Writing Dissertation Proposal

Proposal gives you a chance of finding out if research aims and objectives are valid. Also, it helps to understand if the methods you are planning to use are suitable and feasible.  The purpose for writing dissertation proposal is to get it approved by your supervisor to be able to start the actual research. Furthermore, writing dissertation proposal helps you to clarify the direction of your study.

The paper needs to be able to communicate the following three critical points to the supervisor:

a) You already did your homework in terms of reading a large amount of relevant secondary data in your research area. You will need to briefly mention and discuss the most noteworthy contributions to the research area.

b) The research will eliminate a gap in the literature. You will need to highlight the gap in the literature and discuss how the research you are planning to conduct is going to contribute to the existing academic developments.

c) Ideally, there is a need for this research from practical point of view. This is not compulsory, but highly welcomed. Being a business study, your work can provide certain benefits in a practical level as well.

Total wordcount requirement for a Research Proposal can range between 1500 – 4000 words. The proposal can be prepared in the following format:

1. Title Page

2. Introduction. This part is a brief introduction to the research area with some background information. Some universities require proposal abstract or summary to be included as well. Please refer to the Dissertation Handbook provided by your university.

3. Statement of the Problem. Research problem needs to be explained in a fairly detailed manner in at least 2-3 pages.

4. Aims and Objectives. These need to comply with SMART principle where the acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. You may not be completely certain about exact formulation of research aims and objective when writing dissertation proposal. It is not a big issue at this stage. With guidance from your supervisor you should be able to improve your research aim and objectives later during the actual research process.

5. Justification for the Topic. These can relate to the elimination of gap in the literature, practical benefits of the research, and its contribution to your long-term career objectives. Ideally, the proposed research has to make some practical contributions as well.

6. Research Background. Some universities require a brief research background to be included in dissertation proposal. Here, you can briefly discuss the most noteworthy contributions to the research area made by other authors. No need for detailed critical analysis at this stage, when writing dissertation proposal.

7. Scope of the Research and its Limitations. It is impossible to cover all aspects of the research problem in your dissertation. Therefore, it is important to make it clear what specific issues are going to be explored during the research process, as well as, what issues will be left out.

8. Preliminary Literature Review. Definitions of main terms, explanation of search strategy for the literature, brief outline of the most relevant models and theoretical frameworks need to be included in this part.

9. Methodology. This part includes explanations of methods of data collection and analysis. Moreover, proposal methodology needs to address research philosophy, research approach, its design and sampling issues.

10. Ethical Aspects of the Study. You have to explain how you are going to address issues of ethics related to the study. In studies that involve primary data collection ethical issues can be addressed by including the following statements in your proposal, and staying true to these statements

             a) Respondents are going to participate in the survey voluntarily;

             b) Questionnaire/Interview/Focus group questions are not going to contain offensive, discriminatory, or  other unacceptable language;

             c) Privacy and anonymity of sample group members are going to be maintained ;

             d) The works of other authors that are going to be used in any part of the proposed study are going to be acknowledged with the use of Harvard/APA/Vancouver referencing system according to the Dissertation Handbook;

             e) The author will attempt to maintain high levels of objectivity in discussions and analyses throughout the research.

In studies that do not involve primary data collection, on the other hand, ethical issues are going to be limited to the points d) and e) above.

11. Research schedule. Gantt-Chart is one of the most effective, yet simple tools to illustrate research schedule. Table below represents a sample Gantt-Chart that can be used to complete a dissertation. Alternatively, you can use simple tasks lists, network diagrams or advanced dashboard software.


Writing dissertation proposal


Writing dissertation proposal


12. References. Appropriate referencing is critically important when writing dissertation proposal the same way as it is important for the final draft of the work.


Writing Dissertation Proposal

My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance offers practical assistance to complete a dissertation with minimum or no stress. The e-book covers all stages of writing a dissertation starting from the selection to the research area to submitting the completed version of the work within the deadline.

John Dudovskiy