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Useful advice on how to write a dissertation proposal

A dissertation proposal is basically an essay explaining what you hope your dissertation will be about. It is what you give your advisor and committee to be approved as a dissertation topic. If you are going to do your dissertation on a subject you only need the proposal to be about the initial premise of the dissertation, not its eventual outcome. You may set out to prove one thing yet discover another. The proposal is just to give the committee and advisor an idea of your topic request to be approved or denied. So what do you have to do to write a good one?

  • Start with a basic idea
  • Write simply about that topic
  • Don’t overreach

Start with a basic idea

If you start with a broad topic you can make the dissertation whatever you want once approved. You do not need to go into huge detail here. The broader you make it the more room you have to work with. Start with one basic idea like the lifecycle of something or a scientific experiment, even a theological question, all depending on your major. Once you have the broad view of your topic you have room to work within that large amount of space. You can make it what you want it to be later after starting out simple.


Write simply about the topic

You do not have to go into too much detail here about what exactly you will do, prove or show in your dissertation. The proposal may start out to prove one thing yet actually make something else clear to be true. Just write about the topic you chose. What is it? What do you hope to get from choosing this topic? Why this topic? Focus on this broad topic you have chosen and explain the options of the dissertation.

Don’t overreach

This is just a proposal to see if your topic is approved. It is not the actual dissertation. Do not go into this proposal dead set on proving your point. That is not the objective here. The objective is to get the topic approved by the committee. If you go into too much detail it will not just be a proposal for a topic, it will be a condensed dissertation. You don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself. For example, in science, say you would like to prove what mice do under a set of circumstances, not prove that mice will have this exact reaction under this set of circumstances. It is okay to be unsure of the outcome of an experiment or point. Just explain what you want to write about, nothing more and nothing less.

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