How to Structure a Dissertation Proposal

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How to Structure a Dissertation Proposal


Writing a dissertation involves many steps, such as composing an introduction, drafting literature review, choosing a methodology, carrying out the real research and then concluding it. However, above all these steps is preparing a dissertation proposal. This is the first and foremost step that you’ve to complete before moving on to writing your actual dissertation.

Writing a dissertation proposal is not easy. There are certain aspects that you’ve to look into when drafting an impressive proposal. Your dissertation proposal sets the stage for your research, and working on it helps you make a clear plan as to how you’d conduct your research. Once your proposal is ready, submit it and wait for your supervisor’s feedback. Any feedback received on the proposal should be taken very seriously as your proposal is the basis for your dissertation. Work on the feedback, finalize it and get it approved from your supervisor. Do not start working on your dissertation until and unless your proposal has been approved.

Due to its importance, you might get confused and wonder ‘how to structure a dissertation proposal’ that’ll help you get it approved without much difficulty. Follow these easy ways to draft a first class dissertation proposal.

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Select a Topic

Selecting an appropriate topic for your dissertation is extremely important. You need to make sure that the topic that you’re selecting is relevant to your degree, is impactful and has not been studied before. However, you can change the research design and the research question if you’re choosing a topic that has been researched before. This will make your research unique and will present the same study with a new dimension.


Considering all these aspects, finalizing a topic gets confusing. Here’s how you can do it. Once you’ve chosen a topic, look into all the concepts that can be researched. Find out what studies have been conducted in the past using the same concept, and what is left now (Flannel, 2017). Now make a list of the aspects that have been left out and focus on how you can conduct a research on those aspects. Spend time in designing your research, what methodology should be chosen, how the analysis should be conducted, etc. Once you’ve compiled all the needed aspects, spend time on finalizing your topic.

dissertation proposal

Doing so will help you pick the most appropriate topic as you’ve narrowed down your choices and have completely focused on those aspects that have not been researched. Pick a topic on which you can conduct a thorough and comprehensive research. Through the choosing process, make sure that you formulate a research question as well. This will help you in looking into which research methodology should be chosen and whether or not it will be feasible for you to conduct this study.

Follow this process, and you’ll be able to choose the most appropriate topic for your research, that has not been studied before. Not only will this make your dissertation unique, but will increase chances of your proposal being accepted in the first attempt.

Structure of a Dissertation Proposal

This is where you actually get to answer the question ‘how to structure a dissertation proposal’. Once you’ve finalized your topic, you need to make sure that you get down with researching and writing your dissertation. An ideal proposal consists of three main sections; introduction, literature review and methodology. However, these sections may vary depending on your university/college requirements. Some may require you to include a Gantt chart, budget, research limitations and ethics. In cases where it isn’t specified, you may or may not include these sections.

Here’s a detailed explanation as to what the main sections should consist of:


This is the first section of your dissertation, thus you should be able to make an impact here. Your introduction should introduce your topic first i.e. background of the topic you’ve chosen. Explain the concept and present a clear understanding as to why you’ve chosen this topic (Ldeo.columbia.edu, 2017). Talk about the significance of the subject, concept and how it relates to your subject of interest. This will help the readers understand as to how your research will contribute to the selected topic and area.

Next, move on the research question. This is vital as your whole research will revolve around this. Your research question should be formulated after thorough research. You should be sure as to how you would conduct your research, and what aspect will be explored. Based on these aspects, your research question will be formed. Also include the research aims and objectives, once you’ve penned down your research question. These aims and objectives should be in line with the research question.

Literature Review

Once you’re done with your introduction, move on to the literature review. In this section, you have to review and analyze past researches that have been conducted on similar topics, related to your research. This section of your dissertation proposal holds a lot of importance as it not only showcases that you’ve researched thoroughly regarding your study, but also provides you with a chance to learn more about the topic you’ve chosen.

While including past studies and researches, make sure that they are recent and not too old (The University of Adelaide, 2017). As a standard, studies older than ten years are not included in the literature review section of the dissertation (in some cases old references are acceptable). Study and review researches for your dissertation. Relate them to the concepts that you’re talking about in the literature review section.

Most importantly, create a theoretical framework. This framework will help readers understand what concepts will be explored, what theories and models will be utilized and how all these aspects relate to your chosen topic. After you’ve included the theoretical framework, structure this section accordingly and include the most important concepts, theories and models. As this a proposal, so make sure that the aspects that you’re mentioning are vital, or else, your proposal might be rejected by your supervisor.


Methodology holds a lot of importance, thus you should make sure that the research design that you choose and include in your proposal is on point. Not only will it reduce the chances of your proposal being rejected, but will also help you in shaping your research. Depending on your topic, make a decision if you’ll be gathering primary or secondary data (Learn.solent.ac.uk, 2017). If you’re collecting primary data and will be conducting statistical tests, make sure that you explain it in your proposal. Excluding any such aspects or not explaining in detail will make your proposal vague and meaningless. Explain the complete procedure i.e. the data collection method, the research instrument which will be utilized, analysis method (statistical tests etc.), sampling etc.

An important aspect that shouldn’t be ignored is research ethics. When conducting research, ethics is an essential aspect which should always be considered.

Apart from this, timeline (also known as Gantt chart) should be included in your proposal. Even though it might not be your university/college’s requirement, but mentioning it adds weight to your proposal. It shows that you have a clear idea as to how much time your dissertation will require to be completed and which section will take up most of the time.

Accurate Referencing and In-Text Citations

Underrated, but referencing is one of the most crucial aspects of preparing a proposal. You can think of your proposal as the first impression of your dissertation. You would want everything to be perfect and in place, wouldn’t you? Thus, always make sure that your dissertation consists of all necessary elements.

You will have to cite information and data that you’re including in your dissertation, as well as, your proposal. Thus, make sure that the references that you include are credible and authentic (Flannel, 2017). You can use well-known academic journals, official websites, past researches and concepts presented by renowned authors and writers in the respective field.

The same rule applies for in-text citations. Make sure that you cite references appropriately and accurately. Statistics, facts and figures should be backed by references at all times. It is highly recommended that when writing a dissertation, every 100 words should have a reference (although this is not a hard and fast rule). The quantity of references does not matter; however, the quality does.

These are the basic aspects that a proposal should contain. Taking care of all these sections will help you when you’re confused as to how to structure a dissertation proposal. In addition to these steps, look for different dissertation proposal examples that are similar to your research topic. You can find them on the internet or you could ask your friends. These sample dissertation proposals provide a clear understanding regarding how to write a dissertation proposal without much difficulty.


If you’re unable to pull off a first class proposal, we’re here to help. Offering some of the best dissertation proposal writing service, we at Research Prospect make sure that we prepare a flawless dissertation for you. Our highly qualified team of writers offer dissertation proposal writing help, and will also help you choose a topic that is relevant to your subject area. Get in touch with us now and let us take care of all your dissertation related worries!

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  • Flannel, I. (2017). Academic Writing Success | Academic Writing Coach Reviews. [online] Academic Coaching and Writing LLC. Available at: https://www.academiccoachingandwriting.org/dissertation-doctor/resources/dissertation-proposal-outline [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].
  • Learn.solent.ac.uk. (2017). Dissertation proposals & writing dissertations. [online] Available at: https://learn.solent.ac.uk/mod/book/tool/print/index.php?id=2744 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].
  • The University of Adelaide. (2017). Guide to Writing Your Research Proposal. [online] Available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/graduatecentre/forms/admission/docs/admision-research-proposal-template-guide.pdf [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].
  • Ldeo.columbia.edu. (2017). How to write a thesis proposal. [online] Available at: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/sen_res/how_to_thesis_proposal.html [Accessed 26 Oct.

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