Guidelines for Dissertation Proposals
These guidelines are intended to help streamline the proposal-writing process.
Goal of the Proposal:
The goal of the dissertation proposal is two-fold:
- It should specifically define the parameters of the dissertation project in terms of topic and research agenda; and
- Provide the student with a usable text/narrative for grant and fellowship applications.
Length of the Proposal:
The length of the proposal varies from one project to another, but typically proposals are 10–15 pages in length, including the bibliography.
Contents of the Proposal:
- A description of the project and its significance
- A review of the scholarly literature on the topic
- A discussion of methodology and sources
- A tentative chapter outline or chapter titles for the dissertation
- A preliminary timetable for research and writing
Suggested Outline for the Proposal
The outline below is just one possible way to organize a proposal. Students should modify this outline to fit their own needs. Some areas may require more or less attention, given your own specific research and topic. Students should seek out the guidance of their dissertation advisors and follow their own suggestions as well.
- 2–3 page summary of project and its significance, noting the questions to be examined.
- 6–10 pages on the relevant historiography that includes a discussion of how the project relates to or departs from standard interpretations
- 3–6 pages on research methodology with a clear discussion of primary sources (printed, visual and/or other) and archival collections to be consulted.
- 1–2 pages on chapter titles/chapter outline. Consider this an exercise in fiction writing as you are really just imagining what the dissertation might look like.
- 1 page on timetable for research and writing.
- Attach a bibliography that includes primary and secondary sources. The student will not necessarily have read all of the works in the bibliography.
**Copies of past dissertation proposals are available from the Graduate Program Director.