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Dissertation Proposal Outline

7 Steps To Write Dissertation Proposal Outline


A dissertation proposal outline is an important step in the dissertation writing process. A dissertation proposal outline provides structure and cohesion to your dissertation. It gives a clear indication to the readers of what they can expect in the dissertation. A dissertation proposal outline helps the reader comprehend the contents of your entire dissertation without reading it in depth. It is a synopsis of your dissertation. So, it is essential to structure your dissertation proposal in an organized manner.

Steps to Write Dissertation proposal outline

The dissertation proposal outline has the following components:

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Research Methodology
  • A brief indication of the possible impact and implications of the research
  • References and Bibliography

Let’s walk you through the important steps in writing a dissertation proposal outline.

Step 1: Develop a Research Question

Developing a research question is the first step in writing a dissertation proposal. If you do not have a precise research question, you will have no clarity about your research. A precise and straightforward research question sets the tone of the entire dissertation. It informs the readers about the issue you want to investigate. Initially, the research question will be too broad. But you will have to narrow it down to a specific phenomenon or issue. Once you develop a clear research question, it will be easier for you to write a dissertation proposal.

Step 2: Introduction

The first impression is the last. This famous adage is true for dissertation proposals. The first thing your readers will read is your introduction. An introduction is the first section or the first chapter in a dissertation. It must have the following components:

  • Background Information on the topic
  • A clearly articulated research problem or statement of the problem
  • Research Questions
  • Aims and objectives of the research
  • Significance of Research

The significance of the research is an important part. It must be included in the introduction section and highlights the importance of your research. It also includes the relevance of your study to the existing body of knowledge. You can also clarify the meaning of key terminologies. Furthermore, you can define the key concepts relevant to your study.

Step 3: Literature Review

A literature review is the most important section of the dissertation proposal outline. A literature review also encompasses a critical examination of the existing body of knowledge. The literature review chapter must have the following components:

  • You will write a literature review to make room for your research problem
  • Literature review encompasses giving due credit to the scholars for their work. Moreover, it involves identifying the gaps in existing studies.
  • It allows you to engage with the discourse in your subject area critically. It also helps you get familiar with the previous studies.
  • To understand the context of your research and relate it with the available literature.
  • Identify what aspects of your chosen topic or subject area require investigation.
  • To identify key concepts and research methodologies in your research area.
  • A critical evaluation of the limitations and implications of previous research
  • To justify your research problem and research questions.

Students doing qualitative research for their dissertation can structure the literature review in the dissertation proposal according to the themes. Thematic evaluation provides structure and organisation. It helps the researcher review the literature in an organised manner. The literature review is the most important section in the dissertation proposal outline. You will have to engage with the literature critically. You will have to demonstrate your research skills to the readers. Your readers will assess your dissertation proposal based on your ability to hold a dialogue with the existing research. Moreover, your panel members who will evaluate you for your dissertation defence expect you to have a comprehensive understanding of the relevant literature in your field.

Step 4: Research Methodology

In the dissertation proposal, a research methodology section encompasses the following details:

  • You will have to describe your chosen research methodology to conduct research
  • You will have to justify the chosen methods
  • What are the ways and tools through which you will conduct your research?
  • How will you collect your data?
  • How will you analyse the data?
  • What will be the structure of your research?
  • You will have to provide a realistic assessment of conducting research in this section.

The supervisor expects you to have an articulated methodology. However, a well-defined methodology will assist you in arriving at the key conclusions. If you are doing empirical research, you will have to describe the data collection and evaluation method. But if you are doing qualitative research, you will have to provide a theoretical framework that will assist you in your research.

Step 5: Highlight the possible conclusions

A dissertation proposal outline is a synopsis of your dissertation. It provides an overview of your dissertation to the readers. You will arrive at the key conclusions once you start writing your dissertation. But you will have to state the potential conclusions you might draw from your research. You will provide an estimation or a forecast about the potential results of your study. You can discuss the following things in this section:

  • Will your research falsify a theory or strengthen it? Will your research lead to building a new theoretical framework?
  • What will be the contribution of your research for the practitioners and policymakers?
  • Explain the expected result of your study. Moreover, state the practical and theoretical implications.
  • Summarise by indicating the specific questions you expect to answer and the gaps that you want to fill in the available literature

Step 6: Write a Conclusion

The conclusion section contains a summary of your dissertation proposal. However, You can include the possible conclusions you expect to achieve from your research and have to reiterate your research problem and explain the potential impact of your research. You can also include the limitations of your research and provide recommendations for further research.

Step 7: References/Bibliography

The last step is writing references and the bibliography section. You will have to acknowledge every source and give proper citations. You must follow proper citation and referencing formats such as APA, MLA, Harvard and Chicago. The choice of referencing format depends upon the needs and requirements of your university and department.


A dissertation proposal outline is a prelude to dissertation writing, and it helps you structure your dissertation. Also, it is a blueprint of your research that keeps you on track and helps you complete the research on time. Moreover, a dissertation proposal is important in getting the review board’s approval. A properly structured dissertation proposal will impress your supervisor and the board members.

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