Writing a Dissertation Proposal: Outline and Example

Writing a Dissertation Proposal: Outline and Example

Published by on 2021-03-23 07:18:50

When it comes to writing such a difficult academic paper, students may feel overwhelmed without an idea of how to start. We are sure that you have heard the recommendation to create a plan a hundred times. But how to do that? What are the parts of a dissertation outline? The answers are waiting for you below as well as a short dissertation proposal example of a plan. But let's start with the basic info. 

What Is a Dissertation Paper?

It is the largest type of academic paper based on the student's unique research and is usually required for getting a Master's and Ph.D. degrees. In some cases, it can be a part of a bachelor's degree.

What Is a Dissertation Proposal?

It is the first step to writing the largest research in your student life. This paper sets the stage for your future dissertation by explaining the research's goal, its importance, providing a theoretical base for it, and indicating the way how you are going to collect the data. It also includes the results and conclusion. You may think that it is difficult to compose a research proposal, but the tips below and prepared sample dissertation proposals will help to cope with this process easily. 

How Long Should a Dissertation Proposal Be?

The paper length falls between 10 and 20 pages, whether it is dissertation or PhD proposal format. 

The Components of a Dissertation Proposal Outline

Every successful academic paper starts with creating a plan and writing down the main ideas for it. But how to structure a dissertation proposal outline? Read about its main components below and check out the prepared dissertation plan template for you. 


All academic papers and assignments begin with a meaningful introduction, and the dissertation proposal is not an exception. Thus, this part of the paper is quite time-consuming, as a student has to present the research in the best possible way. How to start a proposal paper? Make the following points:

  • Devote a few paragraphs to the general information of your area of concern. 
  • Create powerful and persuasive paragraphs demonstrating the significance of the chosen topic.
  • Give a theoretical basis. Having analyzed the sources, indicate the key points that you will discuss in detail in the next part of the proposal paper. You may also describe the relevant theories and provide the definitions of important terms.
  • Create a problem statement and demonstrate the goal of your research. 
  • Indicate the main paper's questions and hypotheses.
  • Compose a one-paragraph conclusion to link the introduction to the next chapter. 

Literature Review

This part of the research paper proposal outline is devoted to the theoretical base of your topic. In other words, it tells what has already been done and what conclusions have been made. Ensure that the analyzed and cited literature is relevant to your study and supports the theoretical argument because you should assure the reader that you have in-depth knowledge and a good understanding of your topic and field. 

You may also search for a step-by-step guide on how to write a thesis proposal literature review, but here are a few tips:

  • Provide the historical background. It should start with an analysis of the earliest publications and lead up to the freshest works on your topic, explaining how researchers' opinions have changed over time.
  • Concentrate on the current literature relevant to the chosen topic. You should also analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the different methodologies that will make a smooth transition to the next section of the paper.
  • Use the headings. They make a literature review look organized and well-structured and also guide the reader through a large amount of theoretical information.


It is one of the most important parts of the doctoral dissertation proposal, as you explain what methodology and sources have been used for conducting the research. Hence, we recommend you be specific and convincing while describing the chosen methodology. Otherwise, the reader may doubt the gained results. You may use two types of research for your dissertation.

Empirical research

In this case, you should describe in detail how you want to conduct your research and collect data. For example, are you going to conduct a survey or arrange an interview? Besides, this method involves writing a qualitative dissertation proposal or a quantitative one, or a combination of both types. We also found examples of dissertation proposals, so you can follow the link to read the sample of qualitative and quantitative dissertations.

Theoretical research

It focuses more on the theory that will be useful for working on the dissertation. Theoretical research is quite popular for papers on literature, history, etc.

Findings and results

Creating a dissertation proposal outline, note all results that prove or disprove your hypothesis. Provide as much information as possible to leave no scope for doubts, incomprehension, or questions. It should be detailed and present results in the order by the research questions. You may also create tables and figures for organizing and presenting your data. 


Research Proposal conclusion requires no less effort and time than other parts of the paper. To finish a paper successfully and make a good summary, you should do the following:

  • Back to your thesis proposal and remind the reader what your paper is about.
  • Make a summary of your research. Tell how you did it and discuss the value of the gained results in the short form. You should also relate them to the theoretical base to show consistencies or inconsistencies with the analyzed information.
  • Give your recommendations for future works on your topic. Are there fields that require attention and in-depth research? Set a direction for possible research.

At this step, we recommend checking a research proposal conclusion example on a similar topic. It gives an understanding of how to finish a paper and helps determine the perspectives for future works. We have also found a useful 5-minute video with tips on writing the conclusion, watch it by the link    

Research Paper Proposal Outline Sample   

We understand that the best way to figure out the peculiarities of creating a plan is to look at an example. Therefore, we have prepared a dissertation proposal template in the form of an outline on the topic "Characteristics and functions of Spanish tourism discourse."


Share your analysis perspectives and discuss the Spanish tourism discourse features and explain the importance of your topic. For example, "tourism has gained popularity in Spain, as the number of tourists has increased by 40% over the past four years." You should also present hypotheses, "the tourism discourse has special communication strategies and tactics of speech that affect the potential tourists." 

Literature review. 

Describe the development of the tourism discourse from the first to the latest publications, and introduce the most-used terminology.


Provide a methodology on how you are going to prove your hypotheses, for example, "using the continuous sampling method, descriptive research, and doing the linguistic-stylistic analysis." You may also find a PhD dissertation proposal sample on your topic to determine which methodology is the best for your research.  

Findings and results.

Repeat your hypotheses and provide the results that prove or disprove them. "The use of imperative and subjunctive moods, impersonal constructions, and rhetorical questions have an impact on the tourist, causing interest and desire to visit a specific place in Spain." 


Indicate the reasons that increase the value of the done research and tell how they can be used in the future, as well as give a direction for the possible research, for example, "the need to study the peculiarities of tourism discourse in Latin America."

We hope the list of the outline components with recommendations on how to write a dissertation proposal and a small template were helpful to you. Wish you luck with the writing process!