How to write a dissertation proposal | A step by step guide (2023)

Athesis proposalDescribes the research you want to do: what it is about, how you will do it, and why it is worth doing. You will probably have to write a proposal before you start yourdissertationas an undergraduate or graduate student.

A thesis proposal should generally include:

  • Oneintroductionyour topic and goals
  • Aliterature reviewof the current state of knowledge
  • An outline of your proposal.methodology
  • A discussion about the possibletranscendenceOf the investigation
  • Abibliographyfrom relevant sources

Thesis proposals vary greatly in terms of length and structure, so be sure to follow any guidelines your institution gives you, and check with your supervisor when you're unsure.


  1. Step 1: Have an idea
  2. Step 2: Introducing your idea in the introduction
  3. Step 3: Explore Related Research in the Literature Review
  4. Step 4: Describing your methodology
  5. Step 5: Describe the potential implications of your research
  6. Step 6: Creating a reference list or bibliography

Step 1: Have an idea

Before writing your proposal, it is important to have a solid idea for your dissertation.

Find an area of ​​your field that interests you and do some preliminary reading in that area. What are the main concerns of other researchers? What do you suggest as areas for future research and what do you personally find an interesting gap in the field?

Once you have an idea, consider how to narrow it down and how best to frame it. Don't be too ambitious or too lazy: athesis topicit must be specific enough to be feasible. Going from a broad field of interest to a specific niche:

  • Russian literatureRussian literature of the XIX century.Tolstoy and Dostoevsky's novels
  • social mediaEffects of social media on mental healthInfluence of social networks on young adults with anxiety

Step 2: Introducing your idea in the introduction

Like most academic texts, a dissertation proposal begins with aintroduction. This is where you introduce your research topic, provide background information, and most importantly, present yourlook,GoalsmiResearch questions).


Try to dive right into your chosen topic: What is at stake in your research? Because it's interesting? Don't spend too much time ongeneralizationsor big statements:

(Video) How To Write A Research Proposal For A Dissertation Or Thesis (With Examples)

  • Social media is the most important technological trend of the 21st century. He changed the world and influences our lives every day.
  • Psychologists generally agree that the ubiquity of social media in the lives of today's young adults has a profound impact on their mental health. However, the exact nature of this impact needs further investigation.


Once your research area is clear, you can provide more background and context. What does the reader need to know to understand the proposed questions? What is the current state of research on this topic and how will your dissertation contribute to the field?

If you are including a review of the literature, you do not need to go into too much detail at this point, but give the reader a general idea of ​​the debates in which you are participating.


This brings you to the most important part of the introduction: your goal, objectives, andResearch questions). They must be clearly identifiable and stand out from the text; for example, you can present them with bullets or bold type.

Make sure your research questions are specific and actionable, something you can reasonably answer within the scope of your dissertation. Avoid being too broad or having too many different questions. Remember that your goal in a thesis proposal is to convince the reader that your research is valuable and feasible:

  • Does social media harm mental health?
  • What is the impact of daily use of social networks in young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who suffer from general anxiety disorder?

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Now that your topic is clear, it's time to explore existing research that covers similar ideas. This is important because it shows you what is missing from other research in the field and ensures that you are not asking a question that someone else has already answered.

You've probably already done some preliminary reading, but now that your topic is more clearly defined, you need to thoroughly analyze and evaluate the most relevant sources in yourliterature review.

Here you should summarize the findings of other researchers and comment on gaps and problems in your studies. There may be a lot of research to cover, so make effective use ofparaphrasingwrite concisely:

(Video) How To Write A Strong Research Proposal | Thesis or Dissertation

  • Smith and Prakash state that "our results indicate a 25% decrease in the incidence of mechanical failures after the application of the new formula."
  • The Smith and Prakash formula reduced mechanical failures by 25%.

The aim is to identify findings and theories that will influence your own research, but also to highlight gaps and limitations in previous research that your dissertation can address:

  • However, subsequent research failed to replicate this result, suggesting a flaw in Smith and Prakash's methods. The error is likely due to...

Step 4: Describing your methodology

Next, you will describe your proposal.methodology: the specific things you hope to do, the structure of your research, and themethodsthat you will use to collect and analyze data.

You need to be very specific in this section – you need to convince your supervisor that you have thought about your approach to the survey and can realistically carry it out. This section will look quite different and will vary in size depending on your field of study.

You may be involved in more empirical research, focusing on data collection and discovering new information, or moretheoreticalresearch, trying to develop a new conceptual model or add nuances to an existing one.

Dissertation research typically involves both, but the content of your methodology section will vary depending on how important each approach is to your dissertation.

empirical search

Empirical research involves collecting new data and analyzing it to answer your research questions. Could beamount(focused on numbers), qualitative (focused on words and meanings), or a combination of both.

With empirical research, it is important to describe in detail how you plan to collect your data:

  • you will useinvestiga? a laboratoryto try? ¿Interviews?
  • ThatVariablesare you going to measure
  • How will you select a representative?sample?
  • If other people are involved in your research, what steps will you take to ensure they are treated ethically?
  • What tools (conceptual and physical) will you use and why?

It is appropriate to cite other research here. When you need to justify the choice of a certain research method or tool, for example, you can cite a text that describes the advantages and proper use of that method.

Do not overdo it; You don't need to reiterate all the theoretical literature, just what's relevant to the choices you've made.

In addition, your research will necessarily involve analyzing the data after it has been collected. While you don't yet know what the data will look like, it's important to know what you're looking for and indicate which methods (for example,statistical tests,thematic analysis) will use.

(Video) How To Write A Dissertation Introduction Or Thesis Introduction Chapter: 7 Steps + Loads Of Examples

theoretical research

you can also dotheoreticalresearch that does not involve the collection of original data. In that case, his methodology section will focus more on the theory he plans to work with in his dissertation: relevant conceptual models and the approach he intends to take.

for example, oneLiterary analysisThe dissertation rarely involves the collection of new data, but it is still necessary to explain the theoretical approach that will be taken to the texts under discussion, as well as which parts of the text to focus on:

  • This dissertation will use Foucault's theory of panopticism to explore the issue of surveillance in 1984 and Orwell's The Trial...

Here, you can refer to the same theorists you already discussed in the literature review. In this case, the emphasis is on how he plans to use his contributions in his own research.

Step 5: Describe the potential implications of your research

Typically, you will conclude your dissertation proposal with a section discussing what you hope your research will achieve.

Obviously, you can't be too sure: you don't yet know what your results and conclusions will be. Instead, you should describe the projected implications and knowledge contribution of your dissertation.

First, consider the possible implications of your research. You could:

  • Develop or test a theory?
  • Provide new information to governments or companies?
  • Challenge a common belief?
  • Suggest an improvement for a specific process?

Describe the expected result of your research and the theoretical or practical impact it will have:

This research is expected to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the link between general anxiety disorder and social media use. Their findings will have the potential to inform not only future research, but also clinical practice and dissemination.

Finally, it is advisable to conclude by briefly restating the contribution to knowledge that you hope to make: the specific question(s) you hope to answer and the gap(s) that the answers will fill in existing knowledge:

The aim of this dissertation is to reliably quantify the impact of daily social media use on the mental well-being of young adults with general anxiety disorder. The effects of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be measured separately, something that was not done in the existing research. This will facilitate a more precise understanding of the relationship between social networks and anxiety.

(Video) How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis - 8 Step Tutorial + Examples

Step 6: Creating a reference list or bibliography

Like any academic text, it is important that your dissertation proposal effectively reference all the sources you have used. You must include a properly formatted list of references or bibliography at the end of your proposal.

Different institutions recommend different referencing styles - commonly used styles includeharvard,vancouver,THAT, oMHRA. If your department does not have specific requirements, choose a style and apply it consistently.

A reference list includes only the sources you have cited in your proposal. A bibliography is a bit different: you can include all the sources he consulted when writing the proposal, even if he didn't mention them in the text. In the case of a dissertation proposal, the bibliography may also list relevant sources that you have not yet read, but intend to use during your research.

Check with your supervisor what type of bibliography or reference list you should include.

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How do you write a dissertation proposal step by step? ›

  1. Step 1: Coming up with an idea. ...
  2. Step 2: Presenting your idea in the introduction. ...
  3. Step 3: Exploring related research in the literature review. ...
  4. Step 4: Describing your methodology. ...
  5. Step 5: Outlining the potential implications of your research. ...
  6. Step 6: Creating a reference list or bibliography.
Feb 14, 2020

What is the layout of a dissertation proposal? ›

Your dissertation proposal should have several key aspects regardless of the structure. The introduction, the methodology, aims and objectives, the literature review, and the constraints of your research all need to be included to ensure that you provide your supervisor with a comprehensive proposal.

What are the 7 parts of research proposal? ›

  • Introduction. It is also sometimes termed as 'need for study' or 'abstract'. ...
  • Review of literature. It refers to all sources of scientific evidence pertaining to the topic in interest. ...
  • Aims and objectives. ...
  • Research design and method. ...
  • Ethical considerations. ...
  • Budget. ...
  • Appendices. ...
  • Citations.

How do you write a first proposal for a dissertation? ›

To achieve a high grade, you should endeavour to complete a comprehensive search using solid tertiary sources. This will help you to find relevant literature that will enable you to conduct the research you are proposing to undertake.

Is 2 Months enough to write a dissertation? ›

To make sure that you don't bite off more than you can chew, give yourself at least 2 months for a short dissertation and 3 months for a longer one. Get into a habit of writing a certain amount of words each day or every second day. Give yourself reading days and days off - but only one at a time.

How long is a typical dissertation proposal? ›

Although the nature, style and content of your dissertation proposal will vary depending on the kind of dissertation you plan on writing, the following are intended to serve as general guidelines. Overall, your proposal should be 15-20 pages in length (excluding your bibliography), with lines double-spaced.

What are the 4 parts of a proposal? ›

  • Key Elements of a Complete Proposal. ...
  • Cover. ...
  • Table of Contents. ...
  • Abstract (also called Project Summary) ...
  • Project Description (also called Narrative or Research Plan) ...
  • Budget Explanation (also called Budget Justification) ...
  • Vita (also called Resume or Biographical Sketch) ...
  • Other Support (also called Current and Pending Support)

What are the 3 chapters of a research proposal? ›

The research proposal should include three Appendices: (a) draft research instruments; (b detailed work plan for the research project; and (c) budget (if relevant).

What are the five basic parts of a research proposal? ›

Parts of a Research Proposal
  • Title.
  • Abstract.
  • Introduction.
  • Objective(s)
  • Variables (independent and dependent)
  • Research Question and/or hypothesis.
  • Methodology.

What is the basic structure of a research proposal? ›

All proposals have to cover the same core material: description of a problem or issue, a review of relevant literature, identification of research questions or hypotheses, description of appropriate methods to address those concerns. Different disciplines have different styles in how they structure this material.

What should a research proposal look like? ›

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. It sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It outlines the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic.

What are the 12 parts of a project proposal? ›

Proposal Components
  • Cover Sheet/Face page.
  • Table of Contents.
  • Abstract or Project Summary.
  • Project Description/Research Plan/Statement of Work.
  • Biographical Sketch.
  • Bibliography and References Cited.
  • Budget and Budget Justification.
  • Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources.
Jan 4, 2021

How many slides should be in a dissertation proposal? ›

The Proposal PowerPoint should focus on the research design process and should not typically exceed 15 slides total. The Proposal PowerPoint recommended organization follows: 1-2 slides introducing the topic. 2-4 slides summarizing the background/literature (Chapter 2)

How long does it take to write a masters dissertation proposal? ›

I would suggest roughly four months. Use this time to do as much reading as you can, and feel out what topic best aligns with your personal interests and what matters to you. You're going to be working on this topic at a very intense level, it makes sense that you choose something you enjoy writing about.

How many pages is an average dissertation? ›

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

What is a good score for a dissertation? ›

60-69% (Good) Structure and organisation is good but may have some omissions. Knowledge displayed is good and shows independent thought but may have some omissions. Application of knowledge and understanding is good and shows independent thought but may have some omissions.

How many hours a day should you spend on dissertation? ›

Some people plan to spend at least two hours on their dissertation each day; others make sure to write two pages each day. Figure out a plan that works for you. For at least part of the time that I wrote my dissertation, I made sure to work on the writing and research aspects for at least three to four hours per day.

Can I write a dissertation in 5 days? ›

While it may seem like a very short time, completing a dissertation in five days is not an impossible task if you have your heart to it and the right sort of help.

What happens if you fail your dissertation proposal? ›

If you fail a dissertation, you will usually be given an opportunity to re-submit it by an agreed-upon date. As with a module failure, the marks awarded for a re-submitted dissertation will usually be capped at a bare pass level.

How many research questions should a dissertation proposal have? ›

Brief: The Research question is the Primary organizing principle guiding you to analyze further. A study should have a minimum of 3 questions and a maximum of 6 queries. Once the research question is determined, the researcher should plan what the method suitable is.

What are the four 4 common mistakes in writing a research proposal? ›

Common Proposal Writing Mistakes
  • Not providing context to the research question(s).
  • Not citing significant studies ("landmark studies") in the field that changed others' understanding of the topic.
  • Not accurately presenting other research done on the topic.
  • Not staying focused on the primary research question.
Aug 2, 2022

What is the most important thing in a proposal? ›

Statement of Work, Scope of Work or Research Plan The Statement of Work is the most important part of any proposal. This section is sometimes referred to as the Scope of Work, the Research Plan, or the Protocol.

What are the 3 main types of proposals? ›

Types of proposals
  • Formally solicited.
  • Informally solicited.
  • Unsolicited.

What are the six typical components of a research proposal? ›

Some main components to a research proposal include title, abstract, table of contents, introduction, literature review, method, discussion, and budget.

How long should a research proposal be? ›

All research proposals must address the question of what you plan to accomplish and why you want to and how you are going to do it. A research proposal is usually around 2,500 words long although there is no upper or lower limit to this.

How many pages should a research proposal be? ›

The proposal should be around 3 pages long. Every discipline has a different format for the research proposal. You should follow the format that is standard for your field and that your faculty mentor prefers. The program guidelines that follow are a general overview intended to help you get started with your proposal.

What is the format of a proposal? ›

Here's the general structure of a proposal: As you can see, a proposal generally consists of: Introduction: A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits. Issue: The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.

What should not be included in a research proposal? ›

Recap: 8 Research Proposal Mistakes
  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don't align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not articulated well enough.

What are the four qualities of a good research proposal? ›

5 Features of a Successful Research Proposal
  • Cover the Basics.
  • Describe the Relevance.
  • Emphasize the Significance.
  • Explain the Approach.
  • Highlight the Expertise.
Nov 14, 2018

What are the most common questions asked in research proposal? ›

The most common starting questions are “what is your research about?" and “what was your motivation behind choosing this topic?” Later on, the committee asks you more detailed questions on research methodology, literature review, study variables, research findings, recommendations, and areas of further research.

What is key elements of a complete proposal? ›

The elements of project proposal are a document which explains a clear strategic direction of project, why the project exists in a particular situation, what kind of problems the project attempts to address, what make the project successful, and what are the required resources.

What is the hardest chapter to write in a dissertation? ›

“Introduction” is the hardest part. You must write from the inside to outside. Then reorganize each section to make a coherent “story”. The introduction is the last section to be written.

How many pages is 50000 words dissertation? ›

A standard typed manuscript page (i.e. what you type, before it's a book page), with 12pt font and one inch margins is about 300 words. A 50,000 word manuscript is about 165 pages.

What is the most important chapter of a dissertation? ›

Chapter 1: Introduction

These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you'll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

How do you introduce yourself in a research proposal? ›

  1. Step 1: Say your name: Hi my name is Michelle. ...
  2. Step 2: Say where you're from (if you're asked) I'm from Brazil. ...
  3. Step 2: Say where in the university you work or study. I'm doing my PhD here in art therapy. ...
  4. Step 3: How to talk about your research:
  5. Step 4: Ask the other person about theirs. What are you working on?
Oct 18, 2016

What should be included in a dissertation proposal presentation? ›

The dissertation proposal is required for all doctoral students. It addresses 1) why the research is relevant, 2) the focus of the research, and 3) how the research will be conducted. Students prepare a written document and give an oral presentation to the supervisory committee.

How do you start a proposal presentation? ›

Here are six tips to make your next proposal presentation stand out:
  1. Define Your Agenda. Prospective clients and investors frequently ask for a presentation after you've submitted your proposal. ...
  2. Start with a Story. ...
  3. Think Lean. ...
  4. Create a Gleaming Presentation. ...
  5. Ask Questions. ...
  6. Provide Handouts.
Dec 9, 2016

Is writing a Masters dissertation hard? ›

Writing a thesis or a dissertation can be a challenging process for many graduate students. There are so many chapters to complete, and writing each individual chapter requires an immense amount of hard work and a strong motivation.

How much is a dissertation worth Masters? ›

Your dissertation is usually worth around 60 credits (one third of the total).

What is the fastest way to write a Masters dissertation? ›

An Insider's Guide On How To Write A Thesis When You're Short On Time
  1. 7 Helpful Guidelines To Writing A Proper Thesis. ...
  2. Know What Questions You're Asking. ...
  3. Break Your Thesis Into Defined Stages. ...
  4. Don't Rely On Your Academic Advisor. ...
  5. Realize You Will Never Feel Like Writing. ...
  6. Don't Write Your Thesis Chapters In Order.

What is the basic format for a proposal? ›

Here's the general structure of a proposal: As you can see, a proposal generally consists of: Introduction: A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits. Issue: The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.

What are the five parts of a dissertation? ›

Dissertation Body, 5 Distinct Chapters:
  • Chapter I: Introduction.
  • Chapter II: Review of Literature.
  • Chapter III: Methodology (Research Design & Methods)
  • Chapter IV: Presentation of Research (Results)
  • Chapter V: Summary, Implications, Conclusions (Discussion)
Aug 24, 2022

What are the four 4 main components of a proposal? ›

Basic components of a proposal
  • Abstract/Summary. The abstract is the most important component of the proposal. ...
  • Statement of Need. What is the issue that you are addressing and why does it matter? ...
  • Project Activity, Methodology and Outcomes. ...
  • Evaluation. ...
  • Dissemination. ...
  • Budget and Continuation Funding.

What is a good dissertation structure? ›

The main dissertation structure features that need to be included are a title, an introduction, headings, a conclusion and a bibliography. These key components must be in any dissertation presented for a bachelor's thesis, master's thesis or doctoral program.

What are the 5 C's in research? ›

To introduce you to this world of academic writing, in this chapter I suggest that you should focus on five hierarchical characteristics of good writing, or the “5 Cs” of good academic writing, which include Clarity, Cogency, Conventionality, Completeness, and Concision.

How long should a Masters dissertation proposal be? ›

The essentials of writing a proposal

As part of the application process, candidates are required to submit a research proposal with a maximum of 1000 words (Masters by Research) or 1000-2000 words (PhD). Assessors of research degree proposals pay a particular attention to their relevance and feasibility.


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