Dissertation proposal is a simple thing to write

A dissertation proposal is a simple thing to write especially when you compare it to the whole dissertation. It is a relatively new concept wherein you provide your committee with a quick blurb about what you want to write and why. They review this blurb and determine if it is acceptable or not and then give you the go-ahead to continue with your research and dissertation writing.

But what is the purpose of your dissertation proposal?

The proposal is intended to convince your dissertation committee that you have a research question and that you are in the position needed to pursue it.

Your proposal needs to demonstrate the following:

  • You have defined an interesting research question in your field
  • You can explain to the committee by your question is important AND you can explain it in words common enough
  • that someone outside of your field would understand its value
  • You can formulate a hypothesis that can be tested
  • You have a plan for how to test your hypothesis

Before you submit your proposal it is not a requirement that you have read everything related to your hypothesis but it is important that you are somewhat familiar with the material in this area. Why? Because basic familiarity is what allows you to make an informed question and hypothesis related to the field. You should know how and where to locate the rest of the research material you will need along the way though.

Your proposal might require a literature survey where you summarize the relevant research but this will be settled between your adviser and you prior to the due date.

Do not ever write your dissertation or complete all of the research before you write your proposal. If you do then your hypothesis will be treated like a conclusion and your preliminary proposal will be more of a defense for the proposition you found rather than a preliminary proposal. And this is the role that your dissertation should take not your proposal.

Remember that your proposal is intended to propose what it is you want to do along with why and how you are going to do it.

Your proposal should answer the following questions directly:

  1. What problem will your dissertation tackle?
  2. Why is this a problem?
  3. Why is it important to solve this problem?
  4. Where will you look for answers to this problem?
  5. Why will you look there?

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