Writing a Thesis Proposal
How to Draft a Thesis Proposal
A thesis proposal is the gateway to your actual research work. Your proposal will show your committee that you have a concrete plan for pursuing significant research that will contribute something interesting to your field. Once your proposal is approved, you will have a blueprint for your work. Define your topic, outline your proposal, and proofread to help make the process manageable.
Defining Your Topic
Choose your topic.You might begin with a vague idea of what you want to research. You will need to define a topic that has interest in your field, can fill a gap in knowledge, and has a manageable scope. The topic should interest you and be something you are capable of researching and writing about.
- For example, you can start with the general idea that you want to write about how children are portrayed in 19th century Russian literature and your favorite authors are Turgenev and Tolstoy.
Discuss your initial ideas with your thesis supervisor.Before you begin writing your proposal, discuss your ideas with your supervisor. They can help you understand the complexities of your topic and suggest how you can best approach it. Having guided input will help you to write a better proposal.
Create a working title.A working title is a short statement about your thesis. It can very briefly state what your research topic is and how you will conduct your research. This can help you narrow your topic and be better prepared to discuss it with your professor and committee.
- Your working title should be longer and more descriptive than your final title.
- For example, your working title could be “Tracing the Portrayal of Children in 19th Century Russian Literature in the Works of Turgenev and Tolstoy.”
Review the current literature.A literature review will provide you with information about what has already been published on your topic and help you identify gaps in earlier research. This can help you figure out where more research is needed. It can also show you how your thesis will fit into work already conducted in your field.
- Use the literature review to synthesize information about previous work done on your topic or topics related to yours.
- Find the strengths and weaknesses in earlier studies that can be improved by your thesis.
- Reviewing previous literature will help you figure out the potential significance of your thesis.
- For example, you will want to start by looking for other works on Turgenev and Tolstoy as well as works that discuss the portrayal of children in 19th century Russian literature.
Outlining Your Proposal
Choose what the main sections of your proposal will address.Knowing how a proposal is structured and what it should contain will help you outline yours. Find out if there are obligatory sections required for a proposal in your field. Your supervisor or committee might also ask you to include specific sections in your proposal.
- Generally, a thesis proposal has an introduction, an abstract, a literature review, a discussion about methodology and theory, a timeline, and a bibliography.
- Depending on your field, you may also present preliminary data and include appendices.
Create subtopics for each main section.Break down each main section into more specific subtopics. Include as many details as you can. This level of detail will make it easier to plug in information while you are writing the proposal.
- You do not need to know everything at this point. This is just to get you started.
- For example, subtopics in the methodology section can include:
- Specific novels or stories you will focus on.
- Why you believe Turgenev and Tolstoy should be examined together.
- How you will approach different genres.
- How you will treat different stages of each author’s career.
Add other information you will need in your final proposal.Your final proposal will require a bibliography, so put endnotes in your outline. You will also need to submit a timeline. Prepare for this by including notes on the outline about how and when you will accomplish each section.
- This level of detail will save you time when writing the proposal.
- You can also come up with a preliminary list of chapters.
Pulling It Together
Provide an introduction.Start with an introduction to your work. Discuss the significance of the problem you will address in your thesis and what it will contribute to the field. In your introduction, also state your research objectives and the questions you plan to address.
- For example, your introduction might start like: “Turgenev and Tolstoy wrote about memorable children, women, and peasants. While there are many studies about portrayals of women and peasants in their novels, there is much less scholarship about how children are depicted. This thesis will address children in these authors’ works.”
Present your literature review.Write out the information you learned during your initial review. First, summarize the important information you found in your sources. Next, present an analysis of that information and how it impacts the work you intend to do in your thesis. Discuss any works you will use in your research.
- For example, you could say something like: “Eikhenbaum and Berlin’s standard studies of Tolstoy will provide background information to this study. Neither of these works addresses any children who appear in Tolstoy’s novels.”
Describe your theoretical approach and methodology.Discuss your theoretical approach and the methodologies you will use to conduct your research. This can be one or two sections of the proposal. Talk about any initial data you have collected and your early ideas about the implications of your findings.
- Address any possible concerns the committee might have with your methods and explain why you chose those methods.
- This is where you should include information about working with human subjects or other data collection that might require additional permissions.
- Information and discussion about initial data can be a separate section.
Include your timeline.Your proposal should clearly spell out the timeline you outlined. Indicate how much time you will need for each stage of the proposal. A good timeline can help demonstrate the feasibility of your research to your committee.
- Provide dates wherever possible.
Write an abstract.The abstract for your proposal will be a coherent summary of the entire proposal. A good abstract can be read as a stand-alone document. Structure the abstract based on your research questions, and address information about each question in that section of the abstract.
- Write your abstract last when you can best summarize your thesis.
- The proposal will end with a bibliography and any appendices.
- Choose a standard citation style and write the bibliography and endnotes accordingly.
- Keep in mind that the proposal is not a contract, but a starting point. Any aspect of your thesis might change as you begin working on it.
Video: How To Write A Research Proposal? 11 Things To Include In A Thesis Proposal
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