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Any student required to submit a dissertation (a lengthy, formal treatise – especially one written by a candidate for a doctoral degree at a university) will more than likely be required to submit first a dissertation proposal. And even if the student is not required first to write a dissertation proposal, drafting one will be a very useful practice for him when aiming to complete a dissertation in the future. A dissertation proposal is basically an abstract to the dissertation, which provides an organized, concise plan for completing it.
The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to convince a committee, or a group of academic advisors who would ultimately be awarding the student the degree, whether doctoral or graduate, that there is a legitimate question worth pursuing and that the student is in a position to succeed in pursuing it.
Proposals of this kind demonstrate that the student has identified an interesting research question, can objectively, concisely and thoroughly explain the importance of the question to just about anyone not familiar with the topic, and has a detailed plan for testing their hypotheses. A proposal includes what one’s dissertation is, most importantly, about, as well as what specific questions are being examined in the academic treatise. They embody previously published thoughts and studies on the topic, the research methods the student will attempt to incorporate, whether empirical or non-empirical and, lastly, the potential outcomes of the study.
Of course, the student will, often after conducting research and observing developments in the analysis of their subject’s problem, be forced to alter the wording of their title. The title should also be kept generally short in nature and to the point.
Focus on three strong objectives, or what exactly the student aims to accomplish, to keep from the scope of the dissertation and its accompanying research from being entirely too broad.
Literature, context, and background
This means the inclusion of all schools of thought, domains of practice, and areas of study that will ultimately be incorporated into the dissertation.
In this portion of the proposal, expand on the ideas expressed in the research question, or the overarching question – or problem, or topic – being solved, addressed and evaluated.
Here, the students share the system of methods they plan to implement into their dissertation. Methodologies should either be empirical (which is based on or concerned with, or verifiable, by observation and/or experience rather than theory or pure logic – and are usually a study or collection of data, such as questionnaires) or non-empirical (with research coming from already published writings and projects).
In this part of the dissertation proposal, the students should summarize the type of outcomes they hope to generate. If the outcomes were indeed obvious from the start, there would be no need for – and certainly no approval from the student’s professors and advisors alike – a dissertation in the first place.
Students may be asked to include a realistic, thorough outline of how they plan to conduct and manage research. Adding a timeline helps to convince an academic committee that the students working to have their dissertation accepted for academic credit are prepared to undergo the rigorous process of completing – and actually having accepted – their dissertation.
Most dissertation proposals (as well the dissertations themselves) will require a list of references used throughout the project.
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