Dissertation Proposal

Updated February 26, 2014

After your comprehensive exam and research tools statement are approved, your next step is the dissertation research proposal. The dissertation proposal details the focus and intent of your dissertation, articulating your ideas for a proposed study. You develop the proposal with guidance provided by a dissertation committee. The proposal has two main components: a strong literature review providing a rationale for the study and a detailed methodology section.

The literature review in the proposal should include an introduction to the problem or issue in the field that your study addresses, your research questions, your theoretical framework, and a coherent review of relevant literature that provides a rationale for the research questions and methodology. You need to be explicit about the timeliness and relevance of your proposed research.

The methodology section should clearly state the study’s research design and its data collection and analysis procedures. The data collection and analysis procedures must be specified in considerable detail to include areas such as: participants, context, materials, methods (e.g., surveys, interviews, statistical models), procedures, data analysis frameworks, validity, and so forth. Keep in mind, these categories will vary depending on the type of study. Your committee may ask you to attach a particularly important research tool (e.g., interview questions) in an appendix. You need to include a proposed timeline for the study, including the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process.

You should work closely with your dissertation chair and committee on the content and format of your proposal. Based on the individual nature of each study, your committee may require components in addition to those outlined above. As proposal writing is a recursive and iterative process, you will revise the proposal as your committee deems necessary.

After your dissertation committee approves a draft, you will present your proposed study to your dissertation committee for final approval, inviting other faculty members and students to attend the presentation.

Specialization Exam/Dissertation Proposal Combination (prior to 2014 admits)

If you passed the Specialization Examination, you will write a dissertation research proposal that is 20-25 pages long (excluding references and appendices) and resembles the kind of proposal that might be submitted to a potential funding agency. The literature review in the proposal must be focused and selective, and the focus will be on the rationale for the study, the research questions, the research design, and the data collection and analysis procedures. The data collection and analysis procedures must be specified in considerable detail.

A complete strong draft of the proposal will be presented to the entire Department faculty for critique and substantive feedback. Your committee must approve this proposal for presentation before you can submit it to the department. You must revise the proposal as your committee deems necessary and the committee must approve the final proposal. The committee cannot evaluate the proposal until the Specialization Examination has been passed.