According to the Stanford Graduate School of Education:
The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student’s dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor between the end of the seventh and middle of the ninth quarters. The student must provide a written copy of the proposal to the faculty committee no later than two weeks prior to the date of the proposal hearing. Committee members could require an earlier deadline (e.g., four weeks before the hearing).
The major components of the proposal are as follows, with some variations across Areas and disciplines:
1. A detailed statement of the problem that is to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem on both theoretical and educational grounds.
2. A thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should provide proof that the relevant literature in the field has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and mistakes of others.
3. A statement on the overall design of the proposed study, which includes:
- its general explanatory interest
- the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered
- the overall theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued
- a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
- an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, data analysis)
- a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted (This aspect of the proposal will be somewhat different in fields such as history and philosophy of education. (Stanford, 2019)
For many universities, the proposal consists of Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of a traditional 5 chapter dissertation. While some universities differ, the contents of all proposals are mostly the same – Introduction, Literature Review, and Methodology. Together, these describe the proposed study – including the background, problem, purpose, research questions, theoretical framework, high-level methodology (Chapter 1), in-depth thematic literature review to identify what is “known” and what is not “known” by synthesizing recent research) (Chapter 2), then finally, the detailed methodology (Chapter 3) that more fully describes the method, approach, and design elements – whether qualitative or quantitative.
At this stage of your doctoral journey, there are a significant number of obstacles to overcome, including:
- Properly developed and aligned problem, purpose, and research questions
- Correctly identified, aligned, and supported research method and approach
- Theoretical/conceptual framework that frames and informs the topic and problem
- Do-able design that complies with university and ethical criteria
- Accessible population with ample sample size
- Extensive literature review with thematic synthesis that supports and informs the remaining chapters
- Method and design that addresses the problem, and achieves purpose, by answering the research questions (qualitative and quantitative) within an approved and prescribed design – including participant identification, recruitment, sampling, instrumentation, data collection, and analysis
Are you prepared to complete the above areas, or are you struggling to complete these, or to receive approval? This is where I can help. If this reasonates with you, please contact me using any of the forms available on this website, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Stanford (2019). Standord Graduate School of Education: Dissertation proposal. Retrieved from