Dissertation proposal tips for overwhelmed students
Your dissertation proposal (also known as dissertation prospectus) may be some of your hardest writing to date. The depth needed to write a successful dissertation proposal catches PhD students off guard. Most other papers you have written to date were likely shorter and less preemptive than the proposal you are about to craft. A good dissertation proposal demands that you document meticulous plans for actions that you will not take for another 12 months or more.
Rest assured that the overwhelming feeling you are facing (or are about to face) is natural and even part of the process of extracting a focused dissertation topic and writing a convincing proposal. The proposal will require that you mentally extract your research topic from a general area of study.
How to write your dissertation proposal
The best advice to take to bed tonight is that the sanest approach to crafting your proposal is to follow a few organizational principles. Chances are that you already have a lot of the content you need for the proposal. If you have written papers leading up to your dissertation proposal, you have a plethora of (unorganized) content awaiting.
1. Clearly understand that the purpose of your proposal is to help design a roadmap for the rest of your dissertation research. It’s a plan that can be executed. Similar to how a business plan is a document that can be simulated or executed by a company, your dissertation proposal is the blueprint you will follow to conduct research. When you get approval of your proposal from the dissertation committee, think of it as a green light to execute the blueprint. It’s a contract between you and your dissertation committee.
2. Print all the previous papers you have written related to your field of study. Don’t limit your scope to just papers. Print relevant notes from courses, conferences, and outside research related to your topic. Yes, print them all and surpress your inner environmentalist – the time to save trees will come later.
3. Organize your papers and notes into buckets of similar themes. Each theme bucket will serve as a major section in your dissertation proposal that will support your research question.
5. Write, write, and write. The best advice from students who have gone through this process is to write every day even if you feel you are writing aimlessly. The biggest hurdle students face in the dissertation proposal process is disciplined daily writing.
6. Take your first draft to your advisor and get their feedback. Don’t waste time editing our revising your draft until you know your ship is pointed in the right direction.
Final tips on your dissertation prospectus
Your dissertation represents your finest hour and the zenith of your academic career. Your dissertation proposal is the first pillar of your finest hour. Well-crafted proposal are a goldmine to earning the trust of a powerful dissertation committee who will in turn fuel your path to completion. Conversely, if you fail to produce a materially convincing dissertation prospectus, you are in for a long and lonely journey.