5 Tips for Writing Your Dissertation Proposal

Woman working on laptop Posted on September 19, 2019  in  [ Doctoral Journey ]

Doctoral learners at Grand Canyon University conduct original research and write a dissertation that contributes to the collective knowledge in their field. Before you can get started on your dissertation, however, you will need to complete your outline, prospectus, then proposal.

The proposal is a comprehensive examination of the nature and extent of your intended research. Written well, your proposal demonstrates that your dissertation would provide an original contribution to your field.

1. Consult Your Advisor Your assigned team including a dissertation chair will assist with the completion of your proposal.

You should also carefully read the requirements for dissertation proposals including structure, word count and format. It is important to adhere to the requirements and embrace feedback.

2. Take the Right Approach Think of your dissertation proposal as being an outline of your research.

It should introduce your topic, research question, objectives and research methodology. However, keep in mind that that the research itself will heavily influence the dissertation. Since you have not yet conducted the research, your proposal should be flexible enough to accommodate possible adjustments.

3. Introduce Your Topic Early in the Proposal Many doctoral learners like to start their dissertation proposal by first providing extensive background information.

However, it may be best to begin by clearly stating your topic. This gives the reader a firm idea of the relevance of the background information that will follow the explanation of the topic. There is an exception to this. If you are working with an unfamiliar or obscure topic, writing background information will help you delve into the details of your topic.

Some doctoral students like to begin with the available scholarly literature and the gaps in it. They then use those gaps as a springboard to discuss how they intend for their own research to contribute to the field. However, it is generally preferable to present the topic first, followed by a discussion of the scholarly literature and its shortcomings.

4. Don’t Neglect the Methodology In a dissertation proposal, it is common to emphasize the topic itself.

However, a well-rounded proposal should contain a thorough discussion of the methodology. Be sure that your description of the methodology is in alignment with the topic itself. Concisely describe your methodology, including the following:

  • The primary sources you plan to use
  • How you plan to document your arguments
  • Which theoretical framework you will use to analyze your data

5. Clearly Identify Your Central Research Question

Dissertation proposal writers often identify a dozen or more questions that they would like to explore in their research. Sometimes, the central research question becomes de-emphasized or difficult to distinguish. While you can certainly discuss many research questions in your proposal, you should clearly identify your central research question.

If you’re ready to earn your doctorate, Grand Canyon University is dedicated to your success. The College of Doctoral Studies offers a spectrum of rigorous degree programs that will prepare you for an innovative career in your field. To learn more,  visit our website or click on the Request More Information button on this page.

About College of Doctoral Studies

Grand Canyon University’s innovative doctoral degree programs prepare learners for leadership roles in their professions, communities and society. A dynamic online learning community, unique dissertation process, wealth of resources and collaborative environment support a successful and meaningful doctoral journey. Readers of The Doctoral Journey blog, presented by the College of Doctoral Studies, will find resourceful posts regarding doctoral programs, research best practices and unique dissertation process, plus other knowledgeable contributions from GCU’s doctoral faculty and experts.


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