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How To Write A Research Proposal For A Dissertation Or Thesis
  • Oct 2022
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How To Write A Research Proposal For A Dissertation Or Thesis

7th October 2022

The dissertation proposal is a critical initial step toward writing your final dissertation for a taught or research master's program, or a Ph.D. level course.

Your proposal should be original, set the stage for your study, and assist you in developing a clear plan for your final project. Learn more about dissertation planning here.


What is a dissertation proposal?

Dissertation proposals are similar to the table of contents for your research project in that they will assist you to clarify what you aim to investigate and, generally, how you intend to collect and analyze your data.

You won't have to have everything written out perfectly because your topic may vary significantly during your study, but preparing your proposal should help you better determine the direction for your dissertation.

When you've decided on a topic for your dissertation, be sure it's both relevant to your field of study and narrow enough to be completed by the conclusion of your term.

Your dissertation proposal will assist you in defining and determining both of these things, as well as ensuring that you are being advised by the right expert to assist you in completing your research.

A dissertation proposal should include the following elements:

  • 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

  • Bibliography 

Although all of this information must be included in your dissertation proposal, it is not written in stone and can be amended later if necessary, depending on your topic of study, university, or degree.

Consider your dissertation proposal to be more of a guide for writing your dissertation than something to be precisely followed - this will be covered later.


Why is a dissertation proposal important?

A dissertation proposal is essential because it helps form the actual dissertation, which is likely the most important piece of writing a postgraduate student will do.

A well-structured dissertation proposal will provide a solid basis for your dissertation as well as a decent pattern to follow.

The dissertation is critical to postgraduate success because it contributes to your overall grade. Writing your dissertation will also help you improve your research and communication abilities, which will be useful in your future profession and career.

You will be in a wonderful position to produce an exceptional dissertation if you keep up to speed on current research in your selected dissertation topic and keep the specifics of your bibliography up to date.

Following that, we'll go through several things you can do to assist you to write the greatest postgraduate dissertation proposal possible.


How to begin your dissertation proposal

Starting your dissertation proposal might be an intimidating endeavor; however, by breaking it down into simple components, you should find it much easier to complete.


1. Narrow the topic down 

When you get down to writing your proposal, you should have carefully considered your topic and be able to limit it down enough to give a clear and concise grasp of what you want to do and hope to accomplish in your dissertation.

How do I decide on a dissertation topic?

Going back over your assignments and lectures is a simple method to start choosing a topic for your dissertation. Was there anything in particular that piqued your interest? Was there a concept that wasn't properly developed?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you're off to a wonderful start! If not, consider pursuing one of your more personal passions.

Use Google Scholar to look up papers and publications on your topic to see if any areas might be expanded on or to locate a more specific topic within your interest.

Keep track of all publications

It is critical to maintaining maintain all the papers you consult when conducting research. This can be used in your literature review.

You must keep track of:

The more research you conduct, the more likely it is that you will be able to narrow down your topic and identify an interesting area to focus on.

You'll also be able to write about anything you discover in your literature review, which will strengthen your proposal.

Consider the following while conducting your research:

  • When did you publish your source? Is the information current? Is there any new information since then?

  • Can you say whether any of the approaches could have been done more efficiently? Are there any mistakes or gaps?

  • Are there any ethical problems that should be addressed in future research on the same subject?

  • Could something external (such as new occurrences) have influenced the research?

How long should the dissertation proposal be?

Your dissertation proposal, which should be 1,000 words or more, will define the topic of your dissertation, some of the issues you hope to address with your research, the kind of studies and data you intend to use in your research, and the style of analysis you will do.

Varied courses may have different criteria for length, specific information to include, and preferred structure, so be careful to verify what additional requirements your course has.


2. What should I include in a dissertation proposal?

Regardless of structure, your dissertation proposal should include some crucial elements.

To ensure that you offer your supervisor a full proposal, including the introduction, methodology, goals and objectives, literature review, and research constraints. But what exactly are they? Here's a starting point: a checklist.



The introduction will establish your key research topic, provide history on the subject, and contextually relate it to any bigger issues surrounding it. Learn more about selecting a dissertation subject.

The opening of your dissertation proposal should clarify exactly what you propose to study in your final research topic.

In your introduction, make sure to outline the format of the dissertation proposal, such as part one covering methodology, part two covering a literature review, part three covering research restrictions, and so on.


Dissertation methodology

The dissertation approach will outline the sources you intend to employ for your research and what type of data you intend to collect from them, whether quantitative or qualitative.

You may also wish to indicate how you intend to analyze the data you collect and any biases in your selected methodology.

Depending on the level of information required by your specific course, you may also wish to explain why your chosen methods of data collection are better suited to your research than others.

Consider and describe your approach to empirical research. Will you, for example, conduct interviews? Surveys? Observation? Experiments in the lab?

Outline the variables you will measure in your research and how you will pick your data or participant sample to ensure valid results in your dissertation methodology.

Finally, will you employ any special tools in your methodology? If this is the case, make sure to include it in the methods part of your dissertation proposal.

Aims and objectives

The goals and objectives of your research should also be included in your dissertation proposal. Make it a point to describe what your research wants to accomplish as well as the consequences you anticipate.

You may also need to clarify clearly what your key research objectives are, in other words, how you want to achieve those accomplishments and outcomes.

Your goal should not be too broad, but also not too particular.

A dissertation goal could be something like, 'To investigate the main content elements and social settings that generate successful viral marketing content distribution on Twitter.'

In comparison, consider the following dissertation goal: "To examine how things go viral on Twitter."

Your dissertation proposal's goal should be directly related to your research subject.

Literature review

The literature review will include a list of the books and materials you used to conduct your research. This is where you might include items that provided extra information on your issue or feature past research that you alluded to in your study.

The literature review is also an excellent area to show how your research relates to past academic studies and how your methods differ from or build on those utilized by other researchers.

While it is critical to provide sufficient information on the materials to demonstrate that you have read and comprehended them, don't forget to offer your analysis of their worth to your work.

Identify faults in other pieces of academic work and explain how you will overcome these shortcomings in your study.

Constraints and limitations of your research

Finally, you must include the limitations of your research. Many topics will have broad connections to numerous larger and more complex issues, so by clearly stating the constraints of your research, you are demonstrating your understanding and acknowledgment of these larger issues, as well as the role they play in focusing your research on just one section or part of the subject.

Include instances of potential limitations in this section, such as sample size concerns, participant dropout, a lack of current research on the topic, time limits, and other factors that may affect your study.

Ethical considerations

Confidentiality and ethical issues are critical components of any research.

If you are working with participants, your dissertation will need to be ethically approved. This means that you must include and clarify ethical considerations in your dissertation proposal.

Maintain confidentiality and keep your participants informed so that they are aware of how the data provided is being used and can be assured that all personal information is kept private.

Consider how involved your patients will be in your research; this will help you think about what ethical aspects to include in your dissertation proposal.

Face-to-face participant interview methods, for example, may necessitate more ethical precautions and confidentiality considerations than methods that do not involve participants, such as corpus data analysis (the examination of existing written texts).


3. Dissertation proposal example

The structure of your dissertation proposal will be determined by the course requirements.

Some courses may require that you include a distinct section in your proposal for the purposes and objectives of your research, or that you do not include a methodology or literature review section.

Once you've determined which elements you must or must not include, it may assist focus your writing to divide the proposal into separate headings and address each piece independently. You should also consider incorporating a title.

Creating a title for your proposal can assist you in ensuring that your topic is limited enough, as well as in keeping your writing focused and on topic.

The following headings are an example of a dissertation proposal structure, which can be divided into sections or chapters based on the required word count:

  • Introduction

  • Aims and objectives

  • Methodology

  • Literature review

  • Research constraints

  • Ethical considerations

In any dissertation proposal sample, you should explain why you're conducting the research and what benefits could result from your contribution.



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