You would know that it all begins with a research question and then a series of informed decisions about how that research question could be answered.
Through a review of the literature, you have identified the language you will use to frame and convey your understanding of the phenomenon on which you have focused—the field, paradigm, theories, concepts and/or models you will use to make sense of the data to be collected.
You would also be aware that the way you answer the question, the method, with all its assumptions and limitations, needs to be able to answer the research question posed.
Finally, you will have realized that you have to write in a way that demonstrates the literature reviewed and method chosen are based on and informed and considered decision-making process.
Essentially, when writing a proposal, you are presenting an argument to convince the audience the research question is worth answering and the method by which you will answer it will deliver valid and/or trustworthy results that will add value to the field’s knowledge base and/or humanity in general.
None of this can be done, of course, without acknowledging others who have raised the same kinds of questions and/or used the same kinds of methods, which brings us to the issue of academic styles, and inevitably, citations and reference entries.
The primary academic styles are APA, Harvard (all 64 versions registered on Zetoro), Chicago (footnotes or in-text), and MLA. Consider the following examples of how the same journal article would be notated in the different styles:
Butler, K. (2001). Defining diaspora, refining a discourse. Diaspora, 10(2), 189‒219. https://doi.org/10.1353/dsp.2011.0014
- As Butler (2001) explained, ‟Quote” (p. 190).
- (Butler, 2001, p. 190).
Butler, K 2001, ‛Defining diaspora, refining a discourse’, Diaspora, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 189‒219, <https://doi.org/10.1353/dsp.2011.0014>.
- As Butler (2001, p. 190) explained, “Quote.”
- (Butler 2001, p. 190).
In some forms of Harvard, the page number would be introduced with a colon:
- As Butler (2001:190) explained, “Quote.”
- (Butler 2001:190).
Butler, K. 2001. ‟Defining diaspora, refining a discourse.” Diaspora, 10, no. 2: 189‒219. https://doi.org/10.1353/dsp.2011.0014
- As Butler (2001, 190) explained, “Quote.”
- (Butler 2001, 190).
Butler, K. “Defining diaspora, refining a discourse.” Diaspora, 10, no. 2, 2001, 2001, pp. 189‒219. https://doi.org/10.1353/dsp.2011.0014
- As Butler explained, “Quote” (190).
- (Butler 190).
Notice that all styles document the same basic details in the References (or for MLA, Works Cited) lists, but the order of the information and punctuation or absence thereof is different. The basic information is
- Author (which could be an organization, for example, the World Health Organization),
- date of publication,
- name of the work,
- name of the container (if a journal or news source, include the volume and issue numbers as well as page numbers) or publisher,
- the URL or DOI number.
Moreover, all but MLA expect that when citing an author, the date of publication should be documented, at least the first time that author in mentioned in a paragraph. And all but Harvard would format the list with a hanging indent.
To make it even more confusing, each journal and institution makes minute changes to the main styles to “make it their own.” Given that, the best course of action is to seek out a style guide for the journal or institution, and failing that, be absolutely consistent with how citations and references entries are presented.