Writing a Dissertation Proposal

Writing a Dissertation Proposal

Dissertation proposal: what is it and why do you need it?

How do you feel when you do things according to a plan? You have everything pre-arranged, all the tasks finished in time, and, more importantly, you feel highly esteemed. That is right, in order to finish your dissertation, you need a plan – a dissertation proposal. It will guide you through the whole process from the collecting research data and analyzing a vast variety of sources to actually writing and wrapping up the dissertation. Moreover, if you set up specific rules of writing at the beginning, you will keep every ‘stage' of it more logical and systematized.

Of course, dissertation proposal is a challenging task. However, writing a dissertation proposal is an essential step in deciding on the subject of writing and finding an area for the research. When you begin your dissertation proposal, you will start setting up the objectives of the dissertation, and you will think over the methods of collecting and presenting the data. Obviously, that it will keep you on track of writing limitations, language, and ethics. More than that, it will help you choose the style and ‘shape' format of the dissertation according to your institution requirements.

In addition, a dissertation proposal will be the primary means of communication with your supervisor. Traditionally, the supervisors will guide you through the whole process of writing. They will tell you whether you have enough sources, check the methods you want to use, help to analyze data and even find new ways of making your dissertation valuable. Besides, your supervisor will be the first trusted person, as they will give you reasonable criticism on your dissertation proposal (and further work). They will highlight all the pitfalls in your dissertation in which they may have noticed some ethical concerns, or even suggest changing your methodology completely.

To tell you the truth, this process is time-consuming and needs a lot of effort. If you start working as soon as you received the assignment, you will benefit in the future. By arranging regular meetings with your supervisor, you will focus on your work and will learn how to highlight important information and key facts in the dissertation. Also, it will help you include all the suggested alterations into your proposal. Such basic communication and hard work on your proposal will definitely result in the highest evaluation of your future work.

Why do you need it?

All in all, dissertation proposal is vital for your writing, because it is an initial stage of your dissertation. The more time you spend analyzing all the steps necessary for crafting a perfect dissertation, the easier it will be to face the difficulties of describing and clarifying the subject of the paper. You will see whether your area of research has to be broadened, or maybe you need to find more arguments to prove your point on a particular subject. Also, you will need to decide the methods of carrying out the investigation, deal with the potential participants and contributors. It is really important to learn how to act according to the ethical requirements and follow basic principles of writing a unique paper. Also, you will need to ‘shape' and format of your work according to the university regulations. Not to be terrified and confused during this process, we have come up with a list of essentials for you. So, let's get started.

Where to start – search, research, and list

As in any process, there should be a starting point in writing. Of course, to write a dissertation, you first need to have a topic to work on. It can be very helpful if your teachers can offer you a great variety of topics to choose from, but what if you need to ‘create' the sphere of interest by yourself? What if you do need to ‘invent' a proper subject of discussion, and make it interesting for the further investigation?

Here you go. First of all, you need to ‘go back in time' and think about all the classes you had and try to recollect what subjects made you curious; then, you can start searching. As soon as you define an area you want to investigate, you need to check the availability of sources, especially their accessibility and efficiency. Remember that all the articles, interviews, or journals you read or use in your paper, must be referenced. As they will form your bibliography, you need to be sure that these papers, books or magazines are trustworthy; for example, check authors, editors and publishing houses. This tip will save your time on the finish line, so you will just format all your sources according to the required academic style.

Defining the focus of your work and finding the right sources

On finding the area of interest, you usually relax and read anything related to the subject. However, the second step to making your dissertation constructive would be to narrow down the field of investigation. As soon as you have found related sources, begin to skim over the books. Be critical as all your work will be based on it. Follow the tips below to check how reliable the source is.

Define the following:

  • Whether your area of investigation can be adapted to the modern researches. Do not forget to check the date of publication and recent updates on the case;
  • Whether methods of the investigation described by the author correlate with yours;
  • Whether there were any external factors (for example, historical or political events) that could have influenced author's findings
  • Whether author's statements are unbiased and comply with ethical considerations.
  • Whether there are any ethical concerns that should or might be altered in the future studies.

Cutting out excessive, sometimes even unnecessary, pieces of information, will improve your analyzing skills and help to write a dissertation on the highest level. Obviously, the preparation stage is over, and now you need to concentrate on constructing the dissertation proposal.

Getting down to business

After proper sources selection, you need to actually start ‘doing something.' In fact, while making a dissertation proposal, you already should have a thesis statement, specific objectives, and, of course, understand the results you are trying to achieve. Together with your supervisor, you should define the direction of the dissertation – whether it will be more theoretical, or practical work.

Even though you may get some new ideas as you start writing, dissertation proposal should remain the ‘shape' of your work. Like any other paper, it should include working title, introduction, main body, and conclusion. Although the proposal describes your future work and highlights all of the essential details, it still must be concise. ‘Working title' is the current title of your future dissertation. Most likely you will change it, but using the precise wording at this early stage will help you keep your paper focused.

In the Introduction, it is necessarily to present the topic. Provide a brief description of the topic, make a statement and explain your hypothesis. Remember that Introduction provides clear focus to your research and helps you ‘shape' both the proposal and the final dissertation.

In fact, Introduction is the general idea of the dissertation proposal, while your main body is the detailed description of the writing process. It will be very helpful to visualize your thoughts before writing an introduction. Simply ask questions like ‘What is the idea of writing it?', ‘Why have I chosen this topic?', ‘What is my motivation?'. These questions will make you think why this work is important.

Next, you need to describe specific aspects of your work. You can do it in the main body. Usually, the main body is a complex of several aspects, such as:

  • Aims and Objectives outline the particular issues and goals that you want to achieve from carrying out this research. Also, they specify various insights that need to be collected. Keep in mind that you should ask questions Why? What? And How? in order to describe aims and objective correctly
  • Methodology indicates methods you will use for gathering and processing the data. For example, different polls or surveys. Also, you will need to explain why and how you have used these methods.
  • Literature review should indicate that you are familiar with the major themes relevant to the subject area. Moreover, it should prove that you have studied the sources and you will pursue further investigation of the particular field. Remember that your literature review should lead and justify your research aims and objectives.
  • Timetable – you are to set up time frames for delivering dissertation chapters. As you will indicate all your steps in the dissertation proposal, do not forget about the time limit and be realistic in evaluating your pace. Make sure that you set enough time for writing and present drafts to your supervisor in time.
  • Limitations –Mainly, they depend on your institution requirements, but you need to remember that your work should be balanced. Recognizing the limits in using words, or symbols shows your ability to explore and describe your findings.
  • Ethical Considerations – apparently is the most scrupulous feature of the main body. As it is related to every aspect of human relations, you should mind the social and historic background while addressing to someone or mentioning something in your dissertation.

In practice, the aspects of the main body will keep you thinking for a long time. If you try to ask the ‘high-risk' questions, you will move forward. Do not be afraid of making completely new statements. The key point of questions is to make sure whether your topic will be efficient and interesting for further investigation. On answering ‘Yes/No' questions, you will see how far you can go in your research in terms of sources, ethics and time.

And finally, you have moved to the Conclusion part. In the dissertation proposal you may not write the actual conclusion, but it is worth mentioning what have you depicted, explored, what are results you expect from this investigation. For example, you can use different phrases such as ‘During the investigation, it was defined that', ‘The results of investigation are showing…', ‘To conclude..'. Moreover, recommendations from the dissertation author may be appreciated as well.

Although Conclusion may go ‘short' in the proposal, you still need to provide the bibliography of the sources you would like to use in the dissertation. Since it is a university work, you should comply with academically accepted formatting requirements. For example, APA, or MLA, Harvard format. In general, references include names of the authors, data, and place of publishing, as well as the number of pages. Mind that there are a lot of different formats and each school can create their own format of academic writing.

Remember that this is not an essay, and every mistake you make in a dissertation proposal may lower your grade. The language style and word choice are also taken into account. In any academic writing, you must use only the formal style. Forget about shortenings, colloquial expressions, and idioms. Sentences must be concise and focus on one thought at a time. Use linking words to make smooth transitions from one paragraph to another. Even though you will not write much in the dissertation proposal, you are still to maintain the formal style.

Ethics again

As we have mentioned above, ethical consideration is a tough and obligatory task of writing a dissertation proposal, or the dissertation that follows. A written work without references to ethics may not be approved by the supervisors and/or will be highly criticized. It is interesting that your work may not be accepted at all if you ignore ethical requirements. In some universities, you even need to download a special form and fill it with all the names of respondents, or anyone you were working with on your research. You are to inform them about what you are doing and for what purpose. Moreover, mentioning their names or findings must be confirmed by the group of respondents beforehand.

Ethics, as a concept, is related to the philosophical view of communication between people, moral principles and life in the society. Ethics divides good and bad, sets up general rules of conduct and despises their violation. At some point, it becomes a strong belief in what a society should do, and how to behave. So why do we need it in the scientific work?

In science and research, ethics enables scholars to apply collaborative approach towards their study with the help of peers, mentors and other contributors to the study. This requires values like mutual respect, trust and fairness among other parties involved in a study. The main cause of the ethics importance is the protection of all contributors' intellectual property. In fact, research should be planned to avoid misleading results and plagiarism, as well as to meet ethical requirements. Furthermore, the researcher should secure welfare and dignity of the contributors.

According to the ethical principles, while collecting data and carrying out the experiments and polls, the investigator should follow disciplinary standards and practices to protect subjects' responses. It means that the respondents and contributors must be informed about any risks, benefits, and purposes of the study. Maintaining privacy and confidentiality of the respondents should be the highest priority. In addition to this, the researcher must ensure privacy and keep trustworthy relationships with all the participants in order to avoid any information leak.

To sum up, while writing dissertation proposal or a dissertation, you should keep in mind that all the suggestions, arguments and facts provided must be referenced. You should maintain the quality of writing along with moral and social values. The difficulty of being ethical is that there are no specific standards of proper ethical rules. We all know general aspects and try to follow them, yet we also need to remember about the possible bias on the investigation conducted, or methods used, or even topic discussed.

Master's or Ph.D. proposal – what is the difference?

The difference between Master and Ph.D. dissertation is not that big. To see it, you should ideally read and compare the two when they are finished. A Master's thesis is a compilation of research that proves that you gained some knowledge on a specific subject during the graduate program. In Ph.D. dissertation, you continue the research you started and contribute new knowledge, theories or practices to your field. The main difference is that in dissertation you use other's researches as a guidance to prove your own unique hypothesis, theory or concept.

Obviously, there is a difference in length between these two dissertations. Even though each institution has its own guidelines, a Ph.D. dissertation will always be longer. This is because dissertation should involve a great deal of background research and information, along with every detail of your proposal. As a matter of fact, in a dissertation, you may describe the data and analysis from your own point of view, construct your personal suggestions and defend your ideas freely. It makes the dissertation valuable and worth reading.

That is why when starting a dissertation proposal, you need to mind the aim and objectives of the dissertation. You need to understand that all the sources only form the basis of your paper. You, as a young researcher, need to define whether this information is new for this field, whether these methods were used before, and whether the content of your dissertation will fully reflect the statement you have made.

All things considered

Being ambitious makes you confident enough to start a research, carry out the experiments and argue existing theories. Nevertheless, you should remember about the ‘beliefs' in the scientific world. As a rule, standards of academic writing tend not to change gradually. It concerns structure, ‘shape,' and content of the work. In this article, we have described the main aspects that will always be on track of writing dissertations, scientific reports and/or articles.

A dissertation proposal can seem tough and daunting at first. However, if you have support from the supervisor, do spend time and put an effort on this assignment, you will win by finishing your dissertation on time. Choosing proper sources and receiving valuable pieces of advice from the supervisor will help you avoid harsh criticism. It is worth mentioning that a dissertation proposal will keep you on the right track regarding ethics, language, and style used. All in all, properly done dissertation proposal is a half of successful dissertation.

Do not waste time making up your mind. It may seem that you have plenty of it left, but you have to understand that your dissertation proposal may require further improvements - very few first drafts are ever accepted. The same goes for the dissertation that follows your proposal. So, make a deep breath and start working now!

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