A concept paper is a research paper that identifies a particular idea, rational or theory and explicates it through unbiased research methods. Be sure to include works that provide alternate or opposing perspectives on the proposed topic area to demonstrate unbiased research. Learners should focus particularly on those works that address main ideas in the field, spell out areas of controversy, and indicate areas of incomplete knowledge and relate them to the envisioned concept’s problem, purpose, and research questions. Include historical and germinal works as well as current works to support your research.
As Trochim and Donnelly (2008) write, concept research is “…concerned with developing, exploring, or testing the theories or ideas that researchers have about the way the world operates”. When Paper Masters writes a concept research paper, our researchers use theories to organize knowledge and generate new knowledge. Concept research can contribute to theory by:
- Identifying a new variable relevant to understanding or explaining a phenomenon;
- Developing tentative propositions that can later be rigorously tested;
- Providing support for adding, modifying, or dropping claims about currently proposed relationships among variables;
- Simply answering a “why” question.
The review of the literature for the Concept Paper should be kept brief. The Concept Paper is not the place for lengthy accounts of what other authors have written or researchers have found. Rather it is the synthesis and integration of key research related to your dissertation topic. Its main purpose is to indicate that you are familiar with key literature relevant to the chosen research topic and demonstrate the insufficiency of existing literature and/or research findings to address your research questions. Ideally, the works reviewed will form a conceptual arrow that points to the need for new research -- exactly the research that you propose. The last few paragraphs of the review should summarize the trends observed and build a bridge to the need for additional research within the area.
The literature review should familiarize readers with the state of the knowledge base. What is covered in a literature review is guided by the research questions and the variables/concepts that are embedded in the research questions.
- Discussion begins with a summary of the purpose statement that leads to a brief explanation of the logical organization of the literature review. Include a paragraph that explains the literature search strategy and describes the sources.
- Theoretical or conceptual framework(s) related to the study are presented.
- Historical research as well as research related to the topic of study within the last 5 years is present.
- Discussion has depth and presents a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature that provides a context for the dissertation study. Discussion of conflicting findings and/or theoretical positions causing intellectual tension, convergence and divergence in the field is included. Note: A literature review is not a list of mini-book reports or annotated bibliographies. Do not simply summarize each study or article.
- Discussion is comprehensive, organized, and flows logically. Use themes and/or subtopics as headings.
In order to make a meaningful contribution to theory, your concept paper must have a theoretical. This means that you must show how the problem you address makes sense and exists in relationship to a theory (or theories) and that your concept study can yield findings that impact theory.
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