Skip to Content

Guidelines for the Dissertation Proposal

Preparation for the Dissertation Research Process

The Ph.D. student prepares a dissertation proposal after successful completion of the comprehensive examination and the core courses and courses in the major for School Improvement. Courses in the core provide a foundation in educational theory and philosophy (ED 7311), as well as in the philosophy of science (ED 7515). All students receive instruction and practice on quantitative research (ED 7351) and qualitative research (ED 7352) methods and design. Students also take an intermediate course in either quantitative or qualitative research. (ED 7353 or ED 7354).   These classes provide students with opportunities to develop a better understanding of the type of research they want to conduct for their dissertation. After taking the required research classes, students begin preparation of their research dissertation proposal during ED 7341, Directed Applied Study.

Purpose of the Proposal

The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to develop a program of original research to be completed by the Ph.D. candidate prior to graduation. This research study is designed by the student in collaboration with the dissertation chair and the dissertation committee. Upon completion of the proposal, the student’s dissertation committee meets and the student defends the proposal. During this meeting the committee members provide the student with direction and constructive feedback on how to improve the design of the study. The proposal is accepted if the committee agrees that the proposed study is of good quality and fulfills the requirements of the discipline/field in which the student will become an expert.

Format of the Proposal

The format of the dissertation proposal depends greatly on the research method and epistemological foundation chosen by the student under the supervision of the dissertation committee in order to conduct the study. However, the faculty in our Department makes sure to fulfill the requirements established by Graduate School for dissertation proposals. These requirements include: statement of the problem, research question(s) and proposed strategies for data collection and analyses (including source(s) of data). The ultimate criterion for the proposal is that it includes information in sufficient detail to enable the committee to give the proposed dissertation intelligent consideration. Therefore, the committee may require a specific format for the proposal documents and content in addition to the requirements of the graduate school. For instance, proposals will typically include a review of relevant theoretical and research literature and a plan of work.

Procedures for Defending the Proposal

As directed by the dissertation chair, a copy of the research proposal should be forwarded to the dissertation committee at least two weeks in advance of a scheduled proposal meeting. The proposal meeting should be announced to the public one week in advance.   The meeting begins with a brief public presentation of the proposal, typically including some opportunity for questions from the audience. After the public presentation, visitors will be excused. Next, the student meets privately with the dissertation committee for a more thorough discussion of the dissertation proposal including possible recommendations for carrying out the study. This exam may lead to a pass with minor revisions to be supervised by the dissertation chair or a recommendation to delay committee approval of the proposal pending more substantial revisions.