What Is A Dissertation?

A dissertation is certainly no easy feat. This introductory module will equip you with everything you need to know and remember before you get started writing your own dissertation or thesis.


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Chapter 1: What Is A Dissertation (Or Thesis)?

Higher education is filled with milestones. When completing your PhD, you will be required to complete a dissertation. This module will break down the fundamentals of a dissertation and give you a clearer picture of what a dissertation comprises.

So what is a dissertation?

Simply said, a dissertation is a written document that details research. A dissertation also signifies the completion of your PhD program. It is required to earn a PhD degree, which stands for Doctor of Philosophy. Similarly, a thesis on the other hand is what you write to complete a master’s degree. It summarises existing research and signifies that you understand the subject matter deeply.

Your work as a student in writing a dissertation or a thesis is to ask a research question relevant to your study and then find answers. However, unlike other research assignments, a dissertation should include well-structured, critical and academically evaluated content. There are more significant differences between research papers and assignments or essays regarding their structure and other aspects discussed later in this article. For now, let us focus on the definition of a dissertation.

Simply, a dissertation or thesis is a long-consuming procedure that takes time, effort, and expertise to complete. Therefore, to go through a dissertation or thesis, you must first see it as a process that requires extensive study.

As shown below, there are four important phases to this process:

Step 1: You choose a suitable research topic

Finding a relevant and meaningful research topic (or sets of readily doable questions) is the first stage in preparing a dissertation. Because a dissertation is all about research, the first step in producing an acceptable dissertation for yourself is to establish essential questions that will lead your study. The following is an example of a well-defined research question:

“What are the factors that contribute to low-income rates among farmers in Scotland?”

This question is well-defined and sets a guide for your research. This research question makes it possible to determine the course of work and understand your study’s outcomes. However, finding a research question or sets of questions for your dissertation may be tough for many. Most students struggle to grasp or know where to go for a good research topic. Don’t worry; our post on selecting a dissertation subject will serve as a guide for you. Once your research question is clear, you can proceed to step two.

Step 2: You go through the research that has already been done

You may evaluate current data related to your research topic if your research question is properly articulated and well defined. This section in your dissertation paper is often known as a literature review. This section is essential in understanding what has already been done or said concerning your research question. A literature review is also crucial as it helps determine the gaps in your research area that will help you adjust your research question. Therefore, if you want to formulate a good dissertation, thesis or research paper, build on the work of others by familiarising yourself with existing data, understanding the patterns of research, and using that knowledge as the basis for further study.

Step 3 – You carry out your research

The second step is very important in carrying out the third step. Without knowledge of existing research, you cannot be able to understand what your dissertation or research project should include. As a result, after you’ve grasped current information, you may gather, evaluate, and analyse relevant data to perform your study. Depending on the level of your degree, institution, or the form of your research subject, your study might be primary, secondary, or a combination of both. Your data collection and analysis methods depend largely on your research question. These methods could be qualitative (in words), quantitative (in a statistical form), or mixed.

Step 4: You construct responses to your research topic

Combining current research expertise with your results might help you answer your original query. In addition, these aspects of your research will allow you to gather enough information to fill your research with valuable content and provide meaningful answers to your research questions.

However, in most cases, students panic when their findings spur new questions or when their answers are not rock-solid. Therefore, it’s common to acquire more questions for your study after you finish your research since it won’t always deliver rock-solid solutions. These questions are a way of suggesting future research. In other cases, your findings may contrast what has been said in the existing literature. This is not a mistake; contrasting arguments make your research even more interesting.

Your research work may be almost similar to your assignment or essays depending on how you view it. They could look similar, but some differences make them distinct. Therefore, it is essential to understand these differences to avoid taking the wrong course while writing your dissertation. There are four fundamental differences between a dissertation and normal assignments and essays:

It would be best if you decided on the direction of your paper

In an essay or your regular assignment, your topic is often determined for you, and all you have to do is dig in and continue with your research. On the other hand, a dissertation needs your full attention in determining a manageable topic for your research. Therefore, a dissertation needs more than just reading related articles. When writing a dissertation, you need to find a suitable topic, justify its worth through a research proposal, and find existing knowledge relevant to your study.

It’s a long project

Compared to other projects, a dissertation is a lengthy and hard procedure. The dissertation may take a longer time to finish, usually six months to one year, and it includes a total length of 100-300 pages for Masters and PhD levels. In addition, when writing a dissertation, the content of your work may not be similar to that of your classmate. Therefore you take more time to do your project with limited support. If you find your journey a little difficult, try forming your support network from a private coach or other alumni who have been through the rigorous process.

A dissertation is a way of testing your research skills

A dissertation needs more in-depth research skills than assignments. Assignments require simple knowledge where your examiners assess your understanding of theories and models in answering questions already provided for you. A dissertation requires that you undertake high-quality research in helping you build upon already existing knowledge by providing your findings of what has never been discussed before. Your ability to understand existing information relevant to your research study is important, but there is more to it than just a literature review.

You must have a limited and profound concentration.

An assignment demands you to have a comprehensive understanding of research and theory and the ability to link numerous disparate concepts to answer your questions. However, a dissertation requires narrowing your focus and paying more attention to a specific topic.

For example, from the research question, we formulated in step one,

“What factors contribute to low-income rates among farmers in Scotland?”

Our focus should only be on Scotland and no other countries, farmers and no other workers, and only on low-income rates and not any other issues.

Keeping a well and narrowly-focused research topic allows you to find as much information as possible.

Understanding all these aspects of a dissertation will enable you to formulate a well-articulated research project and dwell in it, providing as much valuable information as possible.

To wrap this up, a dissertation is:

  1. Organised research study
  2. It involves asking questions, undertaking research and answering those questions.
  3. Involves your examiners in testing your research skills
  4. A dissertation is significantly different from an assignment or essay in many ways.

We’ve covered more about what a dissertation is in this section; for additional information, visit Skylink Research.

Chapter 2: How to Choose Your Dissertation Topic

A dissertation topic should be carefully created, formulated, concise, precise and significant. In addition, your research topic should also be unique so that you have the best chance of your work being approved.

You are probably one of the students wondering how you should go about finding a suitable research topic. Fining an appropriate research topic is not an easy task, and getting stuck at this point of preparing for your dissertation is completely natural. Many students may get confused in this section as they do not have the perfect idea about what a dissertation topic should look like. Therefore, if you read this article, you will learn more and better understand what a research topic should entail.

To generate a strong research subject for your dissertation or thesis, you must follow six stages. These are the actions to take:

Step 1 – Understand the research process

A basic understanding of the research process is the first essential step in finding a quality research topic. Unfortunately, many students skip this part and dive into the ideation process. However, understanding the research process is vital in helping you reason and think adequately to have clear guidance on what your research should entail. In addition, having a basic understanding of your research process first enables you to review the instructions of your institution or faculty so that your work is not rejected for not following the basic instructions of dissertation writing. If you are not provided with specific instructions about your research process from your university, you should check out our short course: Understanding Research Methods, for more information. Therefore, before jumping into the ideas of your research topic, take your time to understand the process and requirements of your dissertation.

Step 2 – Go through your university’s recent dissertations

Reviewing existing dissertations in your university library helps you understand the research process. These dissertations are always recovered from graduated students to help other incoming students learn and develop new ideas about dissertations. Past dissertations will enable you to understand:

  • How topics should be formulated in research and how they are developed into research questions
  • How broad or narrow your research topic should be
  • The originality of topics and their significance to your research work
  • How to justify your topic and make it valuable to your research industry
  • How much is existing literature to use for your research?
  • Know the types of research methods to use in carrying out your research
  • How to analyse the data you have collected and discuss it

Reviewing a variety of dissertations in your university library allows you to understand the rules and instructions of your university and how rigid their expectations are concerning the structure, format and chapters, among many other aspects of your dissertation.

Step 3 – Begin the brainstorming process by reading scholarly literature.

It’s time to get a taste of the research process by acquiring and examining pertinent material now that you have a clear idea of your research procedure and your organisation’s needs.

Kickstart the ideation process

Return to your courses and examine resources from your modules to comprehend the literature at your university level and the issues pertinent to your degree to begin your ideation process. First, determine which courses piqued your attention and in which you have sufficient understanding. Next, review your strongest assignments and reports and the areas in these assignments that are of great significance to you. Finding interesting areas in your module allows you to engage in your work and stay motivated.

Recognise where we are today in our understanding

You must comprehend the knowledge of current literature after you thoroughly comprehend the topics in your programme and have picked areas that interest you. Existing literature enables you to understand the present state of knowledge better and plan the direction of your study. In addition, reviewing existing literature will allow you to determine unanswered questions that will help you reconstruct your topic into a unique, meaningful and significant research topic. Finally, reviewing existing literature also will enable you to understand the research patterns and enables those patterns to guide your research. Therefore, ensure that you have a good amount of existing literature relevant to your study area to allow you to grasp a vast knowledge of other factors that support your literature.

Absorb, don’t hunt

Attempt to read and comprehend the current level of knowledge at this point. Don’t jump to conclusions about your study questions. Instead, get acquainted with contemporary literature and use what you’ve learned to expand on your thoughts.

It is critical to concentrate on additional issues that these works of literature raise and how they are addressed when you evaluate current literature. When reading these materials, you may encounter conflicts or opposing arguments. The emphasis of your investigation should be on these opposing viewpoints. Furthermore, you may experience a variety of themes that pique your interest; consequently, ensure that you choose a study topic and research questions that are both clear and doable.

Step 4 – Identify your potential research questions

It’s time to construct your possible study subject by selecting a list of topics that interest you after a thorough grasp of the existing state of knowledge. There are three methods for choosing a prospective study subject:

Approach 1: Leverage the FRIN

Scholars provide ideas for further study after journal articles. These publications clearly show where research gaps need to be addressed. This method, however, has both advantages and disadvantages. The possibility of finding novel and important study subjects is one benefit of employing this strategy. Its drawback is that you will be less likely to be assigned a study subject that you are passionate about or have sufficient resources or execution capabilities. If you choose this route, double-check the publication dates to ensure the planned study hasn’t already been done.

Approach 2: Give established theory a local or industry-specific twist

Another option is to see whether a well-known theory can be applied to a particular location or sector. For example, although the notion of trust antecedents is prominent, there may be unique or significant characteristics within a certain nation or business. Suppose a certain sector or area of interest has not been researched, and there are major variations between the settings. In that case, you have the chance to design a well-structured and original research topic that will ensure the establishment of a fantastic research project.

The main benefit of this method is that you can select a well-established research topic that is relevant, significant, and interesting to you. However, the problem with this strategy is that you may not achieve the same degree of uniqueness as option 1.

Approach 3: Conduct thorough brainstorming

The third option is to engage in continual brainstorming, developing study ideas based on the knowledge obtained through examining theories and other current material. Of course, you’ll probably think some of your ideas are ridiculous or impossible to implement when brainstorming. But, regardless matter how crazy your thoughts are, jot them down on a sheet of paper.

Make a list of research questions from your list of themes. Reorganising these themes might lead to a slew of new research questions. Make a list of as many research questions as you can. After you’ve written all of your research questions, see whether any of them have previously been addressed in the literature. By looking for commonalities between these research topics, you may cut down your options by eliminating some of them.

You may utilise one or all three ways to develop your dissertation’s right research subject and questions.

Step 5: Narrow it down, then assess it

At this stage, you should have a list of possible research topics. As a result, you should eliminate more of these items from your list to reduce them further. When narrowing down these subjects, consider factors such as the topic’s breadth, whether it was recommended long ago, and if it is a particularly compelling current concern.

When narrowing down your options, consider their originality, the structure of your research questions, the topic’s significance, the amount of literature that will support your subject, the type of data that will be needed to answer your research questions, the feasibility of your research topic, and your interest in these topics. With this criterion, you should be able to pick from approximately five different themes.

Now that you only have five themes left, we need to cut them down to three. Write about each of the topics you selected in the previous phase. Allow your primary emphasis on what you will study in your research utilising the subject, WHY this issue is important to you, and how you intend to conduct your research. This criterion should lead you to three problems you believe are the most important to address.

Step 6: Make the decision

From the three topics left, choose one that best suits your interests. Think about how confident you are in carrying out this research, and ask your peers and classmates or your supervisor to help you make a decision.

Once you have decided, be confident in it and not be tempted to change what you feel is what you should do. Check every aspect of this topic, and if it is manageable, you can start with your dissertation. If you have a topic, now is to begin your research proposal.

Therefore, if you have problems coming up with a great topic for your dissertation, ensure you follow these steps closely. 

Chapter 3: Research Proposal 101: What You Need To Know About Writing One

Learn the ABCs of writing a dissertation proposal, including what it is, what important parts it must have, how long it must be, and how to arrange it appropriately.

What Is a Dissertation Proposal and How Do I Write One?

If you are close to concluding your degree program and you want to finish your dissertation, or if you want to apply for a PhD programme, you’ll almost certainly need to write a convincing dissertation proposal to support your candidacy. If you’ve arrived at this page, likely, you’re not quite clear on what the study proposal is all about. But, you’ve arrived at the appropriate location.

Introduction: The Basics of Writing a Dissertation Proposal

A dissertation or research proposal is defined on the basis following concepts:

  1. What information should be included in a research proposal?
  2. The length of time a dissertation proposal should be
  3. What to include in your proposal and how to write it up

What is a dissertation dissertation proposal, and how does one get it right?

A research proposal should summarise what you want to study in your dissertation, the importance of this and how you purpose to carry out your investigation. In addition, your research proposal should be convincing enough to allow your institution to approve your dissertation project.

The most important word in this statement is “convince,” which means that your dissertation proposal must persuade the reader that your dissertation subject is valuable (to whoever will approve it). Therefore, you will have to modify and resubmit your idea unless it impacts them. This will cost you a substantial amount of time, causing you to either delay the start of your study or lower the amount of time you have given for it (which is bad news).

What should be included in a dissertation proposal?

A great dissertation or thesis proposal should be able to answer the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ questions.

WHAT – The subject of your research

Your dissertation proposal must contain a detailed explanation of your research topic. This has to be explicit and unambiguous to be effective. Your dissertation subject should clearly explain what you want to investigate and what context you intend to do it. Ensure that you include a detailed explanation of your dissertation subject. When preparing for your dissertation proposal, ensure that you have a firm idea of what you will write about.

WHY – Explain.

It is not sufficient to merely suggest a study subject; you must also demonstrate that your idea is unique. In other words, what distinguishes it from the competition? What void does it fill in the present body of knowledge? A rehash of a prior study is unlikely to be approved; new research must be conducted to get permission. However, novelty is not sufficient in and of itself. Therefore, describe the significance of the topic you have picked.

HOW – This refers to your approach.

Though having an excellent dissertation subject that is unique and relevant is wonderful, you will not be able to persuade anybody to accept it until you first explore the practical aspects of the issue.

  • Evaluate the research methods you will use.
  • Is your research design acceptable for the issue under consideration?
  • Is your strategy manageable in light of the restrictions you have?

When writing your dissertation proposal, including a high-level overview of your research techniques and some important design decisions in your proposal. Focus on the following key points:

  • Research approach methods, e.g., qualitative and quantitative research approach
  • Research designs to be used in your research
  • Methods of data collection and analysis that will be used

What is the length of a dissertation proposal?

The criteria differ substantially when it comes to institutions, disciplines of study, and degrees of education. So, before creating your proposal, it’s always a good idea to verify with your target institution about their unique requirements.

As a general rule, a formal dissertation proposal at the Master’s level should be between 2000 and 3000 words long. On the other hand, a PhD-level dissertation proposal may be more detailed, ranging in length from 5000 to 8000 words. Colleges may need a more detailed proposal to serve as the foundation for the dissertation or thesis’s first three chapters.

What is the framework of a dissertation research proposal?

The structure required for a dissertation proposal varies by school; nonetheless, there are five “basic aspects” that are often included in the framework of a research proposal:

  • A descriptive title page
  • A thorough historical context and introduction for the planned study
  • An explanation of the research’s aims and objectives
  • An introductory assessment of the literature covering the most important studies in the field.
  • A description of the study design that has been suggested (methodology)

As you compose your dissertation proposal, keep in mind the most crucial goal: to persuade the audience. Your dissertation or thesis proposal must convince the reader that your study topic is worthy of further investigation concerning its application and feasibility. So, concentrate on developing a compelling tale.

Chapter 4. How To Write A Dissertation Proposal

In this section, you’ll learn to write a high-quality dissertation proposal. Using simple language and concrete examples, we explain each component.

Putting up a good and convincing dissertation proposal is not an easy task. In this challenge, you must win someone over and convince them that what you’re proposing is a fantastic idea before moving further. It’s a notion to which they are enthusiastically receptive. Your dissertation proposal must thus be convincing, visually appealing, and well-thought-out to be successful. Here, I’ll show you how to start from the bottom up and create a great dissertation proposal.

What to Include in a Dissertation Proposal:

  1. Clearly understand aspects of a dissertation proposal and what it is intended to accomplish
  2. Determine whether or not you are prepared by asking yourself four critical questions
  3. Create a title that is both captivating and descriptive
  4. Compose an engaging introductory chapter to your book
  5. Clearly explain the scope of the intended research in your dissertation proposal
  6. Compile a preliminary evaluation of the literature
  7. Describe the study strategy and methods that you want to use
  8. Talk about the practical factors and hazards involved

What precisely is a dissertation proposal, and how do you write one?

The dissertation proposal is exactly what it sounds like: a written document that conveys what you want to investigate clearly and simply. It’s putting all of the information swirling around in your mind down on paper logically and compellingly.

Your dissertation or thesis research proposal must persuade the institutional examiners that your study is well-stated, useful, and viable in the light of the limits you’ll face. No matter how “interesting” the study subject seems, your dissertation proposal will not be approved unless it fulfils these three standards.

What signs should I look for to determine my readiness?

Before you start writing, you should ask yourself four essential questions. Then, check if you can react to them firmly and clearly. If you can’t respond to them clearly and forcefully, you should go back to your dissertation topic and reconsider your viewpoint.

These questions include:

  1. What is the key research subject I’m pursuing?
  2. Who is concerned, and why is it important?
  3. What information would I need to answer this research question, and how would gather this information?
  4. How will I ensure that this study is completed within the timeframes that have been set?

If you cannot provide clear and concise answers to these questions, you are not yet prepared to create your dissertation proposal; instead, go back to our page on selecting a subject.

There are five important aspects to consider when writing your dissertation proposal.

The Five Most Important Ingredients

Depending on the institution and topic, dissertation proposals may be prepared in various forms, but there are five basic structures that you can use.

Include headings and sub-headers for each area mentioned below to aid the reader in navigating around your text and returning to a previous section. Instead of presenting a continuous material wall, break it down into smaller units, paragraph after paragraph.

Tip of the day: To format headers in Microsoft Word, use the Styles feature. You will be able to tell if a sub-heading is at levels 2, 3, or 4 due to doing so. Apart from that, you may see your work in ‘outline view,’ which simply shows your paper’s headers. This greatly simplifies double-checking your structure, rearrangement, and determining where a section should be put on the page. You may also use word’s automated capability to create a table of contents that is 100% correct.

  1. The title heading

If feasible, add a subheading in the title of your dissertation proposal that offers basic information on the subject of the study. In its most basic form, ensure that the title of your dissertation proposal represents your primary research subject.

In general, terms, as you can see from the title, give a clear idea of the subject matter of the study. It provides an overview of the book and a taste of what they may anticipate from the story for first-time readers. Strive for a distinct title at all times. Make your title clear and precise, don’t add too much information, as the body of your proposal will fill that.

  1. Introduction

By offering a few paragraphs that provide additional information about your dissertation subject, you’ll be able to build on what you’ve expressed in the title and make your dissertation proposal more complete. Most importantly, the issue is the primary emphasis here — what will you investigate, and why is it worthwhile to do so are the preliminary questions. Methodology, practicality, and other such topics should be discussed elsewhere; they will be discussed later.

The following topics should be covered:

  • A basic description of the vast subject you will be investigating introduces the reader to the main ideas in your dissertation proposal
  • A description of the precise region on which you will be concentrating your efforts, as well as the reasons for doing so
  • The objectives and goals of your study
  • The question(s) and sub-topics you want to investigate are listed in 4

Aim to use short phrases and straightforward English wherever possible – don’t ramble on with a lot of jargon, acronyms, and complicated terminology. Take it for granted that the audience member is an intelligent layperson rather than a subject matter expert (even if they are). Take note of this fact: the greatest writing is written in a simple way to understand and absorb. Maintain a straightforward approach.

Please remember that certain colleges may want you to provide a few more details in your introductory paragraph. For example, consider personal growth goals, a structural plan, etc. If there are any additional specifics that the client expects to see in your proposal, double-check your brief to ensure that you have included them anywhere in your dissertation proposal.

  1. Scope of Application

Following that, you’ll need to define the scope of your investigation. Or, to put it another way, you must clarify what you will be covering in your study and, maybe even more essential, what you will not be hiding in your research. Put another way, this is about narrowing down your research subject to a single, laser-sharp focus.


To the detriment of generating thorough research, many students feel the need to be wide and attempt to cover as many subjects as possible. Even though this is commendable, it is also a misstep. The tightening of your scope allows you to delve deeper into your study, which you need to do to obtain high grades in your course. On the other hand, if your scope is too wide, you’ll most likely end up with a lot of superficial research (which will not gain you any points), so don’t be afraid to reduce your focus.

Common Mistakes In Writing A Dissertation Proposal

There are many research projects we assess at Skylink Research, including those for dissertations and theses. Others, although not terrible, aren’t particularly great either. Unfortunately, many students come to us after their request has been turned down, wasting a lot of time and energy. So that you can confidently craft your dissertation proposal and increase the likelihood that it will be approved, let’s look at ten common mistakes we notice in dissertations.

These mistakes include:

  • Not clearly defining the problem or making it too broad
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The research design is not articulated well enough
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align
  • Not considering the ethical implications of your research
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Not specifying the time frame for your research
  • Not formatting your proposal correctly (as per institutions specifications)
  • Poor project planning and risk management.

Now let’s look at these mistakes in detail to help you understand them and how to avoid making them in your dissertation proposal.

  1. Not Defining the Problem or making it too broad

When drafting a dissertation proposal, one of the most frequent errors students make is failing to describe the issue. They are researching. The rest of the plan will be unclear and aimless without a precise and concise problem statement. Make sure you spend the necessary time defining the issue you hope to solve through your research. Your dissertation proposal’s problem statement serves as its cornerstone. Your proposal will be unfocused and unfocused without a clear and precise problem statement. One of the most frequent errors that students make when drafting a research proposal is failing to define the issue statement clearly from the outset. The research question may occasionally be overly broad. In other words, the research’s emphasis is not clearly defined, which leads to a proposal that lacks direction or tries to cover too much ground.

For instance, a study that attempts to “examine trust in the workplace” would be seen as having a very broad scope. However, this subject lacks a clear emphasis and raises a number of unsolved concerns, such as:

  • What kind of trust?
  • Which between?
  • Which kinds of workplaces?
  • Which industry or which industries?

As a general guideline, you should strive for a somewhat tight emphasis while choosing a study topic. The markers want to see that you have thoroughly researched the subject; thus, doing this will enable you to do just that. When identifying and honing your study topic, quality triumphs over quantity-specifically, depth over breadth.

Another issue is that students frequently have more developed ideas for their proposals but struggle to express them well. Due to the issue being viewed as being too wide, this frequently leads to the request being denied. To put it another way, it’s crucial to ensure that your study has a clear, distinct emphasis and that you effectively convey that focus in your dissertation or thesis proposal. To ensure that your topic is clearly stated, be sure to answer the following questions:

  1. The study has a weak theoretical foundation

Another common mistake is failing to review the existing literature on the topic before crafting the proposal. It is important to be familiar with the work that has already been done in the field to position your research properly. Failing to review the literature will make it difficult to situate your work within the existing body of knowledge and could lead to your proposal being rejected. A literature review is an essential component of any research proposal. It helps to provide context and background for your research problem. Not conducting a literature review is a major mistake students make when writing a research proposal. The existing research must inform your research topic. To put it another way, your study must address a glaring gap in the literature-either an issue that hasn’t received enough attention or hasn’t been studied sufficiently in a given setting.

Your dissertation proposal needs a solid theoretical underpinning to persuade your university that your issue would fill a research gap. Put another way, you need to demonstrate that you’ve read the required materials and are conversant with the field’s body of work. It would help if you highlighted the existing theoretical gap while also providing an integrated assessment of the prior research to achieve this.

We’ve observed several typical indicators of a shaky theoretical base, including:

  • A general lack of sources and a preference for anecdotes and personal experience over scholarly research
  • Omitting to mention important studies and works of literature that significantly impact the field
  • Relying disproportionately on inferior sources, such as blog postings, individual websites, opinion pieces, etc.
  • Relying disproportionately on dated sources and failing to consider more contemporary research that expands upon the classics

You still need to defend your topic by pointing out a need for your study, or the literature gap, even if it’s typically not anticipated that you conduct a thorough literature analysis at the proposal stage. As a result, be sure to invest the time to gain a thorough understanding of the state of knowledge in your field and to communicate that expertise in your proposal by basing your topic justification on a strong foundation of reliable literature.

  1. The research topic is not well justified

Your dissertation proposal should have a clear and concise research question. Without a well-defined research question, your dissertation proposal will lack direction and focus. This is one of the students’ most common mistakes when writing a dissertation proposal. In order to have a successful dissertation proposal, you must also clearly define the research questions you hope to answer. These questions should be specific, achievable, and relevant to your investigating problem. Without well-defined research questions, developing a clear and focused research plan will be difficult.

How do you then defend your research?

You must show originality and significance for a study topic to be adequately justified.

Being original suggests that your suggested research is fresh, or at the very least, that it is fresh in relation to its surroundings, such as a certain region or sector. Therefore, your research will always need to be original to some extent, even though the degree of this novelty will vary based on your institution, programme, and level of study, such as master’s vs doctorate. In other words, you can’t conduct a study on a topic that has already been extensively studied.

Simply put, a gap in the body of current knowledge must exist for your research to make sense. To accomplish this, you must review the literature to determine what is lacking from the body of existing knowledge and then design your dissertation to fill that gap. Here, we go into greater depth about this procedure.

The second element is significance. A topic is not always significant because it is unique. You must be able to articulate the advantages of conducting the research you have suggested. Who would gain? How would they gain from this? How could the recently acquired knowledge be applied in the real world, whether in the workplace or academia?

Therefore, to avoid submitting a weak proposal, when drafting your dissertation proposal, clearly state both the uniqueness and significance of your proposed research.

  1. The research design is not articulated well enough

Your dissertation proposal should include a detailed and well-developed research plan. This plan should outline the steps you will take to answer your research questions and should be designed to help you complete your research within the specified time frame. A lack of a clear research plan will make it difficult to assess the feasibility of your proposed dissertation and could lead to your dissertation proposal being rejected. In addition, without a well-defined research objective, your proposal will lack focus and direction. The second issue your dissertation proposal needs to address is the how, which is your proposed dissertation design and technique. Once you’ve established a compelling case for the importance of your research or justified it, this is the point at which your research proposal should end.

Students frequently lack the necessary level of detail in this part, which is a problem. They frequently plan to work it out later, which is unacceptable because they don’t know what they’re going to do. But often, the problem is inadequate articulation; in other words, they have a clear concept in their heads but haven’t put it in writing. Whatever the cause, there is a high likelihood that a dissertation or thesis proposal that lacks specifics about the study design will be disregarded. This is so that colleges can see that you have a well-articulated, doable plan to accomplish your research’s goals and objectives and respond to its questions. You ought to be specific about the following, at the very least:

  • Research philosophy: the collection of assumptions upon which your research is predicated, such as positivism, interpretivism, and pragmatism
  • Research strategy – the more comprehensive approach you’ll utilise, including inductive, deductive, qualitative, and quantitative
  • Research strategy – the approach you’ll take to conducting the study, such as an action, case study, or experimental design
  • Time horizon, or the number of points over time at which you’ll gather your data (such as cross-sectional or longitudinal data)
  • Methods and procedures include your planned approaches to data collecting and analysis and sample plans

Of course, as you go along, your research design may change, but you still need a foundation. Additionally, given your limitations, your suggested research design must be feasible. A brilliant plan is useless if you lack the means to execute it, such as the funds, tools, knowledge, etc. For the best likelihood of approval, be specific and realistic in this portion of your proposal.

  1. The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align

We frequently observe misalignment between the research aims and objectives and the research questions in poorer research proposals, which is another prevalent problem. Sometimes there are three misfits, and other times there is just one. In any case, it’s a concern because these three components need to integrate closely, which can result in the application being rejected.

Let’s examine a case of a trio that is not in alignment.

The study aims to pinpoint the elements that foster organisational trust in Scottish Luxury Hotels.

Research Objectives:

To assess the level of organisational trust among Scotland’s various demographic groups.

To look at why different groups have different levels of organisational trust.

Research Problem:

What elements affect the level of organisational trust between Scottish Luxury Hotels and their clients?

As you can see, the study objective and research question are closely related because they both concentrate on the elements that foster trust. The dissertation goals, however, are not in line with each other since they place more emphasis on comparing the levels of trust across various groups than on determining what variables promote trust. This will lead to a study tugging in several directions, which is undesirable.

Another problem we encounter is that students don’t truly comprehend the distinction between research aims, research objectives, and research questions, which are the precise questions you’ll address in your study. Therefore, when creating your proposal, be sure that you are aware of the differences between these and that they are all closely related to one another.

Your proposal must also include a justification for your chosen methodology to answer your research questions. You will need to explain why you selected this particular methodology and how it will help you answer your research questions. Failure to properly justify your methodology could lead to your proposal being rejected. Finally, your dissertation proposal should have a clear and concise hypothesis. Without a well-defined hypothesis, your proposal will lack direction and focus. This is yet another common mistake students make when writing a dissertation proposal.

  1. Not Considering the Ethical Implications of Your Research

Before you submit your dissertation proposal, you will need to consider the ethical implications of your dissertation. This includes ensuring that your research will not cause harm to any individuals or groups involved and that your research will be conducted responsibly and ethically. Failing to consider the ethical implications of your research could lead to your proposal being rejected. In addition, your dissertation proposal should have a clear and concise methodology. Without a well-defined methodology, your proposal will lack direction and focus. Unfortunately, this is another common mistake students make when writing a dissertation proposal. Finally, when conducting research, it is important to consider the ethical implications of your work. This includes thinking about how your research might impact the participants, what data you will collect, and how you will use that data.

If your research has the potential to impact the participants negatively, you need to consider whether or not the benefits of the research outweigh the risks. For example, if you are studying a sensitive topic, you need to be sure that the participants can handle the required level of disclosure. It would be best if you also thought about how, you will protect the participants’ anonymity and confidentiality. It is also important to consider what data you will collect and how you will use it. You must be sure that the data you collect is necessary for the research and will be used ethically. For example, you should not collect sensitive data unless necessary, and you should not use data in a way that could harm the participants.

Finally, you need to consider your research’s implications for the wider world. Your research could have policy implications for practice or society as a whole. You need to be sure that you are comfortable with those implications and that you are prepared to deal with

  1. Poor writing and sloppy presentation

You must specify the funding sources you are investigating if you intend to seek outside support for your dissertation’s research. This entails outlining how much money you’ll need and offering a thorough budget for your project. Your project can be turned down if you don’t specify your financing sources. An organised work plan should be included in your dissertation proposal. Your proposal won’t have direction or concentration if it doesn’t have a clear work schedule. Another typical error that students make while preparing a dissertation proposal is this one. Even if your dissertation proposal checks off all the other standards, poor writing and shoddy presentation might seriously hurt it. While bad writing and presentation on their own are unlikely to lead to the rejection of your proposal, they will undoubtedly place you at a disadvantage because they cast doubt on the calibre of your work as a whole.

The main problems we observe are:

  • Writing that is aimless or haphazard, for instance, writing that jumps from one point to another with poor flow and coherence, fragmented points, etc.
  • Poorly constructed arguments, such as those that lack premises and conclusions, have conclusions that aren’t connected or have faulty logic. The development of arguments is covered in more detail here
  • Use foul language, such as slang or a tone that is excessively informal or casual
  • Inconsistent use of UK/US English and grammatical and spelling errors
  • Problems with citing sources, such as a dearth of sources or references that are formatted improperly
  • Table and figure captions, such as when there are none or when there aren’t any citations, figures, or table numbers
  • Diagrams and illustrations of poor quality

The good news is that many of these issues can be avoided by revising and proofreading your proposal in advance, so it is always wise to take the time to do so. As you will inevitably have blind spots when editing your work, it is also a good idea to ask a buddy to evaluate your manuscript. If your budget permits, having an academic editor examine your work will guarantee you cover all the necessary bases and produce a high-quality dissertation.

  1. Not Specifying the Time Frame for Your Research

Your dissertation proposal should include a specific time frame for the completion of your entire dissertation. This time frame should be realistic and achievable, given the scope of your project. Failing to specify a time frame for your research could lead to your proposal being rejected. Furthermore, your proposal will lack direction and focus without a well-defined timeline. This is yet another common mistake students make when writing a dissertation proposal.

  1. Not Formatting Your Proposal Correctly (as per institutions specifications)

Your dissertation proposal must be formatted according to the guidelines specified by your institution. This includes specifying your proposal’s required length, font size, and margins. Failing to format your proposal correctly could lead to your dissertation proposal being rejected. In addition, each university has its preferences for what they want to see in the dissertation or thesis proposal, even though research proposals are generally pretty generic in content and language and tend to follow a fairly uniform framework.

A very specific structure and format, down to the font type and size, are required by some universities, along with more or less or no content in some areas. The institution-specific standards that your university has established must therefore be closely followed. Be sure to carefully read this paper and get clarification from the faculty if you have any questions. Typically, your university will provide some form of brief or guidance document to guide your proposal efforts. Some universities may also offer a dissertation proposal template. Please pay close attention to any particular structure they suggest and any formatting guidelines they may have, such as those regarding font, line spacing, margin sizes, referencing style, etc.

If your university offers an assessment criteria matrix, you’ve struck gold because that document will specify precisely what you must accomplish in each proposal component. Make sure your research proposal closely corresponds with the evaluation criteria by studying that matrix from top to bottom.


  1. Poor project planning and risk management

Although the prerequisites for each university will change, a project plan of some form is typically required or at the very least expected. As I stated previously, a successful study proposal must be manageable and practical given your restrictions. As a result, an essential component of a compelling research proposal is a clearly stated project plan that considers all the practical considerations and dangers.

 Additionally, we advise adding a risk management strategy. For example, you may utilise a simple risk register that lists all the potential dangers you can perceive and your response and mitigation plan in case they materialise. For instance, there is a chance that data gathering will take longer than expected, or there won’t be enough survey responses.

The most crucial thing is to show that you have carefully considered your research and have an organised course of action. Plans may naturally alter, just as they probably will with your research design, and that’s alright. However, you must still have a preliminary strategy, and that strategy must be practical and achievable, or you run the danger of having your idea rejected.

Chapter 6: Sample Dissertation Proposal Template

Do you need help organising your dissertation or thesis research proposal or putting together an organised and well-organised piece of writing? You’ll find that our free research proposal template is just what you’re looking for to get your research proposal up and running.

How much information is included in the dissertation proposal Template?

Skylink Research’s free research proposal template includes all of the basic elements of a successful dissertation or thesis research proposal and additional resources. It offers clear descriptions of what you need to cover in each part and simple examples, and access to other resources to help you complete your assignment.

Among the essential components of a dissertation proposal template are the following:

  • The title page
  • Introduction and historical context (including the research problem)
  • A survey of the literature
  • The study’s structure (methodology)
  • Project management, including resource needs and risk management
  • References
  • Appendix

You may utilise the nicely structured Word document for your proposal, copy the contents into a new document, or convert it to LaTeX format.

PS – You can also get a free dissertation and thesis template from Grad Coach by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions are included below:

  • What kind of themes would this proposal template be effective for?

In most disciplines of study and research subjects, the template is adaptable enough to be used as a template. It closely resembles the structure of a standard dissertation proposal in the social sciences, but it may be customised to match almost any research subject. With regard to your university instructions, add a page or two.

  • Is it possible to utilise this template for dissertation proposal’s not intended for a dissertation or thesis publication?

Yes, it may be utilised for research projects or even research funding, depending on the circumstances. A dissertation proposal will need you to cover the same ground as a grant application for a research grant. You will, however, need to provide more specific information about your budget, finance needs, and resource requirements.

  • What should the length of my dissertation proposal be?

There are various options based on the institution, degree, and stage of study you are at (i.e. undergrad, Master, PhD). As a general rule of thumb, a dissertation proposal at the Masters’s level should be between 2000 and 3000 words long, while a proposal for the PhD level should be between 5000 and 8000 words long. Before you begin drafting your submission, it is advisable to check with your institution to see what regulations they have in place.

  • When it comes to my dissertation, how long should each part be?

There is no predetermined methodology or word count allotment for this assignment. However, in most cases, the introduction and background part (which contains the research issue) and the literature review section will account for most of the total word count of a research proposal, according to industry standards.

  • Is it necessary to include a comprehensive literature review in my study proposal?

When submitting a dissertation proposal, you are not required to present a detailed and in-depth analysis of the relevant literature. You must, however, demonstrate that you are conversant with the major literature in your study field and that you have clearly identified the needs of you research in your research proposal. Requirements differ across institutions and degrees, so check with your university to see what level of detail they need you to demonstrate at this point of the study.

  • Is it necessary for my dissertation proposal to have a clear methodology?

In general, you do not need to include every conceivable element of your study design and technique in your dissertation proposal at this point of the writing process. You must, however, demonstrate that you have a thorough knowledge of the approach you will use, the data you will gather, the methods by which you will collect it, and the methods by which you will analyse it. Make no compromises in this area – ensure that you have a thorough knowledge of any approach you want to use before submitting a design proposal to the client. More information on what you need to include in your research proposal template may be found in the document.

You will find explicit explanations of what has to be included in each component of the research proposal template and connections to further resources inside the template. If you still want assistance with your research proposal, you are invited to take advantage of our dissertation and thesis coaching programmes.

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