Writing a Dissertation Proposal

When you embark on your master’s journey the light, or should I say dread, at the end of the tunnel is the dissertation. Suddenly, the option to change to the graduate diploma becomes much more appealing. To leave without having to attempt to write 15,000 words on any subject becomes very tempting! This all starts with the dissertation proposal.

But, I assure you, the work is worth it. Particularly if you haven’t had the opportunity to write a paper on a question of your own making, this is your one opportunity to ask the question “what am I really interested in studying?” and then become an expert* in that area.

What am I really interested in studying?

The journey starts with submitting a dissertation proposal to the university or college your part of. At the bottom, you will find two examples of the proposals I submitted during my studies. The first, as an assessed piece of work for my first unit, and the second, for my actual dissertation. It is easy to get worked up about this initial milestone, after all, do I really know what I want to study? How do I know what methods I will be using in my work? What happens if I change my mind after starting the research? What happens if I want to take the paper in a different direction? These are all great questions and not ones that need to be answered prior to the dissertation proposal being submitted. This is, after all, a proposal!

The Purpose of the Dissertation Proposals

Certainly at Regents, and I believe most other institutions. The purpose of the proposal is mainly for you to work out: is there any information out there on the subject I am interested in studying? If so, great! If not, you might want to think about a different area, or, conducting some primary research as part of your dissertation.

Secondly, it is for the university to do two things. First, to confirm they agree with your answer to the first question. Is this a viable proposal that the student is going to be able to write something that would constitute a masters dissertation? If yes, great! Secondly, who will be the best facility member to support the student in this area of research? The faculty may have members with an expertise in an area that aligns with your topic, or they may just have an interest in what you are doing and feel they can support you in achieving that goal.

Either way, the proposal is there to help you start the process to clarify what you want to spend a year of your life researching. The proposal is only used by the university for two things. 1) to assess the viability of the research proposal. 2) to align you with the best facility member to support those goals. Your final paper is no assessed against your proposal.

*I use expert very loosely. Expert compared to the average human being, who probably has done little to no research in your subject area.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

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