Academic writing plays a significant role in shaping our future and making our career paths. There are essays, articles, reports, paragraphs, other writing styles, and formats. However, the one that is considered the most challenging is the dissertation, also commonly referred to as a research paper or thesis.

It is a document required for a student to submit for their candidature for an academic degree. Although a dissertation is mainly a task done by students in the doctoral program, it has also become common for school students. Nonetheless, the level of expertise required in the higher courses dissertation is certainly significant than that of school students.

In dissertation research, the students present a potential or specific research topic. Based on their own research, they explain the dissertation topic, proposed research questions, give findings, and conclude their study. But before submitting the final paper, another crucial step needs to be done before completing the dissertation. A student or researcher has first to propose the topic for their research. It is then either approved or rejected by the concerned authorities such as the dissertation committee or teachers. It is what the dissertation proposal is about. Let us understand this critical step of the dissertation paper in detail.

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What Is A Dissertation Proposal?

As we discussed in the previous paragraph, the researcher has to come with ideas and topics before moving ahead with the dissertation. The next step for them is to propose the subject to their teachers or the concerned board. One can carry on with the official research work only after getting an approving nod from the seniors.

However, the said proposal is not made verbally like a mere discussion. The students and researchers have to write an official dissertation proposal to share with the teachers. There are particular specifications for a dissertation proposal as well, such as the length, concepts, literature, etc. In simple words, the dissertation proposal helps in giving a preview or trailer of the research paper that a student is planning to do.

As it is a trailer, a dissertation research proposal does not contain every information. One includes just sufficient text to give the teachers an idea of what a student is planning to research and why it is significant from a research point of view. As the approval and rejection of your research idea are based on your dissertation proposal, it indeed becomes an integral part of your research paper.

To sum up, a dissertation proposal is the brief of your research that describes the research that you want to do. It answers the questions such as what the study is about, how the student plans to conduct the research, and why it is essential to discuss. As it is a proposal, it needs to be done and submitted before your final dissertation project. If you have the question ‘how to write a dissertation proposal’ and everything around it, we are here to help! Explore the best tips on how to write a case study?

How To Write a Dissertation Proposal?

How to Write a Dissertation Proposal?

Writing a dissertation proposal is not a difficult job, but it sure needs a proper structure and writing process. As we established earlier, a dissertation is more like a brief of the whole research paper. It simply gives the reader a basic idea about the dissertation title. Let us see the answer to the question- ‘how to write a dissertation proposal!’

1. Selection of the Topic: 

A dissertation proposal briefly describes the topic/subject and its potential implications. But to do so, the first and foremost step is to brainstorm the ideas and topics for your dissertation. Many believe that structure is the most important part of writing a dissertation, but choosing the aptest topic is more challenging.

You cannot just pick any topic for your dissertation. It is essential to come up with a vital subject and ideas for the dissertation. Also, do not look for only a single topic for your research. Brainstorm multiple potential topics and shortlist the final one out of them. To find an accurate subject for your dissertation, you can opt for a topic of your personal interest.  You can also write about human subjects and their current state. Do not consider what other researchers are doing. Select the topic that is best for you.

Another critical factor that comes into play for selecting the dissertation proposal topic is the availability of information. Not only should your topic be meaningful, but you must make sure there is sufficient information about it to base your research on. There should be some existing research or literature about your topic, making it easy for you to complete research questions, thesis, and findings.

In other words, make sure your topic out stands but should not be so unique that you do not find any previous research. Although you can still do a dissertation on such issues, it will require more work and different methods to collect information. Hence, the selection of a good topic is the biggest challenge that a researcher has to face. Once you have the right topic, consider half the work done.  

Click Here, to explore the complete guide on case study methodologies.

2. Conduct Background Research: 

The second step on ‘how to write a dissertation proposal is to run a background research. Talking about research, you must know by now that your topic should be relevant and has sufficient research material to refer to. The background information primarily goes in the Literature Review section. The more research background, the better.

To present a solid background for your topic, you have to run in-depth research. It will not only help you to decide your topic but provide a strong base for your research. You can refer to existing research papers, discussions, university papers, recent research and studies, journals, books, and other authentic sources for more background research. You can also find the article helpful for the same. 

While we talk about research, please take a look at What is a case study.

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3. Follow the Appropriate Structure for Dissertation Proposals: 

After selecting the right topic and running research for your dissertation, the next step on ‘how to write a dissertation proposal is to follow a particular structure. With the help of a structure, any academic writing can achieve its aims and objective. A structure or dissertation proposal outline is similar to the outline of any other academic paper.

The basic structure for the dissertation proposal includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. The design of your proposal plays a vital role in strengthening your work. One should not only be concerned about writing, but the positioning of all the points is also essential. The proposal follows a particular structure, which makes a hierarchical order. You have to make sure that you place the vital heads first and move ahead accordingly. We will learn about the essential parts of the dissertation proposal in the next section. However, you can refer to the dissertation proposal template online to understand the structure properly. Also, check out our new article on how to write an article review.

What Are The Parts Of A Dissertation Proposal?

Now that we know the basic structure of ‘how to write a dissertation proposal,’ let us understand the crucial parts to include in your dissertation proposal. It is essential to add all the bullet points. The dissertation proposal presentation plays a vital role in the approval of your research by the committee members or teachers.

1. Introduction

Needless to say, the introduction is a vital part of your dissertation proposal. It introduces your reader to the topic and what to expect from the entire document. An introduction is the first part that the readers go through. Hence, it becomes essential to make it impressive and understandable for the reader.

Your introduction will introduce the reader to your research question and give an introductory preview of your research. However, it is not just about informing your audience about the topic but contextually explaining why it is relevant. You should also add all the aspects to present the importance and need of the subject to be discussed for further investigation.

2. Literature Review

A Literature Review of a dissertation paper presents the background information or literature in a much broad way. But, the literature review for the dissertation proposal is brief and carries only the necessary information. In the Literature Review (also called LR), for the research paper, the data is elaborated. It also states the sources of information. On the other hand, the LR for the dissertation proposal enlists the books, materials, and other references that you want to use for your research paper.

In other words, your dissertation proposal literature review consists of the list of material that you used to give background to your topic. You can also connect your research with the previous studies or dissertation papers and show how your methods are similar or different from the existing literature. While it is essential to give the necessary information, make sure you don’t give away everything. Keep the main points for your paper.

3. Dissertation Methodology

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Another vital part of a dissertation proposal is the methodology. As the name suggests, a methodology describes the methods used by the researchers to carry out the findings. It elaborates the strategies and sources used for the purpose of gathering data. In the methodology, you describe whether you have opted for qualitative or quantitative methods for data collection for your findings. For ex- Gantt Chart, Interviews, Surveys, etc.

For the methodology section of a dissertation proposal, the length/ amount of information varies according to your topic’s requirement. Apparently, you also have to clarify why you chose a particular research method for your topic. 

Click here to acquire knowledge on the dissertation outline.

4. Aims and Objectives of your Own Research

The following important part is the aims and objectives of your dissertation proposal. It basically explains what your research study aims to find out. Although the introduction carries all the necessary information, you should state your research’s objective as well. You can also note how you plan to achieve the expected outcomes.

5. Limitations/Constraints

Many students may try to hide the limitations or shortcomings of their research to get favorable outcomes. However, it would be best to avoid this research practice as it compromises the accuracy and authenticity of your research. Besides, the teachers or the committee will be quick to pick out the limitations of your work. Hence, it is better to state them yourself.

In fact, it is an informative and compelling piece included in the research. Moreover, it leaves a favorable impression on the faculty members that you have considered all the possible aspects of your work. It shows you have done an excellent job of familiarizing yourself with the topic.

Do you want to know, What is a Thesis Paper? Planning, Writing, and Formatting.

How Long Is A Dissertation Proposal?

How Long Is A Dissertation Proposal?

The length, size, and word count of your dissertation proposal depend on a few factors. One of the essential factors is the education level at you are writing a research paper. If you are writing a research/dissertation paper for school, the length of your dissertation proposal would be comparatively short. On the other hand, the dissertation research proposal is long for the researchers who are university students or writing a research paper for a doctoral program.

If we talk about page count, a professional research paper proposal or dissertation proposal should not be more than ten pages. If your research proposal does not fit in the ten pages, you can add extra pages but make sure the average length falls between 15 to 20 pages. To analyze the average size of a research proposal, you can refer to online dissertation proposal examples.

Other than that, the topic of the dissertation also determines the length of the dissertation proposal. If you have chosen a simple subject, the length of your proposal may be short. However, if your dissertation title is complex to understand, your dissertation proposal will be lengthy. You will have to give in-depth elaboration about the topic to make it easier for the readers to understand.

What Are The Steps In Writing A Dissertation?

In the previous sections, we understood how to write a dissertation proposal and the crucial parts that go into a proposal. However, we have also established that a proposal should be made in a particular structure. There is a defined placement for all the elements that clarify how to write a dissertation proposal. Let’s understand the steps of writing a dissertation proposal-

1. Title

The title of the dissertation goes on the top. The presentation or formation of your dissertation topic also matters. A good dissertation topic should be able to give to the subject and the impact of the subject on a relevant object or subject. For example, ‘Exploring the gender gap in Western Europe.’

2. Introduction

It is the common understanding that the introduction would go at the top. The beginning of the proposal opens up a path for the proposal hearing for the reader to understand the paper. It holds a greater significance to shape the reader’s view about your topic and their expectation. As the dissertation proposal does not consist of the findings and solutions, the introduction creates expectations about what to expect from the paper.

3. Aims and Objectives

The second place is taken by the aims and objectives of your dissertation or the topic of the dissertation. In this step, you state the aim of your work. It explains what you aim to achieve with your research and how you aim to get to the purpose.

4. Methodology

The next step is to present your selected methodology for the purpose of data collection and to carry out the research. The methodology is the fourth step in the structure of the dissertation proposal. It determines the methods the researchers have opted to collect accurate data, providing a solid base for their thesis and findings.

5. Literature Review

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Literature Review is an integral part of a dissertation proposal as it explains the topic to the reader concisely. Writing a review of literature comes fifth in the steps to how to write a dissertation proposal. An LR includes background information and the citation of the sources used for the gathered and referred information.

6. Limitations/Constraints

The last step for how to write a dissertation proposal is to present the potential or possible limitations of your research paper. Stating the constraints of your own work shows that you have done proper research about your topic. It signifies that the researcher has considered all the topic aspects and has familiarized themselves with the subject.

You may or may not add a conclusion at the end of your proposal. You can choose to add it to bring the reader’s focus to the main argument written, or you may avoid it. Moreover, you can also add some of these elements in a single section or give them a separate section.


Writing a dissertation proposal is not a challenging task. However, a lot of things go into the making of a good research proposal. It is essential to make sure you have added all the necessary elements in the right place. A proposal determines whether your research topic gets approved or not. It clearly holds greater significance. Hence, you must do well in your proposal. If you have done excellent research, but your proposal does not justify it, the study will go to waste.

Also, you must maintain ethical writing throughout your proposal. If you want to impress the committee, teachers, or the dissertation panel, you must go through the discussed points. Implement the stated steps, and you will undoubtedly end up with an impressive dissertation proposal, which will help you with further research.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What should I include in a dissertation proposal?

In a dissertation proposal, you must include some key aspects. These include an introduction, dissertation methodology, your research’s significant aims and objectives, a literature review that enlists the books and materials used during analysis, instances of possible limitations, and a few proposed ethical measures.

2. How long should a dissertation proposal be?

The length of a dissertation proposal is not specified. It should be about 10 to 15 pages. It should include around 2 to 3 pages of summary, 6 to 10 pages of literature review, 3 to 6 pages of methodology and 1 page of research sources.

3. Why is dissertation proposal important?

A dissertation proposal is important because it predetermines the structure of the dissertation. If the design of the dissertation is formed accurately, it will contribute to the overall grade. If the dissertation is written ideally, it will also positively impact your future and career.

4. How long a dissertation should be?

Dissertations are primarily 100 to 300 pages on average. The pages are divided into divisions and subdivisions written under various sections and subsections.