use articles published in peer reviewed scholarly journals)
    • Include anecdotal information
    • Discuss each article separately as if writing an abstract on each



Last Updated on February 11, 2019

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