Prepare your Proposal

IRDL offers an unparalleled opportunity for professional development and personal growth.” — 2015 IRDL Scholar

Applications for the 2017 Institute will be accepted between December 1, 2016 and January 13, 2017. Scholars accepted to the program will be notified in early March 2017.

There are two steps to completing your submission: 1.) Complete the application form; 2.) Complete the application document.

  1. Complete the application form found at (link to application form will be available here on December 1, 2016).
  2. Prepare the following to be uploaded as a single PDF document as your application document:
    1. One-page cover letter of why you are applying. Please reflect on what you specifically hope to gain from participation in the Institute.
    2. Attach a proposal of the project you would like to focus on while a scholar of the Institute. Your proposal must address the components listed in the Research Proposal Content document (see below for criteria) (Maximum 8 double-spaced pages, not including references). Your proposal must be in APA format.
    3. CV
    4. A letter from your Director or Dean (or supervisor, if you are a Director or Dean), addressing the following specific topics:
      1. An awareness that your librarian will return to the home institution with a project ready to run. You will support, as appropriate for your institution, time to complete the work. In our experience a successful IRDL project has required a half day per week of research time granted.
      2. Any available resources the Scholar will have to complete the work (examples: access to research consultant, statistical consultant, specialized software).
      3. Moral support / mentorship.
      4. Permission granted to be away from the home institution for the entirety of the Institute.
    5. Merge all of the documents into one PDF file; please organize your documents so they are in the order listed here.

Create an account at the IRDL Digital Commons website (link to this site will be available here on December 1, 2016) and upload your application document. Accounts may be created and application documents may be uploaded only from December 1, 2016-January 13, 2017.

Research Proposal Content

IRDL participants are expected to develop a research proposal during the summer workshop. You should choose a research topic that is of interest to you and develop a proposal based on that. Your proposal is part of your application process; if selected as a Scholar, during the workshop you will revise your proposal to the point that it is close to ready to launch when you return to your home institution.

For purposes of this Institute, we define research as follows:

The process of arriving at dependable solutions to problems/questions/hypotheses through the planned and systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data: it may be applied or theoretical in nature and use quantitative or qualitative methods. (This definition does not include library research that is limited to activities such as compiling bibliographies and searching catalogs).

A research proposal is a description of how you will conduct a research study to solve a problem. It specifies what the problem is, what you will do to tackle it, how you will do it, and how you will interpret the results. In specifying what will be done it also gives criteria for determining whether it is done.

The first step of writing a research proposal is to formulate the research question. You are free to choose a research question within the broad area of library and information science (with a social science focus) whose answer will result in better practice. The focus of the Institute is on practitioner-oriented research, which should produce original information that can be either applied directly to practice in the field or to further theoretical development.

N.B.: Your proposal must be written in APA format. A Microsoft Word template for this style is available at

Your proposal, including the abstract, should not exceed 8 double-spaced pages. References are not included in the 8-page limit.


Abstract Up to 200 words
Section 1 Introduction to the problem.

  • A brief introduction of your research topic – what your research topic is about. This introduction will provide your audience the background information on the topic you are studying.
  • A brief statement of the research problem – what the problem is that needs to be solved. Problem statement points out the area that has problems and can be improved by the results of your proposed study. Basically, you are telling people what you think needs to be “worked on” in the area of your research topic.
  • Your research question – what the question is that you seek to answer via your proposed study. You need to formulate your research question based on your research problem, and present it in the question format with a question mark at the end.
Section 2 A brief review of the research literature on your study variables and their relationships. Such literature includes studies presenting theories, empirical data and methodology about the variables in the research question. The purpose of the literature review is to identify studies that have been done on your research topic and identify the gap in the literature that can be filled by your proposed study. The literature review should be organized topically/thematically and should not be organized by article. 
Section 3 Precise statement of methodology & analytic techniques, include:

  • Study population;
  • Sampling design;
  • Data collection instruments or description of existing data (if using data that has already been gathered);
  • Data analysis techniques.
Section 4 Project schedule. Keep in mind that the project you propose should be able to be completed within one calendar year from leaving the summer workshop. The project schedule should provide expected completion dates for all major stages in the project, possibly including the completion of the thorough literature review, design of instrument (e.g. questionnaire), Human Subject Committee review, data collection, data analysis, completion of the rough draft, etc.
Section 5 Significance of the work (and who it will directly benefit)
Section 6 Summary
Section 7 References
Attachments If applicable, attach survey questionnaires, interview guides, cover letters (to get informed consent from your study participants if your study involves human subjects), usability study instructions and all other supporting material.

A good source of information on proposal writing would be Proposals that Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals by Lawrence Locke.  A good source of information on writing would be On Writing Well by W. Zinsser.


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27 comments on “Prepare your Proposal
  1. Jane says:

    What is the difference between the max-8-page proposal one must include with the application, and the proposal one will develop during the two-week workshop?

    • IRDL says:

      The 8-page proposal will be reviewed as part of your application. During the workshop you will expand it greatly, as your literature review improves, your methods section becomes clearer, and you redefine your research question. We look forward to reviewing your application. Thank you for your interest in IRDL!

      • KJ says:

        This is probably a dumb question, but do the attachments count towards the 8 page limit?

        • IRDL says:

          The attachments do NOT count toward the 8 page limit. Thanks for asking this question, as I’m sure others are wondering. We look forward to reviewing your application.

  2. Kelly says:

    Hi there –

    Are our submitted proposals meant to mimic those we would submit after the workshop, or should they more strictly follow the template above, without the narrative you’d expect from a more formal proposal (ie, with clearly delineated and labeled components)? Such as:

    Research Question: ######?
    Study Population: ###
    Project Schedule: ####

    Many thanks!

    • IRDL says:

      Hi! Please follow the template on this page, using the section headings as noted. Best wishes in your application. We look forward to reviewing it.

  3. Brianna says:


    Along the lines of KJ’s question, what about the title page and reference list? Do they count towards the 8 page limit?


    • IRDL says:

      The title page and reference list do not count toward the page limit. Thanks for your inquiry. We look forward to reviewing your proposal.

  4. Anne Marie says:

    Do you recommend anonymizing the proposal? For example, should applicants say “the researcher’s institution” or other generic phrase rather than naming their college/university/library specifically? The same question would apply for a state or other indication of geography. Thank you!

  5. Susan Wengler says:

    Hi –

    A couple of questions:

    1. I clicked into the Microsoft Word link included above. There are many templates provided (lists, calendars, budgets) – but I am unclear which one is meant as specifically appropriate for this research proposal. Is it ok to simply create an APA-style document in Word?

    2. Does the 8-page limit refer to the project proposal only? In other words, the cover letter, CV and support letter are additional, above and beyond that 8-pages?


    • IRDL says:

      Thank you for your interest in IRDL.
      1. You may simply create an APA-style document in Word. We were trying to help by providing a direct link to a template but it sounds like they’ve changed the site a bit.
      2. The 8-page limit is for the proposal only. All other documents are separate and are not included in the 8-page limit.

  6. Sofia says:

    Hi, I’m wondering if we are required to include a survey tool or interview guide if that is our method of data collection or is that optional?


    • IRDL says:

      Hello, and thanks for your interest in IRDL. You may submit a draft of your survey or interview guide, if you have one. It is not required but we would appreciate knowing what kinds of questions you might ask. You will have time during IRDL to refine any data collection instrument(s).

      • Daisy says:

        To clarify further, is it preferable to send a link to a draft survey instrument (as a Google form), or should I copy the text of the questions into my final PDF?

        • IRDL says:

          Please include the draft survey instrument text in the proposal. You can add it as an appendix so it doesn’t count against the 8 page maximum. We look forward to reviewing your application!

  7. Amanda says:

    To whom should we address the letters in the proposal?

  8. Emily says:

    If we are using multiple methods, is it acceptable to provide a brief description in the body of the paper and then put additional details in the appendix? My proposal involves four data collection methods, and the methodology section is taking up too large of a portion of the 8-page limit. I do not want to detract from the other sections of the proposal due to the length of the methods section.

    • IRDL says:

      Putting additional details in an appendix sounds like a great solution. Thanks for your interest in IRDL. We look forward to reviewing your proposal.

  9. Allison says:

    Can I/should I write in the proposal itself how I hope the Institute will help with a particular aspect of my proposal, or should I save that kind of commentary for my cover letter?


    • IRDL says:

      Write in your cover letter how you think the Institute may benefit you/your work, saving the proposal for the nitty-gritty of your research project. We look forward to reviewing your application!

  10. Emily says:

    Hi, I have one more quick question about formatting. Does the abstract need to be on a separate page? I know this is the standard for APA, but I am feeling a little pressed for space and wanted to double check. Thanks!

  11. Anne Marie says:

    The online form requests “Keywords for your proposed research study (copied from your proposal, enter five)”. However, the list of requirements for the proposal does not specify including keywords that I can find. Should applicants add keywords to the proposal, per APA guidelines? Thank you!

    • IRDL says:

      You should add keywords to the proposal, per APA guidelines. Those keywords are the ones that will then be copied over into the application form.

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