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How to Write Dissertation Proposal

How to Write Dissertation Proposal

A dissertation proposal outlines the research you intend to undertake, detailing its significance, how you plan to go about it, and its potential value. As an undergraduate or postgraduate student, you’ll likely need to draft a proposal before embarking on your dissertation journey. Every student has to learn how to write dissertation proposal. Dissertation proposal writing is an initial step towards writing a dissertation. So, this initial step should be taken wisely to get the proposal approved and embark upon the task of independent research work which will not only earn you the final degree but will also be helpful  in the practical filed. 

What should you know about a Dissertation Proposal? i.e. What is it?

To understand this, we should first clarify what a dissertation entails. A dissertation, akin to an essay, is an extended piece of scholarly writing. The distinction lies in the fact that for a dissertation, you typically select the topic or central theme yourself.

The initial step is selecting your topic, often referred to as the dissertation title. Subsequently, you’ll have to craft a research question, which is the essence of the dissertation proposal.

A dissertation proposal delves deep into the research question you aim to address and outlines how you intend to carry out both primary and secondary investigations. It should encapsulate the readings you’ve undertaken so far and any insights from discussions with your advisor. To shield yourself from potential critiques during evaluation, the proposal should also highlight anticipated constraints in your study, ethical considerations, and the rationale behind your data sample selection.

A Dissertation Proposal usually has the following parts i.e. it includes:

  • An overview or introduction of your chosen subject and objectives.
  • A review of existing literature on the topic.
  • A sketch of methodology you intend to use.
  • A conversation about potential outcomes of study.
  • A list of pertinent references.

Dissertation proposals can differ significantly in format and length, so it’s essential to adhere to the guidelines provided by your academic institution. Always seek guidance from your advisor if you have any doubts.

What is a Proposal Important for your Dissertation?

In essence, a dissertation proposal acts as a roadmap for the journey of dissertation writing. When crafted meticulously, it functions similarly to a detailed essay outline, offering invaluable guidance as you delve into the core of the project. Moreover, a well-prepared proposal can significantly demystify the daunting task of starting your dissertation.

It’s crucial to recognize that your dissertation proposal isn’t immutable. Throughout the dissertation journey, it’s expected to undergo numerous revisions. Your initial research question might evolve or even transform entirely. You might realize that the evidence for your initial argument is scanty, or perhaps your selected topic is overly expansive and needs narrowing down. You should also know how to write PhD Dissertation.

Regardless of the direction your research takes, it’s imperative to

  • schedule consistent consultations with your advisor,
  • strictly follow your institution’s guidelines, and
  • diligently document the references you encounter during your research, ensuring they’re primed for inclusion in your final bibliography.

First Step: Read and Come up with your research topic

As highlighted at the beginning of this piece, the initial step in your dissertation journey is to immerse yourself in your field of study and pinpoint a topic. While this seems straightforward, selecting a research focus can be a daunting endeavor for many.

A practical approach to narrow down a potential topic is to revisit all lecture materials, notes, and assignments you’ve tackled thus far. Was there a subject that piqued your curiosity? Did you encounter a concept that felt underexplored? Or did you discern a noticeable gap in the literature during your assignment research, indicating a need for deeper investigation in that area?

If these questions don’t resonate, consider gravitating towards a broader area that personally intrigues you. In such instances, perusing relevant academic journals and publications can guide you towards a more defined focus.

Regardless of your topic selection method, it’s imperative to document all sources you consult during your research. These will be integral to your bibliography later, so cataloging them now is a time-saver. Depending on your university’s preferred citation style, you’ll typically require the following details:

  • Book/Journal title
  • Author(s)
  • Editor(s) (for edited volumes)
  • Chapter Title
  • Page range
  • URL (for digital sources)
  • Publisher

If you’re uncertain about the specifics of referencing, refer to your department’s guidelines or seek guidance from your supervisor.

Second Step: Narrow your selected topic and present it in the introduction

In the introduction, you’ll set the stage for your research topic. Consider this section as painting the broader landscape within which your specific study resides. Delve into the backdrop of the overarching subject to give context to your narrower focus. It’s also crucial to present your primary thesis or hypothesis at this juncture, elucidating the significance of your research and underscoring why delving into this domain holds importance. The depth of your reading directly influences the precision of your research questions. Addressing an overly broad area can lead to overgeneralization and might cause you to exceed your word limit.

You might stumble upon a captivating study, only to find its conclusions are either outdated or not relevant to contemporary scenarios. This could prompt you to explore if similar results would emerge from newer research.

Critical evaluation of your sources is paramount for achieving top grades. Here are some considerations:

  • Publication Date: Is the information from a bygone era?
  • Recent Developments: Have there been pivotal shifts in the research area since the study’s publication?
  • Methodological Flaws: Are there errors in the study’s approach that could compromise its findings?
  • Ethical Considerations: Are there ethical issues that future research on the topic should address?
  • Author Bias: Can any bias be inferred from the author’s background or perspective?
  • External Influences: Were there concurrent events or external factors during the study that could have influenced the results or introduced bias?

Demonstrating your ability to discern the reliability and relevance of your sources, acknowledging their potential weaknesses, showcases your deep engagement with the literature, positioning you for higher academic recognition.

Third Step: Delving into Relevant Studies in the Literature Overview

With a defined topic in hand, the next step is to dive deep into existing research that touches upon similar themes. This exploration is pivotal as it illuminates gaps in the current body of knowledge and ensures you’re not retracing steps others have already taken.

While you might have engaged in some initial readings, a sharper focus on your topic now demands a more rigorous examination and critique of the most pertinent sources in your literature review.

In this phase, it’s essential to encapsulate the conclusions of other scholars, pinpointing shortcomings or inconsistencies in their work. Given the potential vastness of relevant research, mastering the art of paraphrasing is key to concise writing:

For instance, instead of:
“According to Smith and Prakash, ‘our findings show a 25% reduction in mechanical failures post the introduction of the new formula’.”

You could say:
“The new formula by Smith and Prakash led to a 25% dip in mechanical failures.”

The goal is not only to recognize influential findings and theories that will shape your research but also to spotlight areas of oversight or limitation in prior studies that your dissertation can rectify:

“While subsequent studies couldn’t reproduce these outcomes, it hints at potential oversights in Smith and Prakash’s approach. The discrepancies might stem from…”

Fourth Step: Describe the Methodology you are using

The methodology segment of your proposal delineates the techniques you’ll employ to gather and analyze your data. This section should detail both the “how” and the “what” of your research process. If your study leans towards quantitative methods, you’ll likely mention tools like questionnaires, surveys, or specific data sources. It’s essential to specify the extent of your research, such as the number of participants you intend to involve. Furthermore, it’s crucial to justify your chosen methods. Why are they apt for your research topic? In what ways are they particularly suited to your area of study?

The methodology section is where you delve into the specifics of your research approach, ensuring your supervisor understands that you’ve meticulously planned your research and are equipped to execute it. Depending on your study field, this section’s content and length can vary considerably.

There are two primary research types you might undertake: empirical and theoretical.

Empirical Research

Empirical research is about gathering fresh data and analyzing it to address your research questions. This can be:

  • Quantitative: Centered on numerical data.
  • Qualitative: Focused on words, meanings, and interpretations.
  • Mixed Methods: A blend of both.

For empirical research, detailing your data collection process is crucial:

– What methods will you employ? Surveys? Experiments? Interviews?
– Which variables are you tracking?
– How will you choose a sample that truly represents your study’s scope?
– If involving participants, how will you ensure their ethical treatment?
– What tools, both conceptual and tangible, will you utilize and why?

Citing other studies is beneficial when justifying your chosen methods or tools. However, avoid excessive citations; focus on what directly pertains to your chosen methods.

Post data collection, you’ll analyze the data. Even if you’re unsure of the eventual data shape, it’s vital to outline your anticipated analytical methods, like specific statistical tests or thematic analysis.

Theoretical Research

Theoretical research doesn’t always require new data collection. Here, your methodology will emphasize the theoretical framework guiding your dissertation, detailing relevant conceptual models and your intended approach.

For instance, a dissertation analyzing literature might not gather new data but will specify the theoretical lens applied to the chosen texts:

“Using Foucault’s concept of panopticism, this dissertation will probe the surveillance theme in Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Kafka’s ‘The Trial’…”

In such cases, you might revisit theorists mentioned in your literature review, but the focus shifts to how their insights will be employed in your research.

Fifth Step: Describing to the reader the potential outcomes of your study/research

The conclusion of your dissertation proposal typically encapsulates the anticipated outcomes of your research.

While it’s evident you can’t predict the exact outcomes, this section should articulate the potential significance and the knowledge contribution of your study.

Start by pondering the possible ramifications of your research. Will your study:

– Formulate or evaluate a theory?
– Offer novel insights to policymakers or industries?
– Contest a widely accepted notion?
– Propose enhancements to a particular methodology?

Clarify the anticipated outcomes of your study and its theoretical or practical implications:

“This research aims to shed light on the intricate relationship between generalized anxiety disorder and social media engagement. The findings are expected to not only enrich academic discourse but also influence clinical interventions and public awareness campaigns.”

To wrap up, it’s prudent to succinctly reiterate the knowledge contribution you aspire to achieve: the specific queries you aim to address and the void your research will fill in the existing literature:

“This dissertation seeks to accurately assess the influence of daily social media interactions on the psychological well-being of young adults diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. The individual impacts of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will be discerned distinctly, a facet overlooked in prior studies. This nuanced approach promises a more comprehensive grasp of the interplay between social media and anxiety.”

Step 6: Compiling a Reference List or Bibliography

In the academic realm, proper citation of the sources you’ve consulted is paramount. Your dissertation proposal must have a correctly formatted reference list or bibliography appended at its conclusion.

Various institutions have preferences for different referencing styles. Some of the prevalent styles include Harvard, Vancouver, APA, and MHRA. If your department hasn’t specified a particular style, it’s crucial to pick one and maintain consistency throughout your document.

The distinction between a reference list and a bibliography is subtle but significant:

A reference list encompasses only the sources you’ve directly cited within your proposal.
A bibliography, on the other hand, is more comprehensive. It not only includes all the sources you’ve consulted during your proposal’s preparation (regardless of whether they were cited) but might also feature relevant sources you plan to explore during the actual research but haven’t perused yet.

Always consult with your supervisor to determine the most appropriate format for your bibliography or reference list.

Distinguishing Features of a Postgraduate Proposal

When transitioning from an undergraduate to a postgraduate proposal, there are nuanced differences and heightened expectations to consider:

1. Depth of Methodology:

For a master’s dissertation proposal, the methodology section should be more detailed. You’re expected to delve deeper into how you’ll gather and analyze data, showcasing a more refined approach than what might be expected at the undergraduate level.

2. Literature Review:

While both undergraduate and postgraduate proposals require a literature review, the latter demands a more critical analysis. At the postgraduate level, you should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the subject, which should be evident given the advanced studies you’ve undertaken.

3. Original Contribution for PhD Proposals:

When crafting a PhD thesis proposal, it’s not sufficient to merely summarize existing theories and studies. You’re expected to contribute novel insights to the academic community. This means you should be capable of expanding upon the existing literature, critiquing it, and identifying areas ripe for further exploration. Consequently, selecting a topic might take longer, as you’ll need to pinpoint an area that offers uncharted territory.

4. Specific Inclusions for a PhD Proposal:

  • Reason for University Selection: Since a PhD research proposal is typically directed to a specific department, it’s crucial to elucidate why you’ve chosen that particular institution. What makes it stand out from others? Does the department have a notable track record in your research area? Are there specific research grants or opportunities you’re eyeing?
  • Detailed Research Techniques: In the methodology section, provide a comprehensive description of the research techniques you intend to employ. Highlight if they are innovative approaches or if they’ve been successfully employed in prior similar studies.

In essence, while the foundational structure of undergraduate and postgraduate proposals might appear similar, the depth, originality, and critical analysis required for the latter are significantly more rigorous.

Tips When you Want to Write Dissertation Proposal

The right kind of dissertation topic should make your dissertation more easy and fun to complete the research work. As it is obvious, research work has been conducted since ages and almost every field has been explored pretty well, so finding a novel and unexplored topic  is not so easy. Perhaps when you begin your quest for finding a dissertation topic you will notice that almost every topic that comes to your mind is already researched well and there is nothing left for you to start your research work. In this  case, the better suggestion is to choose a bunch of already done dissertation topics and then rephrase or rewrite new ones to bring something new into the existing research work. 

Once the dissertation topic is selected and approved, the next step is to Write Dissertation Proposal. Dissertation proposal writing should be given top priority as a good dissertation proposal will make your final dissertation writing process more easy. This blog is focused on writing a good dissertation proposal so you may get it approved by your supervisor.

Statement of the problem

The most important thing in a proposal is your ability to convince your readership or the supervisor that the area you have selected for research needs further investigation as there is significant gaps and inconsistency in the findings of previous studies. So, you begin your dissertation proposal by describing the statement of the problem in which you highlight any gap or the inconsistency of the previous studies. For example, if you are exploring the impact of rewards on the performance of employees, you may describe that the there is a significant gap in the previous studies regarding the impact of reward system on the performance of employees and that no previous study has explored if reward system really improves and enhances the employees performance. But be mindful that this problem of the statement should really be true and if your supervisor finds sufficient previous studies already done on the same topic or area then he/she will instantly reject it.

Aims and Objectives of the dissertation proposal

When you begin to write dissertation proposal, you need to clearly define and explain your aims and objectives of the study so your supervisor knows exactly what you are going to explore and research. Explicit aims and objectives are very important to get your dissertation proposal approved. The following example should help you write your aims and objectives depending on your own dissertation topic. 

Aims and Objectives of the Research

This study intends to explore the impact of reward system on the performance of employees in the retail company of the UK. For this purpose, the specific objectives of the study will be:

1. To investigate the impact of reward system on the performance of employees;

2. To Examine how employees are motivated if they are given further rewards and bonuses;

3. To explore What kind of incentives work better for motivating and improving the performance of employees.

Research Methodology of the Dissertation

Choosing the right method of research work is very important as this will make your research work easy or worst. There are two broad types of research methods: qualitative and quantitative. It depends on your own topic which kind of research method suits you the most. However, generally you should use quantitative method if you have a large group of people (the participants) and there is a large number of quantitative data to be analyzed. For example,for finding out the impact of reward system on the performance of employees, you may conduct a questionnaire based survey in which you collect the quantitative data and then analyze it through SPSS or any other similar software.  On the other hand, if you just want to collect views and experiences of your participants about the research matter, you may conduct a qualitative semi-structured interviews with around 5-15 participants (normally the managers and the executives of the company). 

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Some Toughts (2)

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  2. […] a timetable or gantt chart is desired and in many instances mandatory for getting a dissertation proposal approved as it clearly states and sets before you the schedule you will follow for writing the phd […]

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