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Writing A Proposal For A Postgraduate Thesis: Useful Advice


Writing a postgraduate thesis, whether it is for a Masters degree or PhD, will likely be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do in your academic career. Not only is it a huge undertaking—commonly hundreds of pages long—but for many students it is the first time that they have done independent, primary research. The proposal is the first step in a long journey with the project. In most programs it must be approved by your advisor or advising committee before you can begin work on your research. Creating a successful proposal will set you up for success in the rest of your project.

Follow this useful advice for writing a postgraduate thesis proposal.

  • Think carefully about the scope of your project
  • Remember that you’ll only have so long to complete your research and write your paper, so you have to make sure that you limit the scope of your project enough so that it will be possible. For instance, if you’re interested in examining a certain phenomenon, limit it to only within one City or State, or to one specific time period.

  • Have a clear research question or hypothesis
  • This may change between the time your thesis proposal is submitted and your final paper is submitted. But it is important that you include a clear research question or hypothesis in your proposal that you will be working to answer or test. It isn’t enough to just say “I’m going to look at this thing”.

  • Focus on your methodology
  • Probably the most important part of your proposal is the methodology. And for most students, it is the hardest, and most frustrating part to write, because it is difficult to lay out exactly what you’re going to do before you’ve even started. But your advisor will be looking for more than just an interesting topic, they’ll be looking for a viable approach to research. It’s important to have your methodology well developed before you start, because discovering a mistake once you’re field work is over can ruin your whole project.

  • Provide good background information
  • This can be in the form of an introduction, or if appropriate, a literature review section. This should make it possible that anyone, even with very little knowledge about your subject, will be able to understand your proposal.

  • Make it compelling
  • Your proposal is also a good opportunity to get people excited about your research and to show why it is important and will be useful. In this way, your proposal can also help to get you funding.