How to Write a Thesis Proposal

The advice provided below is aimed at students who are undertaking a postgraduate degree course and who are required to write a thesis proposal for a research project.  

The Objectives of a Thesis Proposal

Thesis proposals are usually written with the aim of convincing one’s professor or an examinations board that:

  • Some piece of research is needed and that it is important.
  • The researcher will be contributing some original information to a given field.
  • The research topic is viable in respect of funding, data, equipment, and supervising staff.
  • It is possible to complete the work in the proposed timeframe. NB: Many universities expect full-time students to complete their PhD courses in three years (e.g. six terms).
  • The chosen topic is within the student’s capability and matches their interests.
  • All ethical matters have been taken into account and that the appropriate ethics committee has approved the research project. 

How Does a Master’s Thesis Proposal Differ from a Doctorate One

Your course supervisor or coordinator(s) are in the best position to provide clarification about what your academic institution expects. While the primary differences usually concern the complexity levels and length of a particular research project, one notable difference is that there should be something new in a PhD thesis.   

Who will be Reading Your Proposal?

A thesis proposal is usually presented in report form and often, as well, at a seminar. These papers can be submitted to an examinations committee or to any personnel who are closely involved in your course e.g. a course supervisor or an institution’s coordination staff. 

The Writer’s Goal

A thesis proposal is a great way of helping the writer focus on their research objectives and for helping them to clarify the need and importance of their work. It should also forecast any foreseen problems and results, describe the intended research methods, and plan any interventions and/or alternatives. 

Getting the Work Done

The whole process of preparing a research proposal is an iterative one. While the writing is in progress, it is likely you will discuss several drafts with your course supervisors. Writing should be done to a regular schedule so that it is completed on time. The timeframe often varies but it usually means sometime in the first three to nine months of your postgraduate studies.  

Your Proposal Should be Original

Your research work should contribute in a worthwhile way to the field it relates to and it should meet one or more of these conditions:  

  • Offer credible evidence to prove or discount some theory, model or concept.
  • Contribute fresh information or data, analyze some procedure or better research method, and offer a new and/or better solution to a problem.

Lead to a new and better theory, model or concept.

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