If you have never written a research proposal before, you might be wondering why it is an important and necessary part of the dissertation process. This is your first chance to present your thesis or dissertation ideas in written form to your professors and committee members and to demonstrate to them that you have organized your research around a set of clearly defined research questions about a specific topic. After your professors and committee members review your proposal, they will generally advise you about any what you should do to continue your research. If you write a well-organized and comprehensive proposal, then you will have less difficulty incorporating the advice and comments of your professors and committee members into your future research. Before beginning your research proposal, you should read other proposals in your field, paying attention to how the proposals are organized to facilitate clarity and cohesion between topics and research questions. You should also determine if your university or department has specific guidelines for research proposals. Typically, a research proposal includes the first three chapters of the dissertation:
Chapter I of your research proposal is an introduction to your research and generally contains the statement of the problem that you are researching, the background information necessary to understand the problem, and the purpose and rationale of conducting research to investigate the problem. Chapter I may also contain the research questions and significance of your study and the definitions of terms, assumptions, limitations, and conceptual or theoretical frameworks that you will use in your study.
Chapter II is a literature review of previous research that is related to your research topic. Again, you should read other research proposals in your field to help you decide how to structure Chapter II of your proposal; if you have additional questions about how to structure your literature review, you should contact your professors or committee members. In Chapter II of your research proposal, you should demonstrate that your research will fill a gap left by other related research.
Chapter III is a more specific description of your research methodology. In the introduction to Chapter III, you may restate the problem and the research questions that are motivating your research; you may also introduce the hypotheses that you have developed about your research questions. Chapter III also contains your research design, sample, and setting, a description of the instruments or measures you will use in your research (e.g., structured interviews, surveys, questionnaires, etc.), and a description of how you will collect and analyze data in your research. Chapter III generally concludes with a discussion about issues of validity and reliability and about any ethical considerations in your study.