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Learn how to write a dissertation proposal

16 Aug 2018Writing Guide

A research proposal is fundamental to preparing for a major writing process. If you master it, it can make your following research process less frightening. Let us review the basics of writing a proposal for a dissertation.

How to write a dissertation proposal

In some university faculties in the UK, writing thesis and dissertation proposals is a mandatory part of project submission and assessment. If this is your case, it is of utmost importance that you use the most appropriate format and submit your paper in a timely manner. Before you understand how to write a dissertation proposal, let’s start with defining it.

What is a dissertation proposal?

Getting a dissertation proposal defined, we can say that this is an essential part of your dissertation which covers these aspects:

  • The subject of your dissertation paper;
  • Research areas that need exploration (research questions);
  • Theoretical background references;
  • Empirical/non-empirical research methods;
  • Possible results of the case study.

It saves you a lot of time and becomes the foundation of your paper’s outline. Feel free to submit the proposal to your professor even when they don’t ask for it. You will find valuable feedback to use throughout the writing process. A proposal usually ranges from 500 to 1000 words. The exact word count depends on your course requirements and the examiner’s instructions. Double-check guidance concerning the style and tone of proposal.

Essential elements of the dissertation proposal

Planning a dissertation is undeniably an involving task. Whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, here are some sections you must not skip

  • Dissertation proposal title

Make your topic as short as possible and straight to the point.

  • Objectives

If objectives are more than three, consider narrowing down your project because it might be too broad.

  • Literature review

The literature review gives the context and background of your proposal. This is the part where you highlight important school of thoughts and specific areas of study which you are going to delve into. In some UK universities, students are expected to write down specific references in the literature review section, but sometimes, a bibliography is sufficient. Here, you are supposed to raise arguments for the significance of study while you relate them to similar research work. You can also present the literature review as an extension of the existing case studies. Don’t forget to put down the important sources of information you have used so far. If possible, place your work alongside past studies to give more insights and demonstrate your preparedness in developing a thesis. This is still the part where you highlight flaws you might have noted in the existing work and how you are going to prevent them in your final paper.

  • Research details

In this section, you are supposed to elaborate the research questions. It involves pinpointing your area of study cohesively.

  • Methodology

If your work originates from materials that are already published, then you will be using non-empirical methods. However, if you are collecting primary data say through questionnaires, then your method is empirical. Methodology section is usually briefer when research is non-empirical whereas it is longer in the empirical case. You might be asked to use bullet points in the proposal in which case you have to list your intended actions in bullet forms, e.g. data evaluation, interviewing, and archive consulting.

  • Possible results

Do not second-guess the findings of your dissertation. You wouldn’t do the project if you already knew the outcomes. So, you should simply summarize the results you think you can generate and suggest a specific audience.

  • Limitations

Any effective piece of academic work must recognize hindrances imposed upon the capacity to delve more into the current results. Limitations can be as simple as word count requirements whereby you are unable to express explicitly important ideas. This section lets reader see how thorough you have been with the subject matter.

  • Time management

How will you manage your work? You need a concept map to set realistic deadlines and distribute the workload.

  • Ethical considerations

Research projects are influenced by ethics and moral principles. For instance, you must secure permission before you start interviewing people. Without reference to ethical considerations, a thesis is dangerously left to unforgiving criticism. No matter how revolutionary your results are; they will be undermined if they don’t put into account the prevailing ethics. These considerations should be incorporated in every stage of your academic assignment from planning, data collection, preparation, to analysis.

  • Bibliography

Ask your supervisor whether or not you must write a list of references. If yes, find out the maximum number of references you must list.

Final writing tips

Writing a dissertation proposal example requires open-mindedness. You should be willing to adjust your methods, theories, and ideas as research demands. Confidently tell the reader your intentions and adopt a coherent perspective. You must convince your examiner that you have critically evaluated both initial data and received results. Be very assertive but not proud. Finally, show flexibility as opposed to feebleness.

When wondering how to write a proposal for dissertation, be sure to apply the proposed format and grammatical rules. Your tenses have to be consistent. The most common tense used in dissertation proposals is the future tense. For instance, you can say this in your methodology section: I will be using focus groups…

When you present the paper to your supervisor, they will give a critical evaluation and underscore your weaknesses. You might lack transparency, or there are a lot of ethical issues in your project. Depending on the errors, your supervisor may suggest changes to your topic or methodologies to help you garner better results.

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