How to write a dissertation proposal

The proposal examines your understanding of the methodological issues appropriate to your dissertation plans. Your purpose in writing it is to demonstrate that you understand these issues both at the philosophical level (the kind of stance you are taking to the research) and at the practical level (the methods themselves and how they address the research questions you have). More specifically, your task is to describe and critically discuss your project in terms of what the question is, why it is relevant and how it will be researched. Essay writing service

You should write your proposal against the following headings.

1. What the topic is and what you aim to achieve. Briefly describe the issue and context of the proposed study. Your research questions should be clearly stated.

2. Why the project is relevant. Briefly describe how it relates to existing studies and knowledge (models, theoretical frameworks) in this field. This should include references to work that has been done previously (by you and/or others) and how this work frames the current study. You should also demonstrate how the study may result in personal, professional or academic enhancement.

3. How you will research your question. What methodological stance you are adopting towards your study and what method(s) you are going to employ. You should show clearly how these will successfully address the research questions and demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the practical and conceptual issues that you face in carrying out the work. You should also justify your methods, commenting on other approaches you might have taken and evaluating these against those chosen.

4. References: using the correct referencing system to provide full information about references included in the text. These should include references to both contextualising information and to methodology texts.

5. Ethics protocol: setting out ethical considerations addressing the ethical principles for research involving human participants. This should include examples of any data gathering tools (e.g. questionnaires, interviews etc) that you will use and any letters of introduction/explanation that you may intend to use if it will be an empirical research.

Notes of guidance:

In essence, the proposal must demonstrate that, through the research described therein, you have the potential to:

  • Fix upon a substantial issue or project which it will be useful to investigate
  • Relate your chosen issue or project to your previous pattern of study
  • Carry out the investigation or development systematically
  • Offer non-trivial insights from which more general lessons can be learnt
  • Express your results in a well-structured study of the word limit specified by your university.


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The following notes should help you to understand what the markers are likely to be looking for in your proposal.


Deep criteria Comments: the marking tutor is likely to ask at least the following questions of your proposal in relation to the deep criteria.
Research and Investigation

Identify, select, critically analyse and evaluate educational ideas, perspectives, theories or data relevant to an appropriate area of study. Undertake a critical, imaginative and ethical investigation. Relate theory to practice. Formulate a coherent set of aims and objectives, which effectively utilise available resources.
Organise and manage the study.

  • Are you clear about the concepts you are working with?[For example, if you are writing about ‘mentoring’ (say) are you clear about how you are using the word; or if you are referring to ‘making something better’, are you clear about how ‘better’ will be defined in the context of the study?]
  • Do you have one or more models or frameworks for how you are conceptualising your ideas? [For example, you might need a model of ‘learning’ or of ‘mentoring’ to use throughout?]
  • Are your aims and objectives clear and framed as a research question(s) (RQs)?
  • Have you considered the ethical issues carefully, checked these with your supervisor and written a clear protocol?
Understanding of Relevant Historical, Critical and Cultural Contexts

Locate work within a broader context, usually through ideas, perspectives and theories from educational literature.

  • Is it clear what you already know about this topic?
  • (How) has other work, by you and/or other people, informed the aims and the RQs?
  • Is it clear why/how the work is significant and relevant to your context?
Critical Awareness and Evaluation

Adopt a questioning, reflective and critically aware stance throughout the study.

  •  Are you taking a critical approach to the work, considering other perspectives and identifying where you are currently positioned yourself? [For example, if you are advocating a policy initiative, are you aware of your advocacy and it implications?
  • Will your methods provide a critical examination, not just support your own position? How?
 Appropriateness of Medium and Process

Choose and implement appropriate media and processes in relation to ideas, aims, intentions and context. Select and apply appropriate methodologies to achieve the stated objectives and utilise them competently and methodically.

  • Have you thought through your epistemological stance towards the research? [For example, are you clear about whether you are testing a hypothesis in an experimental way or constructing an account in an interpretative manner?]
  • Do your methods fit within this stance and do they allow you to answer the RQs?
  • Is it clear exactly what you will do, and how?
 Coherence and Legibility

Show clarity and coherence in structure, writing conventions, style, presentation of evidence and argument. Ensure the work is readable, accessible to its intended audience and effectively communicates the intended meaning.

  • As well as your supervisor, your proposal might be marked by a second marker who will know nothing of your study. Have you written it so that it is clear enough for them to follow?
  • Is the referencing accurate using Harvard, APA, OSCOLA?
 Inventiveness and Independence of Thought

Generate new ideas and connections, apply existing material to new contexts or reappraise or critique familiar material. Furthermore, combine or resolve uncertainties, identify similarity, difference and interconnection, take risks and use rational and intuitive thinking.

  • Does the proposal look inventive, yet realistic?
  • Is the work likely to be of interest and useful?



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