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Writing your Thesis/Dissertation Proposal

In this series, we will attempt to provide general information that should apply to most graduate students, particularly in the United States and Canada. While there are some differences in terminology between the UK and the US, most everything else applies on both sides of the Atlantic. Graduate research and thesis writing, Planning for Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Theses: Part 4 of a series

Writing the Dissertation Proposal

Mise en place.

It is a French phrase that is used in the professional cooking world and it means “(putting) everything in place.” The mise en place of a professional kitchen is its philosophy and system. It is used interchangeably as both a noun (setting up the ingredients) and a verb (the process of preparing to act). It is also a good way to think about starting to write the thesis or dissertation.

Organization is the key...

If you are just about to graduate from culinary school, you should know mise en place as well as you know how to poach an egg or make a Hollandaise sauce without “breaking” it. Now you are poised, however, to make your greatest work, and whether it is a croquembouche or a beef Wellington, you know that you have to have all the parts assembled and ready before you can commence creating your master dish.

In much the same way, you should have everything in place before you write your proposal. Mise en place should include an Introduction; a Review of the Literature; Methodology (quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of the two); Research Findings; and Conclusions/Discussion/Suggestions for Future Research. See the outline at the end of this article for a more detailed overview.

Look at examples

Ask to look at examples of other proposals. Your director should be able to provide you with samples of exemplary proposals. Try to emulate them in format as well as clarity and knowledge of your subject area.

What’s in a title?

Good proposals have good titles that help the reader understand the nature of the work. A good title will:

  • have the most important words toward the beginning;
  • avoid ambiguous or confusing words;
  • break into a title + subtitle when you have too many words;
  • include keywords that will help future researchers find your work.

Guiding questions

Organize your proposal around a set of guiding questions, and write those questions so that they put your research into perspective with the literature. They will establish the link between your research and what research came before your own, as well as show how your work is related to your field of study.

Should you include graphics?

Absolutely. When you present your proposal to your guiding committee, you may need to use graphic representations. Make sure that they are clear and attractive. Consider using infographics for representing data, and PowerPoint or Prezi or other similar slide-based presentation application to cover the main points of your proposal. Not all committee members will read your proposal word-for-word, so a good graphic presentation will at least show them the most important issues along with your methodology

Outline for the Dissertation Proposal[1]

 Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Introduction
  • Background of the Problem
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Purpose of the Study
  • Research Questions
  • Significance of the Study
  • Definition of Terms
  • Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations
  • Conclusion

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

  • Introduction
  • Search Description
  • Conceptual or Theoretical Framework
  • Review of Research (organized by variable or themes)

Chapter 3: Methodology (Qualitative)

  • Introduction
  • Research Design
  • Research Questions
  • Setting
  • Participants
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Conclusion

Chapter 3: Methodology (Quantitative)

  • Introduction
  • Research Design
  • Research Questions and Hypotheses
  • Population and Sample
  • Instrumentation
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Conclusion

Chapter 3: Methodology (Mixed)

  • Introduction
  • Research Design
  • Research Questions and Hypotheses
  • Setting and Sample
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4: Research Findings

  • Introduction
  • Findings (organized by Research Questions or Hypotheses)
  • Conclusion

Chapter 5: Conclusions, Discussion, and Suggestions for Future Research

  • Introduction
  • Summary of Findings
  • Conclusions (organized by Research Questions or Hypotheses)
  • Discussion
  • Suggestions for Future Research
  • Conclusion

 

 

 

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