The Dissertation Prospectus

After some deliberation, you have finally settled on your dissertation topic. With that decision, you have taken a big step forward in the process. Take some time to feel good about this moment before pushing forward! With all of the literature you’ve reviewed fresh in your mind, you can easily transition into crafting your research prospectus. Your prospectus may go by a variety of names depending upon your institution (e.g., research plan, concept paper, etc.). The prospectus will likely represent your first official submission to your committee. Given your committee has a good idea of what to expect when you submit, exploring the topics most committees expect to see will prove to your committee that you’ve thoughtfully considered the important aspects of actually conducting your study.

Introducing Your Topic

Ideally, your institution has a template for you to follow, so please inquire within your department for any guiding material. You will typically want to start your prospectus by clearly indicating in its introduction the rationale behind your dissertation topic. This will involve providing pertinent background information—either in the introduction or separately—to familiarize your committee with the literature in which your study sits. Providing background information does not mean you will investigate the entire universe. Instead, focus on framing your study in the research problem you will address and narrowing your background material to a gap in the literature that you aim to fill. 

In your prospectus introduction, you should answer in full not just what your research problem is, but why you identify it as a problem. Which studies helped you identify this problem? What research questions arise that will help you answer this problem? Also consider what your current set of assumptions looks like, perhaps including any limitations you anticipate having. Ensure your committee knows that you have a rock-solid grasp on what you aim to study and why.

Establishing the Theory

Since you have already touched upon the a review of the literature relevant to your dissertation topic, you will now need to identify the various theories that provide the framework for your study. This will require you to explicitly state, or perhaps restate, the literature from which these theories originated. Consider how you’d explain this to another researcher so they can understand which theoretical issues surface in your proposed study. When constructed properly, other researchers will quickly be able to identify that you know existing theories do not adequately resolve your research problem. Additionally, citing the literature puts clarity around something novel that you aim to investigate. It lends an air of familiarity to where you see your research going, namely, contributing significantly to the field.

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Formulating the Plan

Lastly, you will now need to provide a generalized research plan within your prospectus.  While this will not represent your exact path forward, it will need to signal to your committee how you propose to conduct your study in such a way that you answer your preliminary research questions, and therefore your research problem in turn. You should also outline what kind of data you anticipate collecting (e.g., survey, interviews, etc.). This includes specifying whom you anticipate getting this information from, and why this subset of people represents your target population. Next, you will want to explore an initial approach to how you will even analyze these data, and why you feel these data will ultimately prove valid as a source.

Wrapping Up

Finally, you will end your prospectus with a conclusion. In your conclusion, you can include some additional elements if you haven’t yet, such as whether you can identify any potential setbacks, or even whom you feel your research will disproportionately benefit in the end.

Next Steps

With this thoughtfully constructed prospectus prepared, your committee will see you as a serious candidate. A candidate who can confidently move ahead with their research study. You know more steps exist for you to now take, but hopefully you see how completing the above outline in a meticulous manner better positions you for literally every aspect of your dissertation.

Should you find yourself questioning any of the above material, or perhaps you want to see how to mold this outline onto what your department recommends, Statistics Solutions has expertly navigated these prospectus waters for years, and we would certainly take to helping you safely get to port, so to speak.  Feel free to fill out the contact request form and one of our dissertation specialists will be in touch for a free 30-minute consultation.  We love nothing more than using our decades of experience to help students get the results we know they are capable of!

How We Assist

Prospectus guidelines can vary from university to university. Sometimes they will provide a form that you can complete, providing all the necessary details, or they may just have you write a 10-15 page synopsis of your first three chapters. Regardless of your school’s requirements, we will take the time to review your school’s template with you or provide you with a general template that applies to most, should yours not have one, and provide guidance on what to include. From here, we will then edit your draft to include the following:

  • Problem statement;
  • Purpose;
  • Significance;
  • Background;
  • Theoretical framework;
  • Research questions;
  • Significance and nature of the study;
  • Possible types and sources of data;
  • And research design.