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Writing Your Dissertation Proposal

Now that you have selected your dissertation topic, it’s time to write your dissertation proposal. If you are still on the fence about your dissertation topic, you may find benefit in reading our Choosing a Dissertation Topic article.

What is a Dissertation Proposal

Dissertation proposals are the beginning step towards writing and defending your final dissertation. Your proposal should be unique and allow you to present your research and create a strategy for your final dissertation. Your dissertation proposal will allow you to organize your research, present your intent, and explain how you will collect and analyze data. It is like an outline for your dissertation, that sets the stage but can be adjusted as new information presents itself though your research.

At this stage, you should have decided on a topic, and your proposal will help you further quantify that your topic is relevant in your field, and focused enough that you will be able to complete it in time for your graduation. Your dissertation proposal will also provide your dissertation chair the ability to determine whether you have a clear plan to complete your dissertation.

How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

Your dissertation proposal is typically made up five sections: Introduction and research question, literature review, methodology, objectives, and research. However, you may also include additional outlines, notes, and other items to help you manage your research before writing your dissertation, and provide additional insight to your dissertation committee. At NCU, we have a dissertation template for students to use in constructing their dissertation.

Introduction and research question

Your introduction should state the topic or fundamental research question and provide history on the subject. This is the area that you will include problem and purpose statements, as well as discuss related issues or broader issues encompassing your topic that may also be touched upon.

Literature Review

The literature review will outline what books, publications, and other materials you have used or plan on using to complete your research. This area allows you to give additional history on your topic, and demonstrate how your research will connect and expand on previous studies through a difference in methods or simply expanding on the research done by other researchers.


The methodology portion of your dissertation proposal will highlight the information sources you wish to use in your research, what type of data you will collect from each source, and whether or not the data is quantitative or qualitative. It may also be beneficial to discuss how you will analyze the data you collect and whether or not there could be bias in your research methods.


The objectives portion of your dissertation proposal should affirm what your research strives to achieve, and your predicted outcome. This area is also used to clarify your main research objectives and your plan to attain the achievements and outcomes of your dissertation.

Research Constraints

This area of your dissertation proposal should discuss the constraints that you are likely to deal with in your research. Time, budget, and the fact that many topics may have broad connections to other complex issues are all considerations to highlight. This area should make clear that you understand the larger issues, their role in your research, and your ability to navigate through larger broad issues to stay focused on your topic and its direct impact.

Once your dissertation proposal is complete, you will complete the institutional review board application. The purpose of the institutional review board is to ensure that your means of data collection do not put participants in harm’s way. If the institutional review board approves your application, you will move forward in collecting data and writing your dissertation.

Additional Dissertation Reading

Once your proposal is complete and you have vetted it with the proper channels, you will be ready to write your dissertation. Learn more about that, and find other useful information in the following articles:

Prior Reading

Not ready to move forward with your dissertation yet? Still struggling with your dissertation topic or have broader dissertation questions? You may find these articles useful: