DMP Admission and Research Proposal Instructions

A Collab site will be made available to you for uploading an electronic copy of your application materials.  Be sure the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program knows your intent to apply in advance of the deadline so that access to the Collab site can be established.

Use double-spacing throughout, one-inch margins, and 12- or 14-point font. Number all pages of your proposal except the title page. Two-sided printing is strongly preferred.

Your proposal package must contain all of the following items, in order.

  1. One letter of application, addressed to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program that includes
    1. Your contact information (local address, phone, and email).
    2. A short (one or two sentence) description of the goal of your research.
    3. Name(s) of the faculty member(s) who have agreed to supervise your work.
    4. Identification of at least six hours of advanced course work that is related to your research project and a very short description of how is each course is relevant to your work.
    5. How you will allocate at least six hours of Supervised Research credits related to your thesis (e.g., 3 credits in the fall semester, 3 in spring, etc.).
  2. A memo or letter from your supervising faculty member stating that she or he agrees to supervise your research and that he or she has approved your proposal and course of study.
  3. A copy of your current unofficial transcript.
  4. Research Proposal< >Title page that includes< >Title

    Author (that would be you!)

    Supervising Faculty


    Body of Proposal

    Although there is considerable variability in the organization of the text of research proposals, the following outline should be compatible with most of your topics. You do not necessarily need to exactly follow this outline, however, as long as all of the main ingredients are included in the body of your text. The body of your proposal, excluding the title page, tables, figures, and the bibliography, may not exceed 8 double-spaced pages (minimum 12-point font).


1. Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to place your proposed research within the framework of existing knowledge. Why is it important? How might your research advance some area of scientific knowledge? Who cares? One good strategy is to begin by discussing the broader picture and then narrowing the focus toward your topic.

The motivating introduction should be followed by your thesis statement sentence summarizing the purpose of your research or your hypothesis. It should be an absolutely straightforward statement: “The goal of my research is to…” or “My hypothesis is…”. This statement can be followed by a series of statements outlining what you hope to learn upon completion of the research.

The next section is a literature review. (You may wish to make this a separate section after the introduction.) Here you will summarize past work related to your topic or procedures developed by others that you plan on using. You do not need to go into great detail about each paper that you have read, although some of the more pertinent papers may require more development than others (typically spend no more than a paragraph discussing a single research paper). For example, you could say something like, “Using a variety of methods, numerous researchers have documented a shift from predominantly zonal to meridional circulation over the Northern Hemisphere in the 1950s and 1960s (Dzerdzveeskii, 1969; Lamb, 1970; Davis, 1992; Yarnal, 1993).” All of your citations in the body of the text must be included in your bibliography.

(In some cases, it may be preferable to place your thesis statement after the literature review. Consult your faculty advisor for advice.)

2. Data

If your research entails your analysis and interpretation of an existing data set, describe your data set(s). Where did you get them (all data sources should be cited)? What variables will you be using? How often are they collected (daily, monthly)? Are you using raw data or calculated values (in other words, are you using monthly means that have been calculated for you from daily values, etc.)? What is the time period of your data set? What locations are you using? Give as many specifics about your data set as you can. Note: If you are making your own measurements, you can skip this section and begin with a description of your methods.

3. Methods

Describe your proposed research approach. How will you obtain results? What methods of observation or analysis do you intend to use? If you are developing your own data set, describe the exact procedures you plan to use. If you are analyzing existing data, what procedures will you use? Discuss your statistical analysis, even if it is relatively straightforward, remembering that your goal is to test your proposed hypothesis. (In the course of performing your research, many of you will deviate from the exact methods you propose here. Nevertheless, it is important to think about your methods now, even though your data collection is not complete, or in some cases even underway.)

4. Work Schedule

Outline your work plans, with specific deadlines for completion of various stages of your work (data collection, quality checking and summary of data, analysis, etc.). Note that your final thesis will be due to the DMP Director in mid-April, and that your faculty advisor must review it multiple times before you submit it, so this should be factored into your schedule.

5. Bibliography

All of the research cited in your proposal must be listed with a complete list of authors and the full title of the journal, book, etc. Although there is no required format, the following works well:

Angelini, I.M., M. Garstang, R.E. Davis, B.P. Hayden, S. Macko, D. Fitzjarrald, D.R. Legates, S. Greco, and V. Connors (2011).  On the Coupling between Vegetation and the Atmosphere.  Theoretical and Applied Climatology 105:243–261. DOI 10.1007/s00704-010-0377-5.

Order papers alphabetically and chronologically by author.

6. Tables and Figures

Tables or figures must be numbered consecutively and explicitly cited in the text. Insert tables and figures as soon after their first mention in the text as possible.

Notes on citations within the text

Within the body of the proposal, simply cite the author and year. For example,

“According to Smith (2014), global nighttime temperatures have increased significantly over the past century.”

“Nighttime temperatures have increased significantly over the past hundred years (Smith, 2014).”

Do not use page numbers in a citation unless you are using a direct quote.

The abbreviation “et al.” is used in the body of the text for papers with more than two authors (note that there is no period after the “t” in “et”).

The Undergraduate Academic Review Committee will review the application and decide upon your admission to the Distinguished Majors Program. You should receive word in early November.