What is a Dissertation Prospectus?

Dissertation Prospectus

Dissertation prospectus is a brief paper that provides preliminary information about your doctoral research. It enables the committee to evaluate the validity of your research and to whether approve your project or not. Dissertation prospectus can be anywhere from 5 to 30 pages: it depends on your instructor and educational institution.

It should provide clear information as to the subject of the study, reasons for the choice of this particular subject, the main sources to be used and the suggested organization of the research.

Dissertation Prospectus Structure

A typical dissertation prospectus should include the following sections:

  • Title Page

Usually, the title page contains the word “Prospectus' followed by a colon and the title of the work. Of course, it also includes your name, specialty and other personal information inasmuch required by your institution.

  • Problem Statement (one-two paragraphs)

Provide the logical argument for the need to investigate this topic. Demonstrate the gap in scientific knowledge that has to be filled in. Give preliminary evidence that justifies the meaningfulness of this topic. It is appropriate to mention a few citations that highlight the relevancy and topicality of this problem. State the overall purpose of your research: do you want to find something out, to prove something or to increase the understanding of some issue?

  • Significance (one-two paragraphs)

Describe the original contribution this study will make and the possible practical application of your findings. What positive social change can your study advance?

  • Background (two-three paragraphs)

Provide a brief but representative information about major studies in this field and their particular contributions. Focus on the works which highlight the relevance of your topic. 

  • Framework (one paragraph)

Provide the conceptual framework of your research and the theoretical base that you use. Appeal to authoritative scholars for support: think twice before introducing a totally new approach. The supervisor committee may consider it an audacity or lack of competence.

  • Research Questions

Provide a series of interrelated questions that you will answer in your study in order to accomplish your major purpose. Mention the relevant approach for each question (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed).

  • Sources

Of course, you don't know all of them so far but at least you have to state the type of possible sources and data that you will use (surveys, experiments, medical records, historical evidence and so on).

  • References

Provide an alphabetized list of sources you cite within your dissertation prospectus.

Your advisor may also require to include some additional information as methods, strategies, challenges and limitations of your study, or the timetable of your research.

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