One of the most important tasks of your thesis journey is developing a persuasive proposal or prospectus that outlines the background, aims, and methods for your research study. All of our employees, editors, and statisticians have been through the process—and succeeded—we’re happy to offer some helpful proposal writing tips on how to lessen the stress and help you surpass this necessary hurdle.

Thesis Proposal Writing Tip #1: Keep it in Perspective

When you first stare at the blank page that will eventually become your thesis, you will likely feel overwhelmed by the process. After all, this is your plan for the longest and probably most important intellectual challenge of your academic career. But, ultimately, the thesis proposal is merely an academic exercise. No one—neither your advisor nor your future committee—is going to hold you to everything you write in the proposal. They know that your aims will shift, sometimes dramatically, during the course of your research. The main goal of the proposal is to show your committee that you can create a coherent plan and that you have engaged adequately with prior research in the field.

In the humanities, often it is acceptable just to pose numerous questions that you will seek to answer. However, for those students working in the sciences, especially in a laboratory setting, the prospectus demands actual project results. What is important to keep in mind in the sciences, however, is that your results can deviate or even contradict your original hypothesis—and that’s okay!

In short, don’t think of your proposal as a binding contract but rather a very rough draft of expectations and initial—albeit, hopefully informed—assumptions. Focus most of your time reviewing literature and coming up with some important questions that you may want to research further and, hopefully, answer.

Thesis Proposal Writing Tip #2: Do Your Homework!

When researching and writing your thesis proposal, it is important not to skimp on the quality or quantity of the works you cite. If you don’t reference the prevailing scholars, scientists, or researchers in your field, the committee will certainly notice and may make unfavorable inferences about the quality of your proposal.

By its very nature, academic discourse is intended to be a conversation with the rest of your field. If you are not having a thorough dialogue with other sources, it is unlikely that the end result will be compelling or worthy of a PhD. For this reason, be generous or even go overboard with the number of references you include in your proposal, and be sure to cite and integrate the ideas and conclusions of others throughout your proposal.

Thesis Proposal Writing Tip #3: Brevity Is a Virtue

A common pitfall of writing a thesis proposal—which is a process that can take several months or even years—is that it can become long and cumbersome. You need to be ruthless about keeping it short and to the point—as much as possible. Even with your literature review, be careful not to deviate from the primary focus—be concise. Your committee doesn’t want to wade through forty pages or more just to understand your plan.

A good proposal is a completed proposal. It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be accepted by your committee or supervisor. Don't spend lots of time attempting to make it a masterpiece; it just needs to be good enough to enable you to progress to the real task at hand, namely getting on with your research and writing your thesis.

Need Help with Writing Your Thesis Proposal or Prospectus?

Whether you need help trimming down your unwieldy proposal or recommendations of where to enhance it, our PhD-level staff can offer a wide range of services that will save you time and frustration, including editing, formatting, and coaching. We’re even available to provide one-to-one consultation and help guide you through every step of the process. Feel free to contact us to receive personalized assistance on all aspects of your proposal.

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