Alan Walker
Education, Language, Grammar and Vocabulary
Material Type:
Lecture Notes, Student Guide, Teaching/Learning Strategy
Graduate / Professional
education, thesis, thesis writing, thesis-writing
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Academic Writing: Introduction to Writing a Thesis & Proposal (Part I)

Academic Writing: Introduction to Writing a Thesis & Proposal (Part I)


This guide may be helpful for students who are preparing their doctoral theses.

From Writing Thesis Proposal to Thesis Support

A thesis proposal is a brief document explaining what you plan to do in your actual thesis. It contains information such as what your thesis paper will work on, what kind of research you will do, what kind of problem you are trying to solve, etc. Whether you want to write a graduate level thesis proposal or a phd thesis proposal, if it is not written well and clearly, giving all necessary information, then you would need to rewrite the proposal. The importance of a thesis proposal lies in the fact that a badly crafted one will not get you the requisite approval and you will not be able to move forward with your thesis.

Introduction – Your introduction (about 1-2 pages in length) should be written in such a way that it captures the attention of the reader immediately and he or she will be driven to read the entire paper. The introduction should ideally be an overview of your proposal and you can get the best overview when you have successfully completed the other sections of the proposal.

Problem statement or thesis statement – You must first create a research question and then rephrase it in the form of a problem or a thesis statement. Formulating the question depends on the field of study. For example, in a social sciences segment, you can look at answering problems plaguing the society.

Background – In this section, you must describe the background of your thesis and convince your reader as to why it is important for you to follow your thesis through and how it can contribute to your field of study in a significant way. Using at least two examples of the research question will go a long way in convincing your reader about the importance of your thesis.

Purpose – This section should ideally begin with, "The purpose of this research is to… interpret, analyze, understand, or evaluate the research problem. Your thesis statement should clearly state the purpose of your thesis in the thesis statement. You must remember that the purpose should have an element investigative activity.

Significance – In your thesis proposal, always focus on the benefits of your thesis and not on the research problem. Present solutions that you expect your study to come out with, in a compelling manner. Persuade the reader with compelling answers to the following questions:

  • What is the importance of the study?
  • For whom is the study important or pertinent?
  • What are the contributions the study will do for society or a program or society?
  • If the study is not done what can be the negative effects, if any?

Methodology – In this section, list at least three research methodologies that you can use to arrive at your expected findings. For each of the methodologies listed, explain its feasibility and its appropriateness to your study. From this, you can choose to say which is the most suitable and viable for your study and the reasons for the same in the thesis proposal.

Literature Review – Research and identify previous literature done within the purview of the topic and/or subject and describe, critically analyze, and place all these literatures in context to your thesis. You can include alternate methodologies (in the methodology section of your thesis proposal) that were used in the earlier studies as well.

Hypotheses – Succinctly and clearly, state what outcomes you expect from your thesis. In this section, focus more substantially on the results and less on how you plan to test the results.

Define all the terms – Define all the terms that you have used in research problem, in the purpose, in the methodology, in the literature review, and in the hypotheses segment. Make sure your definitions are absolutely clear and use analogies, synonyms, examples, and descriptions to explain the definitions so that reader has no doubt in his or her mind about their meanings.

Assumptions – In your thesis proposal, describe those conditions that cannot be tested and/or those that will not be tested for whatever reasons. You must include world views or beliefs that your study assumes without any deliberations. You must include assumptions made in the methodologies used such as your personal attitude and approach to different analyses. This will make your readers be aware of your personal biases and they will be able to factor this in during their critical analysis.

Scope and Limitations – You must make aware the methodological and conceptual limitations in your thesis. To arrive at these limitations, try and answer the following questions:

  • What type of sampling, design, analysis, and measurement would be the most ideal and the best in the world for your study?
  • How far are these ideal situations from the real situation that you will use in your thesis?

This difference between the two situations will help you write and sum up the limitations and scope of your thesis. Procedure – In this section, describe clearly and unequivocally all the steps you will take to choose the best subjects, to construct variables, to collate and represent data, to develop the hypothesis, and more. These procedures should be so detailed that another researcher should easily be able to replicate your work by following the thesis proposal.

Long-term consequences – You must think ahead in time (at least three years after the successful completion of your thesis) and arrive at potential long-term consequences. You must also include what may not happen if the thesis is not carried out.

Writing a thesis proposal can be as difficult as writing the actual thesis. In fact, once your thesis is approved based on your proposal, you will feel less stressed out while writing the actual thesis than you felt while writing the proposal. It is imperative to spend time and energy on this aspect of academic writing.

A thesis proposal is a primary part of writing a thesis. It is a brief document which explains the following aspects of your thesis:

  • What will be the subject and/or topic of your thesis
  • What kind of research you are planning to do
  • What type of problem(s) are you planning to solve

It is common for professors to ask their students to first present their thesis proposal, get approval for it, and only then, proceed towards doing the actual thesis. If your proposal is not approved, you will have to rethink your entire thesis and redo the proposal.

Yes, the thesis proposal is definitely shorter than the final thesis. Yet, a badly written and ineffectively researched proposal stands to be rejected.

It is great to know to go about writing a thesis proposal. Even if you choose to buy a thesis online, knowing the mechanics of writing it well will help you gauge the quality of work that you have received. So, let us go ahead and learn the basics.

Writing a thesis proposal has the following elements:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents (needed only if the instructions specifically asks for it)
  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Methodology or approach
  • Preliminary results and discussion
  • Your work schedule along with the time table
  • Implication of the research
  • Reference Page

A thesis proposal is actually a shortened form of the actual thesis that you plan to write after your proposal gets approved. You will use nearly all the work that you do while writing a thesis proposal in the final thesis.

Let us look at each one of the above-mentioned elements in detail.

Title Page. This page lays out the information about what your thesis will discuss. It will also have other details such as the institution you represent, the name of your mentors, and your course details. This page will invariably be signed off by your mentors.

Abstract. This will be the second page of your thesis proposal. The abstract should be very brief (usually not more than 200 words). It will be a very condensed form of your thesis. It will include the thesis statement, a very short introduction, and some possible implications and outcomes of your thesis. The abstract will be a brief summary of the paper.

Table of Contents. This page will contain the details of your thesis proposal and will depend on the subject you have chosen and the details you plan to include in your proposal. The TOC is part of the thesis proposal only when it is deliberately instructed to do so by your professor(s).

Introduction. The introduction should be written in such a way that the reader's attention is hooked. You can include some startling and new data or useful information. Basically, when the reader reads the introduction, he or she must feel compelled to continue reading further. Start the introduction by explaining the thesis subject on a broader perspective and keep narrowing down the topic till you reach your focused thesis topic.

Keep your target audience in mind while writing. Do not assume that the readers will know and understand everything you are saying. Avoid using technical terms. However, if it is unavoidable, then ensure you explain them in detail either in-text or as a separate glossary at the end of the paper.

Thesis Statement. This is usually part of the introduction. The thesis statement will let the readers know what hypothesis you are trying to prove in your paper. The thesis statement should be clear, specific, and succinct. Your reader should be in no doubt that this is what the focus of your work is going to be and he or she will get an idea of the scope of your paper.

Methodology or Approach. This section should contain detailed presentations of how you carried out or will carry out your study or research. These methodologies could include how you chose to interpret the researched data, what procedures you followed, details of calculations, what kind of equipment you used, the questionnaire(s) you used carrying any survey, graphs and data you collected, etc. This section must also include limitations of your thesis paper. Writing a thesis requires a lot of time, so you can gey help from highly experienced writers and editors (they usually offer a wide range of academic writing services. Refer to legit writing services at any or all stages of your thesis writing process. These sites write custom essays, assignments, homework, dissertations, research papers, and more. In preliminary results and discussions section, you must discuss the preliminary results that you obtained using the data you have collected till now. This should be a true representation of the observations made or the results of checking your hypothesis. You must include both negative and positive findings and observations.

In many proposals, results and discussions are presented in separate sections. While the results are your observations and testing outcomes, the discussions should include your interpretation of the data collected. The discussion part should clearly discern the difference between the actual results and your interpretation of the outcomes and findings. If you have not done any testing or experiments then this section may not have much. Yet, it makes sense to include results and discussions of basic preliminary studies and findings that you did.

Your work schedule along with the timetable. Lay out the schedule of your work and the timetable that you will follow until the project is completed. You should ideally include timelines and the deadlines that you have given yourself. Use a table to illustrate these points. The timetable should definitely include potential challenges that you could face leading to any changes in your schedule.

Implication of the research In this section, you must include information that could affect the implication of your research. You should include possible new questions that your research could raise too. In this section, you can also mention problems and implications of other studies on your paper.

Reference Page or Bibliography. You will be using materials and data from a variety of sources for creating your thesis proposal. All these resources need to be credited and mentioned on this page. A thesis proposal without a reference page is highly likely to be rejected. You must cite sources right through your thesis proposal and also have a full list (in more detail) on this reference page.

The following details must be included in the bibliography page:

  • The name of the author
  • The title of the work that you have sourced your material from
  • The name of the publisher
  • The date of the publication
  • The date you retrieved the data (if it is an online source)

Importance of bibliography. Even though the reference page or bibliography is normally not more than one page in length, it is one of the most important sections of your thesis proposal. Here are some reasons why the bibliography page is extremely important and you simply cannot leave it out of your thesis proposal:

  • A duly annotated reference page indicates that you have done a lot of research for your paper
  • The examiner of your thesis proposal will be duly impressed with your work and the credibility of your work
  • Your thesis proposal and subsequent thesis will be stronger when you present the research work you have carried out in the reference page
  • Readers will be able to access this information easily and verify your claim and interpretations
  • Your bibliography will not only tell the world that you are an expert in the subject on which you have written the paper but also will serve as a motivating factor for others to carry on research in the field
  • The bibliography page can potentially be the starting point of someone else's thesis

Your thesis proposal should be so powerful that the examiner who is approving it will not hesitate to do so. The importance of a robust proposal cannot be undermined because if it fails to get you the required approval to carry on your thesis, then you must have to reconsider the entire thesis and rewrite the proposal from the beginning.

If you need to look at a new thesis topic, then all the hard work done till now for this thesis will be fairly wasted. While fear of failure should not prevent you from working hard and moving forward, it should definitely act as a motivating factor to ensure that you present the best thesis proposal whose chances of being disapproved are very low.

Your thesis proposal should be so powerful that the examiner who is approving it will not hesitate to do so. The importance of a robust proposal cannot be undermined because if it fails to get you the required approval to carry on your thesis, then you must have to reconsider the entire thesis and rewrite the proposal from the beginning.

If you need to look at a new thesis topic, then all the hard work done till now for this thesis will be fairly wasted. While fear of failure should not prevent you from working hard and moving forward, it should definitely act as a motivating factor to ensure that you present the best thesis proposal whose chances of being disapproved are very low.

Writing a thesis is indeed an onerous task and looking for thesis support is the most natural thing to do for even the most seasoned college student.

The Structure of your Thesis

Title Page – The title page contains the following details:

  • Name of the author
  • Name of the institution
  • Subtitle (if any)
  • Department Name
  • Date of submission or delivery
  • Name(s) of the research mentor(s) along with the names of their institutions and contact details

Abstract – The abstract usually starts with the reason of why this thesis is important. Then, you give a brief summary of the major outcomes of your thesis preferably using numbers and limitations. The last few sentences should talk about the implications of your work. The following are some of the key elements of a good abstract:

  • Length should not be more than 400 words; an ideal length ranges between 200 and 400 words
  • The title information should not be repeated
  • There is no need of citations in the abstract
  • A good abstract is explicit, clear, and succinct
  • Numbers should be used wherever and whenever necessary

A good abstract will have clear and explicit answers to the following questions:

  • Why and what did you do?
  • What question(s) were you looking for?
  • What methodologies did you employ?
  • What were the major outcomes?
  • Why and how does your thesis contribute to your field of study?

Table of Contents – This should contain all the headings along with relevant subheadings with page numbers. Subheadings have to be indented.

List of Figures and/or Tables – This section should contain a short description of all the figures and/or tables used in the thesis along with the page numbers where they appear.

Introduction – A good introduction is possible only when you know thoroughly what the body of the thesis contains. It makes a lot of sense of complete the main body of the thesis first and then, write an appropriate introduction. The introduction should ideally start with an attention-grabbing sentence or hook which could be in the form of a surprising or hitherto unknown statement that will ensure you have got the attention of the reader. The following introductory paragraphs should contain details of pervious works in the area including who had the idea first. The introduction should also contain the most relevant and the most recent study undertaken under this particular topic. You should also include the reasons for why your work was necessary. The following elements should be included in the introduction of your thesis:

  • A purpose statement stating what the goal of your thesis is. Make sure you do not repeat from the abstract.
  • Sufficient background data that will help the reader understand the context as well as your work's significance
  • You must acknowledge earlier studies conducted along with accurate references
  • The introduction should necessarily be focused on the thesis statement and the entire section should be directly relevant to this statement. * You must explain the scope of your thesis including limitations
  • It could contain a roadmap of the table of contents letting the reader know what to expect in the following sections

Methodologies – The following information must be included in this section of the thesis:

  • Relevant information that your reader will need to check the credibility of your outcomes
  • Detailed information so that another researcher can easily replicate your study
  • You must describe the theory, materials, and the procedure you used for the study
  • You must include details of techniques, calculations, equipment, and calibration methods (especially for scientific thesis) The methodologies section must include the range of validity, limitations, and assumptions you have made for your study You must describe in detail any analytical methods you employed including references to statistical software With the information given in this section, it should be possible to redo the study and/or experiment in the exact same way you did to verify your claims. These details are absolutely essential to make your study a credible source for future researchers.

Results – This section should contain the following data:

  • Actual observational statements including graphs, statistics, and tables
  • You must indicate the range of variation
  • You must include both positive and negative results. Remember not to discuss the results; only state them in this section You must lay out the results like how a case is laid out for the jury. There should be ample explanations so that other researchers can interpret the data in their own way

Discussions – The discussion segment of your thesis paper should answer the following questions:

  • What were the major patterns of outcomes you obtained?
  • What kind of relationships, generalizations, and trends exist in the outcomes?
  • Name the patterns that are exceptions to these generalizations or patterns
  • What do you think are the causes for these patterns?
  • Are the results of your thesis agree or disagree with previous work?
  • How are the outcomes connected to the original thesis question you wanted answered?
  • There are usually many explanations or interpretations possible for the same outcomes. Make sure you consider all the interpretations with equal fervor without showing any kind of favoritism towards one or more.
  • Avoid jumping into conclusions simply because they are currently in vogue unless, of course, your work supports these unequivocally
  • What are the hitherto unanswered questions that your work gives answers to?
  • Make sure you include supporting evidence for every one of your interpretations
  • What are the significant contributions of your thesis and why should the experts in the relevant field care?

Conclusion – Here, you must state the most important and the strongest outcome that can be seen from your study. You must include only such essentials of the paper that are very important. For example, if you were to meet a person who has read your thesis after six months, what is the most important element that must strike the individual when he or she recalls your thesis? That element should be emphatically stated in the conclusion section. Refer back to the original thesis statement and relate the outcomes of your study to that. Include all the implications of your thesis. Remember not to copy/paste from the abstract or the introduction or the discussion sections.

This is only the writing aspect. Before you actually start writing, you will have to humongous amounts of research work and studies. After some basic research, you will have to compile a thesis proposal and present it to your mentors for approval. When they approve, you will continue your research work and then move on to the writing aspect. Hence, a thesis can take months to be completed. It is important to stay focused right through the duration.