How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

Ginger Abbot

Apr 25, 2022

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After completing your graduate studies, you may be asked to do one final project. Often this involves a lengthy paper on a specific topic, known as a dissertation. So, if you’re getting ready to write one, follow these steps on how to write a dissertation proposal.

What Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation proposal is a type of research project. You complete it to get a postgraduate degree, such as a doctorate. Although, some undergraduate degrees may require you to write one. Within the paper, you present your findings based on a topic you choose. 

The goal of the proposal is to display independent research skills. The written document should be around 100-300 pages. You may also need to give an oral presentation after you’ve written the proposal. 

Different Types of Dissertations

The type of essay you write will depend on your specific area of study. However, there are two main types-empirical and non-empirical. 

1. Empirical Thesis

Empirical dissertations consist of collecting data. They also often contain some type of laboratory work. This type of research is done mainly for scientific fields, such as psychology. To assemble the data, you can use multiple methods, like questionnaires or focus groups. 

2. Non-Empirical Thesis

These are based on data and theories that already exist. To complete this type of a dissertation, you will need to read the work of others carefully. Keep in mind you don’t want to restate their findings in your paper. Try to analyze their work critically and offer a unique perspective. 

Steps on How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

Now that you understand the basics, here are the steps on how to write an effective dissertation proposal.

1.  Make a Schedule 

Before you even start writing, come up with a schedule. You want to set deadlines for each section of the paper. Determine how many pages you need to write each day to meet your goals. Also, set up a consistent routine to stay on track. Suppose you’re a morning person, then get up early and write for a few hours each day. 

2.  Select Your Topic 

The first step to writing your dissertation is to come up with a subject. Write about an area of study you find interesting. Keep in mind you’ll be working on the paper for many weeks, so pick a topic you enjoy learning about. Also, try to find a unique issue so that you can come up with your own conclusions. If you’re still feeling stuck, ask your college advisors for help. 

Then do some initial reading on your intended topic. Figure out what information other researchers find relevant. Explore the areas they suggest for further research. Also, look for any gaps in their research. Once you have selected a subject, ensure it is specific enough. This will help narrow down your topic making it easier to write about. 

3.   Have a Strong Introduction 

You want to begin your paper by diving straight into your topic. This will make it clear to the reader the focus of the report right away. Try to use less general statements upfront. After you state your subject, give some background context. Discuss the current state of the research and how your topic fits in. 

Your introduction should also clearly state your research question and key objectives. Make sure the question is specific and can be answered. Keep in mind you also want it to be easily identifiable to the reader. When discussing your topic, make sure you identify the significance of your research. Also, try to keep the introduction brief since it’s just an overview. 

4.  Write a Literature Review 

Once you know what you’re writing about, you can start to explore current research. A literature review is a critical element in figuring out how to write a dissertation proposal. It is a document that gathers relevant sources on a topic and summarizes them in the context of one another. 

A literature review helps to figure out what information is missing from your field of study. The review ensures you don’t write about what is already out there. To conduct a literature review, analyze and evaluate sources on your topic. You want to paraphrase their key findings and note any gaps in their research. Also, make sure to connect the literature back to your proposal. 

5.  Outline Your Methodology

This is where you describe the methods you’ll use to gather and analyze data. You want to explain how you plan to structure your research thoroughly. Were there any specific tools you used to collect data? Also, be sure to justify any decisions you made. Keep in mind you want to use methods that are standard in your field of study. Also, include any potential limitations of your research. When writing this section, try to be as specific as possible. 

6. Discuss Potential Implications 

When determining how to write a dissertation, this part usually comes at the end of the paper. Conclude with an explanation about what you expect your research to accomplish. While you can’t know for sure, you want to describe potential implications. For example, will it help to challenge a commonly held belief? Also, discuss any gaps in the current research it can fill. 

7.  Conclude With Your Bibliography 

A bibliography is key for citing all the resources you used in your paper. This usually comes at the end of the proposal. Make sure you’re formatting the list in the correct style. Check with your college to see what style they prefer. APA style is a common one used in research papers. This reference list should include all the sources you examined, even if you didn’t reference them in the thesis. 

Writing an Effective Thesis Proposal

Once you’ve done the hard work to earn a graduate degree, there is usually one more step. This includes writing the dissertation, which can seem a little intimidating. So, follow these steps for how to write a dissertation proposal successfully. 





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