Tuesday 11 July 2017

What is a Research Proposal for a Thesis?

What is a Research Proposal for a Thesis?

There are a lot of elements you need to get right in your research proposal. The proposal has to show that you have a clear structure for your research and a plan for how you want to carry it out. You need to show the reader that you are a confident academic writer and thinker, and that you know the conventions and expectations of your field. The next few months or even years of your academic life will be planned out in the proposal. That’s why it’s important to get it right the first time, and to include all of the parts that your supervisor and the committees or administrators who review your proposal will be looking out for before they approve your research.

Luckily, once you know what to do, writing a proposal can be very simple. This short guide will give you the tools you need to write your research proposal confidently. 

The Purpose of a Proposal

A thesis is a long, focused piece of writing on one academic topic. Usually a thesis has to advance a new idea or expand the understanding of the current research in some way. For a master’s thesis, you’ll usually be required to show that you know the field well and that you can explain complex ideas. For a doctorate, you’ll have to present a unique idea which takes the research forward somehow. You can find out more about what a thesis is and the requirements of master’s and doctoral theses at the Academic Coaching website.

Your proposal needs to demonstrate three main things. Firstly, it needs to show why your research is necessary. You do this by showing gaps in the research or areas where greater understanding is needed. Then, you need to show how your study can help to bridge those gaps somehow or advance understanding in some way.

Secondly, your proposal needs to show an advanced knowledge of your field of study. You need to show that you’ve read a lot in the field, and that you’re planning on learning a lot more during the research you’ll be doing. You do this by giving a literature review, either a brief one for a master’s thesis (about two pages, usually), or a much lengthier one for a PhD (three to five pages). Your literature review needs to touch on all of the important ideas and needs to refer to all of the most prominent scholars in your field, at least for the topic you’ve chosen. You don’t need to say everything, but you need to show your reader that you’ve considered at least all of the most important scholarly works so that they trust your academic voice.

Finally, your proposal needs to give an outline of your research. You do this by explaining your methodology in a lot of detail, explaining all of the steps you will take, how long they will take, what your process will be of gathering data, and any other elements which your study will include. You also include any ethical considerations if your research might impact on other people, or might cause harm to animals, plant life or the environment. You also include a timeline and a list of chapters you plan to write.

These three basic functions need to be fulfilled in any research proposal. You’re demonstrating that you’re serious about your research, and that you know exactly what you’re getting into before you start writing the first page. All of these elements will be considered before your research is approved. If it seems to your supervisor, the departmental committee or the administrators that you haven’t covered your bases, they won’t be willing to trust you to bear the name of your university or college next to your thesis. Every university or college invests a lot into students, both financially and in terms of other resources, and they need to be sure that every research project is worth that investment. Your proposal is your way of showing them that you’re serious about your research.

Next, we’ll look at each component of your proposal and give you examples of what these should look like.

Review Your Learning:
·         Your proposal shows why your research is necessary through identifying gaps in knowledge or understanding
·         Your literature review shows that you know a lot about your field and that you’re well-equipped to take on a research project
·         Your proposal outlines your research project, giving a methodology and a timeline so that you can demonstrate your readiness to begin your research and set manageable goals