Length: Proposals should be 5–7 pages long, double-spaced, not including the appendix. Use a 12 pt. font. Use the format specified in the Chicago Manual of Style for bibliography and footnotes.

Please use the following format and identify each section accordingly in writing your proposal.

1. Working title and description (minimum 4 pages)

This essay is the “heart” of your proposal and should take up at least half of your proposal. Along with your working title, state:

  • The question, or questions, you wish to address in your essay
  • The major evidence or data that you will study to help you answer these questions
  • The particular theories or methods you will employ in pursuing this research agenda
  • The significance of this project to scholars studying this material

To fulfill this last criterion, you will need to demonstrate that you are familiar with the “state of the question” among scholars who have written on your topic, and so the significance of your research project.

Your proposal can only succeed if you can explain how at least 3–5 sources will inform the analysis of your proposed paper.

2. Integrative nature of the project (1 page)

A page explaining the ways in which this project draws upon your previous work and interests in the Religion major. This may include discussion of courses taken in other departments or off-campus, and/or previous papers that might be seen as preparatory. If the project will involve exploring areas new to you, you must justify this.

3. Challenges and potential pitfalls (1 page)

There are obstacles to be overcome in the course of every research project.

  • What do you foresee as significant intellectual and practical problems that you will need to face as you proceed?
  • Do you have the necessary background to formulate good, probing questions of your material?
  • If the primary sources for the topic are not in English, are there a sufficient number of sources available in languages that you know?
  • Is there sufficient scholarly groundwork on the topic for you to engage the material productively?
  • Have you chosen a topic in which you have a strong, personal stake, with the result that you will find it difficult to maintain scholarly, critical distance?
  • Also, if books and other materials needed for this project will have to be obtained through inter-library loan or will necessitate travel to other locations, please indicate this.

4. Appendix (1-2 additional pages)

A. Courses taken in the Religion Department

  • Give the number and title for all courses, including those for which you are currently registered. Also list any relevant courses taken outside the department, or on off-campus programs.

B. Bibliography

  • List at least 10 books and/or other sources that you anticipate will contribute substantively to your project. Annotate at least 5 in a way that indicates that you have read the source and thought about its relationship to the proposed analysis of your project.

Copies of previous comps essays (accompanied by an index) are on file in the Religion Department lobby. You may find these stimulating as you attempt to formulate a topic. Kindly read these items in the lobby and return them when you have finished. Also, a model proposal is available on Religion Comps Moodle site.