The Basic Structure of a Dissertation Proposal
A dissertation proposal marks the beginning of the research process in which a doctoral student develops an understanding of an issue related to an established research project. Led by a faculty member, the doctoral student proposes the investigation of a phenomenon in his or her field of study that will require tedious work over several months. Dissertation proposals are usually presented in a structured written format and include many sections. The process of writing the report is very timely and iterative because it is compromised of various stages that have to be repeated. Because this is a difficult task, students often seek the help of peers, faculty, advisors, and other professionals to ameliorate the process.
The first section of a dissertation proposal is the introduction. In this part, the student presents the main research question that he or she will seek to answer. By providing a summary of larger issues, the student enables the reader to comprehend the gist of the research project.
The second section is the problem statement. In this part of the report, the student identifies the major issue in-depth and gives the specific questions that will be addressed. From this section, the reader should be able to discern the context and the background of the study.
The third section of the report proposal is the literature review, which offers a conceptual framework for the study. It addresses the scope of the study and pinpoints major findings on the research topic. The student must be sure to include only evidence that supports the major premise of the study. Thus, dissertation proposals should always define key constructs that illuminate the premise, and students should read and summarize only the most relevant sources.
The fourth section is the methodology. In this part of the report, the student diligently describes what he or she plans to do and why. The student must also explain the methods he or she intends to use in order to achieve substantial results. Further, this section should relate methods to research questions.
Lastly, a bibliography section concludes the proposal. In this section, the student lists all reference materials and properly formats them using the preferred academic style of his or her educational institution.
Dissertation proposals are very crucial to the success of the final document—the dissertation. Yet, unlike the final document, the proposal can be changed often until it is approved by the student's committee of academic advisors. This gives the student plenty of time to plan, write, and defend the dissertation successfully.
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