How to write a dissertation proposal

Most students, especially first-timers, usually feel overwhelmed when asked to submit a dissertation proposal. While wondering how to start, common questions like, what is a proposal? How is it compiled? What information to add and what to omit, and what supervisors look out for all come up. We will be answering all these daunting questions in this simple guide. By the end of this, you will know what the dissertation proposal is and how to write it

What is a dissertation proposal?

After coming up with a dissertation topic and research questions, you need to write a proposal for the subject to be accepted by your supervisor. It encompasses the research questions to be analyzed and the methodology for the research. You should also include the research limitations, data choices, reasons for it, and ethical concerns. Note that not all universities or departments require students to write a dissertation proposal.

Structure of a dissertation proposal

  • Introduction
  • The main body
  • Methodology 
  • Aims and objective 
  • Literature review
  • Ethical considerations
  • Duration
  • Mini conclusion

After writing the proposal, you need to discuss it with your supervisor. Their suggestions and feedback can be incorporated into your primary dissertation.

What to do before writing a proposal

Before you put pen to paper to write a dissertation proposal, you need to read widely on the research subject and select a topic. As you read more literature on the subject, you may encounter an exciting topic begging for further research or gab in previous research needing answers. It is essential to note down all the resources/publications you read to include them in your bibliography during the project.

The writing process

After all your research, you can boldly start writing your proposal. Just like any other research work, you need to structure the request in the following manner:

  1. Introduction

This is where you introduce your topic and give a little backing to why you think it should be researched.

  1. Main body

In the main body of your proposal should comprise of the

  1. Methodology

This is where you state the method to achieve your research goals, how you will collect your data and use them. Are you doing qualitative or quantitative research? If it’s quantitative research, then state your sources.

  • Aims and objectives

In this section, you will state why you need to explore the topic further. What are you attempting to discover or prove? What questions do you seek to answer and the predictions?

  • Literature Review

Here, you are supposed to argue why you think your research is needed and its contribution to your field of studies. You can reference similar investigations on the topic, and the gap needed to be addressed. You should also list all the resources you’ve read and how they may assist you in your research. You may pinpoint the flaws in this research and how you seek to avoid them.  

  • Limitation

Every research has its limitations due to how far you can explore the subject. You need to state all these limitations: resources, lack of information, or any other obstructions. This section proves to your supervisor that you have read more on the topic.

  • Ethical Considerations

Does your research have any ethical concerns? If there is, have you seek for the consents of those persons to be used in the study? All these need to be clearly defined.


How many days or months have you set yourself to complete your research? You can set a timeframe for each chapter of your project or the entire project. You always need to set a realistic and achievable timeframe.