What is a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal briefly describes the following aspects of your dissertation:

  • What your dissertation is about
  • The questions you will be exploring
  • The theoretical background of the subject
  • The research method you will be using
  • The possible results of the study


Putting together your dissertation proposal is a beneficial task to anyone writing a dissertation. Some consider it to be the hardest part of the dissertation process, as you are essentially developing something from scratch – from the idea, to the title, to the conclusion. However, once you have a comprehensive proposal you will gain a sense of clarity about the task ahead of you. In addition to this, it can also be re-used to form the basic framework of your dissertation outline.

Your proposal is a vital tool for gaining feedback on your dissertation from your supervisor, who will be able to guide you on the tone, style, and content of your work. At this stage, it is best to be flexible with your proposal, so you can take on board any suggestions that your supervisor may have and have their approval for moving forward with it. From this, you can gain confidence with the avenue you have chosen to go down with your dissertation, and start focusing on writing your dissertation outline.

When you write your proposal, take care to follow grammatical rules and principles, making a particular effort to be consistent with the tense of your proposal. Check with your supervisor for confirmation on the most appropriate tense; it is most common for the proposal to be written in future tense.

It is important to remember that your dissertation is not an essay. It may look like one in the humanities, but is different from an essay in that your proposal only has to develop an argument, and does not need to prove anything at that time but later on. It is more a diagram of what your dissertation outline will look like, rather than an essay or mini-dissertation.

In terms of timing, you should not waste months on your proposal, as it is only one step on a very long path. Similarly, you want to avoid rushing your proposal, as you may overlook important elements of your topic matter and may end up having to write a new proposal for approval. This could drastically eat into the time you have reserved for the other aspects of your dissertation work.

 

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