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dissertation proposal elements

Doctoral handbook

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Proposal Overview and Format

Proposal committee, proposal hearing or meeting.

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Students are urged to begin thinking about a dissertation topic early in their degree program. Concentrated work on a dissertation proposal normally begins after successful completion of the Second-Year Review, which often includes a “mini” proposal, an extended literature review, or a theoretical essay, plus advancement to doctoral candidacy. In defining a dissertation topic, the student collaborates with their faculty advisor or dissertation advisor (if one is selected) in the choice of a topic for the dissertation.

The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student’s dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters. The student must provide a written copy of the proposal to the faculty committee no later than two weeks prior to the date of the proposal hearing. Committee members could require an earlier deadline (e.g., four weeks before the hearing).

The major components of the proposal are as follows, with some variations across Areas and disciplines:

  • A detailed statement of the problem that is to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem on both theoretical and educational grounds.
  • A thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should provide proof that the relevant literature in the field has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and mistakes of others.
  • its general explanatory interest
  • the overall theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued
  • the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered
  • a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
  • an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, data analysis)
  • a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted (This aspect of the proposal will be somewhat different in fields such as history and philosophy of education.)
  • If applicable, students should complete a request for approval of research with human subjects, using the Human Subjects Review Form ( http://humansubjects.stanford.edu/ ). Except for pilot work, the University requires the approval of the Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Behavioral Science Research before any data can be collected from human subjects.

Registration (i.e., enrollment) is required for any quarter during which a degree requirement is completed, including the dissertation proposal. Refer to the Registration or Enrollment for Milestone Completion section for more details.

As students progress through the program, their interests may change. There is no commitment on the part of the student’s advisor to automatically serve as the dissertation chair. Based on the student’s interests and the dissertation topic, many students approach other GSE professors to serve as the dissertation advisor, if appropriate.

A dissertation proposal committee is comprised of three academic council faculty members, one of whom will serve as the major dissertation advisor. Whether or not the student’s general program advisor serves on the dissertation proposal committee and later the reading committee will depend on the relevance of that faculty member’s expertise to the topic of the dissertation, and their availability. There is no requirement that a program advisor serve, although very often they do. Members of the dissertation proposal committee may be drawn from other area committees within the GSE, from other departments in the University, or from emeriti faculty. At least one person serving on the proposal committee must be from the student’s area committee (CTE, DAPS, SHIPS). All three members must be on the Academic Council; if the student desires the expertise of a non-Academic Council member, it may be possible to petition. After the hearing, a memorandum listing the changes to be made will be written and submitted with the signed proposal cover sheet and a copy of the proposal itself to the Doctoral Programs Officer.

Review and approval of the dissertation proposal occurs normally during the third year. The proposal hearing seeks to review the quality and feasibility of the proposal. The Second-Year Review and the Proposal Hearing are separate milestones and may not occur as part of the same hearing or meeting.

The student and the dissertation advisor are responsible for scheduling a formal meeting or hearing to review the proposal; the student and proposal committee convene for this evaluative period. Normally, all must be present at the meeting either in person or via conference phone call.

At the end of this meeting, the dissertation proposal committee members should sign the Cover Sheet for Dissertation Proposal and indicate their approval or rejection of the proposal. This signed form should be submitted to the Doctoral Programs Officer. If the student is required to make revisions, an addendum is required with the written approval of each member of the committee stating that the proposal has been revised to their satisfaction.

After submitting the Proposal Hearing material to the Doctoral Programs Officer, the student should make arrangements with three faculty members to serve on their Dissertation Reading Committee. The Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form should be completed and given to the Doctoral Programs Officer to enter in the University student records system. Note: The proposal hearing committee and the reading committee do not have to be the same three faculty members. Normally, the proposal hearing precedes the designation of a Dissertation Reading Committee, and faculty on either committee may differ (except for the primary dissertation advisor). However, some students may advance to Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status before completing their dissertation proposal hearing if they have established a dissertation reading committee. In these cases, it is acceptable for the student to form a reading committee prior to the dissertation proposal hearing. The reading committee then serves as the proposal committee.

The proposal and reading committee forms and related instructions are on the GSE website, under current students>forms.

Printing Credit for Use in GSE Labs

Upon completion of their doctoral dissertation proposal, GSE students are eligible for a $300 printing credit redeemable in any of the GSE computer labs where students are normally charged for print jobs. Only one $300 credit per student will be issued, but it is usable throughout the remainder of her or his doctoral program until the balance is exhausted. The print credit can be used only at the printers in Cubberley basement and CERAS, and cannot be used toward copying.

After submitting the signed dissertation proposal cover sheet to the Doctoral Programs Officer indicating approval (see above), students can submit a HELP SU ticket online at helpsu.stanford.edu to request the credit. When submitting the help ticket, the following should be selected from the drop-down menus for HELP SU:

Request Category :  Computer, Handhelds (PDAs), Printers, Servers Request Type :  Printer Operating System : (whatever system is used by the student, e.g., Windows XP.)

The help ticket will be routed to the GSE's IT Group for processing; they will in turn notify the student via email when the credit is available.

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Handbook Contents

  • Timetable for the Doctoral Degree
  • Degree Requirements
  • Registration or Enrollment for Milestone Completion
  • The Graduate Study Program
  • Student Virtual and Teleconference Participation in Hearings
  • First Year (3rd Quarter) Review
  • Second Year (6th Quarter) Review
  • Committee Composition for First- and Second-Year Reviews
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Academic Program Revision
  • Dissertation Content
  • Dissertation Reading Committee
  • University Oral Examination
  • Submitting the Dissertation
  • Registration and Student Statuses
  • Graduate Financial Support
  • GSE Courses
  • Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE)
  • Developmental and Psychological Sciences (DAPS)
  • Learning Sciences and Technology Design (LSTD)
  • Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE)
  • Social Sciences, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Policy Studies in Education (SHIPS)
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How to Write a Dissertation Proposal with Structure & Steps

Published by Anastasia Lois at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On October 26, 2023

“A dissertation proposal is a stepping stone towards writing the final dissertation paper. It’s a unique document  that informs the reader of the aim & objectives of dissertation research and   its course of action.”

The main purpose of a proposal paper is to showcase to your supervisor or dissertation committee members that your dissertation research will add value to existing knowledge in your area of study.

Although the exact structure of a dissertation proposal may vary depending on your academic level, academic subject, and size of the paper, the contents remain pretty much the same.

However, it will still make sense to consult with your supervisor about the proposal formatting and structuring guidelines before working on your dissertation proposal paper.

You may lose out on scoring some important marks if your proposal paper does not follow your department’s specific rules. Here are some tips for you on how to structure a dissertation proposal paper.

Tips on Completing a Dissertation Proposal in Due Time

Consult your supervisor or department to find out how much time you have to  complete your dissertation proposal . Each graduate program is different, so you must adhere to the specific rules to avoid unwelcome surprises.

Depending on the degree program you are enrolled in, you may have to start working on your chosen topic  right away, or you might need to deal with some  assignments  and  exams  first.

You can learn about the rules and timelines concerning your dissertation project on the university’s online portal. If you are still unsure, it will be best to speak with your department’s admin clerk, the program head, or supervisor.

Look for Proposal Structural Requirements in the Guidelines

Most academic institutions will provide precise rules for structuring your dissertation proposal in terms of the document’s content and how to arrange it.  If you have not figured out these requirements, you must speak with your supervisor to find out what they recommend. Typical contents and structure of a dissertation proposal include the following;

  • Statement of the Problem
  • Background/Rationale
  • Introduction (Justifying your Research)
  • Research Questions or  Hypothesis  (Research aim and objectives)
  • Literature Review
  • Proposed Methodology
  • Opportunities and Limitations

Project Schedule

Have an unhelpful dissertation project supervisor? Here is some advice to  help you deal with an uncompromising dissertation advisor.

How Long is a Dissertation Proposal?

The length of your dissertation proposal will depend on your degree program and your research topic. PhD-level dissertation proposals are much longer in terms of word count than Bachelors’s and Master’s level proposals.

  • Bachelor’s level dissertation proposals are about 5-6 pages long.
  • Masters and Ph.D. level proposals’ length varies from 15-25 pages depending on the academic subject and degree program’s specifications.
  • If the word count or page length expectation is not mentioned in the dissertation handbook or the guidelines on the university’s website, you should check with your supervisor or program coordinator for a clear understanding of this particular requirement.

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Dissertation Proposal Formatting

Formatting your dissertation proposal will also depend on your program’s specific guidelines and your research area. Find the exact guidelines for formatting cover sheets and title pages, referencing style, notes, bibliography, margin sizes, page numbers, and fonts. Again if you are unsure about anything, it is recommended to consult with your project advisor.

Find out About the Approval Criteria

The process of  writing your dissertation proposal paper  and getting acceptance from the committee of members of your supervisor is tricky.

Consult your department’s academic assistant, supervisor, or program chair to learn about all the process stages. Here are a couple of points you will need to be aware of:

  • You might be required to have your chosen research topic approved by your academic supervisor or department chair.
  • Submit your proposal and have it formally signed and approved so you can continue with your research.

You may find the dissertation proposal writing process perplexing and challenging if this is the first time you are preparing such a document. All the essential elements of a dissertation proposal paper need to be present before submitting it for approval.

Any feedback received from the tutor or the supervising committee should be taken very seriously and incorporated into your planning for dissertation research. Do not start working on your final dissertation paper until your supervisor has accepted the proposal.

To help you organise your dissertation proposal paper correctly, we have detailed guidelines for structuring a dissertation proposal. Irrespective of the degree program you are developing your dissertation proposal for, you will find these guidelines equally important.

Our expert academics can produce a flawless dissertation proposal on your chosen topic. They can also suggest free topics in your area of study if you haven’t selected a topic. Order free topics here or get a quote for our proposal writing service here.

Select a Topic

Selecting an  appropriate topic is the key to having your research work recognised in your field of study. Make sure your chosen topic is relevant, interesting, and manageable.

Ideally, you would want to research a topic that previous researchers have not explored so you can contribute to knowledge on the academic subject.

But even if your topic has been well-researched previously, you can make your study stand out by tweaking the  research design  and  research questions  to add a new dimension to your research.

How to Choose a Suitable Research Topic

Here are some guidelines on how to choose a suitable research topic.

List all the topics that you find interesting and relevant to your area of study. PhD and MaMasters’sevel students are already well aware of their academic interests.

Bachelor students can consider unanswered questions that emerged from their past academic assignments and drove them to conduct a detailed investigation to find answers.

Follow this process, and you’ll be able to choose the most appropriate topic for your research. Not only will this make your dissertation unique, but it also increases the chances of your proposal being accepted in the first attempt.

  • Think about all your past academic achievements and associations, such as any research notes you might have written for your classes, any unsettled questions from your previous academic assignments that left you wondering, and the material you learned in classes taught by professors.
  • For example , you learned about how natural gas is supplied to households in the UK in one of your coursework assignments and now eagerly wish to know exactly how natural gas is processed at an industrial scale.


Conduct initial research on your chosen topic(s). This will include reading authentic text material on the topic(s) to familiarise yourself with each potential topic. Doing so will help you figure out whether there really is a need to investigate your selected topics further.

Visit your university’s library or online academic databases such as ProQuest, EBSCO, QuickBase to find articles, journals, books, peer-reviewed articles, and thesis/dissertation papers (by other students) written on your possible research topic .

Ignore all academic sources that you find methodologically flawed or obsolete.  Visit our online research topics library to choose a topic relevant to your interests .

Consult your academic supervisor and show them your list of potential topics. Their advice will be crucial for deciding whether the topic you are interested in is appropriate and meets your degree program requirements.

It is recommended to set up an appointment with your supervisor to see them in person to discuss your potential topics, even though you can do the same in email too.

  • If the topics you are interested in are too broad or lack focus, your supervisor will be able to guide you towards academic sources that could help narrow down your research.
  • Having several topics in your list of potential topics will mean that you will have something to fall back onto if they don’t approve your first choice.

Narrow the Focus of your Research  – Once a topic has been mutually agreed upon between you and your academic supervisor, it is time to narrow down the focus. Hence, your research explores an aspect of the topic that has not been investigated before.

Spend as much time as possible examining different aspects of the topic to establish a research aim that would truly add value to the existing knowledge.

  • For example, you were initially interested in studying the different natural gas process techniques in the UK on an industrial scale. But you noticed that the existing literature doesn’t count for one advanced gas processing method that helps the industry save millions of pounds every year. Hence, you decide to make that the focus of your research.
  • Your topic could be too broad as you start your research, but as you dig deep into your research, the topic will continue to narrow and evolve. TIP – It is better to work on a topic that is too broad rather than on something there is not enough text material to work with.

Structure of a Dissertation Proposal

The key elements of a great dissertation proposal are explained in detail under this section ‘structure of a dissertation proposal’. Once you’ve finalised your topic, you need to switch to writing your dissertation proposal paper quickly. As previously mentioned, your proposal paper’s exact structure may vary depending on your university/college requirements.

research proposal

A good dissertation proposal  title  will give the reader an insight into the aim/idea of your study. Describe the purpose and/or contents of your dissertation proposal paper in the fewest possible words.

A concise and focused title will help you gain the attention of the readers. However, you might need to adjust your title several times as you write the paper because your comprehensive research might continue to add new dimensions to your study.

  • Your title must be as categorical as possible. For example, instead of “Natural Gas Processing Techniques in the UK”, use a more specific title like “Investigating various industrial natural gas processing technologies employed in the UK” so the reader can understand exactly what your research is about.

Write a brief executive summary or an abstract of your proposal if you have been asked to do so in the structural guidelines. Generally, the  abstract  is included in the final dissertation paper with a length of around 300-400 words.

If you have to write an abstract for your proposal, here are the key points that it must cover;

  • The background to your research.
  • Research questions that you wish to address.
  • Your proposed methods of research, which will either test the hypothesis or address the research problem.
  • The significance of your research as to how it will add value to the scientific or academic community.

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This is your first chance to make a strong impression on the reader. Not only your  introduction  section should be engaging, contextually, but it is also supposed to provide a background to the topic and explain the  thesis problem .

Here is what the first paragraph of the introduction section should include:

  • Explain your research idea and present a clear understanding as to why you’ve chosen this topic.
  • Present a summary of the scope of your research study, taking into account the existing literature.
  • Briefly describe the issues and specific problems your research aims to address!

In the next paragraphs, summarise  the statement of the problem . Explain what gap in the existing knowledge your research will fill and how your work will prove significant in your area of study.

For example, the focus of your research could be the stage of carbon monoxide removal from natural gas. Still, other similar studies do not sufficiently explore this aspect of natural gas processing technology.

Here is a comprehensive article on “ How to Write Introduction for Dissertation Paper .”

Aim & Objectives

This is the  most critical section of the proposal paper . List the  research questions  or the research objectives your study will address. When writing this particular section, it will make sense to think of the following questions:

  • Are there any specific findings that you are expecting?
  • What aspects of the topic have you decided not to investigate and why?
  • How will your research contribute to the existing knowledge in your field?

Literature Review

The  literature review section  is your chance to state the key established research trends,  hypotheses , and theories on the subject. Demonstrate to the reader that your research is a unique contribution to your field because it explores the topic from a new angle.

In a dissertation proposal, you won’t be expected to provide an extensive list of all previous research studies on the topic. Still, all the key theories reported by other scholars should be briefly referred to.

Take into consideration the following when writing the literature review section:

  • The gaps identified in the previous research studies on the topic which your own research aims to fill. State the limitations of previous studies, whether lacking sufficient evidence, invalid, or too broad.
  • The key established research trends, theories, and hypotheses as reported by other researchers.
  • Any specific arguments and/or methodologies that previous scholars used when investigating your topic.

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A focused and well-defined methodology in a proposal paper can help you explain to your readers  how you plan to conduct your research  and why  your chosen research design  can provide reliable answers to your research questions.

The choice of research design and analytical approach will depend on several factors, including but not limited to your area of study and research constraints.

Depending on your topic and the existing literature, you will need to decide whether your dissertation will be purely descriptive or use primary (quantitative/qualitative data) as part of the research design.

Any research limitations and ethical issues that you expect to deal with should be clearly stated. For example, you might not be able to use a large sample size of respondents due to financial constraints. Small sample size can undermine your research significance.

How to Write a First Class Dissertation Proposal or Research Proposal.

“If you’re unable to pull off a first-class proposal, we’re here to help. We at ResearchProspect make sure that our writers prepare a flawless dissertation proposal for you. Our highly qualified team of writers will also help you choose a relevant topic for your subject area. Get in touch with us today, and let us take care of all your dissertation worries! Learn more about our dissertation proposal writing service.

Some Masters and PhD level degree programs require students to include a project timeline or timetable to give readers an idea of how and when they plan to complete different stages of the project.

Project timeline can be a great planning tool, mainly if your research includes experiments, statistical analysis , designing, and primary data collection. However, it may have to be modified slightly as you progress into your research.

By no means is it a fixed program for carrying out your work. When developing the project timeline in your proposal, always consider the time needed for practical aspects of the research, such as travelling, experiments, and fieldwork.


Referencing and In-Text Citations

Underrated, but referencing is one of the most crucial aspects of preparing a proposal. You can think of your proposal as the first impression of your dissertation.

You would want everything to be perfect and in place, wouldn’t you? Thus, always make sure that your dissertation consists of all the necessary elements.

You will have to cite information and data that you include in your dissertation. So make sure that the references that you include are credible and authentic.

You can use well-known academic journals, official websites, past researches, and concepts presented by renowned authors and writers in the respective field.

The same rule applies to in-text citations. Make sure that you cite references accurately  according to the required referencing style  as mentioned in the guidelines.

References should back statistics, facts, and figures at all times. It is highly recommended to back every 100-200 words written with at least one academic reference. The quantity of references does not matter; however, the quality does.

These are the basic elements of a dissertation proposal. Taking care of all these sections will help you when you are confused about structuring a dissertation proposal. In addition to these steps, look for different  dissertation proposal examples  on your research topic. A  sample dissertation proposal  paper can provide a clear understanding of how to go about the “pro”osal stage” of”the dissertation project.

“If you’re unable to pull off a first-class proposal, we’re here to help. We at ResearchProspect make sure that our writers prepare a flawless dissertation proposal for you. Our highly qualified team of writers will also help you choose a relevant topic for your subject area. Get in touch with us today, and let us take care of all your dissertation worries! Learn more about our dissertation proposal writing service .”

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dissertation proposal in research.

A dissertation proposal in research outlines the planned study. It includes research objectives, methods, scope, and significance. It’s a blueprint that demonstrates the feasibility and value of the research, helping gain approval before proceeding with the full dissertation.

How do you write a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal outlines your research topic, objectives, methodology, and potential significance. Start with a clear title, state your research question, detail the methods you will use to answer it, and highlight the contribution it will make to the field. Ensure it is well-researched, concise, and compelling to gain approval.

How long is a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal’s length varies by field and institution. Typically, it ranges from 10 to 20 pages, but can be longer for complex topics. It includes an introduction, research question, literature review, methodology, and potential significance. Always consult department guidelines or advisors to ensure appropriate length and content.

What are the types of dissertation proposals?

Dissertation proposal types largely depend on the research’s nature and methodology. Common types include empirical (collecting data from the real world), non-empirical (theory or literature-based), and narrative (case studies). Each type dictates a different approach to data collection, analysis, and presentation, tailored to the subject and field of study.

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Penning your dissertation proposal can be a rather daunting task. Here are comprehensive guidelines on how to write a dissertation proposal.

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How to Write a Dissertation Proposal | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on 14 February 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 11 November 2022.

A dissertation proposal describes the research you want to do: what it’s about, how you’ll conduct it, and why it’s worthwhile. You will probably have to write a proposal before starting your dissertation as an undergraduate or postgraduate student.

A dissertation proposal should generally include:

  • An introduction to your topic and aims
  • A literature review  of the current state of knowledge
  • An outline of your proposed methodology
  • A discussion of the possible implications of the research
  • A bibliography  of relevant sources

Dissertation proposals vary a lot in terms of length and structure, so make sure to follow any guidelines given to you by your institution, and check with your supervisor when you’re unsure.

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Table of contents

Step 1: coming up with an idea, step 2: presenting your idea in the introduction, step 3: exploring related research in the literature review, step 4: describing your methodology, step 5: outlining the potential implications of your research, step 6: creating a reference list or bibliography.

Before writing your proposal, it’s important to come up with a strong idea for your dissertation.

Find an area of your field that interests you and do some preliminary reading in that area. What are the key concerns of other researchers? What do they suggest as areas for further research, and what strikes you personally as an interesting gap in the field?

Once you have an idea, consider how to narrow it down and the best way to frame it. Don’t be too ambitious or too vague – a dissertation topic needs to be specific enough to be feasible. Move from a broad field of interest to a specific niche:

  • Russian literature 19th century Russian literature The novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
  • Social media Mental health effects of social media Influence of social media on young adults suffering from anxiety

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Like most academic texts, a dissertation proposal begins with an introduction . This is where you introduce the topic of your research, provide some background, and most importantly, present your aim , objectives and research question(s) .

Try to dive straight into your chosen topic: What’s at stake in your research? Why is it interesting? Don’t spend too long on generalisations or grand statements:

  • Social media is the most important technological trend of the 21st century. It has changed the world and influences our lives every day.
  • Psychologists generally agree that the ubiquity of social media in the lives of young adults today has a profound impact on their mental health. However, the exact nature of this impact needs further investigation.

Once your area of research is clear, you can present more background and context. What does the reader need to know to understand your proposed questions? What’s the current state of research on this topic, and what will your dissertation contribute to the field?

If you’re including a literature review, you don’t need to go into too much detail at this point, but give the reader a general sense of the debates that you’re intervening in.

This leads you into the most important part of the introduction: your aim, objectives and research question(s) . These should be clearly identifiable and stand out from the text – for example, you could present them using bullet points or bold font.

Make sure that your research questions are specific and workable – something you can reasonably answer within the scope of your dissertation. Avoid being too broad or having too many different questions. Remember that your goal in a dissertation proposal is to convince the reader that your research is valuable and feasible:

  • Does social media harm mental health?
  • What is the impact of daily social media use on 18– to 25–year–olds suffering from general anxiety disorder?

Now that your topic is clear, it’s time to explore existing research covering similar ideas. This is important because it shows you what is missing from other research in the field and ensures that you’re not asking a question someone else has already answered.

You’ve probably already done some preliminary reading, but now that your topic is more clearly defined, you need to thoroughly analyse and evaluate the most relevant sources in your literature review .

Here you should summarise the findings of other researchers and comment on gaps and problems in their studies. There may be a lot of research to cover, so make effective use of paraphrasing to write concisely:

  • Smith and Prakash state that ‘our results indicate a 25% decrease in the incidence of mechanical failure after the new formula was applied’.
  • Smith and Prakash’s formula reduced mechanical failures by 25%.

The point is to identify findings and theories that will influence your own research, but also to highlight gaps and limitations in previous research which your dissertation can address:

  • Subsequent research has failed to replicate this result, however, suggesting a flaw in Smith and Prakash’s methods. It is likely that the failure resulted from…

Next, you’ll describe your proposed methodology : the specific things you hope to do, the structure of your research and the methods that you will use to gather and analyse data.

You should get quite specific in this section – you need to convince your supervisor that you’ve thought through your approach to the research and can realistically carry it out. This section will look quite different, and vary in length, depending on your field of study.

You may be engaged in more empirical research, focusing on data collection and discovering new information, or more theoretical research, attempting to develop a new conceptual model or add nuance to an existing one.

Dissertation research often involves both, but the content of your methodology section will vary according to how important each approach is to your dissertation.

Empirical research

Empirical research involves collecting new data and analysing it in order to answer your research questions. It can be quantitative (focused on numbers), qualitative (focused on words and meanings), or a combination of both.

With empirical research, it’s important to describe in detail how you plan to collect your data:

  • Will you use surveys ? A lab experiment ? Interviews?
  • What variables will you measure?
  • How will you select a representative sample ?
  • If other people will participate in your research, what measures will you take to ensure they are treated ethically?
  • What tools (conceptual and physical) will you use, and why?

It’s appropriate to cite other research here. When you need to justify your choice of a particular research method or tool, for example, you can cite a text describing the advantages and appropriate usage of that method.

Don’t overdo this, though; you don’t need to reiterate the whole theoretical literature, just what’s relevant to the choices you have made.

Moreover, your research will necessarily involve analysing the data after you have collected it. Though you don’t know yet what the data will look like, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and indicate what methods (e.g. statistical tests , thematic analysis ) you will use.

Theoretical research

You can also do theoretical research that doesn’t involve original data collection. In this case, your methodology section will focus more on the theory you plan to work with in your dissertation: relevant conceptual models and the approach you intend to take.

For example, a literary analysis dissertation rarely involves collecting new data, but it’s still necessary to explain the theoretical approach that will be taken to the text(s) under discussion, as well as which parts of the text(s) you will focus on:

  • This dissertation will utilise Foucault’s theory of panopticism to explore the theme of surveillance in Orwell’s 1984 and Kafka’s The Trial…

Here, you may refer to the same theorists you have already discussed in the literature review. In this case, the emphasis is placed on how you plan to use their contributions in your own research.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

You’ll usually conclude your dissertation proposal with a section discussing what you expect your research to achieve.

You obviously can’t be too sure: you don’t know yet what your results and conclusions will be. Instead, you should describe the projected implications and contribution to knowledge of your dissertation.

First, consider the potential implications of your research. Will you:

  • Develop or test a theory?
  • Provide new information to governments or businesses?
  • Challenge a commonly held belief?
  • Suggest an improvement to a specific process?

Describe the intended result of your research and the theoretical or practical impact it will have:

Finally, it’s sensible to conclude by briefly restating the contribution to knowledge you hope to make: the specific question(s) you hope to answer and the gap the answer(s) will fill in existing knowledge:

Like any academic text, it’s important that your dissertation proposal effectively references all the sources you have used. You need to include a properly formatted reference list or bibliography at the end of your proposal.

Different institutions recommend different styles of referencing – commonly used styles include Harvard , Vancouver , APA , or MHRA . If your department does not have specific requirements, choose a style and apply it consistently.

A reference list includes only the sources that you cited in your proposal. A bibliography is slightly different: it can include every source you consulted in preparing the proposal, even if you didn’t mention it in the text. In the case of a dissertation proposal, a bibliography may also list relevant sources that you haven’t yet read, but that you intend to use during the research itself.

Check with your supervisor what type of bibliography or reference list you should include.

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Writing a dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal

What is a dissertation proposal?

Dissertation proposals are like the table of contents for your research project , and will help you explain what it is you intend to examine, and roughly, how you intend to go about collecting and analysing your data. You won’t be required to have everything planned out exactly, as your topic may change slightly in the course of your research, but for the most part, writing your proposal should help you better identify the direction for your dissertation.

When you’ve chosen a topic for your dissertation , you’ll need to make sure that it is both appropriate to your field of study and narrow enough to be completed by the end of your course. Your dissertation proposal will help you define and determine both of these things and will also allow your department and instructors to make sure that you are being advised by the best person to help you complete your research.

A dissertation proposal should include:

  • 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 this content all needs to be included in your dissertation proposal, it isn’t set in stone so it can be changed later if necessary, depending on your topic of study, university or degree. Think of your dissertation proposal as more of a guide to writing your dissertation rather than something to be strictly adhered to – this will be discussed later. 

Why is a dissertation proposal important?

A dissertation proposal is very important because it helps shape the actual dissertation, which is arguably the most important piece of writing a postgraduate student will undertake. By having a well-structured dissertation proposal, you will have a strong foundation for your dissertation and a good template to follow. The dissertation itself is key to postgraduate success as it will contribute to your overall grade . Writing your dissertation will also help you to develop research and communication skills, which could become invaluable in your employment success and future career. By making sure you’re fully briefed on the current research available in your chosen dissertation topic, as well as keeping details of your bibliography up to date, you will be in a great position to write an excellent dissertation.

Next, we’ll be outlining things you can do to help you produce the best postgraduate dissertation proposal possible.

How to begin your dissertation proposal

Writing a dissertation proposal

1. Narrow the topic down  

It’s important that when you sit down to draft your proposal, you’ve carefully thought out your topic and are able to narrow it down enough to present a clear and succinct understanding of what you aim to do and hope to accomplish in your dissertation.

How do I decide on a dissertation topic?

A simple way to begin choosing a topic for your dissertation is to go back through your assignments and lectures. Was there a topic that stood out to you? Was there an idea that wasn’t fully explored? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you have a great starting point! If not, then consider one of your more personal interests. Use Google Scholar to explore studies and journals on your topic to find any areas that could go into more detail or explore a more niche topic within your personal interest. 

Keep track of all publications

It’s important to keep track of all the publications that you use while you research. You can use this in your literature review.

You need to keep track of:

  • The title of the study/research paper/book/journal
  • Who wrote/took part in the study/research paper
  • Chapter title
  • Page number(s)

The more research you do, the more you should be able to narrow down your topic and find an interesting area to focus on. You’ll also be able to write about everything you find in your literature review which will make your proposal stronger.

While doing your research, consider the following:

  • When was your source published? Is the information outdated? Has new information come to light since?
  • Can you determine if any of the methodologies could have been carried out more efficiently? Are there any errors or gaps?
  • Are there any ethical concerns that should be considered in future studies on the same topic?
  • Could anything external (for example new events happening) have influenced the research?

Read more about picking a topic for your dissertation . 

How long should the dissertation proposal be?

Aiming for 1,000 words or more, your dissertation proposal will give an outline of the topic of your dissertation, some of the questions you hope to answer with your research, what sort of studies and type of data you aim to employ in your research, and the sort of analysis you will carry out.

Different courses may have different requirements for things like length and the specific information to include, as well as what structure is preferred, so be sure to check what special requirements your course has.  

2. What should I include in a dissertation proposal?

Writing a dissertation proposal

  • Introduction

The introduction will state your central research question and give background on the subject, as well as relating it contextually to any broader issues surrounding it. Read more about picking a topic for your dissertation .

The dissertation proposal introduction should outline exactly what you intend to investigate in your final research project.

Make sure you outline the structure of the dissertation proposal in your introduction, i.e. part one covers methodology, part two covers a literature review, part three covers research limitations, and so forth.

Dissertation methodology

The dissertation methodology will break down what sources you aim to use for your research and what sort of data you will collect from it, either quantitative or qualitative. You may also want to include how you will analyse the data you gather and what, if any, bias there may be in your chosen methods.

Depending on the level of detail that your specific course requires, you may also want to explain why your chosen approaches to gathering data are more appropriate to your research than others.

Consider and explain how you will conduct empirical research. For example, will you use interviews? Surveys? Observation? Lab experiments?

In your dissertation methodology, outline the variables that you will measure in your research and how you will select your data or participant sample to ensure valid results.

Finally, are there any specific tools that you will use for your methodology? If so, make sure you provide this information in the methodology section of your dissertation proposal.

  • Aims and objectives

Your dissertation proposal should also include the aims and objectives of your research. Be sure to state what your research hopes to achieve, as well as what outcomes you predict. You may also need to clearly state what your main research objectives are, in other words, how you plan to obtain those achievements and outcomes.

Your aim should not be too broad but should equally not be too specific.

An example of a dissertation aim could be: ‘To examine the key content features and social contexts that construct successful viral marketing content distribution on Twitter’.

In comparison, an example of a dissertation aim that is perhaps too broad would be: ‘‘To investigate how things go viral on Twitter’.

The aim of your dissertation proposal should relate directly to your research question.

  • Literature review

The literature review will list the books and materials that you used to do your research. This is where you can list materials that gave you more background on your topic, or contain research carried out previously that you referred to in your own studies. 

The literature review is also a good place to demonstrate how your research connects to previous academic studies and how your methods may differ from or build upon those used by other researchers. While it’s important to give enough information about the materials to show that you have read and understood them, don’t forget to include your analysis of their value to your work.

Where there are shortfalls in other pieces of academic work, identify these and address how you will overcome these shortcomings in your own research.

Constraints and limitations of your research

Lastly, you will also need to include the constraints of your research. Many topics will have broad links to numerous larger and more complex issues, so by clearly stating the constraints of your research, you are displaying your understanding and acknowledgment of these larger issues, and the role they play by focusing your research on just one section or part of the subject.

In this section it is important to Include examples of possible limitations, for example, issues with sample size, participant drop out, lack of existing research on the topic, time constraints, and other factors that may affect your study.

  • Ethical considerations

Confidentiality and ethical concerns are an important part of any research.

Ethics are key, as your dissertation will need to undergo ethical approval if you are working with participants. This means that it’s important to allow for and explain ethical considerations in your dissertation proposal.

Keep confidentiality in mind and keep your participants informed, so they are aware of how the data provided is being used and are assured that all personal information is being kept confidential.

Consider how involved your patients will be with your research, this will help you think about what ethical considerations to take and discuss them fully in your dissertation proposal. For example, face-to-face participant interview methods could require more ethical measures and confidentiality considerations than methods that do not require participants, such as corpus data (a collection of existing written texts) analysis. 

3. Dissertation proposal example

Writing a dissertation proposal

Once you know what sections you need or do not need to include, it may help focus your writing to break the proposal up into separate headings, and tackle each piece individually. You may also want to consider including a title. Writing a title for your proposal will help you make sure that your topic is narrow enough, as well as help keep your writing focused and on topic.

One example of a dissertation proposal structure is using the following headings, either broken up into sections or chapters depending on the required word count:

  • Methodology
  • Research constraints

In any dissertation proposal example, you’ll want to make it clear why you’re doing the research and what positives could come from your contribution. 

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dissertation proposal elements

Resource focus

The aim of this handout is to provide a general introduction to the skills required when writing a proposal for your undergraduate dissertation or independent research project. The examples in this handout use the APA 7 th edition referencing style.

What is a dissertation?

  • Also called an independent research project, a dissertation is a piece of original research on a topic, closely related to your degree, in which you are particularly interested!
  • It is normally the longest piece of work you will complete during your undergraduate study.
  • Unlike most other modules, which have taught content, research projects are completed more independently , with support from a supervisor from your course.

What is a dissertation proposal?

  • One of the first stages in the dissertation process.
  • A piece of work in which you present your research ideas, and plan out your dissertation project, before carrying out the research!

What are the benefits of writing a dissertation proposal?

Proposals give you the opportunity to evaluate your dissertation plans before embarking on extensive research. They enable you to receive feedback on the following:

  • Whether your project is practicable . Do you have the skills, knowledge and time required to carry out your proposed project?
  • Whether your research project will address your chosen research question.
  • Whether it will meet university requirements for an undergraduate dissertation (Greetham, 2019, p. 128).

Before writing your dissertation proposal: To-do list

  • Familiarise yourself with the requirements and guidelines for dissertation work; these may be university-wide or specific to your subject discipline.
  • Identify a good study-skills book to guide you step-by-step through the dissertation writing process (see ‘Sources and Further Reading' below).
  • Identify your overall area of proposed research or research topic.
  • Carry out a preliminary literature review to become familiar with the knowledge available on your topic, and to identify a research gap or problem that you will address ( see the CAW handout, ‘Writing a Literature Review’, to help with this ).
  • Work to develop your initial ideas surrounding your proposed project. You will want to think about:
  • What you want to investigate (Read on to think about how you might define your project).  
  • How you are going to find the information you need.
  • What the likely significance of your findings will be.

What might you include in your dissertation proposal?

(Adapted from Greetham, 2009, p. 134).

Before you continue

The requirements of your dissertation (and your dissertation proposal) will vary widely between different disciplines. Whilst this handout offers general guidance, it is very important that you follow your brief, and your departmental guidelines, as carefully as you can, to ensure that you include all necessary requirements.

A dissertation proposal typically includes the following elements:

One part of your proposal will involve formulating the proposed title of your research. The title might include

  • The main subject of your research (what is the thing being examined?)
  • The scope of your research (how much of the subject area is being examined?)
  • The methodological approach of your research (with what research method are you examining this subject?)

The impact of understanding of English grammar on academic success: A quantitative analysis of first year student assessments in Coventry University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

In this example we can see that the subject of the research has been introduced (undergraduate understanding of English grammar), and the scope has been narrowed to make this a feasible study (first-year student assessments within a particular faculty at Coventry University). The study’s method has also been briefly introduced (quantitative).

Outline of the problem

Research projects typically work to identify and then solve a particular problem, or to address a research gap . In the outline you will describe this problem or gap, which helps you to justify your project!

Example problem

University students’ understanding of English grammar is impeding the marks they receive for assignments.

Based on the problem you have identified, your proposal will need to clearly set out your dissertation’s aims in response to this problem. The proposal will need to consider

  • The purpose of your research. What does it aim to do to solve your problem?
  • The main research questions that will be investigated to solve the problem.

Example aim

In order to further understand the relationship between undergraduate understanding of grammatical rules and marks received, the proposed dissertation performs a quantitative analysis on a sample of Coventry University first years within the faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Example research question

How does student understanding of English grammar impact marks received for assignments?

Your objectives are the achievable project activities you plan to complete in order to fulfil your aims and answer your research question. When formulating your objectives, it can help to break up your research questions into smaller sub-questions.

Example sub-questions

  • What grammar rules cause students particular problems?
  • How do we measure student understanding of such grammar rules?
  • Does a significant correlation exist between student understanding of such rules, and academic success?
  • Can we identify a causal link between understanding of grammar rules, and academic success?

Whilst there are many possible sub-questions we might ask to help us break down the overall research question, we can see how these example questions make it a little easier to define what will be done over the course of the research:

Example objectives

  • To assess the level of the sampled students’ understanding of grammatical rules through a comprehensive survey.
  • To determine whether there is a correlation between the sampled students’ understanding of grammatical rules and academic success, by establishing whether there is a significant relationship between grammar errors and marks received for relevant assessments.
  • To identify particular grammatical rules causing difficulty to sampled students and consider possible contributing factors.

We can see that whilst the aims are more general , the example objectives plan out more exactly the tasks that the research will complete.

Present an overview of current academic thinking on your topic. Some departments may refer to this section as a literature review. You will want to consider the following questions:

  • What do relevant research and publications say about your topic or problem?
  • What are the main themes and issues that can be identified in current literature?
  • What are the main academic perspectives around your chosen topic?
  • Are there any research gaps you intend to fill?

Example of ways to summarise previous research:

  • Recent research generally agrees that […] , with previous findings typically focussing on three main themes: […].
  • Authors X and Y suggest that […], whilst author Z argues for […].

Examples of ways to introduce the limitations of previous research:

  • However, whilst such studies consistently agree that […], these studies have not dealt with […] in much detail.
  • Whilst data exists for such a claim, this data is now over X years old and it is important to determine whether it is still accurate.
  • A significant problem with the research on […] is […].
  • One major limitation of the study design is that […] .

Examples of ways to  introduce and respond to a research gap:

  • No previous study has examined […] in sufficient detail. The present study aims to address this gap within the literature, considering […]
  • More up-to-date research is required to assess whether the findings from previous research remains consistent. The present study consequently aims to do so […]
  • To mitigate the methodological issues of previous research, the present study is designed to […]

Research methodology (if appropriate)

If this element is required, you will need to explain the methods you will use to collect information in your dissertation, and explain how they allow you to achieve your aims and objectives :

  • Identify the activities you plan to carry out. Think about how, exactly, you will complete your research objectives.
  • Identify any equipment you may need.
  • Identify any anticipated project costs.
  • Explain how you propose to address anticipated problems and ethical issues.
  • Assess your approach for reliability and validity.
  • Identify how you are going to allocate time to the required project activities.
  • You might be expected to plan out or visualise the timeline for your project, either through a bar chart or a Gantt chart. You will want to show the sequence of project activities and deadlines for their completion.

Provisional outline of dissertation structure

  • Outline the proposed chapter headings and subheadings of your dissertation. This will give structure to your work by providing you with a plan for your writing.
  • State what the significance of the outcome of your research is likely to be.
  • What will it contribute to the body of knowledge and how might it influence future research?
  • Relate your conclusions back to your research aims and objectives .
  • Compile a List of References for everything cited in the proposal, adhering to the referencing style used in your department.

Discuss your dissertation proposal with your supervisor and be prepared to revise it . Good research takes work!

Keep it by you and consult it as you carry out your project work.

General References and Further Reading

Durdella, N. (2019). Qualitative dissertation methodology: A guide for research design and methods . Sage Publications.

Greetham, B. (2019). How to write your undergraduate dissertation. Red Globe Press. (Chapter 16, ‘Planning your research’, is highly recommended)

Sage Publications. (2018). Sage Research Methods [database]. https://methods.sagepub.com/   (A great resource providing access to lots of texts, sources, and advice regarding all kinds of research methods)

Slapin, J. (2017). Fundamentals of Quantitative Text Analysis [video series] . Sage Research Methods. https://methods.sagepub.com/Search/Results

Terrell, S. R. (2016). Writing a proposal for your dissertation: Guidelines and examples. The Guilford Press.

Wisker, G. (2019). The undergraduate research handbook. Red Globe Press.

To cite this resource:

Coventry University. (2023). Writing a proposal for an undergraduate dissertation or independent research project [Resource]. Centre for Academic Writing.

Subject Specific References and Further Reading

Breach, M. (2008). Dissertation Writing for Engineers and Scientists. Pearson Education.

Bordon, I., & Rüedi, K. (2014). The dissertation: A guide for architecture students. Routledge.

Durkin, D. B. (2021). Writing strategies for the education dissertation. Routledge.

Fisher, C. (2010). Researching and writing a dissertation: A guidebook for business students. Pearson Education.

Glasper, E. A., & Rees, C. (2013). How to write your nursing dissertation. Wiley-Blackwell.

Jegede, J., Hargreaves, C., Smith, K., Hodgson, P., Todd, M. J., & Waldman Abingdon, J. (2020). Writing successful undergraduate dissertations in social sciences: A student’s handbook. Routledge.

Lammasniemi, L. (2021). Law dissertations: A step-by-step guide. Routledge.

Naoum. S. G. (2019). Dissertation research and writing for built environment students. Routledge.

Seligman, R. A. (2023). A student guide to writing an undergraduate psychology honors thesis. Routledge.

Parsons, T., & Knight, P. G. (2015). How to do your dissertation in geography and related disciplines. Routledge.

Paterson, A. (2016). Research methods for accounting and finance: a guide to writing your dissertation. Goodfellow Publishers.

Walliman, N. & Appleton, J. (2009). Your undergraduate dissertation in health and social care. SAGE Publications.

Young, S. (2022). How to write your undergraduate dissertation in criminology. Milton.

Further Support

CAW offers writing development workshops across all genres of academic writing, including Writing your Dissertation or Final Year Project workshop.  To view available workshops and book online, visit:  https://libcal.coventry.ac.uk/calendar/caw    

To book a one-to-one tutorial with the Centre for Academic Writing: https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/cawlibcalhome    

To view your disciplinary subject guide, visit: https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/subjects  

To find who your subject Academic Liaison Librarian is, visit:   https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/ALL     

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Dissertations 1: getting started: writing a proposal.

  • Starting Your Dissertation
  • Choosing A Topic and Researching
  • Devising An Approach/Method
  • Thinking Of A Title
  • Writing A Proposal

What is a Proposal?

Before you start your dissertation, you may be asked to write a proposal for it.  

The purpose of a dissertation proposal is to provide a snapshot of what your study involves. Usually, after submission of the proposal you will be assigned a supervisor who has some expertise in your field of study. You should receive feedback on the viability of the topic, how to focus the scope, research methods, and other issues you should consider before progressing in your research. 

The research proposal should present the dissertation topic, justify your reasons for choosing it and outline how you are going to research it . You'll have to keep it brief, as word counts can vary from anywhere between 800 to 3,000 words at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels.  

It is worth bearing in mind that you are not bound by your proposal. Your project is likely going to  evolve and may move in a new direction . Your dissertation supervisor is aware that this may occur as you delve deeper into the literature in your field of study. Nevertheless, always discuss any major developments with your supervisor in the first instance.  

Reading for your Proposal

Before writing a proposal, you will need to read. A lot! But that doesn’t mean you must read everything. Be targeted! What do you really need to know?  

Instead of reading every page in every book, look for clues in chapter titles and introductions to narrow your focus down. Use abstracts from journal articles to check whether the material is relevant to your study and keep notes of your reading along with clear records of bibliographic information and page numbers for your references.  

Ultimately, your objective should be to create a dialogue between the theories and ideas you have read and your own thoughts. What is your personal perspective on the topic? What evidence is there that supports your point of view? Furthermore, you should ask questions about each text. Is it current or is it outdated? What argument is the author making? Is the author biased?  

Approaching your reading in this way ensures that you engage with the literature critically. You will demonstrate that you have done this in your mini literature review (see Proposal Structure box).  

If you have not yet started reading for your proposal, the Literature Review Guide offers advice on choosing a topic and how to conduct a literature search. Additionally, the Effective Reading Guide provides tips on researching and critical reading.  

Four students are reading in a library

Proposal Structure

So, how is a dissertation proposal typically structured? The structure of a proposal varies considerably.

This is a list of elements that might be required. Please check the dissertation proposal requirements and marking criteria on Blackboard or with your lecturers if you are unsure about the requirements.

Title : The title you have devised, so far - it can change throughout the dissertation drafting process! A good title is simple but fairly specific. Example: "Focus and concentration during revision: an evaluation of the Pomodoro technique."

Introduction/Background : Provides background and presents the key issues of your proposed research. Can include the following:

Rationale : Why is this research being undertaken, why is it interesting and worthwhile, also considering the existing literature?

Purpose : What do you intend to accomplish with your study, e.g. improve something or understand something? 

Research question : The main, overarching question your study seeks to answer. E.g. "How can focus and concentration be improved during revision?"

Hypothesis : Quantitative studies can use hypotheses in alternative to research questions. E.g. "Taking regular breaks significantly increases the ability to memorise information."

Aim : The main result your study seeks to achieve. If you use a research question, the aim echoes that, but uses an infinitive. E.g. "The aim of this research is to investigate how can focus and concentration be improved during revision."

Objectives : The stepping stones to achieve your aim. E.g. "The objectives of this research are 1) to review the literature on study techniques; 2) to identify the factors that influence focus and concentration; 3) to undertake an experiment on the Pomodoro technique with student volunteers; 4) to issue recommendations on focus and concentration for revision."

Literature review : Overview of significant literature around the research topic, moving from general (background) to specific (your subject of study). Highlight what the literature says, and does not say, on the research topic, identifying a gap(s) that your research aims to fill. 

Methods : Here you consider what methods you are planning to use for your research, and why you are thinking of them. What secondary sources (literature) are you going to consult? Are you going to use primary sources (e.g. data bases, statistics, interviews, questionnaires, experiments)? Are you going to focus on a case study? Is the research going to be qualitative or quantitative? Consider if your research will need ethical clearance.

Significance/Implications/Expected outcomes : In this section you reiterate what are you hoping to demonstrate. State how your research could contribute to debates in your particular subject area, perhaps filling a gap(s) in the existing works. 

Plan of Work : You might be asked to present your timeline for completing the dissertation. The timeline can be presented using different formats such as bullet points, table, Gantt chart. Whichever format you use, your plan of work should be realistic and should demonstrate awareness of the various elements of the study such as literature research, empirical work, drafting, re-drafting, etc.

Outline : Here you include a provisional table of contents for your dissertation. The structure of the dissertation can be free or prescribed by the dissertation guidelines of your course, so check that up. 

Reference List : The list should include the bibliographical information of all the sources you cited in the proposal, listed in alphabetical order. 

Most of the elements mentioned above are explained in the tabs of this guide!

Literature-based dissertations in the humanities

A literature-based dissertation in the humanities, however, might be less rigidly structured and may look like this: 

  • Short introduction including background information on your topic, why it is relevant and how it fits into the literature. 
  • Main body which outlines how you will organise your  chapters .
  • Conclusion which states what you hope your study will achieve. 
  • Bibliography .  

After Writing

Check your proposal! 

Have you shown that your research idea is: 



Feasible with the timeframe and resources available?  

Have you: 

Identified a clear research gap to focus on? 

Stated why your study is important? 

Selected a methodology that will enable you to gather the data you need? 

Use the marking criteria for dissertation proposals provided by your department to check your work.  

Locke, L.F.,  Spirduso, W.W. and Silverman, S.J. (2014).  Proposals that Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals . Sage.

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  • Last Updated: Aug 1, 2023 2:36 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.westminster.ac.uk/starting-your-dissertation



Step-by-step guide for writing a dissertation proposal in 2024

Table of contents, introduction.

Dissertation s can be difficult to work with as they are major tasks, regardless of whether it may be your first or tenth academic endeavor. Setting out to complete a dissertation first requires the drafting of a dissertation proposal. The proposal represents the first major milestone to be achieved in this context. What are the main steps for writing a dissertation proposal? This article explains the relevance of a proposal as well as the major elements involved in its drafting.

This Article Covers:

What is a dissertation proposal, how long should a dissertation proposal be.

  • Steps for Writing a Dissertation Proposal

A dissertation proposal sets a researcher’s objectives for an innovative research study. The proposal serves as a blueprint for the entire project, drawing out its framework, relevance, and strategy proposed for its completion. Proposals can also be drafted as a request for funding; hence, it is essential to be as specific as possible regarding your research goals.

During the research process, you may find yourself deviating from what you wrote in the proposal. That’s fine, too, because the proposal serves as the first draft of your research proposal. Deviation occurs as a result of trial and error, which is perfectly acceptable in research. It’s fine if you haven’t worked out all the details yet!

The originality of your study concept, its larger significance within your chosen field, and the research questions themselves are the various elements that must be decided upon during the drafting of the proposal itself.

There are no strict guidelines when it comes to the length of a dissertation proposal. Regardless, it is important to check whether the university has any restrictions in relation to the page length or total word count.

It is imperative to chart out a plan for your dissertation proposal. While the length is not as important, the conciseness and clarity of the proposal are extremely important to maintain. While dissertation proposals are all generally over 10 pages long, they tend not to exceed 20 pages.

Steps for Writing a Dissertation Proposal–

dissertation proposal elements

Step 1. Coming up with an Idea

Before the drafting of your dissertat ion, it is always essential to come up with a good dissertation idea for the proposal.

To this end, find a topic in your field that fascinates you and conduct some basic research on it. What are the key aspects that other researchers are concerned about? What do they recommend for future research? What do you think is a particularly interesting gap in the field?

After landing on an idea, consider how you may narrow down on the specifics and develop a structure associated with it. Don’t be overly ambitious or vague with your dissertation topic – it must be detailed enough to be feasible.

Move from a broad range of interests to a specific niche. For instance, like so:

dissertation proposal elements

Step 2. Present your Idea in the Introduction

Much like most academic papers, a dissertation proposal begins with an introduction. The introduction includes an explanation of the research topic, provides relevant background information, and presents the goals, objectives, and research question(s) of the proposed dissertation.

Write regarding the core of your chosen topic: What is at stake in your research? What makes it interesting? Ensure that you are not carried away with generalizations or grand statements. It is important to be specific and appeal to the stakeholders in the field of your study with its relevance.

Apart from dissertations that are completely exploratory in their design, all information corresponding with the focus of the research must be supported by contextual information. This background information is necessary to ensure that the readers understand the proposed questions within the dissertation. The context also informs the reader regarding the contemporary state of the study subject as well as the latest debates concerning the issue as well. Furthermore, it indicates how your dissertation shall contribute to the field.

Rather than divulging all the details of the context through the use of a literature review, ensure that only a general overview of the relevant debates and viewpoints are included in the draft of your dissertation proposal.

The context then leads to the most important section of the introduction: your aim, objectives, and research question(s), which must easily be recognized and stand out from the rest of the content in the proposal. Some researchers make use of bullet points or bolder fonts to do so.

Ensure the specificity and feasibility of your research questions so that they may be answered within the scope of your dissertation and the resources available to you. A very broad research question or multiple questions are generally avoided as they result in a host of limitations.

While formulating your research questions, bear in mind that the goal of a dissertation proposal is to convince the reader that your proposed work is valuable and feasible.

Step 3. Focus on Related Research

Now that you’ve decided on a topic, it’s time to go through existing research that has focused on ideas similar to yours. This is important as it will reveal the limitations and gaps in other works of research in relation to the subject. Furthermore, a literature review ensures that you are not asking a question that has already been answered.

You’ve undoubtedly done some preliminary reading already, but now that your topic is more clearly defined, you’ll need to analyze and evaluate the most relevant sources in your literature review.

Here, you should summarize the findings reached by previous researchers and comment on any gaps or limitations identified in their studies. There may be an abundance of research to discuss; hence, ensure that you paraphrase and summarize to keep your writing concise.

The literature review aims to identify the findings and theories that will inform your own research, in addition to commenting on the gaps and limitations in previous research that your dissertation may address.

Step 4. Describe your Methodology

After establishing context, it is important to explain the proposed methodology, which entails the specific procedures involved in the research, the structure of your study, and the methods of data collection and analysis applied in the study.

This approach requires a significant amount of specificity – you need to convince your supervisor that you’ve thought through your approach to the research and are capable of carrying it out. Based on the topic of your study, this section will appear different in terms of structure and length.

For instance, you may be working on empirical research, where you need to collect data and uncover new information; or you may be undertaking theoretical research, where you try to build a new conceptual model or add further nuances to an existing one.

While both approaches have been employed in dissertation research, the content of your methodology section differs based on the relevance of each approach to your dissertation.

Empirical Research

Within empirical research, gathering new data and carrying out data analysis is imperative to address your research questions. Your empirical research may be quantitative (statistics-based), qualitative (words and meanings-based), or a combination of the two (mixed-methods).

When conducting empirical research, it is critical to chart out exactly how the data will be obtained. Here are some pointers to bear in mind in this context:

  • How are the data obtained – using surveys, lab experiments, interviews, or other methods?
  • What factors are you going to measure?
  • What method will you use to choose a representative sample?
  • What measures will you take to ensure that individuals who participate in your research are treated ethically?
  • What tools (both conceptual and physical) do you intend to use? How is their use justified in this study?

Empirical studies can cite other works of research or mention a text that describes the advantages and proper use of a particular research method or tool that shall support your choice of the same.

Rather than reiterating the entirety of the theoretical literature, only explain portions that are relevant to your selection of methods or methodologies.

Furthermore, after data collection, the analysis comprises the very next step. Although the data to be collected may not be familiar to the researcher, it is important to know at least the type of information that is being sought as well as the means that shall be used to obtain it (e.g. statistical tests, thematic analysis, etc.).

Theoretical Research

Theoretical research can be carried out without the need for collecting new data. In such a case, the section devoted to methodology will be more focused on the theory to be used within your dissertation – herein, a brief explanation of the relevant conceptual models and the approach to be followed should be provided.

For example, a dissertation that considers a literary analysis as core to its research methodology typically does not require the collection of fresh data. However, it remains important to describe the theoretical approach to the text(s) under consideration, as well as specify the parts of the text(s) that you intend to focus on.

The very theories that were discussed in the literature review can be used in the proposal. In this context, the focus is on how you intend to incorporate the contributions of previous theorists in your own study.

Step 5. Outlining the Potential Implications of your Research

In most cases, your dissertation proposal ends with a section that lists the goals you wish to accomplish with your study.

It is impossible to be completely sure of what your findings and conclusions would be. Rather than assuming them, you may discuss the predicted implications of your dissertation and its contribution to knowledge.

What are the implications of your research? Do you intend to:

  • Develop or test a theory?
  • Provide governments or companies with new data?
  • Challenge a commonly held belief?
  • Make recommendations for the improvement of a specific process?

The potential implications include the theoretical or practical impacts of your dissertation as well. Finally, it is good practice to briefly explain the contribution you intend to make to the overarching base of knowledge relevant to the study subject, the specific question(s) you intend to answer, and the research gap that this initiative intend to fill.

Step 6. Reference List or Bibliography

As with any piece of academic writing, it is crucial that your dissertation proposal clearly mentions all the sourced used within it. At the very end of your proposal, a properly formatted reference list or bibliography must be added.

Various institutions recommend differing referencing styles, the most popular of which are Harvard, Vancouver, APA, and MHRA. If your department does not provide you any specific guidelines, choose a style and adhere to it consistently.

A reference list must only contain the sources references within your proposal. On the other hand, a bibliography may include any source you have used to prepare the proposal, regardless of whether or not you have included information from the source in the text of your dissertation proposal. A bibliography may also be an indicative bibliography, which includes significant materials that you have not yet read but intend to use during the research process.

Consult your supervisor regarding the type of bibliography or reference list to be used in your proposal draft.

To Conclude

We hope that you found this detailed step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation proposal useful enough to have set you on your way to writing the most interesting dissertation you can manage.

We have also put together a checklist for you to evaluate whether your dissertation proposal meets the conventions and guidelines provided by your university.

While you’re at it, keep an eye out for our blog piece on some detailed guidelines and ideas that will assist you throughout your dissertation writing process. Visit our website to know more! -Click Here!

-Isabell S.

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What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

Need a helping hand?

dissertation proposal elements

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics , content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful: https://gradcoach.com/research-proposal-template/

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again


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Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.


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What Are The Elements Of A Good Research Proposal?

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by  Antony W

March 10, 2023

elements of a good research proposal

The key to writing a great research proposal for your upcoming research project is to make sure the document has the right structure.

Your paper must include all the components that your professor expects to see. So in this guide, we’ll outline all the elements of a good research proposal and explain why they’re important.

The elements of a good research proposal are the title, the introduction, literature review, aims and objectives, methodology, scope of the research, outline and timetable, and bibliography.

It’s important to include these elements in your research proposal exactly in the order in which they appear in the list above.

Why The Key Elements Of A Research Proposal Matter

The basic elements of a research proposal are important because they communicate your thought process, present the originality of your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re passionate about the subject in question.

If you structure and write your research proposal well, your paper can convince your professor that your project is feasible and you have what it takes to take   your research project to the next level.

Have no time to read this guide and would rather get quick writing help? Let us write your research proposal for you! 

7 Key Elements of a Research Proposal 

While developing a detailed and comprehensive research proposal requires a lot of planning, attention to details, and academic writing skills , understanding the core elements of the paper is the first step to getting your proposal accepted.

So here are the elements that you should include in your research proposal.

It sounds somewhat obvious when we say that your research proposal with a title. To say the least, you already know you should.

But perhaps the most common mistake that many students make is to write general titles that lack focus.

Instead of writing a long title that’s hard to read or a short title that fails to highlight the theme of your research, write a clear and concise headline that tells your reader what your research proposal is about at a first glance.

2. Introduction

The starting paragraph to a research project is one of the elements of a good research proposal because it introduces the subject you wish to address or a research problem you wish to analyze.

Because the introduction of a research proposal is what sets the tone for the rest of the paper, it’s important to start with a hook and then organize your thoughts in a logical and organized manner.

The introduction to your research proposal should give background information and explain why you believe a research question is worth exploring. While not mandatory, you can briefly describe your methodologies in the introduction and then expand them later on.

Your introduction should be clear and concise. Make sure you include only the most relevant information in this section so you don’t make it unnecessarily too long.

3. Literature Review

Although a research proposal doesn’t include a full literature review , it’s important to include an overview of the most significant studies in your field.

The section should feature evidence and statistical data to demonstrate the significance of your research.

Through the literature review, you can easily draw your reader’s attention to existing research, identify gaps in existing studies, and make your reader understand how your proposal will contribute to the already existing research.

4. Aims and Objectives

Aims and objectives are what you wish your research proposal to accomplish. Your aims will be your overall outcome or what you want the research to achieve.

Objectives tend to be narrower and more focused. More often than not, you need to provide an explanation for each of your objectives to show how they will help to meet the aims of your study.

Unless required, you don’t really have to include a hypothesis that your research proposal looks forward to test.

5. Research Methodology

Methodologies are simply the research methods you will use to conduct your study and they must appear in your research proposal whether or not you’re conducting an experimental research.

The methodologies include analysis and sampling techniques equipment, research approaches, and ethical concerns.

Make sure your explanation for each methodology is clear and precise. It helps to justify why you’ve chosen to use a certain methodology over an alternative. This will go a long way to show that you took your time to think about your methodologies before picking them.

It’s important to explain how you will collect data, the sample size you plan to consider for your research investigation, and the techniques you consider the most appropriate to analyze the data.

6. Scope of the Research

Because you’ll be working with limited time and resource, it’s reasonable to include a section on the scope of the research in your proposal. In other words, you have to show your reader that you can start and complete your research within the constraints of these two resources.

Remember, your research will more than likely have limits, and addressing them in this section not only shows that you have given them a thought but also makes your research proposal strong and authentic.

Don’t just focus on the challenges that you’re likely to come across during your studies. You should also propose alternative solutions that you can use and why they might help.

7. Outline and Timetable

Your professor expects to see an outline and a timetable in your research proposal so it’s important that you include them in your research proposal.

The purpose of the outline is to show how you plan to structure your dissertation . Briefly note what each section will cover and explain how it all fits into the argument of your research project.

The purpose of the timetable is to show how much time you’ll need to complete your research. In particular, you need to make sure you mention exactly how long you expect each stage of your study to take.

Don’t just mention how long the research process will take. Make sure you also indicate how long you’ll take to compile your research.

Get Help with Research Proposal Writing

Knowing the elements of a good research proposal is one thing. Writing the proposal is where there’s a lot of work. If you don’t have the time to complete the work yourself, feel free to take advantage of our research proposal writing and get the paper done on time.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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How to align the elements of your dissertation proposal

Alignment refers to the logical progression of ideas between the structural elements of your dissertation proposal. When your Chair or Committee talks about achieving “alignment,” they are referring to the logical progression from the Introduction, to the Problem Statement, to the Purpose Statement, to the Research Questions and Hypotheses (if applicable), and finally to the Methodology. Lack of alignment between dissertation elements is possibly the most common reason a dissertation proposal fails to receive approval.

Download the pdf of the PowerPoint:  How to align the elements of your dissertation proposal

You may have other sections in your proposal—for example, a section about the significance of your study, the nature of your study, background, key terms, etc. Focus on the main elements that form the backbone of your study. Once all the foundation pieces are in alignment, you will find your study is much more manageable.

Click here for the infographic .


The introduction sets the stage for your study. In broad statements, introduce the topic to your reader. Define key terms. After reading the introduction, the problem should start to be apparent. Start with ten or twelve sentences supported with strong peer-reviewed sources.

The problem statement flows from the introduction. Clearly state only one problem. Start with five supported sentences. Be clear: “The problem is that…”

  • Specify just one problem .
  • Situate the problem in the literature.
  • Differentiate the problem from the broader topic.


After reading the problem statement, the logical question is, so what should we do about it? And how should we do it? The purpose statement is the logical answer. Choose the methodology that will best help you answer your research questions (your choices are qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). Be clear: “The purpose of this study is to…”


The research questions are your roadmap. Be clear: “The following research questions will guide the study…” The research questions logically follow from the problem and the purpose. Use consistent terminology.

Hypotheses are your research questions operationalized into null and alternate statements. (If you are doing a qualitative study, you won’t have hypotheses.)

The Most Exhaustive Guide to Writing a Dissertation Proposal Outline

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  • 1. Dissertation Proposal Outline: Meaning
  • 2. Understanding the Purpose of a Dissertation Proposal Outline
  • 3. How to Write a Dissertation Proposal Outline: In-Depth Process
  • 4. Need Professional Writing Assistance?

Undertaking a dissertation is a defining moment in the academic journey of every graduate student. As a crucial step towards earning a postgraduate degree, it requires meticulous planning and organization. The initial stage of this process is formulating a compelling dissertation proposal, which acts as a roadmap for your research journey.

In this article, our experts have put together a detailed and exhaustive guide to assist you in crafting a well-structured and compelling dissertation proposal outline. We recognize the significance of a dissertation proposal as a vital milestone in the research process.

It serves as a roadmap, outlining the essential components of your study and providing a foundation for your research endeavor. Crafting a well-structured outline not only aids in maintaining organization but also showcases your research acumen and underscores the potential significance of your study within the academic community.

By the end of this article, you will have been equipped with the necessary knowledge to captivate your readers, present your research objectives clearly, and lay a strong foundation for your academic pursuit through a well-crafted proposal outline. We firmly believe that with the information presented in this guide by our essay writer help , you will be fully capable of developing a successful dissertation proposal outline on your own.

Dissertation Proposal Outline: Meaning

A dissertation proposal outline is a structured and organized plan that outlines the key components and elements of a dissertation proposal. It serves as a roadmap or guide for the research project, providing a clear overview of the proposed study’s objectives, research questions, methodology, expected findings, and potential contributions. The outline acts as a framework that helps researchers organize their thoughts, present their ideas coherently, and demonstrate the feasibility and significance of their research to the academic community.

It provides a structured format for communicating the essential components of the proposed dissertation and serves as a basis for discussion, evaluation, and approval by the dissertation committee or academic supervisors. In essence, this outline serves as a foundation upon which the researcher builds their comprehensive dissertation proposal.

Understanding the Purpose of a Dissertation Proposal Outline

Understanding the purpose of a dissertation proposal outline is crucial for effectively structuring and organizing your research. Here are the key purposes of a dissertation proposal outline:

  • Demonstrate the Significance of Your Research

The outline allows you to clearly articulate the research problem, context, and relevance. It helps you convey why your research is important and how it addresses a gap or contributes to the existing knowledge in your field. By outlining the significance of your research, you can justify its value and potential impact.

  • Establish a Clear Research Direction

The proposal outline helps you define the scope and objectives of your research. It allows you to state your research questions or hypotheses, providing a roadmap for your investigation. By organizing your thoughts and structuring your research objectives, the outline ensures that your study has a clear direction and focus.

  • Build a Theoretical Framework

The outline helps you develop a theoretical framework that supports your research. It enables you to identify and integrate relevant theories, concepts, and empirical studies into your work. By building a theoretical foundation, you can demonstrate a solid understanding of the existing literature and establish a conceptual framework for your research.

  • Design a Methodologically Sound Study

The proposal outline guides the design of your research methodology. It helps you determine the appropriate research design, sampling strategy, data collection methods, and analysis techniques. By outlining your research methodology, you can ensure that your study is rigorous, ethical, and capable of addressing your research questions.

  • Allocate Resources and Establish a Timeline

The outline helps you plan and allocate resources effectively. It allows you to identify the necessary resources, such as equipment, materials, or access to specific databases. Additionally, it enables you to establish a timeline with key milestones and deadlines, ensuring that your research progresses promptly.

  • Address Potential Limitations

The outline allows you to identify and address potential limitations in your research. It prompts you to consider factors that may affect the validity or generalizability of your findings. By acknowledging these limitations, you can develop strategies to mitigate them or suggest areas for future research.

  • Seek Feedback and Approval

The proposal outline serves as a communication tool to share your research plan with your dissertation committee or supervisor. It provides a structured framework for presenting your ideas and seeking feedback. By sharing your outline, you can engage in discussions, receive suggestions, and refine your research plan before proceeding with the full dissertation.

As a part of understanding how to write a dissertation , learning how to create a proposal outline becomes imperative. This is because it provides a comprehensive and well-structured framework for your research. It serves as a design for your research journey, ensuring that your dissertation is coherent, rigorous, and aligned with academic standards.

How to Write a Dissertation Proposal Outline: In-Depth Process

This is by far the most detailed discussion of the process of writing or creating a dissertation proposal outline articulately. This will give a strong and cohesive understanding of how to structure your dissertation proposal.

I. Introduction

The introduction section of the dissertation proposal outline provides an overview of your research topic and sets the context for your study. It aims to capture the reader’s attention and provide a clear rationale for the research. Key elements to consider when elaborating on the introduction include:

1.1 Background and Research Problem:

Elaborate on the background information related to your research topic. Discuss the context, significance, and relevance of the problem you are addressing. Explain why it is important to investigate this problem and how it contributes to the field.

1.2 Research Questions and Objectives:

Clearly state your research questions and objectives. Elaborate on the specific goals and outcomes you aim to achieve through your research. Explain how these research questions address the research problem and contribute to the existing knowledge.

1.3 Scope and Limitations:

Discuss the scope of your research, including any boundaries or specific aspects you will focus on. Acknowledge the limitations of your study, such as time constraints, access to resources, or potential biases. Consider how these limitations may impact the generalizability or validity of your findings.

II. Research Questions and Objectives

The research questions and objectives section outlines the specific inquiries you aim to address through your research. When explaining this section, consider the following:

2.1 Research Questions:

Provide a detailed explanation of each research question. Explain why these questions are relevant and how they contribute to filling the research gap. Discuss the theoretical or practical implications of these questions and how they align with your research objectives.

2.2 Research Objectives:

Elaborate on the specific objectives you aim to achieve. Describe each objective in detail, explaining what you intend to accomplish and why it is important. Clearly state how these objectives align with your research questions and overall research goals.

III. Literature Review

The literature review section provides an overview of the existing scholarly research and knowledge related to your research topic. Following are the elements to outline:

3.1 Key Theories and Concepts:

Identify and elaborate on the key theories, concepts, or frameworks relevant to your research topic. Explain their significance and relevance in understanding the problem you are investigating. Discuss how these theories inform your research approach and methodology.

3.2 Existing Empirical Studies:

Summarize and critique the existing empirical studies and research findings related to your topic. Elaborate on the methodologies, sample sizes, and main results of these studies. Analyze the strengths and limitations of these studies and highlight any gaps or inconsistencies in the literature.

3.3 Synthesis and Conceptual Framework:

Synthesize the literature by identifying common themes, patterns, or controversies in the field. Elaborate on the conceptual framework that will guide your research. Explain how your study builds upon or extends the existing literature, filling the gaps or addressing the limitations identified.

IV. Methodological Rigor

The section on methodological rigor focuses on the research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures. When outlining this section, consider the following:

4.1 Research Design:

Describe the specific research design you will employ, such as experimental, correlational, qualitative, or mixed methods. Justify the choice of the design based on the research questions and objectives. Elaborate on the advantages and limitations of the chosen design and explain how it aligns with your research aims.

4.2 Sampling Strategy:

Explain the sampling strategy you will use to select participants or data sources. Describe the target population and the rationale for selecting a particular sample. Discuss the sample size determination, sampling techniques, and any inclusion or exclusion criteria. Address any potential biases in the sampling process and how you plan to mitigate them.

4.3 Data Collection:

Elaborate on the specific methods and instruments you will use to collect data. Provide a detailed description of each data collection procedure, such as surveys, interviews, observations, or document analysis. Discuss the reliability and validity of the data collection tools and any modifications or adaptations you plan to make.

4.4 Data Analysis:

Describe the data analysis techniques you will employ to analyze your data. Discuss whether you will use qualitative or quantitative analysis methods or a combination of both. Explain how you will code, categorize, and interpret the data. Address any potential issues related to data quality, reliability, or validity, and discuss how you plan to ensure rigor in your analysis. Keep in mind that data analysis and dissertation finding analysis are not the same.

4.5 Validity and Reliability:

Elaborate on the steps you will take to ensure the validity and reliability of your research findings. Discuss the measures you will implement to enhance internal and external validity. Explain how you will establish inter-rater reliability or test-retest reliability if applicable. Consider any potential threats to validity and discuss the strategies to mitigate them.

4.6 Data Management and Storage:

Discuss how you will manage and store the data collected during your research. Explain the protocols for data entry, organization, and storage to ensure data security and confidentiality. Address any legal or ethical considerations related to data management, such as compliance with data protection regulations.

V. Ethical Considerations

The ethical considerations section outlines the ethical implications and safeguards of your research. When elaborating on this section, consider the following:

5.1 Participant Protection:

Discuss how you will protect the rights, confidentiality, and privacy of participants. Explain the informed consent process, ensuring that participants are fully informed about the research and their voluntary participation. Address any potential risks or harm to participants and describe the steps you will take to mitigate them.

5.2 Institutional Review Board Approval:

Elaborate on the process of obtaining ethical approval from the relevant Institutional Review Board or ethical review committee. Discuss the necessary steps, including submitting research proposals, informed consent forms, and any other required documentation. Explain how you will adhere to ethical guidelines and regulations throughout your research.

VI. Anticipated Outcomes, Contributions, and Significance

The section on anticipated outcomes and significance highlights the expected results and the broader impact of your research. The following are to be considered when outlining this section:

6.1 Expected Findings:

Discuss the anticipated results or outcomes of your research. Elaborate on how your study will contribute to the existing knowledge and fill the identified research gap. Provide a brief overview of the key findings you expect to obtain and how they align with your research questions and objectives.

6.2 Theoretical, Practical, or Policy Implications:

Discuss the potential practical applications and implications of your research. Explore how your research will advance theory, inform practical applications, or contribute to policy development. Elaborate on how your findings may influence decision-making, address societal challenges, or lead to future research directions. Connect your research to its broader societal and practical relevance.

6.3 Contribution to the Field:

Highlight the unique contributions your research will make to the field of study. Discuss how your study may fill gaps, challenge existing theories, add new insights, or offer new perspectives within your field. Elaborate on the potential impact and relevance of your research within the academic community and beyond.

VII. Resources and Budget

The section on resources and budget outlines the necessary resources and financial considerations for your research project. The following are some important considerations for this section:

7.1 Required Resources:

Identify the resources you will need to successfully conduct your research. This may include access to specific databases, equipment, software, or materials. Elaborate on the availability of these resources and how you plan to acquire or access them.

7.2 Budget Considerations:

Discuss the financial aspects of your research, including any anticipated costs or expenses. Elaborate on how you will allocate your budget to cover research-related expenses such as participant incentives, data collection tools, travel, or publication fees. Justify your budgetary needs based on the scope and requirements of your research.

7.3 Funding Sources:

Discuss any potential funding sources that you have identified to support your research. Elaborate on any grants, scholarships, or sponsorships you plan to apply for or have already secured. Address how the available resources and budget will enable you to successfully carry out your research project.

VIII. Proposed Timeline

The proposed timeline section outlines the estimated schedule and key milestones of your research project. When you are outlining this section, consider the following:

8.1 Research Phases:

Divide your research project into distinct phases and provide a timeline for each phase. For example, you may have phases such as literature review, data collection, data analysis, and writing. Elaborate on the estimated duration of each phase and any dependencies or sequencing between them.

8.2 Milestones and Deadlines:

Identify the major milestones and deadlines in your research timeline. These could include completing a literature review, obtaining ethical approval, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing specific chapters. Elaborate on the expected completion dates for each milestone to ensure realistic and well-paced research progress.

8.3 Contingency Plans:

Acknowledge that research projects may encounter unforeseen challenges or delays. Discuss any contingency plans or buffer time you have included in your timeline to account for potential setbacks. Consider how you will monitor and manage your progress to stay on track with the proposed timeline.

IX. Expected Limitations and Mitigation Strategies

This section outlines anticipated potential limitations that may arise during the research process as well as mitigation strategies. Ensure that you take the following into consideration:

9.1 Addressing Potential Limitations

Identify and discuss any anticipated limitations or challenges that may impact the validity or generalizability of your research findings. These limitations can be related to sample size, data collection methods, time constraints, or external factors. Acknowledge these limitations transparently to maintain the credibility of your research.

9.2 Mitigation and Alternative Approaches

Propose strategies to mitigate the identified limitations. Explore alternative approaches or methods that could be used to address potential shortcomings. By demonstrating your awareness of the limitations and your proactive mindset, you exhibit your commitment to conducting rigorous research.

X. Conclusion

The conclusion section of the dissertation proposal outline summarizes the main points and reinforces the importance of your research. Emphasize the potential impact of your research and the value it brings to the academic community. Leave your readers with a sense of confidence in the feasibility and quality of your proposed study.

10.1 Recapitulation of Research Objectives:

Provide a concise recap of the research objectives you have outlined in the proposal. Remind the reader of the specific goals and outcomes you aim to achieve through your research.

10.2 Significance of the Study:

Reiterate the significance of your research and its potential impact on the field. Summarize how your study fills the identified research gap, advances knowledge, or addresses practical challenges.

10.3 Expected Contributions:

Recapitulate the anticipated outcomes and contributions of your research. Highlight the potential findings, theoretical implications, practical applications, or policy recommendations that may arise from your study.

10.4 Feasibility and Precision:

Emphasize the practicability and methodological rigor of your research. Reassure the reader that your proposed research design, data collection methods, and analysis procedures are well-considered and will yield reliable results.

10.5 Future Directions:

Discuss potential future directions or extensions of your research. Identify any areas that require further investigation or refinement. Highlight the opportunities for additional studies or collaborations based on the outcomes of your research.

10.6 Conclusion Statement:

End the conclusion section with a strong concluding statement that summarizes the overall significance and value of your research. Leave the reader with a lasting impression of the importance and potential impact of your study.

XI. References

The references section provides a list of the sources cited in your dissertation proposal outline.

11.1 Citation Style:

Follow the citation style specified by your academic institution or supervisor. It could be APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, or any other citation format. Ensure consistency in formatting and citation guidelines throughout your reference list.

11.2 Literature Sources:

List the literature sources you have referenced in your proposal. Include scholarly articles, books, research reports, or any other relevant sources. Organize the references alphabetically by the author’s last name. Provide complete and accurate bibliographic information for each source.

11.3 Citations in the Proposal:

Ensure that each reference in the reference list corresponds to an in-text citation within your proposal. Follow the specified citation style for formatting the in-text citations, including author(s), year, and page numbers if applicable.

11.4 Quality and Relevance:

Include high-quality, peer-reviewed sources that are directly relevant to your research topic. Use a combination of seminal works and recent publications to demonstrate your familiarity with the relevant literature in your field.

By elaborating on these elements within the dissertation proposal outline, you provide a comprehensive understanding of the research design, anticipated outcomes, research significance and implications, timeline, resources, and budget. This demonstrates your planning and preparedness, the rigor and credibility of your research approach, assuring the reader that your study is well-designed, feasible, adequately supported, and methodologically sound.

Check out our detailed guide on essay outline as well.

Need Professional Writing Assistance?

Crafting a comprehensive dissertation proposal outline is an essential step in laying the groundwork for a successful research project. By structuring your proposal effectively, engaging readers, and presenting a well-thought-out plan, you enhance the credibility and impact of your research. Remember to invest time in each section of your outline, ensuring clarity, coherence, and a logical flow. Incorporate feedback and polish your writing to create a proposal that not only meets academic requirements but also captivates readers with its significance and potential contributions to your field of study.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with academic tasks and deadlines, you may ask our experts to “ do my assignments ”. PenMyPaper is a reliable writing support service that can provide you with professional assistance in completing your projects.  

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How to create a dissertation proposal defense powerpoint (+example), published by steve tippins on june 21, 2022 june 21, 2022.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 02:45 am

As part of the dissertation process, you will need to create a dissertation proposal defense PowerPoint to present a summary of the plan for your study. You will need to show how important your study is and how it is useful. 

When creating the PowerPoint, keep in mind that you need to make sure all of your audience can understand all aspects of your study.  The exact content for the defense PowerPoint varies by college, discipline and department, so it is important that you discuss with your committee chair about the requirements. However, we will give some general guidelines that apply to most institutions.

woman in orange jacket wearing headphones and working on her dissertation defense

The defense typically takes 20‐30 minutes. You should keep the timeframe in mind as you consider the information you will have in your presentation. 

Except for aspects of your presentation, such as the research question(s) or hypothesis(es), do not just read the slides. Instead, explain or expand on what is on the slides. To ensure you keep within the timeframe, practice narrating your PowerPoint presentation. 

Although the APA manual does not provide guidelines for creating a PowerPoint presentation, you will need to follow some of the APA style guidelines within your PowerPoint. 

For example, provide in-text citations for quotes, paraphrases, images, graphs, and other information that should be cited. Also, you will need to provide a list of pertinent references. 

dissertation proposal elements

The following are other format requirements for the slides :

  • Create 17-20 slides.
  • Do not provide a lot of information. Be concise and write a few sentences (approximately 1-7 on each slide). 
  • Because your slides will contain only a small amount of information, any extra information that you want to touch on should be put in the notes section of the PowerPoint. 
  • Write the information in your slides for visual appeal and optimum communication, using a legible font size. 
  • You can use graphics and images to enhance and reinforce the information. However, ensure that they do not distract from your information.
  • You can use bullet points but keep them to a minimum of 3-4 for each listing.

Example Dissertation Proposal Defense PowerPoint Format

man in denim shirt using his laptop to create a dissertation proposal

The dissertation proposal will consist of three chapters, which you will be providing information on in the presentation. Although the contents and order of the contents may vary, there are some basic parts of the proposal that are usually required.  

The following is a breakdown of the usual contents that are included in the presentation. Each of these headings below represents the titles of each slide. The information below the headings is the type of content you will need to provide. 

Title (1 slide) : 

  • Dissertation’s Title 
  • Department of Program of Study/Name of University
  • Chair and Committee Members

Statement of the Problem (1 slide):

  • Provide the problem that your dissertation will address. 

Purpose of the Study (1 slide):

  • Provide what the study will do relative to the issue(s) defined in the statement of the problem.

Significance of the Study (1 slide):

  • Provide the main argument of why the solution to the problem that you propose is important. 

Research Question(s)/Hypothesis(es ) (1 slide):

  • Provide the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) relevant to your field of study, written exactly as it is in your dissertation proposal.

The Literature Review (2 slides):  

  • These slides should consist of a coherent, organized overview of the main literature that frames your study’s problem, and the gap in literature that your study will address. Make sure that you include the sources. 

Theoretical/Conceptual Framework (1 slide):

  • This slide should consist of the theoretical/conceptual framework that will help you make sense of the phenomenon that you will investigate. 

Research Design (1 slide):

  • Provide the framework for the methods of data collection and data analysis. Indicate whether the study will be quantitative or qualitative.

Sample and Population (1 slide):

  • Provide the population that refers to the entire group that you will draw conclusions about, and the sample that refers to the specific group that you will collect data from.

Data Collection (1 slide):

  • Provide the methods by which you will obtain the data. If the research design is quantitative, provide methods such as correlation and regression, mean, mode and median or others. If the design is qualitative, provide methods such as, interviews, questionnaires with open-ended questions, focus groups, observation, game or role-playing, case studies, or others.

Data Analysis (1-2 slides):

  • This slide should contain the process you will use to understand, gather, compile, and process the data you will obtain. 

dissertation proposal elements

Limitations (1 slide):

  • In this slide, explain the nature of the limitations and how they will be overcome during your research. 

Delimitations (1slide):

  • Provide the characteristics that describe the boundaries of your study and limit the scope, such as sample size, geographical location, population traits, or others.

References (1-2 slides):

  • Only provide those sources that you referred to in the presentation. Do not provide all the sources that you have in your dissertation proposal.

Thank You/Questions (1 slide):

  • Use this final slide to thank your committee and to request questions from them.

Note : For information about citing your references, refer to Chapters 9 and 10 of the APA Manual 7 th edition.

For instructions on how to create a PowerPoint, see How to Create a Powerpoint Presentation .

View this video for “ Tips and Tricks for your Proposal Defense Day Presentation ” 

You can find several examples of students’ Dissertation Proposal Defense presentations online by searching for “Dissertation Proposal Defense PowerPoint.”  You can also find one at this webpage .

Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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Elements of Dissertation Proposals (1st Draft)

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This paper presents the benefits and importance of research, the different types of research and research designs, the parts of research and how to critique each part, and three dissertation proposals related to the writer's major field of study. ABSTRACT The purpose of a doctoral dissertation is to contribute original, new, and undiscovered knowledge. Writing a doctoral dissertation is a complex research activity that follows certain standards, structures, and procedures. This paper presents the benefits and importance of research, the different types of research and research designs, the parts of research and to critique each part, and three research proposals related to the writer’s major field of study. This paper is organized in nine chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the utility, purpose, and practice of formal research writing, as well as summarizes three original research proposals. Chapter 2 presents an overview of how research is important in various fields. Chapter 3 presents the benefits of formal research writing know-how. Chapter 4 outlines the different types of research writing and how to critique each part. Chapter 5 outlines the different ways of designing a research activity. Chapter 6 presents the parts of a research paper and the steps to writing a research paper. Chapter 7 presents a dissertation proposal for English teachers to better help ESL learners pass a course in Academic English. Chapter 8 presents a dissertation proposal for ESL teachers to effectively address plagiarism in student writings by using low technology. Chapter 9 presents a dissertation proposal for ESL teachers and students to use educational philosophy in practical situations, specifically to reduce dissonances in the learning experience as explained by The Uncertainty Avoidance Theory. The paper ends with a Conclusion and a List of References.

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This paper presents the usage of different types of inferential statistics, the relevance of statistics to various disciplines, its usage in different types of research, and its relevance to the writer. ABSTRACT Inferential statistics plays an important role in various fields of human endeavor as well as in personal development. It is a way of measuring uncertainties as well as a formal way of expressing probabilities, predictions, extrapolations, and other extensions of reasoning and thought that go beyond the available data. According to the parameters of scientific practice, inferential statistics may be used erroneously and thus produce incorrect results. With correct usage, inferential is accepted as a key element in scientific research procedures, particularly in doctoral dissertations because, by definitions, a doctoral dissertation is a formal research paper that creates new knowledge including new hypotheses or models. The first chapter introduces key terminology, history, importance and advantages, dangers and limitations of statistics in general and inferential statistics in particular. Chapter 2 explains how formal numerical inference is used in various fields, and in different types of research papers. Chapter 3 defines science and presents key concepts that prove that inferential statistics is, indeed, a scientific methodology. The concluding chapter explains how writing this research paper is relevant to the writer as a student and as a professional.

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The Philippines is said to have the highest literacy rates in Asia; a significant portion of the annual national revenue comes from cash remittances of overseas Filipino workers. Despite this, the country’s public education system is beset by challenges that can be traced ultimately to government corruption, abuse of power, and some cultural mindsets that – like the national education system, are rooted in its colonial history; first as foreign constructs from Spain, then as modified by North Americans. Since its independence, the Philippine educational system has undergone restructuring, changes in contents, methodologies, and philosophies. However, the system’s ills continue: overpopulated classrooms; overworked and demotivated teachers and students; severe lack of schools, books, and materials; deteriorating instructional results; and a constitutionally-mandated national education budget that has never been implemented. Findings include a) current government corruption and abuse of power in the Philippines can be related to its colonial past; b) similar problems can be found in the current educational systems of the Philippines, Spain, and North America; c) cultural and educational philosophies in the Philippines, Spain, and the USA have similar elements; and d) cultural and educational philosophies of countries with the best performing schools differ from those of the Philippines, Spain, and the USA. The research is organized in five chapters. Chapter 1 summarizes the colonial history of education in the Philippines, the current state of education, and effects of government corruption and abuse of power. Chapter 2 presents the research questions, the cultural philosophies and educational systems of the Philippines, America, and Spain and their continuing influences today. Chapter 3 presents the best educational systems of the world and their cultural and educational philosophies. Chapter 4 discusses the relevance of these cultural-educational philosophies in the future undertakings of the Philippine educational system. Chapter 5 discusses the influences of cultural-educational philosophies on the writer’s professional life. Chapter 6 recapitulates key concepts, answers the research questions, and concludes the paper.

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With academic writing now viewed as an important part of English language instruction, research studies have seen an increased emphasis on the question of how innovations in writing instruction impact students' writing outputs. Using the method of qualitative metasynthesis, this study provides an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of 60 empirical studies published during the period of 2005-2016 that examine this question. Several constructs pertaining to the domain of innovations in writing instruction from primary, secondary, and higher education have been identified. Based on this research review, we explicate the impetus of, lessons learned from, and future directions of innovations in writing instruction in China.

Allison A Danao

The main objective of the study is to determine whether meeting the goal of developing the learner’s communicative competence is possible with the final tasks of the Grade 10 English Learner’s Material through analyzing teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction. Determining the aspects of communicative competence that are implicitly reflected and are not reflected in the final tasks is of corollary interest to the study. Qualitative content analysis of the final tasks of the Learner’s Material was conducted using the elements of the adapted Schramm’s Interactional Model of Communication as categories in the a priori coding. Reproducibility or inter-rater reliability was utilized to establish the validity of the analysis. Results of the study showed that not all the final tasks reflect all the elements of the adapted interactional model of communication in both the teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction. Those that do not complete interaction, which are mostly written outputs done individually without peer assessment, reflect only two out of four key competencies of communicative competence, which are mostly grammatical and discourse competence. Enabling tasks in the lesson which are included in the analysis, however, compensates for the lack of interaction in the final task, and allows the development of all four key competencies. Results also showed that one final task in the Learner’s Material which is an objective-type of exercise does not develop communicative competence as it fails to complete interaction both in the teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction. Considering the number of final tasks that reflect the interactional model and develop the four key competencies of communicative competence both in the teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction, which is 23 out of 24, the final tasks of the Grade 10 English Learner’s Material mostly develop communicative competence. The conclusions drawn from these findings were: (1) final tasks which are done individually, without peer assessment, and involve objective-type of exercises develop only the grammatical and discourse aspects of communicative competence among learners; (2) the inclusion of interactional enabling tasks in the lesson to the final tasks allows the development of all four key competencies; (3) using only the final tasks as bases for assessment of competencies the learners develop may render the teachers’ measure of learners’ competencies in a particular lesson incorrect. The implementation of enabling tasks that reflect the needed activities to conduct the final task is crucial. Based on these findings and conclusions, it is recommended that curriculum developers clarify the need to consider interactional tasks in designing activities that develop communicative competence among learners, and that teachers avoid objective-type of exercises and implement other strategies that compensate for lack of interaction in the suggested tasks.

Reinders, H., Nunan, D., & Zou, B. (Eds.), Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching: The Case of China (pp. 63-87). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


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