Grad Coach

What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

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purpose of thesis proposal

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics , content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Thematic analysis 101

50 Comments

Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.

BARAKAELI TEREVAELI

I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

masebo joseph

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.

KYARIKUNDA MOREEN

Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful: https://gradcoach.com/research-proposal-template/

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again

agnelius

thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you

Abubakar

I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂

Marjorie

Thank you, this was so helpful.

Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified

Yebirgual

Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.

Rebecca

Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

laramato ikayo

thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties

Rebecca

I have really learnt a lot based on research proposal and it’s formulation

Arega Berlie

Thank you. I learn much from the proposal since it is applied

Siyanda

Your effort is much appreciated – you have good articulation.

You have good articulation.

Douglas Eliaba

I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.

Weluzani

This really helping

Roswitta

Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

Alice Kuyayama

Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

Abdurahman Bayoh

I need any research proposal

Silverline

Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation

Nosi

Very helpfull

faith wugah

the videos are very good and straight forward

Imam

thanks so much for this wonderful presentations, i really enjoyed it to the fullest wish to learn more from you

Bernie E. Balmeo

Thank you very much. I learned a lot from your lecture.

Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

Andrea Eccleston

This article was most informative and easy to understand. I now have a good idea of how to write my research proposal.

Thank you very much.

Georgina Ngufan

Wow, this literature is very resourceful and interesting to read. I enjoyed it and I intend reading it every now then.

Charity

Thank you for the clarity

Mondika Solomon

Thank you. Very helpful.

BLY

Thank you very much for this essential piece. I need 1o1 coaching, unfortunately, your service is not available in my country. Anyways, a very important eye-opener. I really enjoyed it. A thumb up to Gradcoach

Md Moneruszzaman Kayes

What is JAM? Please explain.

Gentiana

Thank you so much for these videos. They are extremely helpful! God bless!

azeem kakar

very very wonderful…

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Students are urged to begin thinking about a dissertation topic early in their degree program. Concentrated work on a dissertation proposal normally begins after successful completion of the Second-Year Review, which often includes a “mini” proposal, an extended literature review, or a theoretical essay, plus advancement to doctoral candidacy. In defining a dissertation topic, the student collaborates with their faculty advisor or dissertation advisor (if one is selected) in the choice of a topic for the dissertation.

The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student’s dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters. The student must provide a written copy of the proposal to the faculty committee no later than two weeks prior to the date of the proposal hearing. Committee members could require an earlier deadline (e.g., four weeks before the hearing).

The major components of the proposal are as follows, with some variations across Areas and disciplines:

  • A detailed statement of the problem that is to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem on both theoretical and educational grounds.
  • A thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should provide proof that the relevant literature in the field has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and mistakes of others.
  • its general explanatory interest
  • the overall theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued
  • the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered
  • a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
  • an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, data analysis)
  • a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted (This aspect of the proposal will be somewhat different in fields such as history and philosophy of education.)
  • If applicable, students should complete a request for approval of research with human subjects, using the Human Subjects Review Form ( http://humansubjects.stanford.edu/ ). Except for pilot work, the University requires the approval of the Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Behavioral Science Research before any data can be collected from human subjects.

Registration (i.e., enrollment) is required for any quarter during which a degree requirement is completed, including the dissertation proposal. Refer to the Registration or Enrollment for Milestone Completion section for more details.

As students progress through the program, their interests may change. There is no commitment on the part of the student’s advisor to automatically serve as the dissertation chair. Based on the student’s interests and the dissertation topic, many students approach other GSE professors to serve as the dissertation advisor, if appropriate.

A dissertation proposal committee is comprised of three academic council faculty members, one of whom will serve as the major dissertation advisor. Whether or not the student’s general program advisor serves on the dissertation proposal committee and later the reading committee will depend on the relevance of that faculty member’s expertise to the topic of the dissertation, and their availability. There is no requirement that a program advisor serve, although very often they do. Members of the dissertation proposal committee may be drawn from other area committees within the GSE, from other departments in the University, or from emeriti faculty. At least one person serving on the proposal committee must be from the student’s area committee (CTE, DAPS, SHIPS). All three members must be on the Academic Council; if the student desires the expertise of a non-Academic Council member, it may be possible to petition. After the hearing, a memorandum listing the changes to be made will be written and submitted with the signed proposal cover sheet and a copy of the proposal itself to the Doctoral Programs Officer.

Review and approval of the dissertation proposal occurs normally during the third year. The proposal hearing seeks to review the quality and feasibility of the proposal. The Second-Year Review and the Proposal Hearing are separate milestones and may not occur as part of the same hearing or meeting.

The student and the dissertation advisor are responsible for scheduling a formal meeting or hearing to review the proposal; the student and proposal committee convene for this evaluative period. Normally, all must be present at the meeting either in person or via conference phone call.

At the end of this meeting, the dissertation proposal committee members should sign the Cover Sheet for Dissertation Proposal and indicate their approval or rejection of the proposal. This signed form should be submitted to the Doctoral Programs Officer. If the student is required to make revisions, an addendum is required with the written approval of each member of the committee stating that the proposal has been revised to their satisfaction.

After submitting the Proposal Hearing material to the Doctoral Programs Officer, the student should make arrangements with three faculty members to serve on their Dissertation Reading Committee. The Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form should be completed and given to the Doctoral Programs Officer to enter in the University student records system. Note: The proposal hearing committee and the reading committee do not have to be the same three faculty members. Normally, the proposal hearing precedes the designation of a Dissertation Reading Committee, and faculty on either committee may differ (except for the primary dissertation advisor). However, some students may advance to Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status before completing their dissertation proposal hearing if they have established a dissertation reading committee. In these cases, it is acceptable for the student to form a reading committee prior to the dissertation proposal hearing. The reading committee then serves as the proposal committee.

The proposal and reading committee forms and related instructions are on the GSE website, under current students>forms.

Printing Credit for Use in GSE Labs

Upon completion of their doctoral dissertation proposal, GSE students are eligible for a $300 printing credit redeemable in any of the GSE computer labs where students are normally charged for print jobs. Only one $300 credit per student will be issued, but it is usable throughout the remainder of her or his doctoral program until the balance is exhausted. The print credit can be used only at the printers in Cubberley basement and CERAS, and cannot be used toward copying.

After submitting the signed dissertation proposal cover sheet to the Doctoral Programs Officer indicating approval (see above), students can submit a HELP SU ticket online at helpsu.stanford.edu to request the credit. When submitting the help ticket, the following should be selected from the drop-down menus for HELP SU:

Request Category :  Computer, Handhelds (PDAs), Printers, Servers Request Type :  Printer Operating System : (whatever system is used by the student, e.g., Windows XP.)

The help ticket will be routed to the GSE's IT Group for processing; they will in turn notify the student via email when the credit is available.

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Thesis Writing

Thesis Proposal

Caleb S.

How to Write a Thesis Proposal - Sample Proposals and Tips!

Published on: Apr 15, 2019

Last updated on: Jan 18, 2024

Thesis Proposal

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Are you struggling with making a thesis proposal, not knowing where to start?

You're not the only one. 

Creating a thesis proposal can feel confusing. But think of a thesis proposal as your guide for your academic research. It helps you plan your research and keeps you on the right path. If the thought of a thesis proposal has left you feeling unsure, don't worry. 

This blog is here to help you understand how you can create a thesis proposal that serves your research project right! 

So, let’s begin!

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What is a Thesis Proposal?

The thesis proposal is a type of detailed summary and outline of your thesis or research work. It provides a layout regarding how you will transform an unformed idea into a thoroughly researched concept. 

Moreover, it also identifies the problem, questions, and methods you will use in your thesis. All students are required to submit this mind map to the supervisor. This is how they will get a comprehensive idea of the research journey. 

A good proposal will prove that your thesis or dissertation is relevant and important. Similarly, it shows that you have adopted the right approach and tools to solve the problem.

  • The following are the primary purposes of writing a thesis proposal.
  • It shows that the chosen topic addresses a significant problem.
  • It demonstrates an organized plan to collect or obtain data for solving the problem.
  • It identifies data collection methods.

Lastly, it states the significance of the thesis indicating how it will contribute to the field.

What Does A Thesis Proposal Include?

A well-structured thesis proposal consists of several critical elements, each playing a distinct role. Here's a concise breakdown of the parts of thesis proposal:

Introduction (1 page) 

This is where your proposal begins. 

It opens with a clear definition of your research's topic area, followed by an explanation of its relevance and significance within the context of your field. 

The introduction also establishes the scope of your research study by defining its boundaries and limitations.

Literature Review (7-8 pages) 

The literature review is a substantial section, comprising four key components. 

Firstly, it offers an overview of the existing body of literature related to your research topic. Secondly, it addresses theoretical frameworks and methodological research designs relevant to your area of study, demonstrating your familiarity with the field. 

Thirdly, it emphasizes the gaps in the literature, showcasing areas that require further investigation and justifying your research.

Research Question (1-2 pages) 

In this section, you formulate a specific research question that your study will seek to answer. 

The research question serves as the focal point of your research. You also explain how your entire research design aligns with and is structured around this central question.

Methodological Design (1-2 pages) 

The methodological design section is critical for outlining how you plan to conduct your research. 

It encompasses several pivotal aspects. You describe your methodological approach ( qualitative , quantitative , or a combination). You detail your participant access strategy and the number of cases to be included. 

You specify case selection criteria, research timeline, data collection methods, data coding, analytics, and other relevant factors.

References 

This is your bibliography, listing all authors cited within your literature review. It validates your sources and provides a solid foundation for your proposed research. 

Each of these components is crucial in creating a robust and structured framework for your thesis proposal.

How to Write a Thesis Proposal

Writing a thesis proposal is a structured process that involves several key steps, each of which plays a vital role in creating a successful proposal. Let's break it down:

Step 1 - Begin with Outlining

Start by outlining the information you've gathered. This step is crucial for both you and your supervisor. It provides a roadmap for your thesis. 

By carefully outlining the parts of your proposal, you can guide yourself while drafting the document.

Step 2 - Know the Proposal Structure

Familiarize yourself with the structure of a proposal. 

The major sections usually include an introduction, methodology, significance, data explanation, conclusions, and references. Understanding this structure is key to a well-organized proposal.

Step 3 - Plan Your Writing Process

It's important to organize your proposal meticulously. This helps you get a clear idea of how to write it. Many proposals get rejected because students don't plan their writing process. Plan the flow of your writing and stick to it. Here's a typical flow:

  • Develop a proposal outline.
  • Prepare visuals like charts or tables.
  • Introduce the topic.
  • Describe your chosen methodology.
  • Explain why your research is significant.
  • Present your data.
  • Draw conclusions from your research.
  • Cite your references.

Step 4 - Writing the Proposal Draft

Once you've planned the writing process, it's time to begin your final proposal draft. Use a formal writing style, but make sure to use simple words. 

This makes it easier for your audience to read and understand. Also, use first-person references as needed, but consult your professors before writing a thesis statement.

Step 5 - Proofread Your Proposal

A good thesis proposal should be free of typos and other grammatical mistakes.

These errors can distract your readers from your actual problem statement. To ensure a polished proposal:

  • Read the proposal aloud to identify grammar and spelling mistakes, along with any issues with sentence structure.
  • Avoid proofreading immediately after writing; wait a day or two for a more objective view.
  • Seek input from someone with a strong understanding of the material.
  • Utilize an online spell checker for added accuracy.

Following these steps will help you craft a well-structured and error-free thesis proposal, increasing the likelihood of your proposal being accepted.

Refer to the following sample to understand the complete writing process.

Thesis Proposal Format

The format of the thesis paper proposal typically follows the below-given pattern.

  • Title Page 

The title page includes the research title, student and supervisor’s name, along with the submission date.

  • Table of Contents 

It gives a complete layout of the proposal by stating the headings and subheadings with their page numbers. 

  • Introduction

The thesis introduction highlights the historical background of your research. It also provides a brief overview of the thesis topic and the motivation behind choosing it.

  • Statement of the Problem

It provides a clear statement that briefly defines the purpose of the study. Check out the below sample for a better understanding.

Sample Statement of the Problem in Thesis Proposal

  • Theoretical Framework 

Here, the research problem will be set within the framework of a theory. Moreover, it will also identify and define the terms conceptually.

  • Literature Review

It includes the review of the available literature on the topic to establish credibility. Keep in mind; this section must be at least 15 pages.

  • Research Objectives

This section states the main objectives that you want to achieve in the research. Similarly, it will also mention the hypothesis and the expected outcome.

  • Methodology

It states the methodological approaches that will be used to achieve the objectives. It will also provide details about how the experiments will be conducted to test the hypothesis.

  • Evaluation of Research Findings

It briefly discusses how the research findings and outcomes will be evaluated.

  • Timetable for Completion of the Thesis

This section includes the dates for:

  • Completion of research
  • The first draft of the thesis 
  • Final draft 

Cite all the primary and secondary sources in the reference list along with their codes. Also, choose a citation style after consulting with your professor.

  • Other Instructions

The other format instructions include the following aspects.

  • Word Count: 5000 words maximum.
  • Font Style and Size: Times new roman, Arial - 12pt.
  • Line Spacing: 1.5 for text, single-spaced for quotations.
  • Margins: It should be set to 1.25 inches for left/right and 1 inch for top/bottom.
  • Page Numbers : It must be in Roman numerals and placed at the bottom center of each page.
  • Citation: APA, MLA, Chicago.

Here’s a thesis proposal outline that you can use as reference:

Thesis Proposal Outline - MyPerfectWords.com

Need to know more about formatting your thesis? Explore this comprehensive blog to gain a deep understanding of thesis format !

Sample Thesis Proposal

Following are some examples and samples for you to get a detailed idea.

Thesis Proposal Sample

Thesis Proposal Example

Thesis Proposal Template

Undergraduate Thesis Proposal Example

Master Thesis Proposal Example

Phd. Thesis Proposal

Architectural Thesis Proposal

Thesis Proposal Writing Tips

Here are some tips for writing a perfect thesis proposal.

  • Know all the requirements before you start writing a proposal. It includes length, font, spacing, etc.
  • Use simple words so that the readers can understand easily.
  • Always check your proposal and carefully proofread for mistakes.
  • Write answers and solutions to your problem in the conclusion as it provides a base for future research.
  • Keep a record of your referencing from the start and triple check it before submitting the proposal.
  • Plan, organize, and structure your proposal within a clearly defined deadline.
  • Use pictures and graphs to illustrate background material, sample data, and analysis techniques. 

Getting started on your thesis? Read here and choose from an extensive list of thesis topics !

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  • What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree.

Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation , it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic , crafting a proposal , designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .

Thesis template

You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.

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Table of contents

Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about theses.

You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.

  • A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay .
  • A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement for Master’s programs, and is also sometimes required to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts colleges.
  • In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
  • In other countries (particularly the UK), a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.

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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:

  • Your discipline
  • Your theoretical approach

Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.

In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section ,  results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .

Thesis examples

We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.

  • Example thesis #1:   “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807” by Suchait Kahlon.
  • Example thesis #2: “’A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man’: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947″ by Julian Saint Reiman.

The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:

  • Your full title
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date.

Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.

Read more about abstracts

A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.

Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.

Read more about tables of contents

While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the “Insert Caption” feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialized or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetize the terms you want to include with a brief definition.

Read more about glossaries

An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:

  • Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
  • Define the scope of your work
  • Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
  • State your research question(s)
  • Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed

In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.

Read more about introductions

A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:

  • Selecting relevant sources
  • Determining the credibility of your sources
  • Critically evaluating each of your sources
  • Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:

  • Addressing a gap in the literature
  • Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
  • Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
  • Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
  • Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyzes the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
  • Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
  • Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
  • The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.

Your results section should:

  • State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Explain how each result relates to the research question
  • Determine whether the hypothesis was supported

Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.

Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.

For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasize what your research specifically has contributed to your field.

Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.

Read more about conclusions

In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.

Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.

Read more about appendices

Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!

Consider using a professional thesis editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect.

Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.

After your defense , your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

  • Survivorship bias
  • Self-serving bias
  • Availability heuristic
  • Halo effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Deep learning
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  • Machine learning
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The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

  • Plan to attend graduate school soon
  • Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
  • Are considering a career in research
  • Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience

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Writing a dissertation or thesis proposal, what is a proposal, what is the purpose of a proposal.

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The proposal, sometimes called the prospectus, is composed mainly of the Introduction, Research Questions, Literature Review, Research Significance and Methodology. It may also include a dissertation/thesis outline and a timeline for your proposed research. You will be able to reuse the proposal when you actually write the entire dissertation or thesis.

In the graduate student timeline, the proposal comes after successfully passing qualifying or comprehensive exams and before starting the research for a dissertation or thesis.

Each UNT department has slightly different proposal requirements, so be sure to check with your advisor or the department's graduate advisor before you start!

  • Examples of Proposals from UTexas More than 20 completed dissertation proposals are available to read at the UT Intellectual Entrepreneurship website.
  • Dissertation Proposal Guidelines This document from the Department of Communication at the University of Washington is a good example of what you might be expected to include in a proposal.

The purpose of a proposal is to convince your dissertation or thesis committee that you are ready to start your research project and to create a plan for your dissertation or thesis work. You will submit your proposal to your committee for review and then you will do your proposal defense, during which you present your plan and the committee asks questions about it. The committee wants to know if your research questions have academic merit and whether you have chosen the right methods to answer the questions.

  • How to Prepare a Successful Dissertation Proposal Defense Some general tips for a proposal defense from synonym.com

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Thesis Proposal

Thesis proposals.

Graduate students begin the thesis process by writing a thesis proposal that describes the central elements of the thesis work.  Those elements vary depending on the type of thesis (research, artistic, or project) that the student plans to write. Students begin drafting the thesis proposal in the course Thesis Proposal Seminar . 

Below, please find detailed information about the following:

  • research thesis proposal
  • artistic thesis proposal
  • project thesis proposal
  • formatting your proposal  
  • getting your proposal approved  
  • submit your proposal  

Research Thesis Proposal

The proposal for a research thesis consists of five sections:

  • Thesis Statement Following an optional introduction, the basic function of this section is to articulate a phenomenon that the student proposes to investigate (whether a social event, process, a literary work, an intellectual idea or something else), and the question(s), issue(s) or problem(s) related to that phenomenon that the student plans to address in the thesis. The core of the statement may take the form of a hypothesis that the student will test, of a proposition or argument that the student intends to support, or of a general problem or question the student  will explore. The section puts that basic problem statement in a larger context by explaining its historical origins (where did it come from?) and its intellectual, social, and/or artistic context (what conversation, debate, or line of inquiry does it participate in?). It also describes the sub-questions or themes that constitute the general problem. Students will cite appropriate scholarly, professional and other sources for the ideas, questions and background information contained in the section.
  • Research Methods In this section, the student will identify (a) the kinds of information that needed to answer the question(s) raised in the Thesis Statement, (b) the methods the student will use to gather that information, and (c) the strategies by which the student will organize and analyze the information in such a way as to reach and support a conclusion, to construct a sound argument. If the central problem has several facets, the student may need an array of different methods for collecting and analyzing information. Students should be as precise as possible in each stage of the methods statement: Is information needed about the stylistic techniques in a novel, about changes in the poverty rates in Kenya since independence, about the ways children think about nature? Will the student pull out the metaphors in a text, find government reports on household income, interview kids about their experiences in the woods? Will the student deploy statistical forms of content analysis, correlate poverty rates with political changes, interpret themes in children’s stories? Students should reflect on the broad methodological approaches that they propose to use, and cite sources from which they derive their methods and tools. A student's central goal is to demonstrate that they know how to go about answering the question(s) that have been raised. Please note that if students intend to conduct research on living people, they will need to get the approval of the University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects (UCAIHS). Before they apply for that approval, students will need to take a tutorial and pass a test on the various regulations. Refer to the  UCAIHS website  for more information.
  • Justification and Limitations This section of the proposal should explain the rationale for the thesis and the importance of the topic. Indicate the reasons why this study is important to conduct and whom it will benefit. Identify the limits beyond which the inquiry will not go. For instance, if a student is writing about a historical subject, the student must explain the relevance of the time period selected. Finally, describe the contribution the work will make to the field.
  • Conclusion This section should summarize the nature and intention of the student's work. Conclude the discussion and mention any pertinent information which may not have been included above.
  • Annotated Bibliography This section consists of a list of books and articles and artworks with accompanying annotations that explain why these readings and other sources are likely to be crucial as the work advances.

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Artistic Thesis Proposal

The artistic thesis consists of an artistic work and supporting essays, and it is important to conceive of each element as contributing to a coherent whole.  The proposal itself consists of five sections:

  • Concept Statement This section includes a brief introduction that forms the framework for the entire thesis and articulates the questions around which the creative project and supporting essays revolve.
  • Description of the Artistic Work and Artistic Aims This section describes the major artistic work that will comprise the submitted artistic thesis.  Students may want to refer to particular artistic influences or genres that will inform the work, or describe the aesthetic from which the creative work derives. In this section, students should also: refer to some of the artistic reasons that led to their decision to embark on this particular project; discuss the goals that will guide the development of the work; and provide concrete details about the final form and media of the work  (will it be, for example, a collection of short stories, a novel; an evening of dance an exhibition of paintings, a film, or what?).  If the artwork involves live performance, this section should state whether it will be a public or private event, where the event will be held, and any other details relevant to bringing the project to completion.

This section should provide the reader with relevant historical or critical information to place the central research question in context, and this section should also discuss the key theories, methods, and sources to be used within the research essay.  It should demonstrate that the student knows how to begin answering the question(s) they are posing.  What sorts of things will the student need to find out? What research methods will be used?  What kinds of sources will be reviewed, and how will information from them be used? Who, if anyone, will be interviewed, and what kinds of questions will the subjects be asked?  Students should also reflect, in this section, on the broad analytical approach that will structure their research and identify the school(s) of thought that will inform their investigations. 

  • Justification and Limitations This section should explain the importance of the student's work in the context of their particular artistic discipline and discuss how all components of the thesis project taken together as a single project will contribute to the scholarly and artistic fields with which it engages. This section should also discuss limitations, personal and practical, relating to the project and the student’s readiness.  If the project is a film, for example, how much direct experience has the student already had in that field, and how will the student allocate the time to finish the project by the desired defense date? How much is the project likely to cost, and how does the student expect to obtain funding?  What kind of spaces will be needed for rehearsal as well as presentation of the work? 

Project Thesis Proposal

The project thesis includes two major components: (a) an activity (program, intervention, campaign, etc.) designed to address (solve, remediate, improve) a problem, issue or opportunity in the student's domain as a professional or activist; and (b) a written document that describes, rationalizes, analyzes, and assesses the activity. It is not strictly a research study, but rather an exercise in reflective practice. Therefore, the proposal takes a form different from that of the research or artistic thesis proposal. Please note, as well, that a project thesis  must  be not only designed but implemented and evaluated.

  • Problem Statement This section of the proposal identifies, describes, and analyzes the problem (issue, need, opportunity) that the student will address in the project. Clearly articulate the nature of the problem: its historical, social and professional context; its dimensions and extent; its impact, and perhaps some previous efforts to address it. Present information that explains the student's understanding of the origins or causes of the problem, to set up the rationale for the choice of a strategy to solve it. At each stage, refer to appropriate scholarly and professional literatures.
  • Project Plan Students should spell out their plans for addressing the problem. Students should describe the institutional setting within which the project will take place, as well as the individuals, groups, or organizations with whom they will work. What will the student (and, perhaps, others) do? What resources and strategies will be used? If the student need funds, how will they be raised and disbursed? What schedule will be followed? Be efficient, but concrete and clear in specifying the activities that will make up the project. Identify the professional and theoretical sources of the strategies for the project: What precedents and ideas are the student drawing on? Also, the student should discuss the means by which they will record and report the project activities for the members of the thesis committee. Will the student write a journal, shoot videos, keep material artifacts and documents? Students must be clear about how they intend to document the project. They may also elect to invite the members of their committee to witness the project first-hand.
  • Assessment The proposal speaks to three aspects of the assessment process. In all three, students should be concrete and refer to appropriate literatures as sources of their plans. Criteria : First, students should describe and justify the criteria by which they will determine whether the project has succeeded. What are the goals and objectives? What changes does the student want to see in the participants, the organization, the larger world? Methods:  What information will be needed to determine whether the goals and objectives have been met? How will that information be collected and organized? Analysis : How will that information be utilized to describe the project’s success or failure? What sorts of lessons does the student hope to draw from the assessment?
  • Justification and Limitations This section of the proposal should explain the rationale for the thesis and the importance of the topic. Indicate the reasons why this study is important to conduct and whom it will benefit. Identify the limits beyond which the inquiry will not go. Finally, describe the contribution the work will make to the field.
  • Conclusion This section should summarize the nature and intention of the work. Conclude the discussion and mention any pertinent information which may not have been included above.

Format of the Proposal

All thesis proposals should conform to the following specifications:

  • Title Page The title should be reasonably succinct, but descriptive enough to convey the nature of the thesis; the title page should include your full name, the date of submission, and your adviser’s name.
  • Length The thesis proposal should be approximately 8 pages, excluding the annotated bibliography. Remember that this is a proposal, not the thesis itself; tell us what you propose to do and how, don’t do it.
  • Annotated Bibliography This bibliography should contain brief commentaries on no fewer than 10–15 relevant source works.

The Approval Process for the Thesis Proposal

The Thesis Proposal Seminar (TPS) Students write their thesis proposals while enrolled in the Thesis Proposal Seminar (CORE-GG 2401, a 2-credit core requirement offered every spring). Throughout that semester, students work closely with their Adviser and Instructor to draft an acceptable proposal. When the proposal has received approval from both the Thesis Proposal Seminar instructor (Gallatin reviewer) and the adviser, the student is allowed to move on to their thesis research. The three steps of the approval process are outlined below.

  • TPS Instructor/Reviewer Approval The Thesis Proposal Seminar instructor serves as the Gallatin reviewer of the thesis proposal. A student must receive a grade of ‘Pass’ in the Thesis Proposal Seminar for the proposal to be considered ‘reviewer approved.’ If the student’s proposal is not finished at the end of the semester, the student will receive a grade of 'Incomplete' in the course and will have until June 15th to submit the proposal before moving on to thesis research.
  • Adviser Approval Students work closely with their advisers over the course of the semester to produce a proposal that the adviser can approve. Once the adviser agrees that the proposal is ready, students submit their final proposal via the online Thesis Proposal submission form . The Thesis Proposal submission form allows students to provide Gallatin with additional information about the courses, internships, independent studies, jobs, and other experiences that have prepared the student for their thesis work.
  • MA Program Approval Once the M.A. Program verifies adviser approval of the proposal and the student has passed the TPS, the MA Program updates the student record to show that the Thesis Proposal requirement has been satisfied.

The deadline for submitting an adviser approved thesis proposal online is June 15.

How to write a thesis proposal

I. Framework II. Structure of a thesis proposal III. Order in which to write the proposal IV. Tips V. Resources

I. Framework

  • An environmental issue is identified.
  • Other people's work on the topic is collected and evaluated.
  • Data necessary to solving the problem are either collected by the student, or obtained independently.
  • Data are analyzed using techniques appropriate to the data set.
  • Results of the analysis are reported and are interpreted in light of the initial environmental issue.
  • the thesis topic addresses a significant environmental problem;
  • an organized plan is in place for collecting or obtaining data to help solve the problem;
  • methods of data analysis have been identified and are appropriate to the data set.

II. Structure of a thesis proposal

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Approach/methods
  • Preliminary results and discussion
  • Work plan including time table
  • Implications of research
  • List of references
  • contains short, descriptive title of the proposed thesis project  (should be fairly self-explanatory)
  • and author, institution, department, resreach mentor, mentor's institution, and date of delivery
  • the abstract is a brief summary of your thesis proposal
  • its length should not exceed ~200 words
  • present a brief introduction to the issue
  • make the key statement of your thesis
  • give a summary of how you want to address the issue
  • include a possible implication of your work, if successfully completed
  • list all headings and subheadings with page numbers
  • indent subheadings
  • this section sets the context for your proposed project and must capture the reader's interest
  • explain the background of your study starting from a broad picture narrowing in on your research question
  • review what is known about your research topic as far as it is relevant to your thesis
  • cite relevant references
  • the introduction should be at a level that makes it easy to understand for readers with a general science background, for example your classmates
  • in a couple of sentences, state your thesis
  • this statement can take the form of a hypothesis, research question, project statement, or goal statement
  • the thesis statement should capture the essence of your intended project and also help to put boundaries around it
  • this section contains an overall description of your approach,  materials, and procedures
  • what methods will be used?
  • how will data be collected and analyzed?
  • what materials will be used?
  • include calculations, technique, procedure, equipment, and calibration graphs
  • detail limitations, assumptions, and range of validity
  • citations should be limited to data sources and more complete descriptions of procedures
  • do not include results and discussion of results here
  • present any results you already have obtained
  • discuss how they fit in the framework of your thesis
  • describe in detail what you plan to do until completion of your senior thesis project
  • list the stages of your project in a table format
  • indicate deadlines you have set for completing each stage of the project, including any work you have already completed
  • discuss any particular challenges that need to be overcome
  • what new knowledge will the proposed project produce that we do not already know?
  • why is it worth knowing, what are the major implications?
  • cite all ideas, concepts, text, data that are not your own
  • if you make a statement, back it up with your own data or a reference
  • all references cited in the text must be listed
  • cite single-author references by the surname of the author (followed by date of the publication in parenthesis)
  • ... according to Hays (1994)
  • ... population growth is one of the greatest environmental concerns facing future generations (Hays, 1994).
  • cite double-author references by the surnames of both authors (followed by date of the publication in parenthesis)
  • e.g. Simpson and Hays (1994)
  • cite more than double-author references by the surname of the first author followed by et al. and then the date of the publication
  • e.g. Pfirman, Simpson and Hays would be:
  • Pfirman et al. (1994)
  • cite newspaper articles using the newspaper name and date, e.g.
  • ....this problem was also recently discussed in the press (New York Times, 1/15/00)
  • do not use footnotes
  • list all references cited in the text in alphabetical order using the following format for different types of material:
  • Hunt, S. (1966) Carbohydrate and amino acid composition of the egg capsules of the whelk. Nature , 210, 436-437.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1997) Commonly asked questions about ozone. http://www.noaa.gov/public-affairs/grounders/ozo1.html, 9/27/97.
  • Pfirman, S.L., M. Stute, H.J. Simpson, and J. Hays (1996) Undergraduate research at Barnard and Columbia, Journal of Research , 11, 213-214.
  • Pechenik, J.A. (1987) A short guide to writing about biology. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 194pp.
  • Pitelka, D.R., and F.M. Child (1964) Review of ciliary structure and function. In: Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa , Vol. 3 (S.H. Hutner, editor), Academic Press, New York, 131-198.
  • Sambrotto, R. (1997) lecture notes, Environmental Data Analysis, Barnard College, Oct 2, 1997.
  • Stute, M., J.F. Clark, P. Schlosser, W.S. Broecker, and G. Bonani (1995) A high altitude continental paleotemperature record derived from noble gases dissolved in groundwater from the San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Quat. Res. , 43, 209-220.
  • New York Times (1/15/00) PCBs in the Hudson still an issue, A2.
  • it is acceptable to put the initials of the individual authors behind their last names, e.g. Pfirman, S.L., Stute, M., Simpson, H.J., and Hays, J (1996) Undergraduate research at ......

III. Order in which to write the proposal

  • Make an outline of your thesis proposal  before you start writing
  • Prepare figures and tables
  • Figure captions
  • Discussion of your data
  • Inferences from your data
  • Bibliography
  • "Pictures say more than a thousand words!" Figures serve to illustrate important aspects  of the background material, sample data, and analysis techniques.
  • A well chosen and well labeled figure can reduce text length, and improve proposal clarity.  Proposals often contain figures from other articles.  These can be appropriate, but you should consider modifying them if the modifications will improve your point.
  • The whole process of making a drawing is important for two reasons.  First, it clarifies your thinking.  If you don’t understand the process, you can’t draw it. Second, good drawings are very valuable.  Other scientists will understand your paper better if you can make a drawing of your ideas.  A co-author of mine has advised me: make figures that other people will want to steal.  They will cite your paper because they want to use your figure in their paper.
  • Make cartoons using a scientific drawing program.  Depending upon the subject of your paper, a cartoon might incorporate the following:
  • a picture of the scientific equipment that you are using and an explanation of how it works;
  • a drawing of a cycle showing steps, feedback loops, and bifurcations: this can include chemical or mathematical equations;
  • a flow chart showing the steps in a process and the possible causes and consequences.
  • Incorporate graphs in the text or on separated sheets inserted in the thesis proposal
  • Modern computer technology such as scanners and drafting programs are available in the department to help you create or modify pictures.

Grammar/spelling

  • Poor grammar and spelling distract from the content of the proposal.  The reader focuses on the grammar and spelling problems and misses keys points made in the text.  Modern word processing programs have grammar and spell checkers.  Use them.
  • Read your proposal aloud - then  have a friend read it aloud. If your sentences seem too long, make two or three sentences instead of one.  Try to write the same way that you speak when you are explaining a concept. Most people speak more clearly than they write.
  • You should have read your proposal over at least 5 times before handing it in
  • Simple wording is generally better
  • If you get comments from others that seem completely irrelevant to you, your paper is not written clearly enough never use a complex word if a simpler word will do

V. Resources/Acknowlegements

The senior seminar website has a very detailed document on " How to write a thesis " which you might want to look at. Most of the tips given there are relevant for your thesis proposal as well. Recommended books on scientific writing Some of the material on this page was adapted from: http://www.geo.utep.edu/Grad_Info/prop_guide.html http://www.hartwick.edu/anthropology/proposal.htm http://csdl.ics.hawaii.edu/FAQ/FAQ/thesis-proposal.html http://www.butler.edu/honors/PropsTheses.html

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  • Acknowledgments

The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to determine that the research problem has not been adequately addressed or has been answered ineffectively and, in so doing, become better at locating pertinent scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of conducting scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those findings. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your proposal is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to investigate.
  • Why do you want to do the research? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of in-depth study. A successful research proposal must answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to conduct the research? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having difficulty formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here for strategies in developing a problem to study.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise . A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review . Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem.
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research . This is critical. In many workplace settings, the research proposal is a formal document intended to argue for why a study should be funded.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar . Although a research proposal does not represent a completed research study, there is still an expectation that it is well-written and follows the style and rules of good academic writing.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues . Your proposal should focus on only a few key research questions in order to support the argument that the research needs to be conducted. Minor issues, even if valid, can be mentioned but they should not dominate the overall narrative.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal.  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing most college-level academic papers, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. The text of proposals generally vary in length between ten and thirty-five pages, followed by the list of references. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like, "Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Most proposals should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea based on a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Answer the "So What?" question by explaining why this is important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This is where you explain the scope and context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.

To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care?].
  • Describe the major issues or problems examined by your research. This can be in the form of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain the methods you plan to use for conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will be excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts, theories, or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while at the same time, demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations. Also pay attention to any suggestions for further research.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in relation to the arguments put forth by other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you review more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

NOTE: Do not shy away from challenging the conclusions made in prior research as a basis for supporting the need for your proposal. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. Highlighting the problematic conclusions strengthens your proposal. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

To help frame your proposal's review of prior research, consider the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: describe what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate among scholars?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, and methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that you have a plan worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used, but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results obtained in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is a deliberate argument as to why techniques for gathering information add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method applied to research in the social and behavioral sciences is perfect, so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your professor!

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications . The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy making. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.   When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to challenging the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions that support the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace, organization, or community?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented and what innovations or transformative insights could emerge from the process of implementation?

NOTE:   This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence . The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.

ANOTHER NOTE : This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations because the study has yet to be conducted, you still must tell the reader where and in what form impediments may arise and how you plan to address them.

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study . This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done;
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer;
  • The decision for why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options;
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem; and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used . In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- a list of only the sources you actually used in creating your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- a list of everything you used in creating your proposal, along with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to ensure the project will complement and not just duplicate the efforts of other researchers. It demonstrates to the reader that you have a thorough understanding of prior research on the topic.

Most proposal formats have you start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences , Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Thesis Writing

Thesis Proposal

Nova A.

Writing a Thesis Proposal - Guide, Outline, Format & Tips

11 min read

Published on: Oct 16, 2021

Last updated on: Feb 6, 2024

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Are you feeling overwhelmed and stuck when it comes to crafting a compelling thesis proposal that will impress your committee?

As a graduate student, you know that your thesis proposal is the key to future career opportunities. However, with so much pressure and competition, it's easy to feel lost and unsure of where to start.

But don't worry! 

In this blog post, we'll provide you with expert guidance and actionable tips on how to write a winning thesis proposal. From choosing the right topic to developing a persuasive argument, we'll walk you through the process step by step. 

So if you're stuck and need some help writing your A-grade thesis proposal, check out this guide for the fundamentals on how to get started!

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Thesis Proposal Definition

The thesis proposal is a detailed summary and outline of your research project. It outlines how you will develop an incomplete idea into a thoroughly researched concept.

The thesis proposal is a concise and written summary of your research project. It is like a blueprint for your project. It outlines how you will develop an incomplete idea into something valuable with thorough evidence. 

Furthermore, it discovers methods, questions,  and problems that will be used in your thesis.

The proposal typically includes the following:

  • An Introduction to the research problem
  • A review of relevant literature
  • An explanation of the proposed methodology
  • A discussion of the expected outcomes 
  • Significance of the study

Furthermore, it will help you discover methods and questions used in your thesis. This is how you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the research process. 

Check out this video guide on what is a thesis proposal and how to write it for your better understanding!

Purpose of a Thesis Proposal 

A good proposal will show the significance and relevance of your thesis or dissertation. It also indicates that you used the proper approach and tools to solve the problem.

The primary goals of writing a thesis proposal are as follows.

  • It demonstrates that the chosen topic addresses a significant problem.
  • It shows methods of data collection.
  • It identifies a well-organized research plan for gathering or obtaining data to solve the problem.
  • Finally, it expresses the thesis's significance, indicating how it will contribute to the field.

Have a look at this thesis topics blogs to explore ideas for your next paper.

How to Write a Thesis Proposal?

To write a thesis or a research proposal, simply follow the simple steps outlined below.

1. Make an Outline

Before you start writing your proposal, it's a good idea to create an outline. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you cover all the necessary points.

Your outline should include the following sections:

2. Understand the Proposal Structure

It is important to understand the parts of thesis proposal. A thesis proposal typically follows a specific structure.  It should include:

3. Make a Writing Process Plan

Writing a thesis proposal can be a lengthy process, so it's a good idea to create a plan. 

Determine how much time you have to work on the proposal and set specific goals for each day or week. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you finish the proposal on time.

4. Compose the Proposal Draft 

Once you have your outline and plan, you can start your thesis proposal.

Begin by writing the sections that you feel most comfortable with, such as the introduction or literature review. 

Similarly, make use of the first-person pronoun. However, before writing a thesis statement, you must consult your professors.

Don't worry about getting everything perfect on the first draft – you can always go back and make changes later.

5. Edit and Proofread Your Proposal 

Once you have a complete draft, it's time to edit and proofread. Read through your proposal carefully and make sure it flows well and makes sense. 

Check for spelling and grammar errors and ensure that your references are formatted correctly.

Follow these useful tips to avoid mistakes in your thesis proposal: 

  • Never proofread a proposal right after writing it. Instead, wait a day or two to look at it objectively.
  • Use an online spell checker to assist you.
  • Read the proposal aloud to identify grammar and spelling errors and incorrect sentence structure.
  • Request someone to proofread who has a thorough understanding of your thesis topic.

Look at the sample below to understand the entire writing process of the thesis proposal. 

How to Write a Thesis Proposal Sample Pdf

Thesis Proposal Outline

If you're a graduate student, you're likely familiar with the importance of a thesis proposal. 

However, creating a strong and effective proposal can be a daunting task, especially if you're unsure of where to start. 

This section will guide you through the process of creating a thesis proposal outline.

Introduction (1 page) 

  • What is the subject matter?
  • What is the research study's scope?
  • What is the topic's relevance or significance?

Learn to write an engaging introduction for your thesis with this thesis introduction blog!

Literature Review (7-8 pages) 

  • It allows you to identify a gap in the literature that has not previously been thoroughly researched.
  • To grasp the idea, theoretical approaches and methodological research designs are used.
  • It demonstrates that you are familiar with the research that has been done in this field.
  • It provides an overview of the existing literature on your topic.

Research Question (1-2 pages) 

It involves creating a specific research question. Furthermore, the writer creates the research study based on these questions.

Methodological Design (1-2 pages) 

  • What will your research's analysis be? (either qualitatively, quantitatively, or both)
  • What will be your research methodology? (experiments, case studies, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc.)
  • How are you going to code the data? inductive or deductive approach)
  • What type of sampling research methods will you use? (probability and non-probability sampling methods)
  • How many cases are you planning to include?
  • How will you collect the information? 
  • How will you reach out to the participants?
  • What will be the duration of your research study?
  • What are your other work-related considerations?

It includes a bibliography  and a list of the authors who contributed to your literature review.

Thesis Proposal Format 

The thesis proposal format typically follows the pattern shown below.

The title page includes the title of the research, the submission date, the names of the student and supervisor.

  • Table of Contents 

The proposal is laid out in an easy-to-follow manner with headings and subheadings for each section.

  • Introduction

The introduction to your paper gives a brief overview of the historical context and reasons for selecting the topic.

  • Statement of the Problem

Provide a summary of the study's purpose in a clearly worded statement.

Sample Problem Statement in Thesis Proposal

  • Theoretical Framework

The research problem will be posted within the framework of a theory to identify and define terms.

  • Literature Review

A literature review is a vital tool to provide credible information. It includes reviewing the relevant literature and creating credibility. Make sure this section is at least 15 pages long. 

  • Research Objectives 

In this section, you should outline your research's goals. Similarly, it will state the hypothesis and expected outcome of your research.

  • Methodology

The methodology section explains how to conduct experiments and analyze data to achieve the goals. Also, it tells how the experiments will test the hypothesis.

  • Analysis of Research Findings

Here, the research findings and outcomes will be evaluated rigorously.

  • Timetable for Thesis Completion

The following dates are included in this section:

  • Completion of draft
  • Initial draft
  • Complete draft
  • Thesis Proposal Defense

Include every primary and secondary source and their codes in the reference list. Also, you must consult with your professor before deciding on a citation style.

  • Other Requirements

The following are some requirements for your proposed project you should follow: 

  • 5000 words is the maximum word count limit for your thesis proposal. 
  • Line spacing should be 1.5 for text and single-spaced for quotations.
  • Set the margins to 1.25 inches on the right/left and 1 inch on the top and bottom.
  • Write in Times New Roman or Arial font and use 12pt size.
  • Ment sources in APA, Chicago, or MLA citation styles. 
  • Mention page numbers at the bottom center of each page in Roman numerals. 

Look at the below PDF to learn about the thesis format template.

Thesis Proposal Template

Need to explore the detailed guide on thesis format? Check our thesis format blog here!

Thesis Proposal Examples

Here are some thesis proposal examples to help you get a clear understanding.

Thesis Proposal Example

Thesis Proposal Sample

Thesis Proposal Presentation

Undergraduate Thesis Proposal Example

Master Thesis Proposal Example

MBA Thesis Proposal

PhD. Thesis Proposal

Tips for Writing a Thesis Proposal 

Writing a thesis proposal can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be a rewarding experience. 

Here are some tips to help you write a successful thesis proposal:

  • Start early: Writing a thesis proposal takes time, so it's important to start early. This will give you enough time to research your topic, plan your proposal, and make revisions.
  • Understand the requirements: Before you start writing, make sure you understand the requirements for your proposal. This includes the format, length, and any specific guidelines provided by your institution or advisor.
  • Conduct a thorough literature review: A literature review is a critical component of any thesis proposal. It shows that you understand the existing research on your topic and can identify gaps that your research will fill.
  • Clearly state your hypothesis: Your research question or hypothesis is the foundation of your proposal. It should be clear, concise, and focused.
  • Choose appropriate research methods: The research methods you choose should be appropriate for your research question or hypothesis. They should also be feasible and ethical.
  • Explain the significance of research: It's important to explain why your research is important and how it will contribute to the field. This will help convince your readers that your research is worth funding and conducting.
  • Edit and proofread your proposal: Before submitting your proposal, make sure to edit and proofread it carefully. This will help you catch any errors or inconsistencies and ensure that your proposal is clear and well-written.
  • Get feedback: It's always a good idea to get feedback on your proposal from colleagues, advisors, or other experts in your field. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improving your proposal.

In short, writing a thesis proposal demands your full attention and you need to proceed step by step. This way, you can ensure a smoother journey to completing your thesis.

However, due to time constraints and other personal challenges, it becomes very difficult even when you know how to do it. If you have an idea but are lost for words, you can get help from our amazing AI essay writing tool .

Need expert and professional help for more specific aspects of your thesis? We've got your back!

CollegeEssay.org offers budget-friendly proposal essay writing service to help you out. Our team has expert college essay writer from various disciplines, and we promise personalized and original writing assistance so can submit an excellent proposal on time.

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Thesis proposal

Table of Contents

  • 1. What Is A Thesis Proposal?
  • 2. Thesis Proposal Template
  • 3.1. Craft Your Abstract
  • 3.2. Choose Topic and Working Title
  • 3.3. Create Your Introduction
  • 3.4. Write the Thesis Research Questions
  • 3.5. Present Your Literature Review
  • 3.6. Write Down the Methodology
  • 3.7. Provide Your Timeline
  • 3.8. Craft A Conclusion
  • 4. Thesis Proposal Example
  • 5. Thesis Proposal FAQ

What Is A Thesis Proposal?

A thesis proposal is the link-bridge to the main thesis, laying out the plan of how you will conduct the research.  This way, the professors (assessment committee) will know that you are on the right path and got the right tools to get to the final destination.

The first step is developing a thesis proposal outline, commonly referred to as a thesis proposal template, which will help you do your project. It provides a clear thesis proposal format so that you can easily know what to do at what stage. Your proposal should be structured on a number of key elements, each of which should assist you to define the main project.

Thesis Proposal Template

  • Abstract . This is a summary of the entire proposal.
  • Define the topic of the proposal. The topic is the title of the project and gives the reader a general idea of what the thesis is all about.
  • Write the introduction . The introduction helps to bring out the main issues in the thesis as well as its significance.
  • Craft your research questions. These are the questions that you will be seeking to answer in the thesis.
  • Review the related literature. This is a comprehensive analysis of existing literature on the topic you are working on.
  • Methods . These are the theoretical approaches and methods that will be used to do the study.
  • Timeline . In this part, you outline the time required for doing your study.
  • Conclusion . This is the last part of your proposal and is used to give the anticipated results from the study.

How to Write a Thesis Proposal

A thesis proposal requires comprehensive research, preparation, and a well-defined final destination. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you craft thee best proposal for your thesis.

“ The differences in communication styles between men and women have been a topic of interest in the research world for many years. These differences may lead to miscommunication, conflict, and even dissatisfaction between couples. This study analyzes the communication styles among genders, more specifically among married couples. It questions how differences in communication styles between married couples married five years or less affect marital satisfaction. …”

Discuss the topic with your supervisor. Your supervisor can help you to refine the topic further, and give you the assurance that you are headed in the right direction. He/she will also assist you in grasping the complexities to anticipate along the way and the best way to approach them. See a good thesis proposal example topic.

“ A Detailed History of Halloween and King of Gourds: A Study of Horror Symbolism”
“ The first spooky faces were carved on pumpkins by rats, although considered inferior, mimics were later done by people. When rats brought the dangerous Black Death, people started connecting pumpkins to plague. Pumpkins were also used to scare off the spirits of the dead person to prevent further deaths. Soon after, Jack o lanterns were adopted across the globe as common Halloween talismans. ”
“ What effect does daily use of Facebook have on the Attention span of adolescents?” “What effect do legal approaches have on people who drink and drive in the UK?”
“ Noller (1980) comprehensively compared the effectiveness of women and men as nonverbal communicators. Being an effective communicator involves both encoding and decoding messages. Noller argued that w omen have a natural tendency to be more expressive. He added that men tend to make more errors than women when encoding messages.”
Theoretical approaches. Analytical framework. Formulas and equations. Experiments. Philosophies.

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“Pumpkins are crucial Jungian symbols used to indicate the desire of the subconscious mind to control and change the feeling of horror and fear of the people’s desire to understand the unknowable. This study will expand the field of pumpkinology, while fellowship with rats will further be expanded. This will herald a new era of plague-less companionship.”

Thesis Proposal Example

Check out this thesis proposal sample from our dissertation proposal writing services to get an idea of how a good thesis proposal is supposed to look and to give you a better idea of what to do.

Significant advances in technological capacity have brought the world closer. While this is a positive aspect, it has also introduced a new kind of problem. Cyber-attacks are common features in the present internet age. Individuals and governments are at risk of being targeted, leading to studies involved in alleviating possible breakdown of society owing to its dependence on technology. The paper aims at determining the United States’ preparedness for cybercrime by looking at the nation’s best law enforcement agencies, the CIA and the FBI. By understanding the inner workings of these bodies with relation to cybercrime, the research aims at eliciting an understanding of issues that have been dealt with and showcasing emerging issues that threaten existing cybersecurity measures in a bid to improve them. Cybercrime has shown considerable advancement over the past, necessitating nationwide attention, where the Federal government should use its resources to ensure it is always up to date on matters concerning cybersecurity. In this way, the avenues used by cybercriminals are destroyed.

  • Introduction

The significant advancement made in internet technology has yielded a lot of aid in the development of certain aspects of the world relating to information technology. Ranging from medical studies to an intricate internet monetary system (Bitcoin has grown significantly over the past few years) internet development is at the core of modern civilization. As such, issues relating to the internet are of particular concern, especially to developed nations such as the U.S.A. In recent years, a new form of crime has developed due to the growth in internet usage. Cybercrime is a relatively new threat in the American system. Nations such as China and Russia have evidenced an inclination towards technological development, therefore, it is important to determine America’s preparedness for issues that deal with cyber-attacks. The issue can be seen to have dire consequences for economies as cybercriminals have in the past hacked into American corporations (incidences have been blamed on Russia and China). Well-established protocols should be put in place to deal with the growing threat that cannot be alleviated by traditional means of defense. The paper aims at determining if the U.S. is prepared in case of future cyberattacks as cybercriminals continue to increase on a global scale.

Therefore, cybercrime can be deemed as the newest threat to the development of nations in the internet era, which leads to the purpose of this study. It entails an intricate knowledge of writings on the issue and methods that can be used to determine the level of risk faced by an organization or government with regard to cyber attacks. In this way, the researcher aims at ascertaining the relevance of U.S.A. security against cybercrime.

Literature Review

Many scholars argue that governments, as seen by efforts of agencies such as FBI, have limited interest in developing countermeasures for cyber threats. While these institutions confer that the next leading global giants will undoubtedly have the best virtual network connectivity, most of them do not consider cybercrime as serious. In recent years, the United States (U.S) government has come up with various legislations regarding crime committed on cyberspace. While they have elicited some kind of response from the public, enacted legislation is inadequate in curbing cybercriminals. A good example of the limited focus on cyber security is evidenced in the restrictions placed on the FBI with regard to an iPhone that had potentially useful information due to a confidentiality clause.

Such issues should be considered when coming up with legislation concerning cybercrime. Nevertheless, such an issue showcased instances where the public views technological advancements of the government in curbing crime as the FBI hacked the suspect’s phone. It is important to note that a large portion of legislation targeting cyber criminals has been developed after individuals have committed a crime. This is particularly visible in the nation’s interest in cyberspace which developed after leaked information revealed that the Chinese government had hacked government systems in the U.S.A. for an unknown period of time. As such, the FBI has failed in this regard to protect citizens from cybercriminals. A large number of crimes dealing with the internet have led to leaked information concerning individuals such as social security numbers and credit card information. Therefore, loss of such information has led to an increase in crime where identity theft plays a crucial role in highlighting cyber-crime effects. Nevertheless, governments continue to downplay the importance of cyber security, since there is no clearly accepted definition of cyber warfare, cyberattacks and cybercrime. This leads to hackers being provided the opportunity to continue with their tasks unhindered, allowing them to progress faster than the law in this respect.

Furthermore, it is necessary to point out the diversity of cybercrime to better develop the issue. Cybercrime targets anyone without any form of consideration for age, sex, or financial status. A young child whose information has been stolen could be the victim in a social security fraud case. In this case, individuals use the child’s documents to open up new lines of credit thereby giving criminals revenue to conduct their activities which negatively affects the individuals in the future and the country. For such a victim, it is difficult to determine the source of the hack since most people realize these issues when they require credit such as when applying for a loan. In the same way, an organization may be threatened with leakage of information regarding a particular product that could potentially lead to loss of revenue. Multiplier effects of such hacks are immense, cutting across the economy as some people are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

Therefore, new laws enacted to protect people against cybercrime have led to a unanimous agreement by nations. This concerns the role of cyber security in eradicating cybercrime, showcasing its importance in a country. Mohammed and Mariani also agree as they emphasize for governments to adopt better measures of cybersecurity. To deter criminals, nations need to understand the implications of cybercrime in the communities involved. Rather than wait for a criminal occurrence to develop good countermeasures, they should invest a sizeable quantity of resources to the attainment of peak cybersecurity measures.

Theoretical Framework/Approach

A large number of studies related to cybercrime have focused on the ability of a country to mitigate cybercrime based on existing research and technological capabilities. However, this study aims to develop an understanding of the American system with regard to its readiness to deal with this form of crime. In this respect, the research will focus on the government’s primary law enforcement agency tasked with interior security (F.B.I) and their ability to prevent cybercriminals from operating in the U.S. It is important to ascertain the agency’s level of development in terms of computer expertise. Moreover, the CIA is tasked with external protection of the nation. The study will thus include measures taken by the CIA. in their pursuit of a nation without cybercriminals.

However, the key to determining the relevance of a nation’s systems in curbing cybercrime is the legislature where it needs to come up with severe penalties for perpetrators of these acts. As such, individuals who wish to become hackers will be less receptive to the allure of hacking as they consider the penalty as extremely high. This requires a nation to develop strong foreign policies dealing with cybercrime. Such systems act as a deterrent to foreign nationals who would wish to hack a country such as America due to the potential legal ramifications. In this manner, the number of white hat hackers is likely to increase thus contributing to a nation’s systems to counter cybercrime. As a large pool of individuals possesses skills that could potentially aid a government to prevent future attacks, it is important to look at the criminal system and how it deals with cybercriminals. Some of these individuals possess a significant number of skills that could improve cybersecurity when used in a positive manner. Therefore, rather than work against people with good computer skills, the government will work with them to boost the nation’s cyber security. This reduces the number of people in the prison system and provides the government with a proper labor force to maintain cyber security.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to consider the impact of integrating criminals into the justice system since it might have detrimental effects. These may arise because of nationalism. Individuals who hack American systems are less likely to be of American descent. Therefore, providing them with access to sensitive information could be disastrous if they continue exhibiting radical tendencies. However, for an agency or bureau to develop proper measures of security, there is a need to understand the mindset of cybercriminals. Offering these individuals incentives such as monetary compensation and reduced jail sentences could help mitigate against the aforementioned issues.

Research Design & Methods

The research will differ from the majority of studies by concentrating on non-experimental methods, specifically correlational research where the focus is on reduction of cybercrime in the nation as security systems continue to improve. With a certain focus on the American system, the study will encompass various studies in an attempt to find a connection between them. In this way, it will be possible to determine the manner in which the U.S. has survived a myriad of cyber attacks based on existing technology. Furthermore, this approach aids in showcasing a trend of the manner in which cybercrime is developing in contemporary societies. As such, the CIA and FBI come into focus. They are deemed the paramount institutions established by the U.S. in dealing with threats, both externally and internally and thus a review of the processes employed by both institutions is helpful in gauging American readiness for cyber warfare.

In recent years, various internet-based institutions have taken over the global markets. Bitcoin threatens the very existence of conventional financial instruments as it continues on an upward trend. Other actors such as Google have grown considerably over the past decade to become giant corporations. As such, the internet continues to broaden in its application to normal day life. It is, therefore prudent that the US government improve its cyber security to protect its organizations.

Moreover, it is impossible to come up with an accurate depiction of the nation’s state in terms of cybersecurity. This is because information regarding systems used by the CIA and FBI is highly classified. As such, the study can only base its arguments on technologies used by the F.B.I., that is, those that they evidence to the public as opposed to the one’s they do not reveal. It is also important to gauge the direction in which government institutions have gone in their attempts to deviate cybercriminals from criminal behavior. A recent issue concerning the hack of an iPhone belonging to the San Bernadino shooter is proof of the advancement in hacking technology within the government. It is possible to come up with an insightful view of the focus placed by governments, particularly the American government concerning cyber security by looking at budget records and trends in recent past. A rise in the value assigned to local agencies to deal with cyber threats shows increased interest in cyber security.

Cybercrime plays a huge role in modern societies. Many nations have claimed that whomever leads in technological capacity wields a large power. As such, while governments focus on physical threats, the study intends to ascertain their readiness for a cyber attack. With the U.S. as the primary source of information, the paper aims at developing an understanding into the digital world and ways that the government has, and should, use resources in creating impenetrable cyber security systems.

Seek Thesis Proposal Help

At this point, it is important to point out that writing a thesis proposal is never easy. Indeed, many are university students who get stuck even before getting started. But you cannot give up because the proposal is the gateway to crafting a great thesis. Therefore, you should seek writing help from professionals.

The experts have been writing thesis proposals and other tasks that students fund tough to handle. In addition to being experts in different fields, they know what works and what does not. So, they are your best bet to crafting a great proposal and, finally, the best thesis to impress the evaluation committee. We are the best master thesis writing service online, and are as reliable as it gets!

Thesis Proposal FAQ

  • How long should a thesis proposal be? Although the length of a thesis proposal may differ from one university to another, the average length is about ten pages.
  • What is the best formatting and citation for a proposal and thesis? Well, there is no standard formatting and citation method when it comes to writing proposals and thesis. However, your department will give the recommended formatting and citation style that students should use for their proposal. If your department does not provide a clear guideline on formatting and citation, consider checking the best sample thesis proposal to see how the best students did it.
  • How long does it take to draft a thesis proposal? It depends on the type of research paper you are writing and the requirement for the proposal. You can dedicate an entire day to draft a proposal. But, the average amount of time you should spend on a thesis proposal should not exceed three days.
  • Literature review
  • Research methodology
  • Ethical consideration
  • Research timeline
  • Is Writing a thesis proposal stressful? Definitely, writing a thesis proposal requires ample time for research and preparation to avoid being rejected. It might take your time but when you have an idea of what you’re working on, it isn’t too stressful.
  • Best way on how to write a thesis proposal? It is very simple. Research. Doing a thorough research before starting your proposal makes the work easier. The secret to every thesis proposal or research paper that is properly written is the amount of research that went into producing the paper. Therefore, when starting your proposal, carry out an extensive research on your topic to build up more information.
  • Is Writing a thesis proposal hard? Aside from researching, most times, putting together a thesis proposal even after extensive research can be a bit difficult. It could be the challenge of not knowing how to start or “how to put pen on paper”. Every researcher or student experiences this at the initial stage. But, the important thing to note is that you don’t need to get it right in your first draft. Just write. You can structure it later.

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  • Honors Undergraduate Thesis
  • Program Resources

Thesis Proposal Examples

The Honors Undergraduate Thesis program requires students to submit a research proposal to the Office of Honors Research prior to advancing to the Thesis semester.

Generally, a scientific research proposal will include a brief introduction to the research topic, a literature review, and a methodology that will explain how the student plans to meet the objectives of the research. A proposal in the Arts and Humanities will generally include an introduction and a creative work (e.g. screenplays, short stories, artwork) or theoretical analysis.

Students will create a signature cover page for the thesis proposal that will list the entire committee and HUT Liaison. The Thesis proposal cover page template can be found here .

The following are examples of substantially researched, properly formatted research proposals and their respective signature pages. These examples should be used for reference only and not necessarily as templates. Students should his or her Thesis Chair and committee regarding the structure of the proposal, information that should be present, and documentation style.

What is a Thesis Proposal?

A thesis proposal is a document that outlines the thesis topic, defines the issues that the thesis will address, and explains why the topic warrants further research. It should identify a problem and provide a proposed solution to that problem.

Proposals representative of the sciences (both hard sciences and social sciences) should generally include the following:

  • A brief introduction, which will define the thesis topic and explain the purpose of the thesis.
  • A literature review that outlines the most relevant readings and theories which pertain to the thesis topic.
  • A methodology section, which should include the research questions, hypotheses, participants, materials, and procedures.
  • A bibliography or reference list. Most of the sources should be from peer reviewed articles or books. As with other academic papers, the use of internet sources should be limited.

For students conducting more theoretical or comparative analyses, the structure could also take the form of chapters that define and specify each concept, and a concluding chapter that brings all of these ideas together.

For students in the arts, a proposal and thesis may take the form of a creative project. In this instance, the proposal may include:

  • A brief introduction, which includes the thesis statement, general intent of project, what the project should accomplish, and justification for considering the project a legitimate endeavor.
  • A literature review, which includes any supporting literature that justifies the intention of the project.
  • A method for accomplishing the project. Include any necessary background or equipment needed for the project, where the project will be conducted, and a proposed timeline for completion.
  • A bibliography or reference list.

An alternative structure would be for students who are writing their own short stories, novellas, or screenplays.

Here, the thesis should include a clear mastery of the skill set by producing chapters of the novella, poetry selections, or the working/final screenplay. [/accordion-item][/accordion]

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How to Write the Perfect Thesis Proposal

thesis proposal

Before you begin your thesis or dissertation, you will have to prepare a proposal. A thesis proposal is a roadmap to your actual research. It outlines the topic and acts as a guide to understand why the issues you wish to address in your thesis, warrant research.

How to Write a Thesis Proposal

The first step is to understand how to write a thesis proposal. There are a few simple steps that you can follow:

  • Zero down on your topic: You may have a sense of what you wish to write about. However, you need to make sure that the topic is of interest in your field. It should answer important questions and must have a good scope for content collection.
  • Example – You may want to write on genocides in history and Norman Naimark is one of your favorite authors.
  • Make a working title: The length of your working title should be more than the final title. It should also be more descriptive so as to have a better discussion with your professor or committee.
Example – Actual title – ‘Genocides in History’. Working title – ‘Genocides in History that Shaped the World’
  • Review the available literature: This will help you know about the existing research on your topic and help determine the scope for further research.
  • Make an outline of your proposal: Your thesis proposal sample must list all the important points that you wish to include in your proposal.
Example – include all preliminary research, create appendices for secondary information, literature review and more.
  • Create headings: Each section of your thesis proposal should be broken down into sub-topics. This helps present vital information in a better manner.
Example – when you are writing the subtopics for the methodology make a list of books that you will refer to, why you think the topic is important and how your will approach various subjects.
  • Put it all together: Use the thesis proposal format mentioned below and put together your thesis proposal. Make sure you include your timeline, theoretical approach, and methodology as well.

Structure of a Thesis Proposal

There is a set thesis proposal structure that students must adhere to while writing their proposal. You can also refer to a thesis proposal template for better understanding:

Title page: Every thesis proposal example will include a title page which includes a descriptive title. It also includes information like the name of the author, name of the mentor, date, name of the institution etc. The title must reflect the subject, the proposed method of research and the lessons that one will learn from it. Abstract: In the beginning of every sample thesis proposal, you will notice a short 200 word paragraph summarizing the thesis. This is known as the abstract. It includes the title, the key statement, the methods used to address the subject and the implications of the research once completed. Table of Contents: This is one of the most important elements of the thesis proposal. It will provide a complete thesis proposal outline, listing all the headings and subheadings. Introduction: The introduction must be catchy and impressive. This will urge your reader to explore your ideas further. The background of the topic and a broad perspective of the research must be provided in this introduction. Key questions: The questions that you wish to answer in the thesis must be listed. When a reader views these questions in the thesis proposal example, it will show the direction that you intend to take with your research. Literature review: The literature review provides a description of all the sources that you wish to use in your research. This shows the information that you have already accumulated for your research. It also indicates the future goals of the thesis. Methodology: This section describes all the methods that you wish to make use of in the thesis paper in order to answer the key questions. Conclusion: When you are writing a thesis proposal, pay attention to the conclusion. This section indicates the possible research of your research, the contributions it will make to your field and the expected accuracy of your results. Thesis proposal summary: This is the section where the goals of your proposal are stated in brief. Bibliography: You must provide a list of all the references that you will make use of for your research. Remember that the bibliography must be written according to the writing style required for your thesis, be it APA or MLA writing style.

How Long Should a Thesis Proposal Be?

A thesis proposal should not be more than 8 pages long.

The idea of the thesis proposal is to make the purpose of the research clear. It should provide a clear idea about how you wish to go about your research. There is no need to delve into the details when you are writing the proposal. These eight pages exclude the bibliography.

Tips on How to Write a Good Thesis Proposal

Here are five tips to help you make a convincing thesis proposal:

Your thesis proposal must be solid, yet flexible. Try to incorporate as many important elements as possible to prove that the subject you have chosen warrants further research. However, be open to changes and feedback. That is the whole idea of the proposal. Make sure you choose a subject that excites you. This will urge you to dig deeper and gather as much information as possible. Your subject should be a good balance between novelty and already established ideas about the subject. Do you have enough material to prepare the thesis in the given period of time? This is the most important question that you should answer. The questions listed in your thesis proposal should be open-ended, yet well defined. Allow some scope for discussion and debate. Avoid straightforward, “Yes and No” questions. Choose subjects that will help you develop marketable skills. Think of subspecialties in your field. Select a subject that will help you explore these subspecialties in your field. This will help you develop skills that will help you land better jobs and open more opportunities for you in the future. This approach is most likely to convince your professor and university committee about the scope of your thesis.

If you are looking for writing help or are confused about how to write a thesis proposal sample, get in touch with us today . We help students across various areas of study create the best proposals that make a good impression.

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  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 1 Unit Introduction

Introduction

  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the elements of the rhetorical situation for your proposal.
  • Apply prewriting strategies to discover a problem to write about.
  • Gather and synthesize information from appropriate sources.
  • Draft a thesis statement and create an organizational plan.
  • Compose a proposal that develops your ideas and integrates evidence from sources.
  • Implement strategies for drafting, peer reviewing, and revising.

Sometimes writing a paper comes easily, but more often writers work hard to generate ideas and evidence, organize their thoughts, draft, and revise. Experienced writers do their work in multiple steps, and most engage in a recursive process that involves thinking and rethinking, writing and rewriting, and repeating steps multiple times as their ideas develop and sharpen. In broad strokes, most writers go through the following steps to achieve a polished piece of writing:

  • Planning and Organization . Your proposal will come together more easily if you spend time at the start considering the rhetorical situation, understanding your assignment, gathering ideas and evidence, drafting a thesis statement, and creating an organizational plan.
  • Drafting . When you have a good grasp of the problem and solution you are going to write about and how you will organize your proposal, you are ready to draft.
  • Review . With a first draft in hand, make time to get feedback from others. Depending on the structure of your class, you may receive feedback from your instructor or your classmates. You can also work with a tutor in the writing center on your campus, or you can ask someone else you trust, such as a friend, roommate, or family member, to read your writing critically and give honest feedback.
  • Revising . After reviewing feedback from your readers, plan to revise. Focus on their comments: Is your thesis clear? Do you need to make organizational changes to the proposal? Do you need to explain or connect your ideas more clearly?

Considering the Rhetorical Situation

Like other kinds of writing projects, a proposal starts with assessing the rhetorical situation —the circumstance in which a writer communicates with an audience of readers about a subject. As a proposal writer, you make choices based on the purpose for your writing, the audience who will read it, the genre , and the expectations of the community and culture in which you are working. The brainstorming questions in Table 6.1 can help you begin:

Summary of Assignment

Write a proposal that discusses a problem you want to learn more about and that recommends a solution. The problem you choose must be a current problem, even though it may have been a problem for many years. The problem must also affect many people, and it must have an actual solution or solutions that you can learn about through research. In other words, the problem cannot be unique to you, and the solution you recommend cannot be one you only imagine; both the problem and the solution must be grounded in reality.

One way to get ideas about a problem to write about is to read a high-quality newspaper, website, or social media account for a week. Read widely on whatever platform you choose so that you learn what people are saying, what a newspaper’s editorial board is taking a stand on, what opinion writers are making cases for in op-eds, and what community members are commenting on. You’ll begin to get a handle on problems in your community or state that people care about. If you read a paper or website with a national or international audience, you’ll learn about problems that affect people in other places.

You will need to consult and cite at least five reliable sources. They can be scholarly, but they do not have to be. They must be credible, trustworthy, and unbiased. Possible sources include articles from reputable newspapers, magazines, and academic and professional journals; reputable websites; government sources; and visual sources. Depending on your topic, you may want to conduct a survey, an interview, or an experiment. See Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information and Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources for information about creating and finding sources. Your proposal can include a visual or media source if it provides appropriate, relevant evidence.

Another Lens. Another way to approach a proposal assignment is to consider problems that affect you directly and affect others. Perhaps you are concerned about running up student loan debt. Or perhaps you worry about how to pay your rent while earning minimum wage. These concerns are valid and affect many college students around the United States. Another way is to think about problems that affect others. Perhaps students in your class or on your campus have backgrounds and experiences that differ from yours— what problems or challenges might they have encountered during their time in college that you don’t know about?

As you think about the purpose and audience for your proposal, think again about the rhetorical situation, specifically about the audience you want to reach and the mode of presentation best suited to them and your purpose. For example, say you’re dissatisfied with the process for electing student leaders on your campus. If your purpose is to identify the problems in the process and propose a change, then your audience would include other students, the group or committee that oversees student elections, and perhaps others. To reach other students who might also be dissatisfied, you might write an article, editorial, or letter for the campus newspaper, social media page, or website, depending on how students on your campus get news. In addition, you might organize a meeting of other students to get their input on the problem. To reach the decision makers, which may include elected students, faculty, and administrators, you might need to prepare an oral presentation and a slide deck.

Below in Figure 6.7 are three slides from Shawn Krukowski’s proposal that he adapted for a presentation: the title slide, a slide on one aspect of the problem, and a slide introducing one of the proposed solutions.

Quick Launch: Finding a Problem to Write About

A proposal must address a real-life problem and present one or more workable solutions. Usually, problems worth writing about are not easily solved; if they were, they would no longer be considered problems. Indeed, problems in proposals are often complex, and solutions are often complicated and involve trade-offs. Sometimes people disagree about whether the problem is a problem at all and whether any proposed solutions are viable solutions.

Exploring a Problem

One way to generate ideas about a problem is to brainstorm. To explore a topic for your proposal, use a graphic organizer like Table 6.2 to write responses to the following statements and questions:

For example, perhaps you’re considering a career in information technology, and you’re taking an IT class. You might be interested in exploring the problem of data breaches. A data breach is a real-world problem with possible solutions, so it passes the first test of being an actual problem with possible solutions. Your responses to the questions above might look something like those in Table 6.3 :

Narrowing and Focusing

Many problems for a proposal can be too broad to tackle in a single paper. For example, the sample above reveals that data breaches are indeed a problem but that several aspects can be explored. If you tried to cover all the aspects, you would be left writing general paragraphs with little specific information. The topic needs to be narrowed and focused.

The data breaches example above could be narrowed to the following problems—and possibly even more. Note that the questions start to zero in on possible solutions, too. In your own writing, as you brainstorm, try placing subtopics you discover into their own categories and asking more questions, as shown in Table 6.4 .

Sample Proposal Topics

The following broad topics are potentially suitable as a start for a proposal. Choose one of these or one of your own, and ask the exploring questions. Then look at your responses, and ask focusing questions. Continue to focus until you have a specific problem that you can discuss in sufficient depth and offer a concrete solution or solutions.

  • Health fields: cost of medical and dental care for uninsured people, management of chronic conditions and diseases, infection control, vaccinations, access to mental health care, drug use and addiction, sports injuries, workplace safety
  • Education: gaps in academic achievement, curriculum, recruitment and retention of staff and/or students, buildings and grounds, graduation rates, cocurricular activities
  • Environment: forest management and fires, hurricanes and other extreme storms, water and air pollution, sustainable development, invasive species, waste management, recycling and composting, community gardening
  • Engineering and computer science: robotics, vehicles and transportation, digital divide, online privacy, misinformation and misbehavior on social media, video games
  • Business and manufacturing: quality improvement, process improvement, cost control, communication, social media, pay equity, fundraising, sourcing of materials, net-zero energy processes, workplace safety
  • Policy and politics: public institutions, such as public schools, libraries, transportation systems, and parks; taxes, fees, and services; donations to political campaigns; healthcare, such as Medicare and Medicaid; social security; unemployment insurance; services for active military and veterans; immigration policy
  • Society and culture: social media and free speech; inequality in housing, employment, education, and more; cancel culture; bullying; wealth and poverty; support for the arts; athletes and sports; disparities related to race, sex, gender identity and expression, age, and/or ability

Gathering Information

Proposals are rooted in information and evidence; therefore, most proposal assignments require you to conduct research. Depending on your assignment, you may need to do formal research, an activity that involves finding sources and evaluating them for reliability, reading them carefully and taking notes, and citing all words you quote and ideas you borrow. See Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information and Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources for detailed instruction on conducting research. If you are proposing a solution to a problem in your local community or on your campus, you may need to conduct primary research as well, such as a survey or interviews with people who live or work there.

Whether you conduct in-depth research or do background reading, keep track of the ideas that come to you and the information you learn. You can write or dictate notes using an app on your phone or computer, or you can jot notes in a journal if you prefer pen and paper. Then, when you are ready to begin to organize what you have learned, you will have a record of your thoughts and information. Always track the source of the information you gather, whether from your reading or a person you interviewed, so that you can return to that source if you need more information and can credit the source in your paper.

Kinds of Evidence

You will use evidence to demonstrate that the problem is real and worthy of being solved and that your recommended solution is workable. Choose evidence for your proposal that is rooted in facts. In addition, choose evidence that best supports the angle you take on your topic and meets your instructor’s requirements. Cite all evidence you use from a source. Consider the following kinds of evidence and examples of each:

Definition : an explanation of a key word, idea, or concept.

The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act of 2017 defines a security breach as “a compromise of the security, confidentiality, or integrity of, or the loss of, computerized data that results in… (i) the unauthorized acquisition of sensitive personally identifiable information; or (ii) access to sensitive personally identifiable information that is for an unauthorized purpose, or in excess of authorization.”

Example : an illustration of an idea or concept.

Every month, university staff members receive a fake phishing email from the IT department. The goal is to train employees of the university to be critical readers of every email they receive.

Expert opinion : a statement by a professional whose opinion is respected in the field.

In The Sixth Extinction , science writer Elizabeth Kolbert observes that humans are making the choice about “which evolutionary pathways will remain and open and which will be forever closed” (268).

Fact : information that is true and can be proven correct or accurate. Statements of fact are built on evidence and data.

In March and April of 2020, 43 states in the United States issued orders directing residents to stay home except for essential activities.

Interview : a person-to-person, phone, or remote conversation that involves an interviewer posing questions to another person or group of people.

During an interview, I asked about parents’ decisions to vaccinate their children. One pediatrician said, “The majority of parents see the benefits of immunizations for their children and for public health. For those who don’t, I talk to them and try to understand why they feel the way they do.”

Quotation : the exact words of an author or speaker.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, SpaceX was required to conduct a “comprehensive review of the company’s safety culture, operational decision-making, and process discipline,” in addition to investigating the crash of its prototype spacecraft (Chang).

Statistics : numerical fact or item of data.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 40 million tons of food waste were generated in 2017, comprising 15.2% of all trash sent to landfills (DeSilver).

Survey : a structured interview in which respondents are all asked the same questions and their answers are tabulated and interpreted. Surveys reveal attitudes, beliefs, or habits of the general public or segments of the population.

In a survey of adults conducted in July 2020, 64 percent of respondents said that social media have a mostly negative effect on American society (Auxier).

  • Visuals and other media : graphs, figures, tables, photographs, diagrams, charts, maps, videos, audio recordings, etc.

Thesis and Organization

Drafting a thesis.

When you have a solid grasp of the problem and solution, try drafting a thesis . A thesis is the main idea that you will convey in your proposal and to which all the paragraphs in the paper should relate. In a proposal, you will likely express this main idea in a thesis statement of one or two sentences toward the end of the introduction.

For example, in the thesis statement Shawn Krukowski wrote for his proposal on climate change, he identifies the problem and previews the solutions he presents:

student sample text What is needed to slow climate change is unified action in two key areas—mitigation and adaptation—spurred by government leadership in the United States and a global commitment to addressing the problem immediately. end student sample text

Here is another example that identifies a problem and multiple solutions:

student sample text The number of women employed in the IT field is decreasing every year, a trend that can be changed with a multifaceted approach that includes initiatives in middle schools, high schools, and colleges; active recruitment; mentoring programs; and flexible work arrangements. end student sample text

After you draft a thesis statement, ask these questions and revise it as needed:

  • Is it engaging? A thesis for a proposal should pique readers’ interest in the problem and possible solutions.
  • Is it precise and specific? If you are interested in curbing the spread of invasive plant species, for example, your thesis should indicate which environment the plant or plants are invading and that you are proposing ways to stop the spread.

Organizing Your Ideas

A proposal has a recognizable shape, starting with an introduction, followed by discussions of the problem, possible solutions, potential objections to the solutions, and a conclusion with a recommendation. A graphic organizer like Table 6.5 can help you organize your ideas and evidence.

Drafting a Proposal

With a tentative thesis, an organization plan, and evidence, you are ready to begin drafting your proposal. For this assignment, you will discuss a problem, present possible solutions, address objections to the solutions, and conclude with a recommendation.

You may choose to write the introduction first, last, or midway through the drafting process. Whenever you choose to write it, use it to draw readers in. Make the proposal topic clear, and be concise. End the introduction with your thesis statement.

Opening a proposal with an overview of your topic is a reliable strategy, as shown in the following student-written example on women working in IT. The thesis statement, which appeared earlier in this section, is underlined:

student sample text People who work in the information technology (IT) field often start their careers fixing computers and other electronic devices for others. Through experience and education, an IT worker’s career path can branch out to specialize in everything from programming new software to setting up and maintaining networks. The IT field is growing because of the constant development of technology, and the demand for employees also is growing. underline Yet the number of women employed in the IT field is decreasing every year, a trend that can be changed with a multifaceted approach that includes initiatives in middle schools, high schools, and colleges; active recruitment; mentoring programs; and flexible work arrangements end underline . end student sample text

Body Paragraphs: Problem, Solutions, Objections

The body paragraphs of your proposal should present the problem, the solution or solutions, and potential objections to the proposed solution(s). As you write these paragraphs, consider using the point , evidence , and analysis pattern:

  • The point is the central idea of the paragraph, usually given in a topic sentence stated in your own words at or toward beginning of the paragraph.
  • With the evidence you provide, you develop the paragraph and support the point given in the topic sentence. Include details, examples, quotations, paraphrases, and summaries from sources. In your sentences and paragraphs, synthesize the evidence you give by showing the connections between sources. See Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric and Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence for more information on quoting, summarizing, paraphrasing, and synthesizing.
  • The analysis comes at the end of the paragraph. In your own words, draw a conclusion about the evidence you have provided and relate it to the topic sentence.

The paragraphs that follow show the point-evidence-analysis pattern in practice.

Body Paragraphs: Problem

Follow the introduction with a discussion of the problem. Using paragraph structure, define the problem and discuss it, drawing on evidence from your sources. This paragraph (or paragraphs) should answer these questions: What is the problem? Why is this a problem? The following example, from the proposal on women working in IT, answers the first question:

student sample text The information technology (IT) field is continuously expanding, with many more positions available than workers to fill them. In fact, the pool of IT professionals was so small that in 2001, Congress raised the visa limit in an effort to fill the gap with employees from overseas (Varma, 2002). And yet the number of women represented in the occupation is decreasing. From 1990 to 2020, the percentage of women in IT declined from 31 percent to 25 percent, even though women make up 47 percent of all employed adults in the United States. According to White (2021), only 19 percent of women pursue a computer science major in college, compared to 27 percent in 1997. Of those women who graduated with a computer science degree, 38 percent are working in the field compared to 56 percent of men, a statistic that indicates women are not staying in the field. Although gender diversity supposedly is valued in the workplace, the underrepresentation of women in IT is clearly a problem. end student sample text

The writer then goes on to answer the second question: Why is this a problem? The writer discusses stereotypes, lack of encouragement and role models, workplace culture, pay, and prospects for advancement (not shown here).

Body Paragraphs: Solutions

After presenting and explaining the problem, use specific information from the sources you consulted to present the solution or solutions you have discovered through your research. If you are proposing more than one solution, present them one at a time, using headings as appropriate.

The solutions section will likely be the longest part of your proposal. Below are two paragraphs from the proposal about women working in IT. Note how the first paragraph introduces the solutions and how the second paragraph uses evidence to develop the first proposed solution. Also note the informative boldface headings.

student sample text The following suggestions are ways to encourage women to enter IT and build their careers, with the eventual goal of achieving gender balance in the field. The solutions discussed include encouraging interest in computer technology among girls in middle school and high school, actively recruiting college-age women to study IT, and within the field, mentoring women and expanding workplace flexibility to improve retention. end student sample text

student sample text The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is an organization that encourages girls in middle school and high school to explore their interest in IT. One program, the NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing, supports women in high school by showing them that they can succeed in technology and introducing them to other students with similar interests. The same program matches middle-school girls with female high-school and college students and awards scholarships for computing and programming competitions. In addition, internships and IT courses in middle school and high school provide opportunities to learn what a career in IT entails, with or without a degree in IT. Opportunities like these give girls and women support and a sense of belonging. end student sample text

The paragraphs that follow (not shown here) continue the discussion of the possible solutions.

Body Paragraphs: Objections

Depending on the problem and solution, consider the objections readers may raise, and explain why your proposal is necessary and worthwhile. For example, the proposal on women in IT does not discuss objections because few people would object to the writer’s proposal. Shawn Krukowski, however, in his proposal on climate change, includes a section on objections to taking action. He focuses the discussion on people who deny that climate change is a problem. Would you do the same? Consider whether this section of Shawn’s proposal might have been stronger had he addressed objections to the solutions he proposed—mitigation and adaptation—instead of objections to the problem.

student sample text Despite scientific evidence, some people and groups deny that climate change is real or, if they admit it exists, insist it is not a valid concern. Those who think climate change is not a problem point to Earth’s millennia-long history of changing climate as evidence that life has always persisted. Most of the change, however, predates human civilization, which has benefited from thousands of years of stable climate. The rapid change since the Industrial Revolution is unprecedented in human history. end student sample text

student sample text Those who deny climate change or its dangers seek primarily to relax or remove pollution standards and regulations in order to protect, or maximize profit from, their industries. To date, their lobbying has been successful. For example, the world’s fossil-fuel industry received $5.3 trillion in 2015 alone, while the U.S. wind-energy industry received $12.3 billion in subsidies between 2000 and 2020 (Green America, 2020). end student sample text

Conclusion and Recommendation

The conclusion and recommendation section of your proposal is the part in which you interpret your findings and make a recommendation or give a call to action. At this point, focus on the solution that will best solve the problem, suggesting or summarizing specific actions.

Below is the recommendation section from the proposal about women in IT. In the full conclusion (not shown here), the writer summarizes the main points of the proposal. In the recommendation paragraph that follows, the writer calls for specific actions:

student sample text Many researchers have studied why few women choose IT as a career and why some decide to leave the field. Although the numbers cannot be improved immediately, the following changes in school and the workplace could recruit and retain more women in IT: end student sample text

  • Include technology education courses and formal IT programs in middle- and high-school curricula to give girls and young women opportunities to develop an interest at an early age.
  • Develop internship and mentor programs in high schools and colleges to combat stereotyping and encourage women to enter the field.
  • Develop and encourage workplace mentor programs, flexible work options, and open communication for professional growth and retention.

student sample text With time and effort, these actions may result in more women seeing themselves in long-term IT careers. end student sample text

References or Works Cited Page

Including any data you gathered through primary research, such as a survey you created and administered, interviews you conducted, or observational notes you took, you must cite the sources you consulted. These sources appear in the text of your proposal and in a bibliography at the end. The paragraphs in the previous section, including Shawn Krukowski’s proposal, use APA documentation style. For more on documenting sources, see Index and Guide to Documentation , MLA Documentation and Format , and APA Documentation and Format .

Abstract or Executive Summary

An abstract (or executive summary) summarizes your proposal. The purpose is to present information briefly and economically so that readers can decide whether they want to read further. Include your main points, but not the evidence.

Although an abstract or executive summary comes first in a proposal, it is advisable to write it after you have completed your proposal and are certain of your main points. The example below is the abstract from the proposal about women in IT.

student sample text The purpose of this proposal is to raise awareness of the small number of women working in the information technology (IT) field, to examine the factors that contribute to discouraging women from entering IT, and to propose ways to draw women into the field and retain them. Although the IT field is growing, the number of women employed within it remains low. Women may be reluctant to pursue a career in IT because of stereotypes, few role models, and lack of encouragement. Women who have already established a career in IT report leaving the field for these reasons, as well as family responsibilities and lack of advancement. There are several potential ways to raise the number of women in IT. Encouraging interest in computer technology among girls in middle school and high school, recruiting college-age women to study IT, mentoring young professional women, and improving workplace flexibility will, over time, break down stereotypes and increase the number of women in the IT field. end student sample text

Peer Review: Getting Feedback from Readers

With a complete draft in hand, you may engage in peer review with your classmates, giving feedback to each other about the strengths and weaknesses of your drafts. For peer review within a class, your instructor may provide a list of questions or a form for you to complete as you work together.

Conferencing in Writing Groups

Other people can provide feedback on your writing beside your classmates. If you have an on-campus writing center, it is well worth your time to make an online or in-person appointment with a tutor at any point in your writing process. You will get valuable comments and improve your ability to review your own writing.

Another way to get fresh eyes on your writing is to ask a friend or family member to read your draft. To get useful feedback, provide a list of questions or a form such as the one shown in Table 6.6 for them to complete as they read.

Revising Your Proposal

A strong college paper is rarely written in a single draft, so build in time to revise your work. Take time with the comments you receive from your readers, and read your own work with a critical eye.

Responding to Reviewers’ Feedback

When you receive feedback from readers—whether from your instructor, your classmates, a writing tutor, or someone else—read each comment carefully to understand what the reader is communicating. Do your best not to become defensive, and be open to suggestions for improvement. Remind yourself that your readers are trying to help. As someone who hasn’t thought about your proposal as much as you have, a new reader can often see strengths and weaknesses that you cannot. Analyze each response, and decide whether acting on a suggestion will make your writing better. Remember that you remain the author, and you make the final call on your writing.

As you read, keep track of the comments your readers make. Pay special attention to strengths and weaknesses that more than one reader identifies. Use that information to improve later assignments as well as your proposal.

Revising on Your Own

The following revising strategies can help you read your draft critically and carefully:

  • Read your draft aloud. Read the entire text from the beginning slowly and carefully, marking spots that need revision. Reading in this way allows you to see areas that need clarification, explanation, or development that you may have missed when you wrote the first draft. You can also have someone read your draft aloud to you.
  • Make a paragraph outline. The most common unit of thought in writing is the paragraph, a group of sentences set off from other groups because they focus on a single idea. Writing a paragraph outline creates a map of your whole paper that can help you determine whether the organization is effective or needs changing. Number each paragraph and write a phrase describing its topic or focus. Check that each paragraph has a topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph.
  • Test your evidence. Check whether each piece of evidence is factual and supports the main idea of the paragraph. Check that each piece of evidence is introduced, woven into your sentences, and cited.
  • Listen for your voice. In most college papers, your language should sound like a real person. If your instructor requires a formal style for the assignment, the language should be objective and in third-person point of view .
  • Let go if you need to. View change as good. Learn to let go of words, sentences, paragraphs, and maybe even your entire first draft. Sometimes the best way to revise is to start fresh. The knowledge you have built in writing a first draft will serve you well if you need to start over.
  • Create a new file for each revision. Each time you revise a draft, save the new version with a new file name so that you don’t lose your previous work. That way, you can return to an earlier version of your draft if you are not happy with the revision.
  • Edit and proofread. When you are satisfied with the overall shape of your paper, reread it once again to check for sentence-level errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and source citations.

Taking It Public: Publishing or Presenting Your Proposal

Publishing is a final step in the writing process. You may want to consider publishing your full proposal in your campus newspaper (or rewriting it as a letter to the editor) if your topic is related to your school. Or you may want to present it to an organization or committee on campus that can help you make your solution a reality. If your topic is related to the community in which you live, consider submitting your proposal to the local newspaper or presenting it at a city council meeting. (Note that if you decide to present your proposal orally, you’ll need to figure out in advance the procedure for speaking or getting on a meeting agenda.) If your topic is more general and involves substantial research, consider submitting your proposal to one of these journals that publish undergraduate research work in all fields:

  • American Journal of Undergraduate Research
  • Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research
  • PURSUE Undergraduate Research Journal

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Thesis and Purpose Statements

Use the guidelines below to learn the differences between thesis and purpose statements.

In the first stages of writing, thesis or purpose statements are usually rough or ill-formed and are useful primarily as planning tools.

A thesis statement or purpose statement will emerge as you think and write about a topic. The statement can be restricted or clarified and eventually worked into an introduction.

As you revise your paper, try to phrase your thesis or purpose statement in a precise way so that it matches the content and organization of your paper.

Thesis statements

A thesis statement is a sentence that makes an assertion about a topic and predicts how the topic will be developed. It does not simply announce a topic: it says something about the topic.

Good: X has made a significant impact on the teenage population due to its . . . Bad: In this paper, I will discuss X.

A thesis statement makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of the paper. It summarizes the conclusions that the writer has reached about the topic.

A thesis statement is generally located near the end of the introduction. Sometimes in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or an entire paragraph.

A thesis statement is focused and specific enough to be proven within the boundaries of the paper. Key words (nouns and verbs) should be specific, accurate, and indicative of the range of research, thrust of the argument or analysis, and the organization of supporting information.

Purpose statements

A purpose statement announces the purpose, scope, and direction of the paper. It tells the reader what to expect in a paper and what the specific focus will be.

Common beginnings include:

“This paper examines . . .,” “The aim of this paper is to . . .,” and “The purpose of this essay is to . . .”

A purpose statement makes a promise to the reader about the development of the argument but does not preview the particular conclusions that the writer has drawn.

A purpose statement usually appears toward the end of the introduction. The purpose statement may be expressed in several sentences or even an entire paragraph.

A purpose statement is specific enough to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. Purpose statements are common in research papers in some academic disciplines, while in other disciplines they are considered too blunt or direct. If you are unsure about using a purpose statement, ask your instructor.

This paper will examine the ecological destruction of the Sahel preceding the drought and the causes of this disintegration of the land. The focus will be on the economic, political, and social relationships which brought about the environmental problems in the Sahel.

Sample purpose and thesis statements

The following example combines a purpose statement and a thesis statement (bold).

The goal of this paper is to examine the effects of Chile’s agrarian reform on the lives of rural peasants. The nature of the topic dictates the use of both a chronological and a comparative analysis of peasant lives at various points during the reform period. . . The Chilean reform example provides evidence that land distribution is an essential component of both the improvement of peasant conditions and the development of a democratic society. More extensive and enduring reforms would likely have allowed Chile the opportunity to further expand these horizons.

For more tips about writing thesis statements, take a look at our new handout on Developing a Thesis Statement.

purpose of thesis proposal

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

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Thesis, major paper, and major project proposals

  • Definitions
  • Introductory section
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Schedule/work plan
  • Other potential elements
  • Proposal references
  • Ask for help

purpose of thesis proposal

Many RRU programs engage students in the process of developing research proposals within courses, and the information provided in this resource does not replace program-specific deliverables and instructions. Rather, the goal of this resource is to provide an overview of common elements of a research proposal and link students to supporting resources. If you are unsure of the approach to take in your research proposal, please consult your project handbook and speak to your instructor or supervisor. If you don't know how to access the project handbook, please ask your instructor or supervisor.

Image credit: Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

purpose of thesis proposal

  • In SAGE Research Methods: Writing Up ; look for the How Do I Write A Research Proposal? drop down option. Access via this link requires a RRU username and password.

Research Proposals

  • Overview of research proposals from The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation ; access via this link requires a RRU username and password

Image credit: Image by Mohamed Assan from Pixabay

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Research Method

Home » How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

How To Write A Proposal – Step By Step Guide [With Template]

Table of Contents

How To Write A Proposal

How To Write A Proposal

Writing a Proposal involves several key steps to effectively communicate your ideas and intentions to a target audience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each step:

Identify the Purpose and Audience

  • Clearly define the purpose of your proposal: What problem are you addressing, what solution are you proposing, or what goal are you aiming to achieve?
  • Identify your target audience: Who will be reading your proposal? Consider their background, interests, and any specific requirements they may have.

Conduct Research

  • Gather relevant information: Conduct thorough research to support your proposal. This may involve studying existing literature, analyzing data, or conducting surveys/interviews to gather necessary facts and evidence.
  • Understand the context: Familiarize yourself with the current situation or problem you’re addressing. Identify any relevant trends, challenges, or opportunities that may impact your proposal.

Develop an Outline

  • Create a clear and logical structure: Divide your proposal into sections or headings that will guide your readers through the content.
  • Introduction: Provide a concise overview of the problem, its significance, and the proposed solution.
  • Background/Context: Offer relevant background information and context to help the readers understand the situation.
  • Objectives/Goals: Clearly state the objectives or goals of your proposal.
  • Methodology/Approach: Describe the approach or methodology you will use to address the problem.
  • Timeline/Schedule: Present a detailed timeline or schedule outlining the key milestones or activities.
  • Budget/Resources: Specify the financial and other resources required to implement your proposal.
  • Evaluation/Success Metrics: Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and restate the benefits of your proposal.

Write the Proposal

  • Grab attention: Start with a compelling opening statement or a brief story that hooks the reader.
  • Clearly state the problem: Clearly define the problem or issue you are addressing and explain its significance.
  • Present your proposal: Introduce your proposed solution, project, or idea and explain why it is the best approach.
  • State the objectives/goals: Clearly articulate the specific objectives or goals your proposal aims to achieve.
  • Provide supporting information: Present evidence, data, or examples to support your claims and justify your proposal.
  • Explain the methodology: Describe in detail the approach, methods, or strategies you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Address potential concerns: Anticipate and address any potential objections or challenges the readers may have and provide counterarguments or mitigation strategies.
  • Recap the main points: Summarize the key points you’ve discussed in the proposal.
  • Reinforce the benefits: Emphasize the positive outcomes, benefits, or impact your proposal will have.
  • Call to action: Clearly state what action you want the readers to take, such as approving the proposal, providing funding, or collaborating with you.

Review and Revise

  • Proofread for clarity and coherence: Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Ensure a logical flow: Read through your proposal to ensure the ideas are presented in a logical order and are easy to follow.
  • Revise and refine: Fine-tune your proposal to make it concise, persuasive, and compelling.

Add Supplementary Materials

  • Attach relevant documents: Include any supporting materials that strengthen your proposal, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  • Appendices: Add any additional information that might be useful but not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Formatting and Presentation

  • Follow the guidelines: Adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.
  • Use a professional tone and language: Ensure that your proposal is written in a clear, concise, and professional manner.
  • Use headings and subheadings: Organize your proposal with clear headings and subheadings to improve readability.
  • Pay attention to design: Use appropriate fonts, font sizes, and formatting styles to make your proposal visually appealing.
  • Include a cover page: Create a cover page that includes the title of your proposal, your name or organization, the date, and any other required information.

Seek Feedback

  • Share your proposal with trusted colleagues or mentors and ask for their feedback. Consider their suggestions for improvement and incorporate them into your proposal if necessary.

Finalize and Submit

  • Make any final revisions based on the feedback received.
  • Ensure that all required sections, attachments, and documentation are included.
  • Double-check for any formatting, grammar, or spelling errors.
  • Submit your proposal within the designated deadline and according to the submission guidelines provided.

Proposal Format

The format of a proposal can vary depending on the specific requirements of the organization or institution you are submitting it to. However, here is a general proposal format that you can follow:

1. Title Page:

  • Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization’s name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines.

2. Executive Summary:

  •  Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.
  • Summarize the problem, proposed solution, and anticipated benefits.
  • Keep it brief and engaging, as this section is often read first and should capture the reader’s attention.

3. Introduction:

  • State the problem or issue you are addressing and its significance.
  • Provide background information to help the reader understand the context and importance of the problem.
  • Clearly state the purpose and objectives of your proposal.

4. Problem Statement:

  • Describe the problem in detail, highlighting its impact and consequences.
  • Use data, statistics, or examples to support your claims and demonstrate the need for a solution.

5. Proposed Solution or Project Description:

  • Explain your proposed solution or project in a clear and detailed manner.
  • Describe how your solution addresses the problem and why it is the most effective approach.
  • Include information on the methods, strategies, or activities you will undertake to implement your solution.
  • Highlight any unique features, innovations, or advantages of your proposal.

6. Methodology:

  • Provide a step-by-step explanation of the methodology or approach you will use to implement your proposal.
  • Include a timeline or schedule that outlines the key milestones, tasks, and deliverables.
  • Clearly describe the resources, personnel, or expertise required for each phase of the project.

7. Evaluation and Success Metrics:

  • Explain how you will measure the success or effectiveness of your proposal.
  • Identify specific metrics, indicators, or evaluation methods that will be used.
  • Describe how you will track progress, gather feedback, and make adjustments as needed.
  • Present a detailed budget that outlines the financial resources required for your proposal.
  • Include all relevant costs, such as personnel, materials, equipment, and any other expenses.
  • Provide a justification for each item in the budget.

9. Conclusion:

  •  Summarize the main points of your proposal.
  •  Reiterate the benefits and positive outcomes of implementing your proposal.
  • Emphasize the value and impact it will have on the organization or community.

10. Appendices:

  • Include any additional supporting materials, such as research findings, charts, graphs, or testimonials.
  •  Attach any relevant documents that provide further information but are not essential to the main body of the proposal.

Proposal Template

Here’s a basic proposal template that you can use as a starting point for creating your own proposal:

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing to submit a proposal for [briefly state the purpose of the proposal and its significance]. This proposal outlines a comprehensive solution to address [describe the problem or issue] and presents an actionable plan to achieve the desired objectives.

Thank you for considering this proposal. I believe that implementing this solution will significantly contribute to [organization’s or community’s goals]. I am available to discuss the proposal in more detail at your convenience. Please feel free to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

Yours sincerely,

Note: This template is a starting point and should be customized to meet the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the organization or institution to which you are submitting the proposal.

Proposal Sample

Here’s a sample proposal to give you an idea of how it could be structured and written:

Subject : Proposal for Implementation of Environmental Education Program

I am pleased to submit this proposal for your consideration, outlining a comprehensive plan for the implementation of an Environmental Education Program. This program aims to address the critical need for environmental awareness and education among the community, with the objective of fostering a sense of responsibility and sustainability.

Executive Summary: Our proposed Environmental Education Program is designed to provide engaging and interactive educational opportunities for individuals of all ages. By combining classroom learning, hands-on activities, and community engagement, we aim to create a long-lasting impact on environmental conservation practices and attitudes.

Introduction: The state of our environment is facing significant challenges, including climate change, habitat loss, and pollution. It is essential to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to understand these issues and take action. This proposal seeks to bridge the gap in environmental education and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship among the community.

Problem Statement: The lack of environmental education programs has resulted in limited awareness and understanding of environmental issues. As a result, individuals are less likely to adopt sustainable practices or actively contribute to conservation efforts. Our program aims to address this gap and empower individuals to become environmentally conscious and responsible citizens.

Proposed Solution or Project Description: Our Environmental Education Program will comprise a range of activities, including workshops, field trips, and community initiatives. We will collaborate with local schools, community centers, and environmental organizations to ensure broad participation and maximum impact. By incorporating interactive learning experiences, such as nature walks, recycling drives, and eco-craft sessions, we aim to make environmental education engaging and enjoyable.

Methodology: Our program will be structured into modules that cover key environmental themes, such as biodiversity, climate change, waste management, and sustainable living. Each module will include a mix of classroom sessions, hands-on activities, and practical field experiences. We will also leverage technology, such as educational apps and online resources, to enhance learning outcomes.

Evaluation and Success Metrics: We will employ a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Pre- and post-assessments will gauge knowledge gain, while surveys and feedback forms will assess participant satisfaction and behavior change. We will also track the number of community engagement activities and the adoption of sustainable practices as indicators of success.

Budget: Please find attached a detailed budget breakdown for the implementation of the Environmental Education Program. The budget covers personnel costs, materials and supplies, transportation, and outreach expenses. We have ensured cost-effectiveness while maintaining the quality and impact of the program.

Conclusion: By implementing this Environmental Education Program, we have the opportunity to make a significant difference in our community’s environmental consciousness and practices. We are confident that this program will foster a generation of individuals who are passionate about protecting our environment and taking sustainable actions. We look forward to discussing the proposal further and working together to make a positive impact.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Should you have any questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your email address or phone number].

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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What are the Sections of a Research Proposal?

purpose of thesis proposal

Research proposals that are written by graduate students or academic researchers typically follow a similar format consisting of headings and sections that explain the purpose of the research, specify the scope and scale of the study, and argue for its importance in contributing to the scientific literature. Knowing how to write a research proposal checklist  is crucial to getting your dissertation or thesis project accepted.

Although the research proposal sections may vary depending on whether it is a grant,  doctoral dissertation , conference paper, or professional project, there are certainly some sections in common. This article will cover sections you will often see in research proposals, explain their purpose, and provide a sample research proposal template.

What are the sections of a research proposal?

Let’s take a look at each section of a research proposal:

  • Overall purpose
  • Background literature
  • Research question
  • Definitions of terms and nomenclature
  • Research methodology
  • Problems and limitations
  • Required resources and budget
  • Ethical considerations
  • Proposed timetable

What is the purpose of each research proposal section?

The research proposal sections and headings above resemble a fully edited and published academic journal article, which you probably can recognize if you are a new PhD or master’s graduate student who is just starting out reading peer-reviewed academic journal articles. 

However, the purpose of each heading in a research proposal is quite different from that of a final article. 

Purpose : To explain briefly, in a few words, what the research will be about.

What you should do:  Give your research proposal a concise and accurate title. Include the name of your faculty mentor (and his/her academic department).

Note : Title pages for research proposals are generally standardized or specified and provide or summarize basic administrative information‌, such as the university or research institution. Titles should be concise and brief enough to inform the reader of the purpose and nature of the research.

Related Article:  How to choose the best title for your research manuscript

Purpose:  To provide an overview of the study, which you will expand on in detail in later sections of the research proposal.

What you should do:  Provide a brief overview of your project. Include the goals of your research proposal and clearly specify the research questions you want to address. Explain the hypotheses you want to test.

Note : A good summary should emphasize the problems the applicant intends to solve, identify the solution to the problems, and specify the objectives and design‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌research. It should also describe the applicant’s qualifications and budget requirements.

Check out a webinar on how to write an effective research introduction

Overall purpose.

Purpose:  To state the overall goal of the work in a clear, concise manner.

What you should do : Summarize your problem for someone who is scientifically knowledgeable but potentially uninformed regarding your specific research topic.

Note : The aim or purpose of a research proposal should be results-oriented as opposed to process-oriented. For example, the result of a research study may be “To determine the enzyme involved in X” while the process is “to perform a protein electrophoresis study on mice expressing Y gene.” There should be at least three objectives per proposal. 

Background Literature Review

Purpose : To demonstrate the relationship between the goals of the proposed study and what has already been established in the relevant field of study.

What you should do : Selectively and critically analyze the literature. Explain other researchers’ work so that your professor or project manager has a clear understanding of how you will address past research and progress the literature.

Note : One of the most effective ways to support your research’s purpose and importance is to address gaps in the literature, controversies in your research field, and current trends in research. This will put into context how your dissertation or study will contribute to general scientific knowledge. Learn  how to write a literature review  before writing this section.

Research Question or Hypothesis

Purpose : To state precisely what the study will investigate or falsify.

What you should do : Clearly distinguish the dependent and independent variables and be certain the reader understands them. Make sure you use your terms consistently. Whenever possible, use the same nomenclature.

Note : A research question presents the relationship between two or more variables in the form of a question, whereas a hypothesis is a declarative statement of the relationship between two or more variables. Knowing  where to put the research question in a science paper  is also crucial to writing a strong Introduction section.

Definition of Terms

Purpose : To define the meanings of the key terms used in the research.

What you should do:  Align your term and nomenclature usage throughout your entire research proposal. Clearly define abbreviations and make sure they are understandable to scientists from other disciplines.

Note : Different scientific fields of study often use different terms for the same thing. Further, there are language consistency issues that should be considered. In organic chemistry, there are international standards for naming compounds, but common names are still regularly used, e.g., acetic acid versus ethanoic acid.

Research Methodology

Purpose:  To break down the steps of your research proposal.

What you should do:   Explain how you will achieve‌ ‌your research goals ‌specified‌ ‌earlier using terms that a general reader can understand. Explain your approach, design, and methods.

Note : Your research proposal should explain the broad scope of your research to other researchers‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌field. This section represents the most important part of a research proposal and is therefore ‌the‌ ‌primary‌ ‌concern‌ ‌of‌ ‌reviewers. Knowing  how to explain research methodology for reproducibility  is important to explaining your methodology to dissertation or thesis advisors and committees. 

Problems and Limitations

Purpose:  To demonstrate awareness of any study limitations, potential problems, and barriers to answering the research question, and how to deal with them

What you should do:  Thoroughly head off any criticisms before they can torpedo your research proposal. Explain that any limitations or potential conflicts will only delay your research or alter/narrow its scope; they will not fundamentally degrade the importance of your research.

Note : Any research proposal or scientific study will have limitations in its scope and execution. Sometimes it may be a key procedure that is problematic or a material you cannot readily obtain. Discussing limitations is key to demonstrating you are an adept and experienced researcher worth approving.

Related Article:  How to present study limitations and alternatives

Required resources and budget.

Purpose:  To list what resources your research may require and what costs and timelines may affect your completion.

What you should do:  Think as a businessperson. Breakdown what resources are available at your institution or university as well as the required resources you still need. These can be materials, machinery, lab equipment, and computers. Resources can also be human: expertise to perform a procedure and other kinds of collaboration. 

Note : This section underscores why your funding institution or academic committee should fund your university, laboratory team, or yourself for this particular research. 

Ethical Considerations

Purpose:  To state how participants will be advised of

the overall nature and purpose of the study and how informed consent will

be obtained.

What you should do:  Consult with your academic institution, PhD advisor, and laboratory colleagues. Do not gloss over this part since it has legal consequences.

Note : Often, these types of legal disclaimers are well established and readily available in template format from your research institution or university. Just obtain the proper clearance and permission and have the legal authority at your institution check it over.

Read about how  conflicts of interest  should be disclosed in research proposals

Proposed timeline.

Purpose:  To give a projected timeline for planning, completing, verifying, and reporting your research.

What you should do:  Approach this part with a project management style. In an organized fashion, set out a specific timeline for how long each part of your research will take. Identify bottlenecks and specify them.

Note:  Savvy time management is something that comes with lots of research experience. Ask your professor or colleagues if you have questions about how long certain procedures will take.

Purpose:  To provide detailed bibliographic and reference citations.

What you should do:  Use an online citation machine ( APA citation machine , MLA citation machine , Chicago citation machine , Vancouver citation machine ) that can instantly organize your references in any format. Make sure you do this as you go, not saving it for the last when you have lost track.

Note:  The bibliographic format used varies according to the research discipline. Consistency is the main consideration; whichever style is chosen should be followed carefully throughout the entire paper. 

Related Article:  How many references to include in a research proposal?

Purpose : To include any extra materials or information.

What you should do:  Add letters of endorsement or collaboration and reprints of relevant articles if they are not available electronically. In addition to the above, you may want to include data tables, surveys, questionnaires, data collection procedures, clinical protocols, and informed consent documents.

Notes : Many writers tend to attach supporting documents to support their research proposal. But remember, more is not always better. Be sure to only include information that strengthens your case, not simply make it longer.

Note : Savvy time management is something that comes with lots of research experience. Ask your professor or colleagues if you have questions about how long certain procedures will take.

The Bottom Line

Whether your research is academic (PhD or master’s graduate student) or professional (competing for government or private funding), how you organize your research proposal sections is one of the first things evaluators will notice. Many academic reviewers will simply scan and check for key section headings. If any headings are missing or strangely written, they may instantly give the reviewer a bad impression of your proposal. 

One tip before submitting or even writing your research proposal is to search for the best journal to publish your research in and follow the guidelines in the Guide for Authors section, as well as read as many articles from that journal as possible to gain an understanding of the appropriate style and formatting.

Preparing Your Research Proposal for Publication

So make sure to use some of our resources, such as our  FREE APA citation generator  and  research proposal checklist , or contact us to ask about  professional proofreading services , including academic editing and manuscript editing for academic documents.

And check our guide on the  editing process  to learn more about how language editing for manuscripts can enhance your writing and increase your chances of publication.

IMAGES

  1. Understanding What a Thesis Proposal is and How to Write it

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  2. Writing a Thesis Proposal

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  3. 17 Research Proposal Examples (2023)

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  4. Follow our simple guide on how to create a thesis proposal

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  5. We show you how to write a thesis proposal

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VIDEO

  1. Thesis Proposal III

  2. Purpose Statement, Thesis, and 3 reasons

  3. THESIS PROPOSAL-PRESENTATION

  4. Thesis Proposal Writing

  5. Differences Between Thesis Abstract and Research Article Abstract

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal purpose Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application, or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation.

  2. How to write a thesis proposal in 5 simple steps

    Key takeaways A thesis proposal covers what topics you plan to research and write about as part of your master's thesis. Your proposal should properly define the scope of your research, as well as the questions you intend to explore and the methodology used to answer those questions.

  3. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic. The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development of your research.

  4. What Is A Research Proposal? Examples + Template

    The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is suitable (for the requirements of the degree program) and manageable (given the time and resource constraints you will face).

  5. Dissertation Proposal

    The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student's dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters.

  6. PDF Writing a thesis proposal

    (1) Introduction There is no one "definitive" way to choose a research topic and to get it accepted. In fact, there are probably as many ways as there are departments in a university. Some departments require a proposal, others don't. Some departments require a detailed proposal, others are satisfied with a general preliminary outline.

  7. A Guide to Writing a Thesis Proposal

    1. What is a Thesis Proposal? 2. What Does A Thesis Proposal Include? 3. How to Write a Thesis Proposal 4. Thesis Proposal Format 5. Sample Thesis Proposal 6. Thesis Proposal Writing Tips What is a Thesis Proposal? The thesis proposal is a type of detailed summary and outline of your thesis or research work.

  8. PDF Thesis & Dissertation Proposal Guide

    The thesis proposal should include: a background theory a working hypothesis a methodology which should be organized under chapter headings a body of work for analysis a bibliography If your thesis will be presented in an alternate format (such as performance), be sure to include this in your proposal.

  9. What Is a Thesis?

    Dissertation What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research.

  10. Guides: Writing a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal: Introduction

    The purpose of a proposal is to convince your dissertation or thesis committee that you are ready to start your research project and to create a plan for your dissertation or thesis work.

  11. Thesis Proposal > Master's Thesis > Graduate

    Research Thesis Proposal. The proposal for a research thesis consists of five sections: Thesis Statement Following an optional introduction, the basic function of this section is to articulate a phenomenon that the student proposes to investigate (whether a social event, process, a literary work, an intellectual idea or something else), and the question(s), issue(s) or problem(s) related to ...

  12. PDF A PROPOSAL FOR A MASTER'S THESIS

    A Thesis Proposal is a document that sets forth what is to be studied as a thesis project, why and in what way. It contains a number of important sections. The purpose of the proposal is to communicate the plan for the work to the faculty of the Division of Emerging Media Studies via the First Reader (principal thesis advisor) and a Second Reader.

  13. How to write a thesis proposal

    The purpose of writing a thesis proposal is to demonstrate that methods of data analysis have been identified and are appropriate to the data set. We are well aware that the best laid out research plans may go awry, and that the best completed theses sometimes bear only little resemblance to the thesis planned during the proposal.

  14. Writing a Research Proposal

    A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose. Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review. Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.

  15. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Successful Thesis Proposal

    1. Thesis Proposal Definition 2. How to Write a Thesis Proposal? 3. Thesis Proposal Outline 4. Thesis Proposal Format 5. Thesis Proposal Examples 6. Tips for Writing a Thesis Proposal Thesis Proposal Definition The thesis proposal is a detailed summary and outline of your research project.

  16. How To Write A Thesis Proposal

    What Is A Thesis Proposal? A thesis proposal is the link-bridge to the main thesis, laying out the plan of how you will conduct the research. This way, the professors (assessment committee) will know that you are on the right path and got the right tools to get to the final destination.

  17. Thesis Proposal Examples

    Proposals representative of the sciences (both hard sciences and social sciences) should generally include the following: A brief introduction, which will define the thesis topic and explain the purpose of the thesis. A literature review that outlines the most relevant readings and theories which pertain to the thesis topic.

  18. Thesis Proposal: Examples And Writing Tips

    A thesis proposal is a roadmap to your actual research. It outlines the topic and acts as a guide to understand why the issues you wish to address in your thesis, warrant research. How to Write a Thesis Proposal The first step is to understand how to write a thesis proposal. There are a few simple steps that you can follow:

  19. 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal

    Draft a thesis statement and create an organizational plan. Compose a proposal that develops your ideas and integrates evidence from sources. Implement strategies for drafting, peer reviewing, and revising.

  20. Thesis and Purpose Statements

    A thesis statement or purpose statement will emerge as you think and write about a topic. The statement can be restricted or clarified and eventually worked into an introduction. As you revise your paper, try to phrase your thesis or purpose statement in a precise way so that it matches the content and organization of your paper. Thesis statements

  21. Purpose

    Purpose. Whether you will be writing a thesis, major research paper, or major project as your capstone project for your Master's degree, you'll likely be writing a proposal at an early stage of the project's development. The proposal communicates to your thesis committee, supervisor, advisor, and/or instructor the issue or problem you ...

  22. How To Write A Proposal

    1. Title Page: Include the title of your proposal, your name or organization's name, the date, and any other relevant information specified by the guidelines. 2. Executive Summary: Provide a concise overview of your proposal, highlighting the key points and objectives.

  23. What are the Sections of a Research Proposal?

    Purpose: To provide an overview of the study, which you will expand on in detail in later sections of the research proposal. What you should do: Provide a brief overview of your project. Include the goals of your research proposal and clearly specify the research questions you want to address. Explain the hypotheses you want to test.