In part one of this article, we discussed the main aspects of what makes a winning proposal. In particular, we talked about a dissertation proposal’s main ingredients as well as the purpose, the audience, and the first five elements of its structure (title, abstract, introduction, problem statement, and purpose/research questions). This second part talks about the rest of the structural elements (literature review, methodology, significance, structural overview, workplan, and bibliography/references).
The Literature Review
The literature review for your dissertation proposal will not go into as much depth as the normal literature review conducted in your actual study. Usually, the literature review in your proposal will run anywhere from 5 – 7 pages although it depends on your particular university department guidelines. This brief blog article cannot cover everything when it comes to a good literature review but click here to get more detailed guidance on how to effectively write one.
At this point, it is enough to know the functions of a literature review in your proposal. Any literature review in a dissertation proposal, at a minimum, should:
- situate your study within the wider scope of your discipline and its research.
- clearly argue for the uniqueness, significance, and need of conducting your particular study.
- give a sufficient justification for the methodological choices your study aims to use
- demonstrate to your dissertation committee and adviser that you are well-versed in your topic and the particular approaches you plan to gather data with.
The Research Methodology Section
This is perhaps the most important section in your dissertation proposal and is usually the part that your dissertation committee will scrutinize very closely.
In general, your research methodology section should do the following:
- Introduce the overall methods you’ve chosen to conduct your research and gather your data.
- Give the rationale for using your particular method(s).
- Give a detailed description of the specific methods of data collection as well as the rationale behind them.
- Provide an explanation of how you plan to analyze and interpret your findings.
- Explain the potential limitations of your research.
Significance of Study
For any dissertation proposal, the question of why the study is important must be answered. Why is your particular research study important? What is significant about it and what are some practical benefits and/or objectives?
A good section on the significance of a dissertation study should do the following:
- Delineate the methodological, practical, and theoretical contributions it would make.
- Assert the practical importance of the problem the dissertation is trying to solve along with the importance of the study’s objectives.
- Clearly and persuasively discuss the practical benefits and utility of the study for both the academic and real world.
Structural Overview of the Study
As one colleague previously said to me, “Nothing says ‘I am almost done’ to your adviser like pretending you have a plan.” Be sure to have an outline of how your actual dissertation will be structured. Your actual dissertation will likely not follow this outline one hundred percent (hence ‘pretending’ you have a plan!), but it’s still important to have some kind of plan. The specifics of this section usually depend on the guidelines set out by your particular university department. Some departments require in-depth reviews of each chapter for your planned study and other departments only require a brief sentence-length description of each chapter.
The Work Plan/Timeline
There are several important elements to consider when developing your timeline/workplan to your dissertation committee. All throughout, make sure to consult your adviser and keep them updated on your work plan before you officially submit it. Regarding the timeline itself, keep in mind the following:
- Be aware of important dates or date ranges for submitting and defending your dissertation.
- Don’t be overly ambitious for your timeline (make sure you leave room for all the little things that life may throw at you).
- Make sure to take the following into consideration when creating your workplan:
- Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval
- Any required travel on your part
- Practical design of your study
- Testing stages
- Length of data-gathering
- Availability of your dissertation committee and adviser
- Your own schedule
If your school or Chairperson does not require a timeline or workplan, we highly recommend that you develop one to remain on track!
As with any academic work, make sure to include a list of references that you cited in the narrative. The requirements depend on your university’s particular guidelines.
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