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How to Write a Project Proposal

When you want to pitch a project, whether to gain financial support or get the go-ahead to proceed, you’ll need to craft a winning project proposal. This is the vehicle that sells your project and gets key people on board with the endeavor.

What Is a Project Proposal?

A project proposal is your opportunity to sell your idea and get people on board. The goal of a project proposal is to share the pertinent details to demonstrate the merits of the project. Having done your due diligence, you will use a project proposal to outline the project and counter any obvious objections, presenting your case in a genuine and persuasive tone.

Key Features of a Project Proposal

An effective project proposal has several key features that will help you attain your goals.

A Winning Tone

The tone of your project proposal is a crucial element of the document. You want your readers to be able to relate to your message and get on board, so engagement will be the key. Establishing common ground can help you be more persuasive. Pay attention to your target audience too. Who are they? What’s important to them? How do they view themselves? Above all, you want to establish yourself as an expert with the experience necessary to launch and see the project through to fruition. Be careful not to come across as condescending though. Your proposal should persuade to answer your target audience’s question of why they need to participate.

Use a Project Proposal Sample

If you’re struggling with crafting your project proposal, you might peruse a few samples and templates to get some ideas for format and tone. Once you get ideas for overall organization, you can begin to fill in the sections with your introduction, history, problem identification and scope of the project.

What to Avoid

There are definitely a few things to avoid when writing your proposal:


harvard style of writing research proposal

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Writing Research Proposals

The research proposal is your opportunity to show that you—and only you!—are the perfect person to take on your specific project. After reading your research proposal, readers should be confident that…

Research proposals typically include the following components:

Don’t be afraid to also include relevant information about your background and advocate for yourself! Do you have skills developed in a different research experience (or leadership position, job, coursework, etc.) that you could apply to the project in question? Have you already learned about and experimented with a specific method of analysis in class and are now ready to apply it to a different situation? If you already have experience with this professor/lab, please be sure to include those details in your proposal! That will show the selection committee that you are ready to hit the ground running!

Lastly, be sure to know who your readers are so that you can tailor the field-specific language of your proposal accordingly. If the selection committee are specialists in your field, you can feel free to use the jargon of that field; but if your proposal will be evaluated by an interdisciplinary committee (this is common), you might take a bit longer explaining the state of the field, specific concepts, and certainly spelling out any acronyms. no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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Harvard proposal samples

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The statement of the research problem is concise. It presents one or more well-focused questions; the author's hypothesis or answers to these questions; the type of evidence that the author intends to use in order to test the hypothesis; the anticipated result, which further extends the hypothesis and considers its broader implications. The author does make use of the first person, but not in an obtrusive manner. World War I and the American Novel. The implication is that the "classic" writers of the Great War are not only male, but soldiers as well, and that women's contributions have largely been ignored or dismissed.

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Composing A Winning Dissertation Proposal In The Harvard Style

An extremely important part to academic writing is accurately citing or referencing your sources. Using great sources adds credibility to your work, and appropriately assigning credit to the words or ideas of others helps you avoid accusations of plagiarism. Using the Harvard citation style is a very popular way of citing content when writing a dissertation proposal. Harvard is considered an “author, date” system where the author of a source is listed in parentheses followed by the year of publication. Here are a few things you need to know about composing a great one:

What Are You Trying to Accomplish?

Before you get started with your dissertation proposal draft you should ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish with your research and written work. Think of all the reasons you have for having chosen this particular topic, always keeping in mind that the purpose of this document is to get approval from your graduate advisor. Take your list of reasons and keep alongside of you as you start your draft.

Your Proposal is Not an Essay

Remember, that you won’t be writing an in-depth essay on your chosen topic. If you are referencing another work you shouldn’t include long blocks of quotes. It’s best if you paraphrase someone else’s idea and follow the Harvard style as explained above. Your proposal shouldn’t be more than 10 – 15 pages long, but check before you get started since this number varies from discipline to discipline.

Know the Formatting Requirements

Your discipline will also determine the type of format your dissertation proposal should follow. Be sure that everything you submit adheres to the proper requirements. Check with your department for these requirements, or try to get some samples from published and approved works. If you are still in doubt ask your advisor for some assistance. You will be spending the greater part of a year working with your advisor so it’s a good idea you two become familiar with one another.

Have Your Work Peer Reviewed

Lastly, if you want to be certain that you’ve used the Harvard style appropriately in your dissertation proposal, you can always have it reviewed by your peers and friends. Remember that your course work is not a competition. You should work with one another to work through a lot of the details that could make or break your document’s approval. Sit down in a group and give each other feedback. This exercise is sure to go a long way in improving your chances for success.

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Harvard Business Research Proposals Samples For Students

4 samples of this type paper writer service proudly presents to you an open-access database of Harvard Business Research Proposals designed to help struggling students deal with their writing challenges. In a practical sense, each Harvard Business Research Proposal sample presented here may be a guide that walks you through the important phases of the writing process and showcases how to pen an academic work that hits the mark. Besides, if you need more visionary assistance, these examples could give you a nudge toward an original Harvard Business Research Proposal topic or inspire a novice approach to a threadbare theme.

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Harvard style of writing research proposal

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Harvard Style Citation and Referencing: a Detailed Guide from Experts

harvard style of writing research proposal

EssayPro's paper writing services has composed this Harvard referencing guide to help you with formatting your essay in the Harvard style citation and referencing. You can find out how to:

Let’s get started with defining the Harvard style.

What Is Harvard Style?

Harvard style is one of the most popular formatting styles used in academic papers, along with APA, MLA, and Chicago. Harvard format dictates the general format of the paper, including the size of the margins, preferred font, etc. It also contains rules for citing sources — both in the text and in the list of references at the end of the paper.

Harvard referencing is commonly used in the following fields:

However, you may be requested to use the Harvard referencing system in other fields as well.

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Paper Formatting Guidelines

General rules.

Title, Headers, and Page Numbers

harvard style of writing research proposal


Subheadings divide your paper into parts. For example, level 1 headings divide the whole paper into sections. Level 2 headings divide those sections into subsections.

Level 1 headings look just like the title of the paper. In other words, they are centered, capitalized, not bold, not underscored, not italicized, and not indented. After the heading, start typing your text on a new line as usual (indent the first line of your text by 0.5″).

Level 2 headings are also capitalized. However, they are flush left (aligned to the left margin of the paper). They are also italicized. After this subheading, also start typing your subsection on a new line as usual.

Level 3 headings are similar to level 2 headings but they have to be flushed to the left margin.

Level 4 headings are used to start a sentence in a new paragraph. Don’t capitalize them except for the first word of the header. For all intents and purposes, they look the same as the rest of the regular text in the paragraph except you should end such a header with a period and underline it.

Title Page Formatting

The title page, also known as the cover page, is the very first page of your paper. It contains the basic info about it, namely:

You can also find a template with an essay cover page example, headers, subheadings, and reference list example by clicking on the button down below.

Harvard Outline Format

An outline is a plan of your paper. It comes after the title page and lists all the subsections of the paper. So simply write the word “Outline” and place it at the center of the page, in the first line. Then list all your level 1 subheadings that you have in the paper (use a numbered list). Align them to the left, and capitalize them.

If you have level 2 subheadings, list them under the corresponding level 1 subheadings as bullet points. Be careful not to disrupt the numbering of your level 1 subheadings. Align the level 2 subheadings to the left, but probably indent them a bit (say, half an inch) for better appearance. Do not italicize them here, but leave them capitalized.

If you have done everything correctly, your outline should look like the one in the template above.

Harvard Style Reference List

Your list of Harvard references should be entitled “Reference List”. These two words should be capitalized and centered, just like level 1 subheadings. The list must contain a bibliographical entry for every source you cited in the paper. Conversely, each source cited in the paper must have a corresponding reference list entry.

Find out more about how to format your bibliographical entries below or just ask our research paper writing services to help you.

Formatting Harvard In-Text Citations

harvard citation

Cite all your sources When you use information from any sources in your paper, you must provide Harvard style in text citation to show where that info came from. Otherwise, your text will be considered plagiarized.

General appearance of in-text citations In Harvard style citation is parenthetical, consisting of the author’s surname and the year of publication. They look like this: (Smith & Johnson 2018). You may also include the page number, like so: (Smith & Johnson 2018, p. 35).

Direct quotes In Harvard referencing, if you provide exact words from some source, you must place that quote in quotation marks, and give the page number in your in-text citation. If you quote a website, you need to include the number of the paragraph the words are taken from, like this: (Smith & Johnson 2018, para. 4). Just count the paragraphs on the web page you are citing.

Mentioning authors in the text If you mention the name of the authors in the text, do not include it in parentheses. Also, use the word “and” instead of the ampersand (&). For example, you may write: In their book, Smith and Johnson (2018, p. 15) claim that jumping from a skyscraper might be bad for your health.

Citing an author discussed in a different source If you are referring to an author who is discussed in a secondary source, you should mention the name of the original author, but state that this author is “cited in” the source you are using. For example, if Kraut discusses Plato, you can say: Plato believed that the existence of the soul is independent of the body it inhabits (cited in Kraut 2017). Note: in this case, you will have to provide a bibliographic entry for Kraut and not for Plato in the References List.

Several sources in one citation If you wish to cite several sources in one set of parentheses, you should list them in the same order as they appear in your Reference List, and use a semicolon to separate them, like this: (Johnson 2015; Smith 2014).

Different Types of In-Text Citations + Examples

In Harvard referencing, in-text citations look different depending on the number of authors in your source. We provide two referencing examples for each case: in one, the source is not mentioned in the text, and in the other, it is.

Two Authors

Three Authors

Four or More Authors

Edited Source

Note: in a parenthetical citation, if there is only one editor, use “ed.” before the name. If there are multiple editors, use “eds” (without a period) before their names. If you mention their names in the text, just say that the source was “edited by” before listing the name(s).

No Authors ‍

If the authors of a source are not mentioned, use the title of that source in your in-text citation. Note that in Harvard system of referencing, the title is italicized for books, brochures, periodicals, and reports. However, the title is put in single quotation marks when you need to cite a website, article, newspaper, or chapter name. Only capitalize the first word of the title. ‍

For books, periodicals, brochures, and reports:

For newspapers, articles, chapter titles, and Web pages:

Also, you may shorten the title if it is too long. For instance, in the example above, you may write just The psychology of pressure (2010) instead of The psychology of pressure: an introduction (2010).

If there is no date in the source, use the abbreviation “n.d.” (no date) instead. All the other rules apply as usual.

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Formatting the Reference List

harvard reference list

For instance, if you cite a source whose authors are not listed, and the entry starts with its title, e.g., “The importance of doing things well,” then you should alphabetize it according to the word “importance.”

See specific Harvard reference examples below.

Note: This will let you differentiate between in-text citations: (Smith 2014a; Smith 2014b).

Harvard Style Citation: Video Guide

General Book Format Last Name, Initials Year of Publication, Title of the book: subtitle of the book, if any, Publishing House, City, State Abbreviation or Country.

Book With One Author Doel, M 2012, Social work: the basics, Routledge, New York, NY.

Book With Two Authors Tschudin, V & Davis, AJ 2008, The globalization of nursing, Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, UK.

Book With Three Authors Cretu, O, Stewart, RB & Berends, T 2011, Risk management for design and construction, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Book With Four or More Authors Evans, J, Grimshaw, P, Philips, D & Swain, S 2003, Equal subjects, unequal rights: indigenous peoples in British settler colonies 1830s-1910, Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK.

Edited Book López-Carresi, A, Fordham, M, Wisner, B, Kelman, I & Gaillard, JC (eds) 2014 Disaster management: international lessons in risk reduction, response and recovery, Routledge, New York, NY.

Note: if there is only one editor, use (ed.) after the name. If there are multiple editors, use (eds) after their names.

Book—Edition Other Than First Field, A 2013, Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics: and sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, 4th edn, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Translated Book Weber, M 2003, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, trans. T Parsons, Dover Publications, New York, NY, original work published 1905.

Chapter in an Edited Book Luna, EM 2014, 'Community-based disaster risk reduction and disaster management', in A López-Carresi, M Fordham, B Wisner, I Kelman & JC Gaillard (eds), Disaster management: international lessons in risk reduction, response and recovery, Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 43-63.

No Author The Oxford dictionary of abbreviations 1998, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

E-Book Doel, M 2012, Social work: the basics, Routledge, viewed 19 April 2018, via Google Books.


Journal Articles Viñuales, JE 2013, ‘The rise and fall of sustainable development’, Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 3-13.

Conference Proceedings Bingulac, SP 1994 'On the compatibility of adaptive controllers', Proceedings of 4th Annual Allerton Conference on Circuit and System Theory, New York, NY, pp. 8-16.

Newspaper Articles Waterford, J 2007, ‘Bill of Rights gets it wrong’, Canberra Times, 30 May, p. 11.

Online Newspapers Matthews, J & Smithson, LW 2015, 'The latest reform causes large-scale protests', The Contemporary News Gazette, 11 August, viewed 26 April 2018, < articleone="">.</>

Other Sources

Web Pages Jameson, S 2017, Protests in Portugal reached unseen scope, viewed 27 April 2018, < articletwo="">.</>

Blog Articles Brown, A 2016, 'How to Harvard reference a website and other sources', Referencing: Harvard Style Blog, web log post, 20 June, viewed 26 April 2018, < blog="" articlethree="">.</>

Dissertation or Thesis

Note: Do not forget to specify what type of thesis it is (BA Thesis, MSc Thesis, PhD Thesis, etc.).

Motion Picture (Movie) The lord of the rings: the return of the king 2003, motion picture, Imagine Films, Auckland, NZ. Produced by Steve Pyke; directed by Peter Jackson.

Television Program Stateline 2009, television broadcast, ABC TV, Canberra, 4 September. Presented by Chris Kimball.

Radio Broadcast The book show 2009, radio broadcast, ABC Radio National, Melbourne, 19 November.

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Struggling to Master the Harvard Style Citation and Referencing?

After countless hours of putting together a compelling list of resources, most students lack the energy to structure them accordingly. Feel free to try our essay writing help for such tasks.

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Research Paper Guide

Writing Research Proposal

Last updated on: Feb 8, 2023

Writing a Research Proposal - Outline, Format, and Examples

By: Nathan D.

12 min read

Reviewed By: Rylee W.

Published on: May 21, 2019

Research Proposal

Worried that you will not be able to write a good research proposal? It is a common dilemma, and no student could escape it. A research proposal is a document that outlines the scope, objectives, methods, and timeline of your proposed project.

It needs to be approved before you can submit the final research paper or apply for funding. It is an essential part of  research paper writing  and one cannot move forward with his research without it.

In this post, we have explained the different steps involved in writing a great research proposal. This will help you in formulating your proposal and increasing the chances of acceptance.

Read on to know more about it.

Research Proposal

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What is a Research Proposal?

As per the research proposal definition, it is a concise summary of your research paper. It introduces the general idea of your research by highlighting the questions and issues you are going to address in your paper.

For writing a good and ‘acceptance worthy’ proposal, demonstrating the uniqueness and worthiness of your research paper is important.

Below is a detailed definition that will help you understand it better.

‘A research proposal is a document that is written to present and justify your interest and need for researching a particular topic.’

Similarly, a good proposal must highlight the benefits and outcomes of the proposed study, supported by persuasive evidence.

How to Create a Research Proposal Outline?

Sometimes students don’t realize how important a research paper proposal is and end up putting all the information together without following the basic outline or thinking this through.

To summarize its importance, if you want a successful research project, you need to write a great proposal for it. Without a good proposal, you will not be able to communicate the essence of your research properly. This may lead to the rejection of your proposal.

Before starting with the outline, you need to understand the basic components. A clear outline is important when it comes to presenting the literature review and writing the entire paper.

Here is a basic format you can follow while writing your proposal.

It might seem like a dreadful task and especially for the students who are new to this. It requires good writing as well as research skills.

Here is a sample template to further explain the outline.

Research Proposal Template


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How to Start a Research Proposal?

Many students think that starting a research proposal is the same as creating an outline. No, it is not and knowing how to start with your research proposal on the right track is like getting done with half of it.

Below are the important steps to start a research proposal.

Writing a research proposal is tricky, but when you start it beforehand then you will have enough time to understand your main topic’s different aspects.

Procrastinating and leaving it for the last few days before submission will only land you in trouble.

How to Write a Research Proposal

Now you have the basic outline you can follow. Let’s discuss how to write it by following the format mentioned above.

1. Choose the Title Carefully

Your proposal title should be concise and clear to indicate your research question. Your readers should know what to expect in the paper after reading the title. Avoid writing titles in a general perspective or phrases like “An investigation of …” or “A review of …” etc. Make it concise and well defined.

2. Add a Concise Abstract

‘How to write an abstract for a research proposal?’

The abstract is a short summary that is around 100-250 words. The abstract should include the research question, hypothesis of your research (if there is any), the research methodology, and findings.

If the proposal is detailed, it will require a section of the contents after the abstract. For it, knowing  how to write an abstract  will be helpful and can save you from making any blunders.

3. Add a Strong Introduction

You need to start with a strong introduction. The introduction is written to provide a background or context related to your research problem. It is important to frame the research question while writing the proposal.

Your entire proposal will revolve around your research question, and this includes the proposal’s introduction also. If the research question is not specific and has a very general literature review, then your proposal might seem insignificant. A specific research question will make your research focused on.

Start the introduction with a general statement related to the problem area you are focusing on and justify your study.

The introduction usually covers the following elements.

Have a very clear and concise idea about your research, and make sure that you do not deviate from the main research question. A clear idea will help you craft a perfect thesis. Here is how you can create a crisp and interesting  thesis introduction  along with a basic guideline.

4. Clarify the Research Objectives

Your research objectives will explain what the writer is trying to achieve. Moreover, these aims and objectives must be achievable. It means that it must be framed according to the:

However, it is beneficial to read all the developments in the field and find research gaps before deciding your objective. It will help you come up with suitable aims for your projects.

5. Add Relevant Literature Review

A separate section dedicated to the literature review will allow you to conduct extensive background research and support your research question with credible sources and research.

The following are the basic purposes of the literature review.

A literature review is an important component. Learning  how to write a literature review  will help you compose an engaging and impressive literature review easily.

Keep your literature review organized by adding a subheading to maintain a smooth flow in the content. Try not to bore your readers and your instructor or the committee. Write it in an engaging manner.

6. Mention Significance of the Research

The significance of your research will identify the importance of your work. It should be mainly stated in the introductory paragraph.

You must highlight how your research is beneficial for the respective field of study. Similarly, you can also state its contribution to the field in both the broader and narrow sense.

7. Explain the Research Methodology

‘How to write a methods section of a research proposal?’

This section explains how you are going to conduct your research. Explain why the specific method is suitable for your research and how it will help you attain your research goals. Your research methodology will give you an organized plan for the research.

Mention sufficient information regarding your research methodology for readers to understand how you are conducting your research. It must contain enough information regarding the study for another researcher to implement it.

Choose the type of research methodology that is suitable for your research. Quantitative research is suitable for projects involving collecting and analyzing statistical data like that in social sciences, medicine, and psychology. Qualitative type is used in a theoretical type of research like that in literature.

Some research involves both; if your research topic also involves analyzing both the statistical data and theory, then make sure that you use them appropriately.

For a qualitative approach, the method section of your proposal needs to be more detailed and elaborate compared to the one in the quantitative approach. How you will collect your data and analyze it according to the qualitative approach should be described with great care.

When you choose a quantitative approach for your research, the method section should contain answers to the following elements.

Have detailed knowledge of all the research methodologies to justify your approach towards the research problem.

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8. Present the Hypothesis or the Expected Research Results

In the research proposal, this section will contain the results of the research, but since this is a research proposal, you do not have the results yet. This is why you will add the expected research results here. These results are those that you aim to obtain from the research.

Sometimes the researcher gets the same kind of results, but sometimes, the results could differ from the expected ones.

9. Mention the Ethical Considerations

It is an essential part of your outline. Researchers need to consider ethical values while conducting research work. Furthermore, you also have to be very careful in the data collection process and need to respect the rights of the participants.

They should not harm them in any way, and full consent should be obtained from them prior to the study.

Lastly, the writer’s moral duty is to promise complete confidentiality to feel comfortable while sharing information.

10. Discuss the Research Limitations

The research limitations indicate the flaws and shortcomings of your research. These may include:

Listing the limitations shows your honesty and complete understanding of the topic.

11. Add Proper References and Citation

Don’t forget the references section. You don’t want to get blamed for plagiarism. Always give references to the authors and the literature you have studied for your research.

There are two ways to cite your sources.

Follow a specific format for the citation section as instructed by your supervisor. It can be written in APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard style. Both references and bibliography are included in it.

12. Edit and Proofread

Many students prefer not to proofread the proposal after completion, which is a grave mistake. If you proofread the paper on your own, you may fail to identify the mistakes. Use online tools or have a helping hand from your friend to give it a good read.

In the end, edit the document as per the needs.

Why Do Research Proposals Get Rejected?

An analysis of 500 rejected proposals allowed us to identify the common blunders made in them. These blunders caused the rejection of otherwise promising research. Therefore, to maximize the chances of acceptance, you must avoid these mistakes.

Here are some of those mistakes.

These are the common ways that result in rejection.

If you desire to make it shine, stick to your instructor’s guidelines and stay away from committing these mistakes. They will kill the purpose and effort you have put into your proposal and tarnish your reputation also.

Research Proposal Examples

Looking for some helpful and detailed research proposal examples to get you started? Examples are great for a quick understanding of how something works or is written, in our case.

Here are some complete research paper proposal samples to help you write your own.







Research Proposal Topics

You can take ideas for your topic from books, journals, previously done research, and dissertations.

Here are a few topics you can choose from.

If you want to know more about finding a topic for your research paper and research paper topic examples, here is a list of interesting  research paper topics .

Research proposals can be critical because they require great attention. If you are inexperienced, you are likely to suffer. In a worst-case scenario, your proposal may get rejected.

Your dedicated professional and experienced essay writer at  is always here to help you. Being a professional  write an essay  service, we know how to craft a compelling research proposal and help you get it accepted.

If you have any queries, talk to our representative or place your research proposal  order  now.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a strong research proposal.

Your proposal must explain 'why' your research is important in addition to explaining the methods that you will use. You should also position yourself within your field of study and give an overview of why this specific topic could be significant.

How many pages a research proposal should be?

Research proposals typically range between three and five pages in length. Research proposal formats vary across disciplines.

You should follow the format that is standard within your field, with special attention to what your faculty mentor prefers.

What tense should a research proposal be written in?

In a research proposal, use future tense for actions to be undertaken in the study. For example: "A survey method will be employed", and "a close-ended questionnaire will be used."

How long is a research proposal?

When writing a research proposal, it is best, to begin with, what you want to know more about. There is no set length for these proposals so they can be anywhere from 2,500 words up or down depending on the topic and scope of your study.

Does a research proposal have chapters?

Like a research paper, the introduction and conclusion of your proposal should be brief. In every chapter you include in your proposal, begin with an informative intro paragraph that captures what will follow in each section.

Similarly, for chapters near their end, conclusions summarize points discussed throughout the sections but also highlight what is most important about them overall.

Nathan D.

PhD Essay, Literature

Nathan completed his Ph.D. in journalism and has been writing articles for well-respected publications for many years now. His work is carefully researched and insightful, showing a true passion for the written word. Nathan's clients appreciate his expertise, deep understanding of the process, and ability to communicate difficult concepts clearly.

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