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How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

Dissertation proposal


If you have not heard of a scary phrase “dissertation proposal”, you are either a careless (and happy) person without the need for higher education or … No, there is no other option. We suppose that even Hogwarts requires to write a dissertation proposal. It is a nightmare of all the students. But today, we are going to fight your “dementor” as Harry Potter did. How exactly? Knowledge is your ultimate power. This article will help you to put together a killer dissertation proposal. 

Basically, the dissertation proposal is a formal document that outlines your dissertation in more depth. It is usually a few thousand words, but a lot of departments have a set format for this, so you should check your module handbook for details. It is not a mini-dissertation but a map for future research. You should keep in mind that the dissertation proposal is not an essay or an assignment, it has to show that the followed-up dissertation will have an argument and supporting points to prove it. What else should you know? Where to start? How to end? Read on to know all of the details or ask for help from the authors of the most reliable dissertation writing service on the Web.

What a Professor Is Looking for in Your Dissertation Proposal?


Student is writing


Usually, dissertation proposals have a fairly standard format, and it tends not to deviate so much. However, before we start, it is worth noting one more time that all educational institutions and programs have their own, specific formats and requirements, so make sure you check these out before submitting yours. These tips though should help you to think about your ideas and frame them in a way that is exciting and attractive to the committee. 

Whether you are applying to do a Ph.D. or potentially partway through a master's degree, a dissertation or research proposal is something that you are likely going to write somewhere along the way. Essentially, it is a document that sets out what you are trying to achieve with a particular piece of the research. The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to demonstrate your critical thinking on the topic and your ability to synthesize the supporting literature. 

What does a dissertation proposal do? It proposes a research study and clarifies the question that you want to have answered. It contains the definition, scope, and significance of the problem and the methodology that will be used to solve it. 

Professors are looking for a select number of things in your dissertation proposal. Firstly, are you a student that has a good knowledge of the topic? Second, do you have an interesting research question? Third, do you know how to examine your research question appropriately? The number four is would your proposed research tell a coherent story that would add value to your specific field? We will go through each of these questions in turn.

Structure Your Dissertation Proposal: Step-by-step Guide

Step 1. Knowledge of the Field

Key points:

- review your literature;

- mention key theories;

- mention key researches.

It is a good idea to spend the first portion of your dissertation proposal setting the context of the area of your research. What is already known? Are there any major theories or researchers that play a key role in how your topic is understood? What you are trying to do in this section is to set yourself up as a knowledgeable and academic candidate. By doing this, you demonstrate a range of skills like literature reviewing, bringing together research, and evaluating what is currently known.

Step 2. State Your Question




Key points:

- What is the knowledge gap?

- What type of question are you posing?

Whatever your review area is, you should be able to set yourself up for stating what your research question is. Identify what the gaps are in current knowledge and pose an interesting question related to why this might be. Your question can be theoretical in nature or it can be geared around the particular problem. It does not matter which approach you take; the key is to make it sound impactful and grounded in the literature that you have just reviewed.

Basically, the formulation of the research question is generally done after the literature review. It is crucial to remember that your question should be answered not by the literature review, but through collection and analysis of empirical data. If your research question can all be perfectly answered just by reading some textbooks and articles, then what is the point of conducting empirical research?

Now, that you know what your dissertation proposal is going to investigate, next, you need to decide on how this investigation can be carried out. In other words, you have to make some methodological decisions for the dissertation proposal.

Step 3. Choose Your Methods 

Key point:

show an awareness of different approaches;

clarify the details of data collection.

Unfortunately, you can't just do a big literature review and call it your dissertation proposal. It is crucial at this stage that you demonstrate you know different ways to answer your question. There may even be sub-questions with different methods attached to them. What you need in this section is to show that you have a few key skills. First, an understanding of the constraints of your research question – what are the limits to what your question can answer? Do not overstretch and try to explain issues that are only tangentially related to what you want to look at. 

Second, you have to demonstrate that you realize that different questions require different methods. If you are looking at causality, for example, then the experimental method will be the best one. If you just want to look at the links between different issues, which is quite common in social sciences, then larger scale surveys may be the best approach.  

In this section, most educational institutions would probably ask for the following aspects to be clarified - research design, data collection instruments, and procedure, sample, planned data analysis.  Under research design you are expected to explain which type of research your study is going to fall under – is it exploratory, descriptive, causal, etc.? Next, in the dissertation proposal, you also need to indicate what kind of data is necessary for your research and how exactly you are going to collect it. 

Then, you have to clearly state whether you will use qualitative data or quantitative data. After that, describe how we are going to collect these data — will there be a survey? Are you planning to interview people or conduct observation? Will there be some kind of experiments? Or will you use other data collection instruments?

Step 4. Create Your Story

Yes, it may sound essay-like, but the key piece of advice that all of the professors pass to students is that your dissertation proposal should tell a story. It can take one of two forms. The first is perhaps the easiest to understand, and that is the story of discovery. Your dissertation proposal could move from one study to the next with each study adding incrementally to the answer to your question. With this approach, each study will flow into the next, making it easy to see the links between them.

The second approach of storytelling in your dissertation proposal is the development of your story. This is where you have a set of studies that you have lined up from the outset and reveal what you have learned throughout your journey of conducting these pieces of works. And lastly, as in old-fashioned articles, you have to answer this question: what are your potential challenges and hurdles to overcome?

These four simple steps are the magic wand that will help you to fight not only dementors but someone “who must not be named” as well.


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