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How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

Tips on How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

A dissertation proposal is your first step towards writing a final dissertation. It is what you will present to the dissertation committee before beginning work on your dissertation. It should be unique and should be able to set the stage for your research. The research idea should be relevant and unique in order for it to be impressive to the dissertation committee. Every student should know how to write a dissertation proposal.

A dissertation proposal will help you explain what you intend to examine, and how you intend to go about it. It gives your dissertation a direction and leaves the reader with a clear understanding of the dissertation’s overall significance.

For a proposal to satisfy the dissertation committee, it should be able to answer the following questions;

  • What problem are you going to tackle?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • Why is it important to solve it?
  • Where will you get the answers to the question from?
  • Why will you get the answers from there?

Answering the questions will proof to the dissertation committee that

  • You are able to justify and plan a research project.
  • You are able to show how the project will contribute to existing research
  • You are able to demonstrate that you understand how to do research in a specific amount of time.

Different colleges and different courses will vary on the requirements in terms of length and specific information that should be included in the proposal. In some courses, the research proposal is assessed to form part of your final dissertation submission. The more aware you are on how to write a dissertation proposal thoroughly, the less the trouble you will have with your dissertation.

The set structures are also different with each college and with the particular course. Be sure to check what special requirements your course may have. But regardless of the course, there are general elements that will show your insight on how to write a dissertation proposal. These are:

  • The title
  • The introduction
  • The methodology
  • Aims and objectives
  • Research method
  • The literature review
  • Scope
  • Tentative schedule of completion
  • Dissertation outline
  • Significance of the research
  • The constraints of the research
  • Procedure

The title: This should be short and descriptive of the intended dissertation project. It should be self-explanatory. The title should be clear and focused to avoid a jumbled up dissertation. There are various ways in which you can create a title…

  1. Start by selecting your area of interest
  2. Look through previous dissertations in order to avoid titles that have been used before
  3. Stick to your title in order to remain focused on your subject.


The introduction:  This is what your dissertation is about. It gives a clearer idea of your planned direction and expectations. An introduction should include;

  1. An outline of the problem your title poses
  2. An explanation of why you think it will be worthy of investigation
  3. A description of how you will conduct you research
  4. A summary of what you hope to achieve

If you will have struggle with your proposal introduction, you will almost naturally have difficulties with your research. In such a case it would be better if you opted for another title.

The methodology: This is a fundamental part of your dissertation proposal. It will break down the resources you intend to use in your research work. It will also detail the sort of data you will collect from the research. You can also include how you will analyze the data that you will gather and what bias there may be in your chosen methods. Depending on how much detail that your course requires, you may also want to explain why your chosen approaches to gathering data are more appropriate to your research than others.

Anticipate and preempt the reader’s methodological concerns. If your methodology could lead to problems, show why pursuing the methodology outweighs the risks of the problem cropping up. If you demonstrate that you have considered even the down side of your methods, your outlook will seem more carefully developed.

Aims and objectives: State what your research hopes to achieve and the outcome that you predict. This will assist in scrutinizing your goals and expectations, and considering how you will achieve them. Clearly state what your research objectives are and how you plan to obtain those achievements and outcomes. If you have more than two objectives, your area of research is probably too broad. Aims should be broad but objectives should be specific. Use strong and confident language to express your aims and objectives.

Research method: Here expand the ideas in your research question. Outline clearly your area of research is, and then summarize the type of outcomes you hope to generate and suggest a target audience.

Literature review: It’s important to know the research and literature that already exist in your area of study. Give a list of books and materials that you used to do your research. List materials that give you more background on your topic or that contain previous researches that you will refer to in your own studies. Demonstrate how your research connects to previous academic studies. Also show how your methods may defer or build upon those used by other researchers. Don’t forget to include your analysis of their value to your work. An effective literature review should also identify potential gaps and show a need for current or future research projects.

Scope of your research: Set the limit on what you will do. Your scope needs to be broad enough to achieve your goals and narrow enough to be achievable in the available time frame.

Tentative schedule of completion: Project your timeline and be as realistic as possible, try not to be over ambitious. One purpose of the outline is to alert the committee members in order for them to confirm their availability at the completion of the dissertation. Setting a timeline will also assist you to make your own goals and set on achieving them.

Dissertation outline: Give the committee a sense of how your dissertation will be organized.

Significance of your research question: A good proposal should give the reader a clear understanding of the dissertation’s overall significance.

Constraints of your research: You will need to include the constraints of your research in the dissertation proposal. By clearly stating the constraints, you will be displaying your understanding and acknowledgement of the broader issues, and the role they will play in the outcome of the research.

Procedure: Knowing how to write a dissertation proposal will help you to detail all the steps you will carry out to choose subjects, construct valuables, develop hypothesis, gather and present data.


Guidelines on How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

  • Write the proposal in a way that the committee will clearly understand the proposal.
  • Ensure that you are capable of collecting research on the selected topic
  • Proof read, edit and check for correct grammar. Ensure that you spell check the dissertation proposal before handing it over. Master the art of how to write a dissertation proposal in the future tense.
  • Be ready to elaborate on the topic in the dissertation proposal if the committee requires you to give further information.
  • Ensure that the proposal is organized. All sections should be in proper order and creatively written.


The process of writing your proposal will be smooth if:

  • You establish a writing schedule. It is preferable to write your proposal at the same time every day.
  • Make sure that it’s only you who sees the initial draft.
  • Keep a pen and notebook handy in order to write down the thoughts that may regularly creep in.
  • Understand that you will have to draft and re draft the dissertation proposal several times before submitting it.
  • Keep in mind that a proposal is not a contract that determines what your thesis will demonstrate. Understand that it will be possible to modify and refine your scope and arguments as often as there will be need to. This will relieve you a lot of unnecessary tension.
  • Form writing groups that you can use to exchange ideas. As lonely as writing seems, it’s actually a social activity.
  • Constantly talk to your adviser especially on how to write a dissertation proposal that is outstanding.


It is good for students to realize that a proposal is not a mini dissertation. It’s common to find yourself writing the actual dissertation instead of laying it out. Be relaxed as you write your proposal. It is not meant to limit your ideas but to help you think in practical terms about how you intend to research and write your dissertation.

Try not to extend the time you will be using in writing the proposal as it will only make the road to dissertation longer and more costly. It is necessary to involve your adviser at every point of your proposal. This will help you to get instructions on how to write a dissertation proposal that is not only relevant but also challenging. Draw also on the experience of your peers and seek advice.

The writing of a dissertation proposal could be a highly challenging process but with the right guidance, it can be extremely rewarding.

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