Complete Guide to Writing Your PhD Thesis Proposal

A PhD Thesis proposal is a brief but comprehensive summary of the research which is yet to be done. It sets out the central issue for the research, with a detailed description of the raised issue and how will it be solved. It helps you to identify the direction of the research consisting of all the key elements of the process. The proposal has to be well-structured in chronological order of the title, abstract, introduction, literature review, hypothesis, methodology, timeline, resources required (if any), result, and references. Here’s a brief introduction of all these key elements :

  1. The title has to be concise and should direct the reader to know about the research. It is like a mini-introduction, giving a glimpse to the reader to know what the full picture would be. It has to be precise and crisp handling over a definite idea of the PhD thesis proposal to the reader. You may choose the title even after completing the whole proposal evoking the reviewer’s interest with the right choice of words. For example, ‘A qualitative study on the knowledge and experience of staff nurses in care for dying patients in the hospital.’
  2. The abstract is a summary of the whole proposal. It builds the first impression of the reviewer while reviewing it. It has to provide the objective summarizing the need for this research with the summary of the hypothesis you are going to propose later. It shouldn’t be a prolonged description, rather be compiled in a maximum of 2 sheets. If it fails to capture the attention of the committee or the chair, its fate would suffer.
  3. The introduction of your thesis proposal is something that sticks with the reviewer until the end. It has to be captivating enough for the reviewer to stay with him throughout the proposal. It is the detailed version of the abstract summarizing the proposal and outlining the literary history of the research topic. The candidate should begin the introduction with a relevant phrase/quote or state an apt example on the topic to grab the reader’s attention. The only function of this paragraph is to build the reader’s interest with a proper relevance of the historical background. The next part of the introduction should state the topic and the sociological strata keeping the focus on the audience. The conclusion of the introduction should show the significance and the need for the research and how this research will impact society.
  4. The literature review is the recent background of the research problem or topic. Therefore, it develops a broad idea of the field, exhibiting the previous and the recent history of the topic focusing on the research question. Its purpose is to narrow down the details for the reader to read the succinct information as well as for the researcher to work on the topic. It should reflect the knowledge of the candidate and should be critically analyzed.
  5. A hypothesis is an assumption based on the research studies, leading to a probable solution or the conclusion of the research problem which you would validate through your research. Make it as specific as it could be without being unrealistic for the reviewer to think of a solution like this.
  6. The methodology of the research could either be qualitative or quantitative depending on the nature of the research problem. Your research could either include both of these methods too resulting in mixed-method research. The methodology outlines the strategy for conducting the investigation giving a clear vision to the committee as to how the candidate would work on the research and how would he yield a clear answer to his research question(s) or the statement of the problem. You should also support the chosen methodology with apt evidence and arguments to assure the committee that the research would be effective with this method.
  7. The candidate should also include the tentative timeline for the completion of a research project in the proposal. The timeline helps the researcher to stay focused on the aim and to finish the research in that span of time. However, the research method should match with the stated timeline or else it would be of no use if it doesn’t give a result by the end of your programme. In order to estimate an accurate timeline, the candidate must map out the whole process of the investigation keeping the goal and objective in his mind.
  8. You must inform you about the resources required to conduct the entire research. The mentioning of required resources would help the candidate with the availability of the resource. For this, you need to figure out the resources before starting the research. List down the required material, equipment and tools for profound research.
  9. The result discusses the possible outcome of the research and its potential impact on a particular stratum or section of the society or community.
  10. A list of references is a must to include in the proposal as it keeps the scope of plagiarism away. In the list, you should cite (either in APA, MLA, or CMS in any other style) all the references and sources used or referred to come up with the research topic, problem statement or the chosen research methodology.