When working on a masters or doctoral degree, in most cases, a student must submit an extensive thesis or dissertation. Before this, however, he or she must also submit a thesis proposal, or detailed summary of the dissertation. Presented as both a written report and seminar, this proposal is carefully reviewed by a committee, who determine if the subject is appropriate and whether the topic is relevant to the field of study. If the committee does not see any value in the chosen topic, the thesis will not be approved. As a result, the proposal is one of the most important parts of a dissertation, as it determines whether the student can write it.
A successful thesis proposal outlines the thesis topic, defines all of the issues the paper will address, and explains why the topic warrants further research. To properly fulfill these criteria, it should identify a specific problem and provide a detailed solution for that problem. Although the proposal requires a very basic structure, the information included in the document is quite detailed. In fact, a large amount of the material presented in the thesis proposal will likely be used in the final thesis.
A thesis proposal should include a title page and brief summary, or abstract, of the proposal. The abstract introduces the audience to the thesis topic and offers a brief summary of how the student plans to address the subject. Although the abstract should usually be no more than 200 words, it is a very important element in the proposal, as it defines the key statement of the thesis.
Following the abstract, the student should next include a table of contents, introduction, and thesis statement. The introduction will explain the background of the thesis topic, review what the student knows about the subject, and detail any research that is relevant to the thesis. The primary objective of the introduction is to capture the interest of the audience, so it should be written in a clear and easy-to-understand style. As the name implies, the thesis statement should state the thesis; this can be done in the form of a research question, project statement, or hypothesis.
The next element in a thesis proposal should be the approach, or methods, section. In this area, the student should provide a brief description of the research methods and materials he or she will use to complete the thesis. This should be followed by a section presenting any preliminary research he or she has done, and explaining how that research applies to the topic.
After discussing the preliminary research, the proposal should then address the implications of the research. In this section, the student should describe what type of new information the thesis will provide and why this information is important. The student should next list all references that he or she plans to use in the thesis. This list should also include citations for any ideas or concepts that are not his or her own.
A student should plan to spend approximately one to three months working on a thesis proposal. Once he or she has completed all of the required elements, the student should carefully review all of the information prior to the presentation. The thesis proposal determines whether the thesis topic will be approved, and more importantly, helps the student write a better dissertation.