Format for Writing Dissertation Proposals

1. Title Page

The title sheet should include the information ordinarily encountered on the title page of the dissertation except that the proposal should be labeled as a dissertation proposal, not as a dissertation. Because some computer compiled bibliographies include only the first five words of the title, the first five words should, therefore, contain a substantive description of the study. A subtitle may be included.


2. Abstract

The abstract is expected to be brief (not to exceed 350 words) and should summarize the following: Introduction, Statement of the Problem, Background of the Study, Research Questions or Hypotheses, and Methods and Procedures.


3. Introduction

This section introduces the reader to the domain of the study and provides a general overview of the circumstances, issues, and background leading up to the problem under investigation.


4. Statement of the Problem

The problem statement should identify briefly the state of uncertainty or dissatisfaction with present knowledge in the field. Then it should clearly and precisely identify the purpose of the study in terms of how it will help to advance our knowledge in that field.


5. Background of the Study

A doctoral dissertation is not intended to be an isolated undertaking but rather an inquiry which has an intended place in some larger body of knowledge. This section should include a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical works which provide a broad background, or a theoretical grounding to the study. In addition, candidates are required to demonstrate the link between their study and the body of knowledge in which the study is grounded.


6. Research Questions or Hypotheses

Research questions or hypotheses should be stated clearly. These should flow logically from the discussion of the Background of the Study and should be consistent with the Statement of the Problem.


7. Methods and Procedures

This section should indicate what type of study is being conducted, how the study will be conducted, what data or information will be used, how it will be obtained, what controls will be applied to ensure integrity, and what sampling techniques will be employed. Thus, the section should convey the appropriateness of the data/information for answering the research questions; and, most importantly, it should describe the techniques for analyzing the data with direct reference to the research questions or hypotheses.

A complete description of the instruments or procedures to be used in gathering the data should be provided. All proposals are expected to include relevant information about the technical quality of these instruments or procedures. Any instruments/interview protocols developed by the researcher should accompany the proposal in an Appendix.


8. Limitations

Students are required to address clearly the shortcomings and/or weaknesses of the research which may impact the findings as well as the generalizability of these findings.


9. References

All studies cited in the proposal should be included using standard (and internally consistent) citation methods.


Return to Dissertation Proposal Guidelines