Years of study in a particular have brought you to this one point in your graduate studies where you are given the opportunity to show off all that you have learned and all the research you have conducted. Completing a dissertation, however, is no easy task. Between all of the research, drafting, revising, editing and proofreading, you’re likely to spend anywhere between 7 – 12 months on it. With so much of your time invested on this long project, you should be certain you get off on the right foot with a killer dissertation proposal. Here are a few things you should know about writing the proposal:
Your main goal is to have your proposal approved: There’s a lot of confusion swirling around what a dissertation proposal is. The one thing you have to keep in mind is that your proposal isn’t an independent piece of work; it is a provisional document you that leads to your eventual goal. Think of it as a sort of contract between you and your advisor, one that states what it is you intend to hand in by the end of the year. To stray away from what is in your proposal is a breach of your agreement and may result in your dissertation not being accepted.
Your dissertation proposal shouldn’t look like an essay: In some areas of study, like humanities and some social sciences, dissertation proposals may look similar to an essay but they differ in one major point: while an essay needs to prove an argument, a proposal needs to only introduce what your argument will be. Given the approval and time to do so, your argument is expected to be fully proved at a later date and not before your research.
Your dissertation proposal isn’t a short version of your dissertation:
Your dissertation proposal introduces your argument and outlines your methodology: Your proposal should introduce what you plan to argue, how you will use examples to prove this argument, what your theoretical, historical, or contextual tools you will use and it will all fit together. In some instances, you might need to provide a short chapter outline to show your methodology, but even if you don’t your advisor should have a clear understanding of what it is you will be submitting.
Your dissertation proposal must state why your work is important: Whether you are building on existing work or introducing entirely new research, you must show your expertise in a topic and how it will benefit critics and scholars in your field. Include a bibliography in your proposal so your advisor understands what works you plan to consult, as well get a glimpse of which areas of study your work will supplement.
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