What is a Dissertation Proposal?

Not a single study or research master’s and Ph.D. program can be completed without writing a dissertation or a thesis. The first step to writing it is composing a proposal. This paper is the foundation of your research and prerequisite for the successful writing process. Proposals play a role of a plan allowing to make a dissertation focused, comprehensive, and well-arranged. Moreover, they are the means to refine and reconsider the topic. Find out how to create a proposal that would ease and accelerate a demanding process of thesis writing.

A proposal should cover a few basic aspects. Students must explain what exactly they want to research, justify the choice and significance of the research, if it is completed, tell about the potential ways of collecting data and analyzing them. Since proposal implies doing a preliminary literature review, a student can change the own topic or some aspects of it. Moreover, it might assist in narrowing the topic down and choosing a right angle from which a problem should be regarded. In other words, taking these initial steps of writing a proposal is what helps to determine what direction should be selected and on what the emphasis should be laid in a dissertation.

Topic Polishing

The first thing you need to do before writing a proposal is to consider the chosen topic carefully. It should be suitable for the field you aspire to work in and fit in with your interests. Then, it should be neither too narrow nor too broad. In the former case, it will be difficult to find relevant literature and reach the required length. In the latter case, you will not be able to process all the available information. Furthermore, it should be not fully researched. A proposal is a way to check whether the topic meets these criteria. As you start doing some research, you will be able to assess the amount of accessible literature, locate a gap in research done so far, and formulate your aims. With this information at your disposal, it will be easy to explain what you want to reach and how you will do it in a thesis proposal. Therefore, focus on the topic first.

Dissertation Proposal Elements

Regardless of the structure that you decide to adopt and specific requirements that your university might have for dissertation proposals, there is a list of key elements that should always be included in this kind of papers. They are an introduction, research objectives, methodology section, limitations of research, and, of course, literature review. Here is what you need to know about these components.

  • Introduction. A primary aim of introductions is to specify a topic and problem that will be researched, provide background, and place the topic in a broader context. In addition, you will have to recount reasons as to why this research is needed and what its potential value is.
  • Research Objectives. The proposal should also familiarize a reader with the purpose and specific objectives of the research. In other words, you will have to tell what you want to reach and list your aims, i.e., the milestones you need to reach in order to achieve the desired result. Hypotheses, i.e., the expected outcomes, are to be formulated as well.
  • Methodology. This section of a dissertation proposal should provide an insight in the way you are going to accomplish the set goals. You need to tell about the selected research design, quantitative, qualitative or a mixed one. Then, the method, along with the explanation why it is better than others, should be mentioned. The procedure of collecting data and analyzing them should be clarified. It is necessary to comment on the instruments, sample, and participants, if any.
  • Literature Review. Here, you should make an overview of the books, journal articles, reports, and other materials that will constitute a theoretical basis of your paper. The section is needed to provide the background for the topic. Besides, it should show that you are aware of other research attempts made in the sphere of your interest. Literature review is also your chance to compare methodology used by different scholars when examining a similar issue. It will help you make your mind regarding methods and techniques to use. In this section, you will be also required to make comment about the value of each source to your research. In other words, literature review is the demonstration of your preparedness to the research.
  • Limitations. No worthy research can be conducted in isolation from a broader context and complicated issues that exist in it. An eminent researcher is able to recognize these problems and acknowledge the fact that they might influence the results of his/her study. The section of limitations is specifically devoted to the discussion of the barriers and constraints that a scientist might face. Moreover, the ways to mitigate or, at least, minimize their negative effect are addressed there.

Structure of a Dissertation Proposal

The structure of a dissertation may differ depending on your institutional and departmental affiliation. Each school tends to set own rules. For example, it might be required to include objectives in an introduction or create a separate section for them. Some universities want to see a literature review first and then methodology while others demand to arrange the sections vice versa. In other words, be sure to find out whether there are some peculiarities regarding the structure of a dissertation proposal in your educational establishment.

Not to be caught by surprise and have troubles with the structure, you are strongly advised to write each of the listed above sections separately and then unite them in one paper when you possess complete information about what is required from you. Still, mind that the most widely acceptable structure is as follows: an introduction, purpose and objectives, literature review, methodology, and limitations. Another useful tip is to generate a title for your proposal. It is a kind of a test that will have to make your topic narrow, specific, and focused on a subject matter.