Dissertation Proposal Basic Elements

I. The Topic
  • What is the working title of your dissertation? What subject are you investigating? What question(s) are you addressing, problem(s) are you trying to investigate, puzzle(s) are you attempting to solve, and/or hypothesis(es) are you planning to test? Be sure to define carefully the terms you use and the timeframe of your study. For example, if your topic is "Democracy and Inequality: A Comparison of Denmark and Spain," define both "democracy and inequality"--as well as the rationale for these definitions - and indicate the years to be considered.
  • Discuss at some length the nature and importance of the topic you have chosen. Why are you interested in it and why should readers care about what you will write?

II. Literature Review

  • By the time you write your proposal, you should have already done extensive reading and research in and around your subject. What relevant books, articles, materials and, to the extent applicable, data sources have you found? Here you will wish to group the available literature into logical categories and to offer two or three examples of the literature under each category. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the available information, data and analyses. What specifically do you expect to add to the existing literature and why is it important?

III. Theory and Methodology

  • Will your dissertation be primarily a chronological narrative or will it involve some form of organization? In the latter case, please explain. Does your work strongly reflect a particular disciplinary, epistemological or theoretical perspective?
  • Where and how will you conduct your research? Do you have a formal research design? If applicable, what social research methods will you use: surveys, personal interviews, case studies, events, dta, correlative/factor analysis, etc. Will you need the Rutgers Institutional Board (IRB) to approve the research (e.g. surveys or interviews)? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the method(s) you expect to employ?

IV. Preliminary Chapter Organization

  • Provide a list of the chapters you expect to have in your dissertation and a brief abstract for each chapter.

V. Dissertation Committee and Projected Schedule for Completion

  • Provide a list of all faculty members on your Ph.D. dissertation committee and their university, school, and departmental affilications. Who will be your primary supervisor and who will be your additional reader?
  • Provide a projected schedule for completion of the dissertation agreed upon with your supervisor. 

VI. Preliminary Bibliography

  • Provide a preliminary bibliography of the major literature and data sources relevant to your dissertation. Most of these should be works that you have actually reviewed and not just gathered through a computer search. 

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