How to write a PhD thesis proposal

Writing PhD thesis proposal is tricky and this is bit different than writing other proposals like Post graduation proposal because here you are proposing an idea that still needs to be approved by the research committee and you are trying to convince someone that your idea will  generate the results in your 3 or 4 years research time.

The first thing before starting writing the thesis proposal is to research the things that you can do and the things that you cannot do, you need to have a  work plan for the next 2 years time. The first thing is to check the feasibility of the idea, it may be you have a vague idea and the actual research can not be performed around this idea, so its better to get the feedback from others as well about your idea before writing the thesis proposal. You need to make sure that your research is something new.

It is true that some lucky students are offered with the topic and research idea from the university and their job is to continue with their PhD proposal with that idea. Your thesis proposal should focus on your thesis topic and you need to have the good understanding of the purpose of the thesis proposal, you need to formulate the research aim, research objectives and research questions. Most importantly your thesis proposal should justify that there is a need for research and the research will provide some benefits in its field.Have a look on the things that you need to know before starting the thesis proposal.

Lets discuss here the general structure of a typical PhD thesis proposal.

Topic. This section of PhD proposal states about the title of the thesis.

Introduction. This section of PhD proposal talks about the general subject area and how your topic is related to the subject area. It emphasizes that your topic is new in the subject area and how your topic can provide real benefits in the related field.

Significance of research ( Thesis Statement).  You can add a separate section in your thesis proposal for writing the importance of the research. You can justify here that research is worthy of your time and your supervisor time.

Aim and Objectives of Thesis. The aim is a complete one sentence that describes the research’s objectives smartly.

Literature Review. This is very important part of PhD thesis proposal as this shows that how much research you have already done in this field. The literature review relates your topic with the literature already available in the subject area. It describes all the latest researches that has been done related to your topic, it is a better idea to add experimental and comparison analysis in the literature review. Try inserting some images as an image can explain more than words. Your literature review should explain the essential theories in your research area and draws a conceptual framework related to your research idea. Please remember the literature review in your thesis proposal is still incomplete and this shows your enthusiasm in the subject area. The final literature review will be completed during the completion of your thesis and it will be included in your final thesis report. Know more about literature review here.

Methodology.  This section should be written in detailed manner so that it provides good information on how actually are you going to collect the information or data for your research. This should detail the research methods you are going to use, why and how you are using those research methods. If there will be experiments involved in your thesis research then section should highlight how are you going to conduct those experiments. If there will be any issues in collecting the data like any ethical issue, legal issue then write how you are going to approach them, its better to identify some issues and propose the solutions to those issues.
Try to write about alternative research methodology as in case your primary research methodology fails then you can use this alternative methodology as this shows your preparedness for the subject.

Limitations and Key Assumptions.  This section clearly of PhD proposal points the things which you research will not attempt to do and if there are any key assumptions in the research.

Research Plan (Timetable).  The research plan in the thesis proposal usually proposes the proposed dates of various milestones of your research, it begins with starting date and followed by other dates like various experiments dates, dates on when you will begin a chapter and end a chapter. , dates on seminars completion etc.
It is always good to show the research plan in a form of table , chart etc. For example a Gantt Chart , WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) are good examples of showing the research plan.

References. The references in the thesis proposal show that how many books , journals and other sources you have read so far for your research, Use the reference style as recommended by the university guidelines.

Please keep watching this space as I will be adding more useful stuff, if you still feel you need more help then please feel free to  contact me

Click here  to go back to  research proposal guide.