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How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal
Published on September 21, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 15, 2022.
When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic .
The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development of your research. It helps you choose a type of research to pursue, as well as whether to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.
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Table of contents
What should your proposal contain, dissertation question examples, what should your proposal look like, dissertation prospectus examples, frequently asked questions about proposals.
Prior to jumping into the research for your thesis or dissertation, you first need to develop your research proposal and have it approved by your supervisor. It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives .
Depending on your department’s requirements, there may be a defense component involved, where you present your research plan in prospectus format to your committee for their approval.
Your proposal should answer the following questions:
- Why is your research necessary?
- What is already known about your topic?
- Where and when will your research be conducted?
- Who should be studied?
- How can the research best be done?
Ultimately, your proposal should persuade your supervisor or committee that your proposed project is worth pursuing.
Strong research kicks off with a solid research question , and dissertations are no exception to this.
Dissertation research questions should be:
- Focused on a single problem or issue
- Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
- Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
- Specific enough to answer thoroughly
- Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
- Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly
- What are the main factors enticing people under 30 in suburban areas to engage in the gig economy?
- Which techniques prove most effective for 1st-grade teachers at local elementary schools in engaging students with special needs?
- Which communication streams are the most effective for getting those aged 18-30 to the polls on Election Day?
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An easy rule of thumb is that your proposal will usually resemble a (much) shorter version of your thesis or dissertation. While of course it won’t include the results section , discussion section , or conclusion , it serves as a “mini” version or roadmap for what you eventually seek to write.
Be sure to include:
- A succinct introduction to your topic and problem statement
- A brief literature review situating your topic within existing research
- A basic outline of the research methods you think will best answer your research question
- The perceived implications for future research
- A reference list in the citation style of your choice
The length of your proposal varies quite a bit depending on your discipline and type of work you’re conducting. While a thesis proposal is often only 3-7 pages long, a prospectus for your dissertation is usually much longer, with more detailed analysis. Dissertation proposals can be up to 25-30 pages in length.
Writing a proposal or prospectus can be a challenge, but we’ve compiled some examples for you to get your started.
- Example #1: “Geographic Representations of the Planet Mars, 1867-1907” by Maria Lane
- Example #2: “Individuals and the State in Late Bronze Age Greece: Messenian Perspectives on Mycenaean Society” by Dimitri Nakassis
- Example #3: “Manhood Up in the Air: A Study of Male Flight Attendants, Queerness, and Corporate Capitalism during the Cold War Era” by Phil Tiemeyer
The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .
- If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
- If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
- If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:
- Your anticipated title
- Your abstract
- Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)
A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.
The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:
- Your research questions and/or hypotheses
- Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
- The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
- Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
- Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
- Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
- Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests or thematic analysis )
A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.
It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.
Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.
Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .
However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:
- Feasibility and specificity
- Relevance and originality
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Writing a dissertation proposal.
What is a dissertation proposal?
Dissertation proposals are like the table of contents for your research project , and will help you explain what it is you intend to examine, and roughly, how you intend to go about collecting and analysing your data. You won’t be required to have everything planned out exactly, as your topic may change slightly in the course of your research, but for the most part, writing your proposal should help you better identify the direction for your dissertation.
When you’ve chosen a topic for your dissertation , you’ll need to make sure that it is both appropriate to your field of study and narrow enough to be completed by the end of your course. Your dissertation proposal will help you define and determine both of these things and will also allow your department and instructors to make sure that you are being advised by the best person to help you complete your research.
A dissertation proposal should include:
- An introduction to your dissertation topic
- Aims and objectives of your dissertation
- A literature review of the current research undertaken in your field
- Proposed methodology to be used
- Implications of your research
- Limitations of your research
Although this content all needs to be included in your dissertation proposal, it isn’t set in stone so it can be changed later if necessary, depending on your topic of study, university or degree. Think of your dissertation proposal as more of a guide to writing your dissertation rather than something to be strictly adhered to – this will be discussed later.
Why is a dissertation proposal important?
A dissertation proposal is very important because it helps shape the actual dissertation, which is arguably the most important piece of writing a postgraduate student will undertake. By having a well-structured dissertation proposal, you will have a strong foundation for your dissertation and a good template to follow. The dissertation itself is key to postgraduate success as it will contribute to your overall grade. Writing your dissertation will also help you to develop research and communication skills, which could become invaluable in your employment success and future career. By making sure you’re fully briefed on the current research available in your chosen dissertation topic, as well as keeping details of your bibliography up to date, you will be in a great position to write an excellent dissertation.
Next, we’ll be outlining things you can do to help you produce the best postgraduate dissertation proposal possible.
How to begin your dissertation proposal
1. Narrow the topic down
It’s important that when you sit down to draft your proposal, you’ve carefully thought out your topic and are able to narrow it down enough to present a clear and succinct understanding of what you aim to do and hope to accomplish in your dissertation.
How do I decide on a dissertation topic?
A simple way to begin choosing a topic for your dissertation is to go back through your assignments and lectures. Was there a topic that stood out to you? Was there an idea that wasn’t fully explored? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you have a great starting point! If not, then consider one of your more personal interests. Use Google Scholar to explore studies and journals on your topic to find any areas that could go into more detail or explore a more niche topic within your personal interest.
Keep track of all publications
It’s important to keep track of all the publications that you use while you research. You can use this in your literature review.
You need to keep track of:
- The title of the study/research paper/book/journal
- Who wrote/took part in the study/research paper
- Chapter title
- Page number(s)
The more research you do, the more you should be able to narrow down your topic and find an interesting area to focus on. You’ll also be able to write about everything you find in your literature review which will make your proposal stronger.
While doing your research, consider the following:
- When was your source published? Is the information outdated? Has new information come to light since?
- Can you determine if any of the methodologies could have been carried out more efficiently? Are there any errors or gaps?
- Are there any ethical concerns that should be considered in future studies on the same topic?
- Could anything external (for example new events happening) have influenced the research?
Read more about picking a topic for your dissertation .
How long should the dissertation proposal be?
Aiming for 1,000 words or more, your dissertation proposal will give an outline of the topic of your dissertation, some of the questions you hope to answer with your research, what sort of studies and type of data you aim to employ in your research, and the sort of analysis you will carry out.
Different courses may have different requirements for things like length and the specific information to include, as well as what structure is preferred, so be sure to check what special requirements your course has.
2. What should I include in a dissertation proposal?
The introduction will state your central research question and give background on the subject, as well as relating it contextually to any broader issues surrounding it. Read more about picking a topic for your dissertation .
The dissertation proposal introduction should outline exactly what you intend to investigate in your final research project.
Make sure you outline the structure of the dissertation proposal in your introduction, i.e. part one covers methodology, part two covers a literature review, part three covers research limitations, and so forth.
The dissertation methodology will break down what sources you aim to use for your research and what sort of data you will collect from it, either quantitative or qualitative. You may also want to include how you will analyse the data you gather and what, if any, bias there may be in your chosen methods.
Depending on the level of detail that your specific course requires, you may also want to explain why your chosen approaches to gathering data are more appropriate to your research than others.
Consider and explain how you will conduct empirical research. For example, will you use interviews? Surveys? Observation? Lab experiments?
In your dissertation methodology, outline the variables that you will measure in your research and how you will select your data or participant sample to ensure valid results.
Finally, are there any specific tools that you will use for your methodology? If so, make sure you provide this information in the methodology section of your dissertation proposal.
- Aims and objectives
Your dissertation proposal should also include the aims and objectives of your research. Be sure to state what your research hopes to achieve, as well as what outcomes you predict. You may also need to clearly state what your main research objectives are, in other words, how you plan to obtain those achievements and outcomes.
Your aim should not be too broad but should equally not be too specific.
An example of a dissertation aim could be: ‘To examine the key content features and social contexts that construct successful viral marketing content distribution on Twitter’.
In comparison, an example of a dissertation aim that is perhaps too broad would be: ‘‘To investigate how things go viral on Twitter’.
The aim of your dissertation proposal should relate directly to your research question.
- Literature review
The literature review will list the books and materials that you used to do your research. This is where you can list materials that gave you more background on your topic, or contain research carried out previously that you referred to in your own studies.
The literature review is also a good place to demonstrate how your research connects to previous academic studies and how your methods may differ from or build upon those used by other researchers. While it’s important to give enough information about the materials to show that you have read and understood them, don’t forget to include your analysis of their value to your work.
Where there are shortfalls in other pieces of academic work, identify these and address how you will overcome these shortcomings in your own research.
Constraints and limitations of your research
Lastly, you will also need to include the constraints of your research. Many topics will have broad links to numerous larger and more complex issues, so by clearly stating the constraints of your research, you are displaying your understanding and acknowledgment of these larger issues, and the role they play by focusing your research on just one section or part of the subject.
In this section it is important to Include examples of possible limitations, for example, issues with sample size, participant drop out, lack of existing research on the topic, time constraints, and other factors that may affect your study.
- Ethical considerations
Confidentiality and ethical concerns are an important part of any research.
Ethics are key, as your dissertation will need to undergo ethical approval if you are working with participants. This means that it’s important to allow for and explain ethical considerations in your dissertation proposal.
Keep confidentiality in mind and keep your participants informed, so they are aware of how the data provided is being used and are assured that all personal information is being kept confidential.
Consider how involved your patients will be with your research, this will help you think about what ethical considerations to take and discuss them fully in your dissertation proposal. For example, face-to-face participant interview methods could require more ethical measures and confidentiality considerations than methods that do not require participants, such as corpus data (a collection of existing written texts) analysis.
3. Dissertation proposal example
Once you know what sections you need or do not need to include, it may help focus your writing to break the proposal up into separate headings, and tackle each piece individually. You may also want to consider including a title. Writing a title for your proposal will help you make sure that your topic is narrow enough, as well as help keep your writing focused and on topic.
One example of a dissertation proposal structure is using the following headings, either broken up into sections or chapters depending on the required word count:
- Research constraints
In any dissertation proposal example, you’ll want to make it clear why you’re doing the research and what positives could come from your contribution.
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- How to write a dissertation proposal
Why students write dissertation proposals
Pre-writing tips, helpful motivational ideas, using a dissertation proposal template, questions to answer, how to structure a dissertation proposal, 1. introduction, 2. main body / problem statement, 3. aims & objectives, 4. anticipated results, 5. methodology, 6. conclusions and bibliography / literature review, useful writing your successful paper tips, helpful basics, interesting ideas about dissertation proposal structure, final thoughts, sample research proposal.
- A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management
- 2. Problem Statement
- 3. Objectives
- 4. Preliminary Literature Review - Anticipated Results
Before you start writing your dissertation project, you require a detailed plan or - dissertation proposal outline. What is its purpose? Your dissertation proposal should describe any information you want to investigate or how you will do that in your future dissertation. Don't know how to write a dissertation proposal without a coach or need professional dissertation writing service ? It should include:
- Overview of your literature;
- Research questions;
- Problem statements;
- Research methodology;
- Sources you use.
Writing your dissertation proposal depends on your institution or university, it’s your helpful exercise, especially if it’s not part of your academic assessment. When to write proposals? Some courses require them within final dissertation submissions, but you should talk to your tutors to get required instructions or understand if you need to complete your assignment based on them. Read this review to approach your work correctly.
This paper aims to provide basic sections, including:
- Your future dissertation purpose or nature;
- Possible questions that you will examine;
- References to any theoretical background;
- Research methods that you use;
- Potential outcomes of your study.
How to write a proposal for a dissertation? Spending enough time on this academic task is your wise investment because you’ll reap rewards, stop procrastinating , and form your future basis. This type of writing is worth practicing. Submit your dissertation proposal to get valuable feedback from tutors or ask them for helpful guidance about your style or tone.
Stay open-minded and flexible, show your willingness to adapt all ideas or methods as your research dictates you. Be firm and flexible! Say everything you want confidently to adapt your balanced view or suggest that you determined the best way to carry out your case study. Use this dissertation proposal outline to succeed. Follow all grammar rules in this paper while staying consistent, check supervisors for their confirmation, provide your future written model.
Ensure that any successful dissertation proposal sample helps you identify literature, research questions, problem statements, investigation methods (quantitative or qualitative research methods ), data sources, references, analysis outcomes.
- Read current literature. Look for reliable sources on your chosen topic to motivate your search for related details or facts, examine everything done, find any unanswered questions.
- Formulate your list of research questions and problem statements. Identify existing problems in your field, determine major research questions that you want to explore in the next dissertation proposal writing stage.
- Create your research methodology. Explain how you’ll answer all research questions, include helpful materials, write down effective methods.
- Identify data sources and outline where you get your important data.
Find any effective dissertation proposal template. Find key phrases or words to identify important questions because your answers will help you determine the best content. Why is your research necessary? Consider where or when you’ll conduct it, relevant information, problems, expected outcomes or results, valuable suggestions. Your format depends on disciplines, like social sciences.
Your first step is planning a future dissertation proposal structure because it requires its main section, introduction, conclusion. How to write a dissertation proposal? Read a brief description of every paragraph and don’t forget to pick your catchy title to increase your chances to get higher grades.
Introduce your chosen topic in the first paragraph that offers an overview of your more specific research, exploring its background to your wider subject area. Lay out your thesis. Explain why you think that your research in this area is significant, how it can impact future studies, what effects it will bring.
It consists of several subsections. Use your methodology for dissertation to outline different methods to process or college relevant data in your research. Explain what you will do. If your research is quantitative, include references to related surveys, questionnaires, and other data sources. Make its scope clear to readers.
Share your realistic description of why you choose specific research methods before switching to further paragraphs. In your objectives and aims, highlight major issues that you attempt to explore or questions that you will answer in your paper. What do you want to achieve?
Your literature review gives you a great opportunity to make good arguments for your research importance, connect it to similar projects, present it as some extension to relevant studies in this field. How to write it? List significant sources, explain how they help you guide your research, place your work alongside other projects, show how it contributes to or elaborates a more general field.
You’ll prove your adequate preparation. You have your potential to include any flaws identified within your dissertation proposal, determine how you’ll avoid them in your future dissertation project. Include sources that can add value to your research.
Why are limitations important? Recognizing any limits in your ability to present or explore valuable findings is a part of writing your informative or effective dissertation proposal. Some limitations in research refer to your assigned word count, others explain further issues that you may face.
Why should you complete this section? Do that to clearly show that you engaged with your chosen subject matter to prove that you’re familiar with wider concepts in this discipline. Think about any relevant ethical considerations.
Anticipated results include everything you want your study to uncover or possible gaps in your knowledge. Your approach should add to existing knowledge. Proposals often include their estimated timeframes for delivering finished work to supervisors or instructors.
Some teachers ask to submit every dissertation proposal chapter for its approval separately, others require to start with actual research before moving on to writing about it. Ensure that you’re realistic. Set your schedule to allocate enough time for initial steps before jumping straight into writing down any ideas you have in your mind.
The methods section describes actions to be taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed?
The information regarding methodology should be comprehensive and detailed enough to permit replication of the study by other researchers. The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.
Writing your bibliography is a must. It’s a list of any references related to your proposals for thesis research, format it based on citation styles appropriate for your academic discipline.
Any conclusion requires you to round off your dissertation proposal with some reminders of reasoning to choose topics, research types, expected outcomes.
The literature review will list the books and materials that you used to do your research. This is where you can list materials that give you more background on your topic, or contain research carried out previously that you refer to in your own studies. It’s also a good place to demonstrate how your research connects to previous academic studies, and how your methods may differ from or be building upon those used by other researchers. While it’s important to give enough information about the materials to show that you have read and understood them, don’t forget to include your analysis of their value to your work.
Be original . What does it mean? Highlight interesting or unique ways to show future readers that you’re creative, innovative, resourceful, talented, skilled. Demonstrate relevance or explain how your dissertation proposal will impact your chosen area or general public.
Showcase your knowledge. Don’t be humble about personal academic achievements, use your dissertation proposal to provide strong evidence to prove them. Being over-ambitious is a common pitfall, be sure that you can complete your study within required deadlines or with available resources.
Advertise yourself. If you plan to apply for external funding for your project, adapt it to fit funding requirements, key themes, rules. Do you want to work with specific supervisors? To increase your chances, tailor your proposal to their areas of expertise, preferences, instructions, interests.
Treat this academic assignment not only as your document that should be submitted within agreed deadlines, but also as something that can help you plan your future winning dissertation. Writing it without any plan is your big mistake. The structure of this paper is quite different from other academic assignments because you don’t need to prove any thesis or give answers to major research questions in it.
Give readers only general ideas. Use it as your map of subjects that you’ll investigate. Your dissertation proposal should explain how your arguments will fit together perfectly, put forward their bones, give readers better ideas of your methods, explain how it will fit into any wider area.
Consult with your department. Some educational departments have strict proposal formatting rules that all students must stick to, others are more easy going about structuring basics. Consider these elements because they’re quite likely to be covered.
Include your overview of the chosen subject in your project introduction, pick only prominent theories, choose relevant empirical studies. This paragraph should cover your reasoning. Explain your dissertation proposal structure, briefly, determine its significance, outline research objectives or aims clearly.
When you write your literature review, don’t go in detail about all texts because you should give your brief description of chosen academic literature. Suggest research questions in it. Include identified gaps in your dissertation proposal, modern studies if they’re relevant to your work, roles played by different theories. Want to conduct your primary research? Include your brief section to discuss any methods that you’ll use, explain your rationale for them, and offer their short description. Present, format, and structure all ideas to ensure that this section is free of grammar or spelling mistakes because they affect your future grades dramatically. Discuss your data analysis and ethics.
Follow these helpful tips to develop your perfect dissertation proposal that will increase your chance to succeed at any type of degree. It’s your effective road map! Proofread every section to submit your error-free and well-polished proposal to demonstrate your academic skills. In any other case (lacking time, feeling like encountering a way too difficult task etc.) - feel free to turn to a pro academic writing service!
A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management 1. Introduction Every construction project is unique and has its own operating environment and sets of technical requirements. As a result, the execution of a construction project is subject to numerous constraints that limit the commencement or progression of field operations, which invariably have significant negative impact on overall project performance. By definition, constraints refer to any condition, such as temporal/spatial limitations and safety/quality concerns, which may prevent a project from achieving its goals. Successful execution and control of a construction project relies on effective identification and management of constraints through master planning and short-term look-ahead scheduling. While the master schedule provides a global view of a project and the overall execution strategy, a look-ahead schedule offers a detailed account of operational constraints and a detailed plan showing work to be done within a relatively short time window. Ideally, these detailed schedules should reflect actual field conditions and provide field personnel with operation instructions free of constraints and conflicts (Hinze 2008). This look-ahead scheduling and constraint analysis procedure is also a critical component of the last-planner methodology proposed by Ballard (2000). This research project will provide an overview of state-of-art schedule constraint analysis practice during look-ahead scheduling. In addition, it will propose a conceptual framework for managing constraints. 2. Problem Statement The importance of developing a constraint-free and reliable work plan has long been recognized by the industry. However, numerous construction projects are still plagued by delays and cost overruns, which can frequently be traced to ineffective identification and treatment of constraints. First, when a constraint is not properly identified during scheduling, subsequent conflicts in the field are inevitable. Today’s projects are becoming more and more technically complex and logistically challenging, which exposes construction operations to even more complex constraints. Second, the traditional scheduling methods, bar charts and Critical Path Method (CPM) which are widely used as a basis for constraint analysis, greatly limit our capability in modeling and resolving constraints during look-ahead scheduling. These methods have long been blamed for their limitations in modeling and communicating constraints, including inability to cope with non-time-related precedence constraints and difficulty to evaluate and communicate inter-dependencies at the field operation level (e.g. Sriprasert and Dawood 2002; Chua and Shen 2001). In summary, there is a need for a better understanding of constraints in construction and a structured approach in identifying and modeling constraints to ensure a constraint-free work plan. More specifically, the following research questions need to be addressed: What are the typical constraints found in various construction projects? How to classify these constraints for easier identification and modeling? What are the current industry practices as well as research advancements in modeling and resolving constraints? How to unify the constraint classification knowledge and various constraint modeling efforts into a framework for total constraint management? 3. Objectives The long term goal of the research is to develop a formalized constraint management system. Constraint management is defined herein as the process of identifying, classifying, modeling, and resolving constraints. The objective of the current study is to provide a comprehensive review of literature and industry practices in relation to constraint analysis and outline a conceptual framework for constraint management. Particularly, the study has the following sub-objectives: To provide a comprehensive review of sources and characteristics of constraints typically found in construction projects; To develop a constraint classification method for easier constraint identification and modeling; To review current industry practices and researches in regards to constraint modeling; To outline a conceptual framework for total constraint management. The result of this study will be valuable to the industry practitioners as well as related software providers in developing better practice and tools for constraint management and look-ahead scheduling. 4. Preliminary Literature Review - Anticipated Results A preliminary literature review shows that past studies are primarily focused on understanding and modeling a particular type of constraint, such as technological, contractual, resource, spatial, and information constraints. Limited progress has been made on classifying various constraints according to their characteristics in a comprehensive manner. In terms of modeling and resolving constraints, various approaches have been recommended. For example, many CPM-based methods are applied to deal with time-related constraints; knowledge-based systems were used to automate work plan generation; network-based optimization algorithms were developed to resolve constraints; and databases and visualization techniques, such as 3D, 4D, and Virtual Reality (VR), are used to communicate and visualize constraints. What is missing from the past studies is a comprehensive and structured approach in managing constraints in construction projects. 5. Methodology The primary research method for this study is literature review and conceptual modeling. Constraint identification and classification through a structured approach is the very first step toward a “zero-constraint” environment. This study will first review various types of constraints in construction and their characteristics. Based on this understanding, a classification method will be developed to categorize constraint factors for the purpose of constraint identification and modeling. In the second stage of this study, existing constraint modeling methods will be identified based on a comprehensive review of current industry practices and academic researches. Finally, once the constraint classification and modeling techniques are identified, a conceptual framework for total constraint management will be outlined. This study will be conducted between September 2010 and May 2011. References Ballard, G. (2000). “Last planner system of production control.” Ph.D. Dissertation. Univ. of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. Chua, D. and Shen, L. J. (2001). “Constraint modeling and buffer management with integrated production scheduler.” Proceedings of International Conferences on Lean Construction 2001, Singapore. Hinze, J. W. (2008). Construction planning and scheduling, 3rd ed. Pearson, NJ. Sriprasert, E. and Dawood, N (2002). “Requirements identification for 4D constraint-based construction planning and control system.” Proceedings of CIB W78 conference – distributing knowledge in building, Aarhus, Danmark.
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Dissertation Proposal Guidelines
You should establish dissertation proposal expectations in consultation with your faculty advisors. All dissertation proposals should include the following features. However, you may depart from these guidelines if it helps you more effectively present the problem in your study.
An Outline for Writing the Dissertation Proposal
I. cover page.
A. Title of dissertation B. Student's name and special field (e.g., English Education, Elementary Education) C. Names of committee members: D. Committee Chair: Professor E. Committee Members: Professor
The abstract should be a one page statement of the purposes and methods of the dissertation. The abstract should enable the reader to ascertain the general plan of investigation without further study of the proposal. It is probably best to write the abstract after the rest of the proposal has been completed.
III. Background of the Problem to Be Investigated
The first section of the body of the proposal should indicate the relation of this study to the developing stream of educational thinking. This statement will rarely be more than 600 words. It may discuss the prior studies in the same area, a field situation to which the study relates, or the conceptual framework out of which the study arises. This section should make clear why the study is of value in extending educational theory, technology, or practice: i.e., the contribution to present knowledge which the proposed study will make.
IV. Problem to Be Investigated
The specific assignment to be undertaken should be stated explicitly in this section. This involves definition of any crucial terms or concepts connected with the problem and a statement of the major problems to be investigated. One of the best ways to state the problem is to list one or more questions that the study is intended to answer. It is also acceptable, but not always necessary or possible, to state these as hypotheses to be tested. The hypotheses stated must be research hypotheses not null hypotheses. It is only rarely that a null hypotheses is of any interest or is germane to the research proposal.
V. Design of the Study
This section should explain exactly how the study is to be conducted. It will be necessary to define in operational terms the specific questions to be answered. Inevitably, some aspects of the technique must be developed as the study proceeds, but this statement should be as definite as possible. Three points must be considered: sources of data, data collection procedures, and data analysis and presentation procedures.
A. SOURCES OF DATA
Persons: The discussion should state explicitly to what population (e.g., students, classrooms, school districts, etc.) the findings are to be applied. The writer should state the exact procedures for sampling this population and point out any sampling assumption made and any characteristics of the selected groups that limit the application of the findings to other groups. The proposal should discuss what generalizations are possible from a sample of the type used. For most investigations, it is necessary to indicate the approximate number of cases to be studied.
Materials: What materials will be examined and how they will be identified should be stated. If the study will include sampling a population of materials, the writer should explain how the population will be defined and listed, and the writer should also show how the materials will be sampled from this population.
B. PROCEDURES FOR COLLECTING DATA: EVIDENCE TO BE OBTAINED
The proposal should describe in detail the procedures to be used to obtain data. The discussion should point out what precautions are being taken to ensure objectivity, reliability, and validity. If a prerequisite to the main study requires the establishment of the reliability or validity of certain procedures or materials, the writer should identify how such will be accomplished and evaluated. It is not necessary to discuss reliability of standard techniques or sources of data (e.g., standardized tests).
C. TREATMENT AND PRESENTATION OF DATA
In some studies, where treatment follows routine and well-known methods, this section may be brief; in other studies writers will need to explain at length how they intend to proceed from data to conclusions.
Any notable assumptions about the conduct of the study should be made clear. It is not important to list a large number of conventional assumptions, but the writer should indicate those assumptions about education, human nature, or the data used that are necessary to interpret the data and to accept the findings of the study.
Studies that are quantitative in nature and include statistical analyses (e.g., parametric, non- parametric, correlational) must attach an appendix that displays an example of the variety of tables and figures the dissertation will include. These tables and figures should be numbered, titled (according to APA style) and include all pertinent column spanners, column heads, stubheads, stubs, etc. The only part of the tables and figures that cannot be included is, of course, the actual data to be presented.
Studies that are qualitative in nature (e.g., historical, reviews, descriptive-qualitative) should attach an appendix specifying an outline of the topics to be presented. The outline should include major headings of the broad topics to be presented, sub-headings for data to be reported, sub-topics, etc. In some ways this outline will have the appearance of the dissertation's Table of Contents.
VI. Significance of the Study/Need of the Study
In one paragraph of about 100 words, the writer should indicate the importance of the investigation for educational theory and practice. This is an extension of the statement of the problem stipulated in Section III of this proposal outline. In some studies, the significance is fairly obvious, but it must still be stated. In other studies, the implications will require explanation. The statement should answer the question: After completing this investigation, how may we be able to advance educational practice, research methodology, or scientific theory?
The second paragraph of this section should provide sufficient information to convince the advisor that there is a need for this study. That is, after having explicitly stated the research problem and convinced the advisor that it is significant, the writer must now show such mastery of the related literature as to inspire confidence in the advisor that the problem has not been satisfactorily resolved in previous research.
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Master's Thesis Proposal Tips
By Jodie Nicotra, Department of English and Amy Ross, U of I Writing Center
Writing an overview of your project is designed not only to formally announce your intentions as far as your Master’s thesis goes, but also to help you become more fluent in and informed about the topic for your project. 7-8 double-spaced pages should probably be enough.
Broken into fully developed sections, each with a heading, this overview should include:
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How to write a dissertation proposal
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
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If you’ve been tasked with writing a proposal for your dissertation, you may be among the many students who at first feel a little overwhelmed by putting it together. What is a proposal? How should it be presented? What should I include? What should I leave out? What is my supervisor looking for? These are all common questions that we hear students ask over and again.
To help answer these questions and more, this guide will walk you through what a dissertation proposal is, the reasons for its existence and the steps you can take to ensure yours hits the mark.
What is a dissertation proposal?
To answer this, it helps to first touch base on what a dissertation is. Much like an essay, a dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing. However, it differs to an essay in that you are usually responsible for deciding on the topic or focus of the piece yourself.
The first step, therefore, is to choose your topic (also known as a dissertation title). After that, you’ll need to formulate a research question, which is where the dissertation proposal comes in.
A dissertation proposal should cover in detail the research question you are going to analyse and how you plan to conduct your primary and secondary research . It should include the reading you have done up until this point and any outcomes of discussions with your supervisor. To help guard you from criticism when your work is marked, it should also cover any expected limitations in your research, ethical considerations and reasons for your choice of data sample.
A dissertation proposal will usually comprise the following sections:
- Main body, comprised of: o Methodology o Aims and objectives o Literature review o Limitations o Ethical considerations o Timeframe
Not all departments of a university will require you to write a proposal as part of the dissertation, but many will. Once written, you should schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss it. You can then use their feedback to make any changes before you begin conducting your research and writing the main body of the dissertation.
Bear in mind that a dissertation proposal can be fluid; it can manifest and develop as you move through your dissertation journey. The research you carry out and the findings you get may prompt you to tweak your research question, or possibly rewrite it altogether.
Tip: whether you're writing an undergraduate or postgraduate proposal, it's vital you check your course and institution requirements prior to submission. The word count and format can vary between universities and between departments.
Why is a proposal so important?
Overall, a dissertation proposal is essential in preparing you for the dissertation writing process . If done correctly, it will work in much the same way as an in-depth essay plan, providing you with guidance you can use when writing the main body of the work. What's more, it will actually serve to make beginning your dissertation decidedly less frightening.
It's important to note that your dissertation proposal doesn't need to be set in stone. It can and should be subject to much change during the entire dissertation process. You may even find that your original research question changes entirely. Perhaps you'll discover that there's not enough evidence to support your original line of argument, or that your chosen topic is too broad and requires further refinement.
Either way, make sure you a) book in regular meetings with your supervisor, b) adhere carefully to your university’s regulations and c) list the sources that you come across as you do your research , to make sure that they are ready to be included in your bibliography at the end of your work.
The steps before the proposal: reading and selecting a topic
As mentioned at the top of this article, the first stage in your dissertation process will be to read around your subject area and choose a topic. Sounds simple enough, but deciding what to research can be an overwhelming task for some.
One of the easiest ways to begin honing in on a specific topic is to go back through all of the lecture slides, notes and assignments that you have completed so far. Was there a topic that you were particularly interested in? Was there a concept that you thought could have been developed further? Or have you noticed a stark lack of scholarship in your research for an assignment, that suggests to you that further research into this particular subject area is needed?
If you answered no to these questions, then try going with a more general area of personal interest. In this case you can start by looking at relevant journals and publications until you find a more explicit direction.
However you go about choosing your topic, make sure that you make notes of all publications that you use in your research. You will need to include them in your bibliography later on, so it makes life easier if you note them now. Depending upon the referencing system preferred by your university department, you will need the following information:
- Book/Journal title
- Editor(s) (edited books only)
- Chapter Title
- URL (for online sources only)
Consult your departmental handbook or ask your supervisor if you need clarification of what information to use when referencing.
Tip: Above all, make sure that your topic is something that you find exciting/interesting enough to study in depth over a long period of time – getting fed up halfway through will not help with your motivation!
Getting down to business: narrowing your focus and choosing existing literature to include
The more reading that you do, the more you should be able to refine your research questions. If you aim to address an area that is too broad, you will risk generalisation and run out of space in your word count.
It could be that you identify one particularly interesting study, but realise that its findings are outdated, or are not easily applicable to modern times. You may decide that you want to investigate whether the findings would be the same in more recent research.
Remember: thinking critically about your sources is integral to achieving high marks. You should consider:
- The date of publication – is the source outdated?
- Has there been any significant development that would affect the field of research since the study was carried out?
- Can you identify any methodological errors that would undermine the results that the authors presented?
- Are there any ethical concerns that you believe should be rectified in any future studies of the same topic?
- Is there any other type of bias that you can cite when considering the author’s characteristics?
- Are there external factors, or events happening simultaneously to the research, that would affect the author’s findings or provide the potential for bias?
Showing that you are able to attribute value to the sources you have used based upon their ‘fallibility’ will represent critical engagement with the literature and you will be awarded with higher marks.
Putting pen to paper: take a deep breath and…
Don’t worry if you are not completely certain of your hypothesis at this point. With the guidance of your supervisor, you will be able to alter the direction of your research as you go. Although by now, you should have a clear idea of the potential for your research, and what your conclusions might be . Depending upon whether your course is of a scientific or mathematical nature, meaning that you are likely to be dealing with experiments providing you with definitive results and quantitative analysis; or a more theoretical nature, meaning that your research will mainly be qualitative; your hypothesis will be proven or disproven throughout the course of your dissertation.
The first step in creating your dissertation proposal should be planning its structure. Like the dissertation itself, your proposal will require an introduction, a main section and a conclusion. As a brief guide:
This is where you will need to introduce your topic. It should provide a ‘backdrop’ to your more specific research by exploring the background to the wider subject area. You should also lay out your main thesis/hypothesis here, and explain why you feel that research into this area is important.
This is usually composed of the following subsections:
The methodology section of your proposal is where you will outline the methods through which you will collect and process your data. You should include how and what you are going to do. If your research is quantitative in nature, this will probably include a reference to a questionnaire, survey, or data source, and you should make clear the scope of your research (e.g how many participants are going to be involved). You will also need to explain why you have selected the methods that you have – are they more specific to your research area? How?
Here you will highlight the main issues that you are attempting to explore. What is it that you want to achieve? What are the main questions that you are looking to answer? What predictions can you make?
The literature review gives you the opportunity to make a really good argument for the importance of your research, and connect it to similar research, or present it as an extension to other existing studies. You will need to list the most important sources that you have consulted thus far in your research, and how they helped you to guide your own research. If you can, placing your work alongside others to show how it further elaborates or contributes to the more general field will show that you have adequately prepared for your proposal. There is potential to include any flaws that you may have identified within this existing work, and how you will avoid this in your own dissertation. Only include sources that you can show will add value to your work.
Part of writing an effective and informative piece of research is recognising the limits that are imposed upon your ability to explore and present your findings. Some limitations may refer directly to the word count, explaining that there are further issues that you will not have a chance to or space to address. Completing this section clearly shows that you have engaged with your subject matter and are familiar with the wider concepts relating to your topic.
Are there any ethical concerns relating to your research? Have you secured permission from your subject(s)/participants to be interviewed or included in your research? More information on ethics can be found in the following section below.
Often, dissertation proposals will include an estimated timeframe for the delivery of work to their supervisor. This may be on a chapter-by-chapter basis, or you may begin with the actual research, so that you are able to perfect this part before moving on to writing about it. Make sure that you are realistic, and allow some time for your initial research before jumping straight in to getting words on the page.
Conclusion (of sorts)
You do not necessarily need to include a ‘conclusion’ in your proposal, but it might be a good idea to round off with a reminder of your reasons for choosing the topic, the type of research you will be carrying out and your expected outcomes. For example:
"I have chosen to investigate the relationship between ___ and ___ since I believe that proving a positive correlation would have serious implications for ___, and that carrying out further qualitative research in this area will be integral to improving understanding. After having identified the limitations of previous studies in this field, I have worked on producing a methodology that will avoid these same pitfalls, and predict that the research will portray a strong enough relationship between the two factors to encourage further scholarship."
Ethics, ethics, ethics...
A dissertation proposal, or indeed a dissertation, without reference to ethics, leaves itself dangerously ‘open’ to criticism. It does not matter how ground-breaking your findings are, they can be seriously undermined if you have not allowed room for ethical considerations within your planning, preparation, and research phases.
The term ‘ethics’ is used academically to refer to moral principles or concerns that can be found throughout any kind of research. You will perhaps have noticed that a large amount of the criticisms of existing studies are in relation to their neglect of consideration for ethical principles. Although this might sound complicated, once you begin to go over the basics, and continue to repeat the process for each of the studies you incorporate into your work, it will soon become second nature.
As a ‘starting point’ for your dissertation proposal, you should consider the following:
Make it clear why you are doing this research. Proving that you have a solid basis upon which to suggest further investigation of your topic, and highlighting what you hope to gain from carrying it out, means that you are justifying your work in this area and the contribution that you will make to your field. Outlining your aims and objectives is also a way to mitigate any claims that you are completing your research for some ‘self-serving’ purpose. Integrity and value should be upheld throughout your proposal, planning, research, and writing phases.
Keep participants well-informed. Anyone involved at any stage of your research, whether directly included as a participant or not, should be told the reasons for your work and the way that their ‘data’ will be incorporated and used in your eventual paper. Participants should be made aware of their participation and should know exactly what to expect, what is expected from them and what the ‘risks’ of their involvement are. Planning to utilise a ‘consent form’ and providing participants with a ‘fact sheet’ reminding them of this information would be two good ways of making sure that you have covered all bases.
Keep it confidential. Confidentiality and anonymity are central to research participation, and it is your duty as a researcher to do everything in your power to ensure that your participants can not be identified within your work and that their information is protected and/or encrypted whilst in your possession. Using pseudonyms such as ‘Person A’ and ‘Person B’ can be helpful in writing up and labelling your transcripts.
Your supervisor should be able to help you take all necessary precautions when tailoring your methodology to your specific research proposal.
What should I do differently when writing a postgraduate proposal?
Essentially, there is little difference when approaching a master’s dissertation proposal , except that you are expected to present a more in-depth methodology section and perhaps be a little more critical of existing literature within your literature review section. A more complete awareness of the subject area is a requirement, but this should come fairly easily as a result of the extra study you have completed already.
When writing a PhD thesis proposal however, you must remember that you are now expected to do more than simply regurgitate the theories and studies of others. You are required to show that you are able to adequately extend the existing literature, as well as interpret and criticise it. This may mean that you spend a lot longer searching for a topic, as you will want to identify a concept that still has room for exploration.
There are several things that you will need to include that have not already been mentioned above:
- As a PhD research proposal is usually submitted directly to your department of choice, you should make clear your reasons for choosing that particular university over other competitors. Does this department have a history of research in the specific area you are writing in? Is there a research grant you are hoping to apply for?
- Within your methodology section, it is important to include a description of the research techniques that you are planning to use. Are these ‘new’? Or have they been used effectively in similar studies previously?
Tip: be sure to follow any departmental guidance in terms of word count, and if you are applying for a research grant be sure to relate everything back to the aims and objectives outlined within the accompanying details.
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How To Write A Research Proposal
5 essential ingredients for a top-notch dissertation or thesis proposal.
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | August 2019
Writing up a strong research proposal for a dissertation or thesis is much like a marriage proposal. It’s a task that calls on you to win somebody over and persuade them that what you’re planning is a great idea. An idea they’re happy to say ‘yes’ to. This means that your dissertation proposal needs to be persuasive , attractive and well-planned. In this post, I’ll show you how to write a winning dissertation proposal, from scratch.
Before you start:
– Understand exactly what a research proposal is – Ask yourself these 4 questions
The 5 essential ingredients:
- The title/topic
- The introduction chapter
- The scope/delimitations
- Preliminary literature review
- Design/ methodology
- Practical considerations and risks
What Is A Research Proposal?
The research proposal is literally that: a written document that communicates what you propose to research, in a concise format. It’s where you put all that stuff that’s spinning around in your head down on to paper, in a logical, convincing fashion.
Convincing is the keyword here, as your research proposal needs to convince the assessor that your research is clearly articulated (i.e., a clear research question), worth doing (i.e., is unique and valuable enough to justify the effort), and doable within the restrictions you’ll face (time limits, budget, skill limits, etc.). If your proposal does not address these three criteria, your research won’t be approved, no matter how “exciting” the research idea might be.
How do I know I’m ready?
Before starting the writing process, you need to ask yourself 4 important questions . If you can’t answer them succinctly and confidently, you’re not ready – you need to go back and think more deeply about your dissertation topic .
You should be able to answer the following 4 questions before starting your dissertation or thesis research proposal:
- WHAT is my main research question? (the topic)
- WHO cares and why is this important? (the justification)
- WHAT data would I need to answer this question, and how will I analyse it? (the research design)
- HOW will I manage the completion of this research, within the given timelines? (project and risk management)
If you can’t answer these questions clearly and concisely, you’re not yet ready to write your research proposal – revisit our post on choosing a topic .
If you can, that’s great – it’s time to start writing up your dissertation proposal. Next, I’ll discuss what needs to go into your research proposal, and how to structure it all into an intuitive, convincing document with a linear narrative.
The 5 Essential Ingredients
Research proposals can vary in style between institutions and disciplines, but here I’ll share with you a handy 5-section structure you can use. These 5 sections directly address the core questions we spoke about earlier, ensuring that you present a convincing proposal. If your institution already provides a proposal template, there will likely be substantial overlap with this, so you’ll still get value from reading on.
For each section discussed below, make sure you use headers and sub-headers (ideally, numbered headers) to help the reader navigate through your document, and to support them when they need to revisit a previous section. Don’t just present an endless wall of text, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph…
Top Tip: Use MS Word Styles to format headings. This will allow you to be clear about whether a sub-heading is level 2, 3, or 4. Additionally, you can view your document in ‘outline view’ which will show you only your headings. This makes it much easier to check your structure, shift things around and make decisions about where a section needs to sit. You can also generate a 100% accurate table of contents using Word’s automatic functionality.
Ingredient #1 – Topic/Title Header
Your research proposal’s title should be your main research question in its simplest form, possibly with a sub-heading providing basic details on the specifics of the study. For example:
“Compliance with equality legislation in the charity sector: a study of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ made in three London care homes”
As you can see, this title provides a clear indication of what the research is about, in broad terms. It paints a high-level picture for the first-time reader, which gives them a taste of what to expect. Always aim for a clear, concise title . Don’t feel the need to capture every detail of your research in your title – your proposal will fill in the gaps.
Need a helping hand?
Ingredient #2 – Introduction
In this section of your research proposal, you’ll expand on what you’ve communicated in the title, by providing a few paragraphs which offer more detail about your research topic. Importantly, the focus here is the topic – what will you research and why is that worth researching? This is not the place to discuss methodology, practicalities, etc. – you’ll do that later.
You should cover the following:
- An overview of the broad area you’ll be researching – introduce the reader to key concepts and language
- An explanation of the specific (narrower) area you’ll be focusing, and why you’ll be focusing there
- Your research aims and objectives
- Your research question (s) and sub-questions (if applicable)
Importantly, you should aim to use short sentences and plain language – don’t babble on with extensive jargon, acronyms and complex language. Assume that the reader is an intelligent layman – not a subject area specialist (even if they are). Remember that the best writing is writing that can be easily understood and digested. Keep it simple.
Note that some universities may want some extra bits and pieces in your introduction section. For example, personal development objectives, a structural outline, etc. Check your brief to see if there are any other details they expect in your proposal, and make sure you find a place for these.
Ingredient #3 – Scope
Next, you’ll need to specify what the scope of your research will be – this is also known as the delimitations . In other words, you need to make it clear what you will be covering and, more importantly, what you won’t be covering in your research. Simply put, this is about ring fencing your research topic so that you have a laser-sharp focus.
All too often, students feel the need to go broad and try to address as many issues as possible, in the interest of producing comprehensive research. Whilst this is admirable, it’s a mistake. By tightly refining your scope, you’ll enable yourself to go deep with your research, which is what you need to earn good marks. If your scope is too broad, you’re likely going to land up with superficial research (which won’t earn marks), so don’t be afraid to narrow things down.
Ingredient #4 – Literature Review
In this section of your research proposal, you need to provide a (relatively) brief discussion of the existing literature. Naturally, this will not be as comprehensive as the literature review in your actual dissertation, but it will lay the foundation for that. In fact, if you put in the effort at this stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when it’s time to write your actual literature review chapter.
There are a few things you need to achieve in this section:
- Demonstrate that you’ve done your reading and are familiar with the current state of the research in your topic area.
- Show that there’s a clear gap for your specific research – i.e., show that your topic is sufficiently unique and will add value to the existing research.
- Show how the existing research has shaped your thinking regarding research design . For example, you might use scales or questionnaires from previous studies.
When you write up your literature review, keep these three objectives front of mind, especially number two (revealing the gap in the literature), so that your literature review has a clear purpose and direction . Everything you write should be contributing towards one (or more) of these objectives in some way. If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself whether it’s truly needed.
Top Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of just describing the main pieces of literature, for example, “A says this, B says that, C also says that…” and so on. Merely describing the literature provides no value. Instead, you need to synthesise it, and use it to address the three objectives above.
Ingredient #5 – Research Design
Now that you’ve clearly explained both your intended research topic (in the introduction) and the existing research it will draw on (in the literature review section), it’s time to get practical and explain exactly how you’ll be carrying out your own research. In other words, your research design.
In this section, you’ll need to answer two critical questions :
- How will you design your research? I.e., what research methodology will you adopt, what will your sample be, how will you collect data, etc.
- Why have you chosen this design? I.e., why does this approach suit your specific research aims, objectives and questions?
In other words, this is not just about explaining WHAT you’ll be doing, it’s also about explaining WHY. In fact, the justification is the most important part , because that justification is how you demonstrate a good understanding of research design (which is what assessors want to see).
Some essential design choices you need to cover in your research proposal include:
- Your intended research philosophy (e.g., positivism, interpretivism or pragmatism )
- What methodological approach you’ll be taking (e.g., qualitative , quantitative or mixed )
- The details of your sample (e.g., sample size, who they are, who they represent, etc.)
- What data you plan to collect (i.e. data about what, in what form?)
- How you plan to collect it (e.g., surveys , interviews , focus groups, etc.)
- How you plan to analyse it (e.g., regression analysis, thematic analysis , etc.)
- Ethical adherence (i.e., does this research satisfy all ethical requirements of your institution, or does it need further approval?)
This list is not exhaustive – these are just some core attributes of research design. Check with your institution what level of detail they expect. The “ research onion ” by Saunders et al (2009) provides a good summary of the various design choices you ultimately need to make – you can read more about that here .
Don’t forget the practicalities…
In addition to the technical aspects, you will need to address the practical side of the project. In other words, you need to explain what resources you’ll need (e.g., time, money, access to equipment or software, etc.) and how you intend to secure these resources. You need to show that your project is feasible, so any “make or break” type resources need to already be secured. The success or failure of your project cannot depend on some resource which you’re not yet sure you have access to.
Another part of the practicalities discussion is project and risk management . In other words, you need to show that you have a clear project plan to tackle your research with. Some key questions to address:
- What are the timelines for each phase of your project?
- Are the time allocations reasonable?
- What happens if something takes longer than anticipated (risk management)?
- What happens if you don’t get the response rate you expect?
A good way to demonstrate that you’ve thought this through is to include a Gantt chart and a risk register (in the appendix if word count is a problem). With these two tools, you can show that you’ve got a clear, feasible plan, and you’ve thought about and accounted for the potential risks.
Tip – Be honest about the potential difficulties – but show that you are anticipating solutions and workarounds. This is much more impressive to an assessor than an unrealistically optimistic proposal which does not anticipate any challenges whatsoever.
Final Touches: Read And Simplify
The final step is to edit and proofread your proposal – very carefully. It sounds obvious, but all too often poor editing and proofreading ruin a good proposal. Nothing is more off-putting for an assessor than a poorly edited, typo-strewn document. It sends the message that you either do not pay attention to detail, or just don’t care. Neither of these are good messages. Put the effort into editing and proofreading your proposal (or pay someone to do it for you) – it will pay dividends.
When you’re editing, watch out for ‘academese’. Many students can speak simply, passionately and clearly about their dissertation topic – but become incomprehensible the moment they turn the laptop on. You are not required to write in any kind of special, formal, complex language when you write academic work. Sure, there may be technical terms, jargon specific to your discipline, shorthand terms and so on. But, apart from those, keep your written language very close to natural spoken language – just as you would speak in the classroom. Imagine that you are explaining your project plans to your classmates or a family member. Remember, write for the intelligent layman, not the subject matter experts. Plain-language, concise writing is what wins hearts and minds – and marks!
Let’s Recap: Research Proposal 101
And there you have it – how to write your dissertation or thesis research proposal, from title page to final proof. Here’s a quick recap on the key takeaways:
- The purpose of the research proposal is to convince – therefore, you need to make a clear, concise argument of why your research is both worth doing and doable.
- Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, how questions of your research before you put pen to paper.
- Title – provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms
- Introduction – explains what you’ll be researching in more detail
- Scope – explains the boundaries of your research
- Literature review – explains how your research fits into the existing research and why it’s unique and valuable
- Research design – explains and justifies how you will carry out your own research
Hopefully, this post has helped you better understand how to write up a winning research proposal. If you enjoyed it, be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach Blog . If your university doesn’t provide any template for your proposal, you might want to try out our free research proposal template .
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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Thank you so much for the valuable insight that you have given, especially on the research proposal. That is what I have managed to cover. I still need to go back to the other parts as I got disturbed while still listening to Derek’s audio on you-tube. I am inspired. I will definitely continue with Grad-coach guidance on You-tube.
Thanks for the kind words :). All the best with your proposal.
First of all, thanks a lot for making such a wonderful presentation. The video was really useful and gave me a very clear insight of how a research proposal has to be written. I shall try implementing these ideas in my RP.
Once again, I thank you for this content.
I found reading your outline on writing research proposal very beneficial. I wish there was a way of submitting my draft proposal to you guys for critiquing before I submit to the institution.
Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we do provide a review service. The best starting point is to have a chat with one of our coaches here: https://gradcoach.com/book/new/ .
Hello team GRADCOACH, may God bless you so much. I was totally green in research. Am so happy for your free superb tutorials and resources. Once again thank you so much Derek and his team.
You’re welcome, Erick. Good luck with your research proposal 🙂
thank you for the information. its precise and on point.
Really a remarkable piece of writing and great source of guidance for the researchers. GOD BLESS YOU for your guidance. Regards
Thanks so much for your guidance. It is easy and comprehensive the way you explain the steps for a winning research proposal.
Thank you guys so much for the rich post. I enjoyed and learn from every word in it. My problem now is how to get into your platform wherein I can always seek help on things related to my research work ? Secondly, I wish to find out if there is a way I can send my tentative proposal to you guys for examination before I take to my supervisor Once again thanks very much for the insights
Thanks for your kind words, Desire.
If you are based in a country where Grad Coach’s paid services are available, you can book a consultation by clicking the “Book” button in the top right.
Best of luck with your studies.
May God bless you team for the wonderful work you are doing,
If I have a topic, Can I submit it to you so that you can draft a proposal for me?? As I am expecting to go for masters degree in the near future.
Thanks for your comment. We definitely cannot draft a proposal for you, as that would constitute academic misconduct. The proposal needs to be your own work. We can coach you through the process, but it needs to be your own work and your own writing.
Best of luck with your research!
I found a lot of many essential concepts from your material. it is real a road map to write a research proposal. so thanks a lot. If there is any update material on your hand on MBA please forward to me.
GradCoach is a professional website that presents support and helps for MBA student like me through the useful online information on the page and with my 1-on-1 online coaching with the amazing and professional PhD Kerryen.
Thank you Kerryen so much for the support and help 🙂
I really recommend dealing with such a reliable services provider like Gradcoah and a coach like Kerryen.
Hi, Am happy for your service and effort to help students and researchers, Please, i have been given an assignment on research for strategic development, the task one is to formulate a research proposal to support the strategic development of a business area, my issue here is how to go about it, especially the topic or title and introduction. Please, i would like to know if you could help me and how much is the charge.
This content is practical, valuable, and just great!
Thank you very much!
Hi Derek, Thank you for the valuable presentation. It is very helpful especially for beginners like me. I am just starting my PhD.
This is quite instructive and research proposal made simple. Can I have a research proposal template?
Great! Thanks for rescuing me, because I had no former knowledge in this topic. But with this piece of information, I am now secured. Thank you once more.
I enjoyed listening to your video on how to write a proposal. I think I will be able to write a winning proposal with your advice. I wish you were to be my supervisor.
Dear Derek Jansen,
Thank you for your great content. I couldn’t learn these topics in MBA, but now I learned from GradCoach. Really appreciate your efforts….
I have got very essential inputs for startup of my dissertation proposal. Well organized properly communicated with video presentation. Thank you for the presentation.
Wow, this is absolutely amazing guys. Thank you so much for the fruitful presentation, you’ve made my research much easier.
this helps me a lot. thank you all so much for impacting in us. may god richly bless you all
How I wish I’d learn about Grad Coach earlier. I’ve been stumbling around writing and rewriting! Now I have concise clear directions on how to put this thing together. Thank you!
Fantastic!! Thank You for this very concise yet comprehensive guidance.
Even if I am poor in English I would like to thank you very much.
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Home / Blog / Grad Schools / 8 Tips for an Excellent Dissertation Proposal
8 Tips for an Excellent Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal is a notice of the intention to conduct a research. Students with research courses prepare dissertation proposals the previous semester. They get the approval for doing the research if they satisfy the required criteria. The tutor you get will be responsible for recommending corrections if there are errors.
Undertaking research can be a daunting task and it dictates that a student should prepare well enough. Objectivity of the research is outlined by how well the proposal is prepared and presented. This process can be quite challenging to a lot of students, especially those carrying out research for the first time.
Excellent proposal writing necessitates that you understand that a dissertation proposal is neither an essay nor a mini dissertation. Making this distinction will enable you to improve your write up and pass it out as professional work.
Here are some tips on how to write an excellent dissertation proposal. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to writing an excellent dissertation.
Identify the Research Methodology
Your first step should be identifying how you will go about conducting the research. You need to have a thorough understanding of the variables involved. Should you get mixed up, you will lose direction, and your research will flop. Choosing a methodology that’s difficult to comprehend will result in you failing to achieve your objectives. You will not be able to achieve the desired results if you have no idea of how the various research methods available to you work.
You will choose what methods to use in your research according to how your research is designed and what objectives you want to achieve. It’s wise to apply simple methodologies for researches with simple designs and few objectives. Complex designs with several objectives require complex methods and at times may require a combination of two methods.
Excellent dissertation proposals clearly show the methods to be used and the logic behind the choice as well. This shows that you understand what’s going on and what you’re doing.
Understand the Analyzing Software
Your research will make sense after the findings are analyzed and processed into meaningful information. If you carried out a complex research and you need some specialized formatting and applications, it is necessary to understand them well.
Some applications have been developed for this purpose. Some specialized research requires the development of custom software, but some of the basic examples include SPSS, SAS, Minitab, Matlab, and E-Views.
These software require some level of training and understanding of their workability. If you don’t understand how to apply the software in your research, its quality can be compromised to some degree. But this doesn’t mean your research will fail. You can hire someone who will do the data analysis for you.
For your dissertation to be approved, you will be required to indicate which software you will use for your data analysis. Choose the most efficient software according to the design of your research. Also, always choose the application that you’re most comfortable using or the one you have the best understanding of. Choosing something difficult will result in reduced efficiency.
Take a Look at Online Samples
The internet provides endless samples of different research formats. Apart from your book references and consultations, you can examine online sources too. There are samples that have already been approved, and these are the best sources for reference as they offer an understanding of how your document should be structured.
For every proposal that you’re going to prepare, you will be presented with different sets of regulations. Referring to a proposal that has already been approved can give you a highlight of the kind of flexibility you can adopt and implement into your proposal. Look for samples with high rates and rankings as well as samples from reputable individuals.
Consult your fellow students and colleagues about where to get the best links to the best samples. You should check out all the links that you’re given before you dismiss or lose them.
Your proposal is one amongst many. In the offices of admissions agencies and funding organizations, there are hundreds of proposals. Your proposal must stand out for it to be noticed.
Ensure your work is original by eliminating plagiarism. Plagiarized work can result in disqualification and discontinuation. You should use online plagiarism checkers such as Copyscape or the plagiarism check function on Grammarly . Above this, you should ensure that you’ve laid emphasis on how creative, resourceful, and innovative you are. These are the points and features that will enhance the approval chances for your proposal. If possible, put in a few details to spice up your proposal.
Excellent dissertation proposals must portray the effort that the author will put into the work. A proposal that appears to be lifted from somewhere else snuffles out all chances you have at impressing the reader.
Successfully completing any task presented to you takes lots of planning. It needs identifying what needs to be done, establishing a timeframe and finally, knowing what resources are at your disposal. The same applies to writing your dissertation proposal.
Writing your proposal isn’t something you just wake up and do. You will need to carefully plot out a map of how you will go about writing your proposal. Taking time to carefully plan your work is an effective way of minimizing the chances of you leaving out important material. Planning helps with knowing when to do what. As a plus, you get to avoid a last-minute rush to do your proposal. When planning, you get to set deadlines for completing the various sections of your dissertation. It is at this stage that you get to identify the various sections that will constitute your dissertation.
Preparing an excellent dissertation comes down to how much planning and execution we put into it. We all love a good presentation; no one is a fan of half-baked work. Therefore, plan to the smallest of detail to ensure that you don’t leave anything out.
Consult With Your Supervisor
When preparing your dissertation proposal, set aside some time for consulting with your assigned supervisor. Your supervisor certainly has more experience than you do. Explore this opportunity to your advantage. Supervisors are meant to guide you and correct you when you make mistakes and so on. If what you truly seek is excellence, then you’ll need all the help that you can get. The role of your supervisor isn’t to make your life difficult, but rather to make it more bearable. It would be foolish not to tap into that opportunity.
In life, we all need that mentor or guide to help us out when we are stranded or are in a fix or just need inspiration. Being successful in all that you undertake takes a team effort. You may not see it yet, but in everything you have done, you have gotten some assistance in one way or another, no matter how minute it may seem. Therefore, be ready to get all the help you can when you set out to do your dissertation proposal. Your supervisor is on your team and you will need their help to prepare an excellent document.
Proofread Your Work
Take time to go through your work thoroughly. When preparing your document, you may have made mistakes – that’s why you should always have a rough draft and a final document. Your rough draft is the raw work without any editing which means it may have spelling and grammar errors, different fonts and spacing, and generally any mistakes that you may expect in a document. Getting rid of these mistakes is quite simple, just read and reread your work when you’re done. Picture proofreading as a refining process. Nothing beats a proposal that’s free of mistakes and has flow. It’s fun to read such a document.
Proofreading has become easy to do. All thanks to the internet that offers a large number of online tools and platforms offering proofreading services. These tools can provide a broad range of services including plagiarism checking, grammar and spell checks, and sentence flow check. These tools are a timesaver for you.
You’ll need to have a grasp of the material that you’re writing about. Be knowledgeable. The best way to do so is by doing thorough and extensive research before you start writing. Get all the information that will be relevant to your work. It’s such a disappointment to present incorrect information in your dissertation proposal.
Be ready to defend your work. The research will help you have all the relevant information at your fingertips. Should anything you put down in proposal be challenged, you will have no problem defending it. Researching helps you include information that’s current and accurate. How well you have mastered your content inspires confidence and makes you write even better.
The assumption that most people have is that writing a dissertation proposal is a difficult task to accomplish. But as you see, it’s really not. Planning is the key to preparing an excellent proposal. The most common mistake we all tend to make is that we begin writing prematurely. Prepare yourself by researching and taking the time to proofread your work after you are done . And please don’t ignore your supervisor, they play a significant role in the success of your proposal.
The internet is bursting with a myriad of materials you can use to improve the quality of your dissertation proposal. Before starting on your work, you can check the web for samples to understand what will be expected of you. Custom writing services are also available! Exploit all the resources at your disposal – time, the internet, your supervisor, and your abilities. Excellence is achievable when you are dedicated to attaining it.
Kevin Nelson started his career as a research analyst and has changed his sphere of activity to writing services and content marketing. Apart from writing, he spends a lot of time reading psychology and management literature searching for the keystones of motivation ideas. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter , Linkedin & Google+ .
All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com.
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Dissertation proposal tips for overwhelmed students
Your dissertation proposal (also known as dissertation prospectus) may be some of your hardest writing to date. The depth needed to write a successful dissertation proposal catches PhD students off guard. Most other papers you have written to date were likely shorter and less preemptive than the proposal you are about to craft. A good dissertation proposal demands that you document meticulous plans for actions that you will not take for another 12 months or more.
Rest assured that the overwhelming feeling you are facing (or are about to face) is natural and even part of the process of extracting a focused dissertation topic and writing a convincing proposal. The proposal will require that you mentally extract your research topic from a general area of study.
How to write your dissertation proposal
The best advice to take to bed tonight is that the sanest approach to crafting your proposal is to follow a few organizational principles. Chances are that you already have a lot of the content you need for the proposal. If you have written papers leading up to your dissertation proposal, you have a plethora of (unorganized) content awaiting.
1. Clearly understand that the purpose of your proposal is to help design a roadmap for the rest of your dissertation research. It’s a plan that can be executed. Similar to how a business plan is a document that can be simulated or executed by a company, your dissertation proposal is the blueprint you will follow to conduct research. When you get approval of your proposal from the dissertation committee, think of it as a green light to execute the blueprint. It’s a contract between you and your dissertation committee.
2. Print all the previous papers you have written related to your field of study. Don’t limit your scope to just papers. Print relevant notes from courses, conferences, and outside research related to your topic. Yes, print them all and surpress your inner environmentalist – the time to save trees will come later.
3. Organize your papers and notes into buckets of similar themes. Each theme bucket will serve as a major section in your dissertation proposal that will support your research question.
5. Write, write, and write. The best advice from students who have gone through this process is to write every day even if you feel you are writing aimlessly. The biggest hurdle students face in the dissertation proposal process is disciplined daily writing.
6. Take your first draft to your advisor and get their feedback. Don’t waste time editing our revising your draft until you know your ship is pointed in the right direction.
Final tips on your dissertation prospectus
Your dissertation represents your finest hour and the zenith of your academic career. Your dissertation proposal is the first pillar of your finest hour. Well-crafted proposal are a goldmine to earning the trust of a powerful dissertation committee who will in turn fuel your path to completion. Conversely, if you fail to produce a materially convincing dissertation prospectus, you are in for a long and lonely journey.
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What should your proposal look like? · A succinct introduction to your topic and problem statement · A brief literature review situating your
Writing a Dissertation Proposal ; An introduction to your dissertation topic; Aims and objectives of your dissertation · Proposed methodology to be used ; The
Audience: Most proposals are written specifically for your academic advisor and committee. Proposal Writing and Anxiety. General Advice: ▫ Establish a writing
How to write a dissertation proposal · 1. Introduction · 2. Main body / Problem statement · 3. Aims & Objectives · 4. Anticipated results · 5. Methodology · 6.
An Outline for Writing the Dissertation Proposal · I. Cover Page · II. Abstract · III. Background of the Problem to Be Investigated · IV. Problem to Be Investigated.
Master's Thesis Proposal Tips ... Writing an overview of your project is designed not only to formally announce your intentions as far as your Master's thesis
A dissertation proposal should cover in detail the research question you are going to analyse and how you plan to conduct your primary and
Writing up a strong research proposal for a dissertation or thesis is much like a marriage proposal. It's a task that calls on you to win somebody over and
8 Tips for an Excellent Dissertation Proposal · Identify the Research Methodology. Your first step should be identifying how you will go about
2. Print all the previous papers you have written related to your field of study. Don't limit your scope to just papers. Print relevant notes