Working on a dissertation can be daunting. Whether it’s your first one or your tenth one, dissertations are a massive undertaking. And then, there’s the preparation. This is where the proposal comes in. It is the first step towards writing a dissertation. If you ever find yourself writing a dissertation, this is where you begin. 

 

What is a dissertation proposal? 

As the name suggests, it is a proposal for an original research project. It acts as a blueprint for the whole project and generally outlines what the project is, why you have chosen it, and how you intend to carry it out. If you’re writing a proposal to secure funding, then it’s important to be as clear as possible about your research goals. 

More than often, during the research process, you may find yourself deviating from what you wrote in the proposal. That’s okay, too, because the proposal is like the first draft of your research idea. Deviation happens due to trial and error, and that’s totally acceptable in research. It’s okay if you don’t have all the details planned out just yet!

What you definitely need to be sure about is the originality of your research idea, its broader significance in your chosen field, and the research questions themselves. 

 

How long should a dissertation proposal be?

There aren’t rigid guidelines for how long a dissertation proposal should be. But, you should definitely check if your university has provided any guidelines about page length or word counts. It’s far more important for you to outline the plan of action. Word count is a secondary concern, but make sure that it is brief and concise. On average, dissertation proposals are between 15 and 20 pages long. They are almost always over 10 pages long.

 

What should a dissertation proposal include?

  1. Introduction to your broad area of research: Introduce the reader to the topic of your project. Establish a context that will allow you to segue into the research questions or problem you intend to tackle. 
  2. Research objectives: First, write about why you are undertaking the research project. Write about what prompted you to work on it, and how you are or plan on acquiring funding and resources for it.
  3. Literature survey: In this section, the goal is to provide a summary of existing research in your field. It will also lay out your thought process to show from where you are developing your ideas.
  4. Research question and hypothesis: The literature review should lead to your hypothesis. This is the core of your proposal because this is where you really get to elaborate on what the work will be about.
  5. Methodology: Here, you really dig deep into how you plan on conducting your research. Are you going to conduct in-depth interviews or do some lab experiments? Lay it out on the table with great detail. Take as many pages as you can (unless there’s a limit) for this.
  6. Research timeline: Dedicate a page or two to plot out the timeline of your project. Be clear in stating how long to complete each component on the project. 

Formatting a Dissertation Proposal 

Formatting and structuring your research is an important part of any academic undertaking. Your university and field of research should already give you some idea of what referencing and citation style you’re likely to use. So make sure you check the guidelines about that. You should look out for details about in-text citations, documenting your sources properly, and information about compiling the reference list and bibliography. 

And browse through our blog for introductions on APA, MLA, and Chicago citation styles. 

 

So there it is! An introduction to how to write a dissertation proposal. We hope this guide was helpful to you and sets you on a path to writing an invigorating dissertation! 

We’ve also compiled a checklist for you, which you can use to see whether your dissertation proposal follows the conventions and guidelines set by your university.

And while you’re doing just that, don’t forget to follow our blog for detailed guides and tips that will help you throughout your dissertation writing journey.