How to Write a Dissertation Proposal
Proposal presents students with a chance of finding out if their research aims and objectives are valid and if the methods they are planning to use are suitable and feasible. The purpose for writing dissertation proposal is to get it approved by your supervisor to be able to start the actual research.
The Proposal needs to be able to communicate the following three critical points to the supervisor:
- You already did your homework in terms of reading a large amount of relevant secondary data in your research area;
- The research will eliminate a gap in the literature
- There is a need for this research from practical point of view as well
Total wordcount requirement for a Research Proposal can range between 1500 – 4000 words. The proposal can be prepared in the following format:
1. Title Page
2. Introduction. This part is a brief introduction to the research area with some background information. Some universities require proposal abstract or summary to be included as well. Please refer to the Dissertation Handbook provided by your university.
3. Statement of the Problem. Research problem needs to be explained in a detailed manner in at least 2-3 pages.
4. Aims and Objectives. These need to comply with SMART principle where the acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
5. Justification for the Topic. These can relate to the elimination of gap in the literature, practical benefits of the research, and its contribution to your long-term career objectives. Ideally, the proposed research has to make some practical contributions as well.
6. Research Background. Some universities require a brief research background to be included in dissertation proposal. Here, you can briefly discuss the most noteworthy contributions to the research area. No need for detailed critical analysis at this stage.
7. Scope of the Research and its Limitations. It is important to make it clear what specific issues are going to be explored during the research process, as well as, what issues will be left out.
8. Preliminary Literature Review. Definitions of main terms, explanation of search strategy for the literature, brief outline of the most relevant models and theoretical frameworks need to be included in this part.
9. Methodology. This part includes explanations of methods of data collection and analysis. Moreover, proposal methodology needs to address research philosophy, research approach, its design and sampling issues.
10. Ethical Aspects of the Study. You have to explain how you are going to address issues of ethics related to the study. In studies that involve primary data collection ethical issues can be addressed by including the following statements in your proposal, and staying true to these statements
a) Respondents are going to participate in the survey voluntarily;
b) Questionnaire/Interview/Focus group questions are not going to contain offensive, discriminatory, or other unacceptable language;
c) Privacy and anonymity of sample group members are going to be maintained ;
d) The works of other authors that are going to be used in any part of the proposed study are going to be acknowledged with the use of Harvard/APA/Vancouver referencing system according to the Dissertation Handbook;
e) The author will attempt to maintain high levels of objectivity in discussions and analyses throughout the research.
In studies that do not involve primary data collection, on the other hand, ethical issues are going to be limited to the points d) and e) above.
11. Research schedule. Gantt-Chart is one of the most effective, yet simple tools to illustrate research schedule. Table below represents a sample Gantt-Chart that can be used to complete a dissertation. Alternatively, you can use simple tasks lists, network diagrams or advanced dashboard software.
12. References. Appropriate referencing is critically important when writing dissertation proposal the same way as it is important for the final draft of the work.