How to Write a Concept Paper

How do you write a concept paper? Why is there a need to write one before writing a full-blown thesis proposal? How do you write a concept paper?

This article explains why a concept paper is important before writing a full-blown research paper. It also provides a step-by-step approach on how to write it.

I once browsed the internet to look for information on how to write a concept paper. It took me some time to find the information I wanted. I did find some, but I am not entirely satisfied with those explanations. The explanation and discussion are either too short or vaguely explain the concept paper.

Preparing a concept paper entails different approaches, but I somehow drew some principles from these readings. I wrote a concept paper in compliance with a request to come up with one. Nobody complained about the output that I prepared.

I remembered once again when a colleague asked me the other day to explain a concept paper and how to write it. He needs this information because students have been asking him how to write it.

To him and his students, I dedicate this article.

What is a Concept Paper and Why Do You Need It?

Before going into the details on how to write a concept paper, let me explain what a concept paper is and why you need it.

A concept paper serves as a prelude to writing a full-blown manuscript.

What do you consider a full-blown write-up? It could be a thesis, a program, a project, or anything that will require a longer time to prepare.

In essence, a concept paper embodies your ideas on a particular topic or item of interest. The concept paper saves time because your thesis or review panel may say that your concept is not worth pursuing.

A concept paper should consist only of 1 or 2 pages. Alternatively, if you want to deal with complex issues that require expounding on the ideas, it can go up to 5 pages.

For example, as a student, you will be asked to prepare your concept paper before writing your thesis proposal. This task means that you need to develop an idea and express it for others to understand. The central idea of that concept paper is your thesis statement.

You may glean from either your experience or from your literature review. Of course, your topic should be within your respective area of specialization. It makes sense to be an expert in your field.

If you are a computer science student, you might want to study the behavior of wi-fi signals bounced to different kinds of material. Alternatively, maybe you wish to create a simple gadget to concentrate signals for a portable USB wi-fi connection to improve its performance.

Or perhaps you would like to find out the optimum cache size for the most exceptional browsing experience on the internet. The list could go on.

How Do You Write a Concept Paper?

As I mentioned a while ago, there is no hard and fast rule on how to write a concept paper. It is not desirable to have a format, as your ideas tend to be limited. You may miss some critical points.

The ultimate goal is for you to be able to express your intention. What do you want to do or achieve?

How should you write the concept paper as a prelude to a thesis? What should it contain?

A concept paper must have at least the following elements:

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1. A Rationale

You explain here why you need to undertake that thesis proposal of yours. You can ask yourself the following questions:

What prompted you to prepare the concept paper?
Why is the issue of such importance?
What should you be able to produce out of your intended study?

2. A Conceptual Framework

A conceptual framework serves as your guide in working on your idea. It is like a map to follow to arrive at your destination.

An excellent way to develop one is to do a mind-mapping exercise. That brings up another thing, what is mind mapping anyhow?

A mind map is simply a list of keywords that you can connect to clarify an individual issue. It is our subconscious’ way of analyzing things. We tend to associate things with other things. This tendency relates to how we recall past experiences.

In the field of computers, we have the so-called “links” that connect commands in a computer module to make an application program work.

How does mind mapping work?

You have to come up with a word, for example, that will help you start. You can begin with an issue on computers and, from there, generate other ideas that connect with the previous one.

The following video explains how to build a mind map using XMind, my favorite mind mapping tool.

A tutorial on how to create a mind map.

3. Your Hypothesis

Once the idea of the conceptual framework is quite clear to you, write your hypothesis. A hypothesis is just your expected output in conducting the study. It arises from the conceptual framework that you have prepared.

Once you have identified the specific variables you would like to study, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are the variables related?
  • Does one variable affect another? Alternatively, are they related at all?

A quick review of relevant and updated literature will help you identify which variables matter.

Nowadays, it’s easy to find articles on your topic using the internet, that is, if you know how to do it. You can start by going to, a directory of open access journals. And of course, Google Scholar is an indispensable source of scientific articles. Just find the best and relevant ones for your literature review.

Example of Hypotheses

Considering the issues raised a while ago, the following null hypotheses can serve as your hypotheses:

1. There is no significant difference in wi-fi signal behavior between wood and metal.

 2. There is no significant difference in browsing speed between a ten MB cache and a 100 MB cache storage setting using Mozilla Firefox.

Final Note

At this point, you may already have a better idea of how to prepare a concept paper before working on a full-blown thesis proposal.

If you find this discussion worthwhile, or you would like to clarify further the discussion above, your feedback is welcome.

© 2012 October 31 P. A. Regoniel | Updated: 12/5/21



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