Dissertation Proposal – The Basics
Before writing your research paper, proposing a research plan to your advisor is among the first steps. That plan is a ‘blueprint’ of sorts for how you will be going on about your research. Called a dissertation proposal, it comprises the following components:
- Introduction to your research topic, aims, and objectives
- Literature review
- Outline of methods and methodology
- Discussion of your research’s possible implications
This dissertation proposal portrays a picture in your advisor’s mind about how you will be approaching your topic. Once approved, a dissertation proposal paves the way for the actual research writing part.
Things to Consider before Writing Dissertation Proposal
There are a couple of things to keep in mind while writing your dissertation proposal:
- It does not have to be set in stone; it is just a stepping stone that helps begin penning down your entire research. You can modify it as you go.
- Make sure to keep references mentioned in the proposal updated. From the time you submit your proposal and the time you start writing your dissertation itself, some sources might update their data.
- Schedule meetings with your research supervisor before submitting the proposal. This will give you the added benefit of making necessary changes before finalizing the proposal.
- The length of a dissertation proposal is anywhere between 10-20 pages, depending on various factors (nature of research, topic, departmental guidelines, etc.).
- Adhere to your department’s specific guidelines, if any have been specified.
Top Five Tips for Writing a Winning Dissertation Proposal
Following are the top five tips for writing a perfect, winning dissertation proposal:
Tip # 1 – Narrow down your topic as much as possible
No matter what type of research topic you decide to go with, there will always be lots of ground to cover. It is therefore imperative to:
- pick a single aspect of the topic.
- contextualize it based on the surroundings within which you’ll conduct the research.
- include examples/anecdotes/analogies specific to the aspect of the topic you have chosen.
Since presenting your topic comes at the beginning of your proposal, make sure to be specific throughout the remainder of your proposal. Don’t base research questions, for instance, that tackle another aspect of the same question.
Tip # 2 – Communicate Your Aims Clearly Up Front
Laying down your aims and objectives is a central part of your proposal: it lets the reader know up front where you are headed with the research; why you have chosen the topic you have chosen; what you intend to find out through this research, and so on.
Your supervisor will know exactly how you plan to collect data for answering your research questions. This will be evident from your research questions.
Communicating your research plans helps your advisor determine whether they are relevant and appropriate for the area of study you have chosen (among other things).
Tip: Be very clear about the way you design your research questions. They guide pretty much your entire research.
Tip # 3 – State the HOW and match it with the WHAT
What do you intend to study in this research? Why have you chosen this particular area? How do you intend to conduct your research into the topic you have selected? What are the methods and/methodologies you will be using? Are they appropriate based on the kind of research you are conducting?
Make sure your aims, objectives, and questions match your plans to fulfill and answer them.
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Tip # 4 – Don’t Try to Do Too Much
A dissertation proposal helps others know your research plan and guides you in conducting the research. You will have already narrowed everything down in the proposal by the time you start writing your dissertation.
Even though research can be overwhelming, be realistic about what you wish to study and write about. Choose an appropriate sample to work with, for starters. Pick a research tool (e.g., survey, questionnaire, etc.) that is manageable to work with given the time and setting of your research.
Tip # 5 – Follow the given structure precisely
Even though this may sound simple, it is still a very crucial—often overlooked—factor.
Has your university provided you a specific structure for a proposal? If not, does your department have one? Does your own proposal’s structure match the one they have provided? If none of this applies to you, follow a standard dissertation proposal structure.
Also, bear in mind that the structure might vary from institution to institution, from department to department, and even within different departments in the same institution. For instance, some structures might require questions and aims to come after the background.
Sometimes, advisors might not even have enough time to go through your entire proposal. Having a structured, organized proposal will therefore inform them of your proposal’s key points right away.
After all, time is often in short supply when it comes to getting research proposals approved.
Other Important Dos and Don’ts
Some other essential things to keep in mind while writing a dissertation proposal are:
- Present and describe your topic before discussing previous contributions made in that field.
- Your topic’s background should not overlap much with the literature review.
- Distinguish your main and subsidiary research questions.
- Cite every resource carefully and double-check dates etc., before submitting a proposal.
- Sound clear, confident, and concise while describing your methods, methodologies, aims, and questions. Leave nothing to the imagination.
Tip: Be sure to check dissertation proposal samples before writing your own.
Writing a winning dissertation proposal can seem like a daunting task at first. However, with enough research and guidance, this blueprint, when formed correctly, can make the main task of writing your dissertation very focused and realistic.
Grace Griffin is a member of the writer’s Team on Essays uk and Research prospect. She has bachelor’s in Law, Masters in Literature, and a PhD in Economics. she wanted to explore all the possible subjects in the world. Still, she is afraid that she couldn’t do so. Grace is a technical writer and writes research-based content. As for her hobbies, she loves reading articles, blogs, magazines, newspapers and books.