Five Things You Can Do To Write Better Dissertation Proposals
How to write better dissertation proposals? One of the most challenging projects you will complete is your dissertation. Before you start on it, however, you need to create your proposal. The proposal must be approved by your tutor or your professor before you can go on with the actual dissertation. You might be thinking though, how do I start? What should I include in my proposal? What do I even write about? Here are some suggestions that may help you on your journey!
Choose A Topic that Interests You to Write Better Dissertation Proposals
I think one of the most important things to keep in mind when approaching the proposal is to select a topic that interests you. So, for instance, if you are a business student and you like critical theory, you might want to consider investigating whether organizations really act in accordance with the human relations approach to managing employees or whether they are, in Foucauldian terms, employing the language as discursive power.
It does not matter what your field of study is, choose whatever you find interesting. That will increase your motivation and desire to go on writing the project when things get difficult. Inevitably, difficulties will be encountered during the actual dissertation stage. It may be because you are tired because you are stuck and do not know what to write; whatever the problem is, and problems will arise, you have to choose a topic that means something to you will help to ensure that you will get through the rough stages.
Justify Your Topic
Also, make sure that, whatever topic interests you, you have a justification for investigating it. Some topics justify research because there is not much available on the subject. Other times, the research topic you choose may be a valid option because a group’s voice (like employees, for instance), may not be well represented enough in academic literature. Whatever the reason for your investigation, you have to justify your research. This may require, as most dissertations do, you to provide a brief literature review on your subject/topic choice. Reviewing the literature will also help to narrow your topic choice down, an issue which we will get to more now.
Narrow Down Your Topic Choice
You have an idea of where you want to go with your project more generally, and that is a good start. But you also have to think about how you will narrow down your topic. What does that mean?
Taking our example above, you cannot investigate whether the human relations approach is used in the context of all organizations. There are far too many (!), and besides that, not all organizations align their practices with the HR approach. Many of them are happy to use, very openly, the old Taylorist approach to personnel management (think call centers or manufacturing facilities like Foxxcon!). So what do you do? You have to narrow down your topic choice.
Keeping with our example, start looking at firms that seem like they use the human relations approach in managing employees. You might be thinking, how in the world do you do that? Start with looking up the ‘most admired companies.’ You will see very quickly that these kinds of firms, whether they are large, fortune 500 companies or SMEs, profess to treat their employees like family members or use similar kind of language.
Narrow Down Further
After researching, you would then choose a few companies that interest you. Contact the organizations and see if they will be willing to do an interview or survey at a later time. This is especially important if you want to (or need to) do primary research. If you cannot get any firms to agree, you might be okay with using secondary research. But you need to research the companies you choose first to see if there is enough information out there. You do not want to be halfway done with your work only to find out you cannot move on with the findings and analysis. And you should talk with your tutor before deciding on secondary research because most of the time secondary research alone will be insufficient for a dissertation.
Whatever subject interests you, the point here is to be sure that you are working on narrowing your topic down so that you are able to translate it into a workable research aim with related objectives. What would the research aim be in our example, you ask? It would look like this:
The goal of this research is to determine whether Company A and Company B truly practice the human relations school of employee relations or whether it is merely a form of discursive power?
Good enough! Now, time to think about ‘how’ you will execute the task, and that is something that involves thinking about the ‘methodology.’
Propose Your Method
As you will see from our example, we have already got a head start on thinking about the appropriate method. Indeed, you really want to get primary research, because it is new information and because the process of gathering and analyzing primary research is very valuable for the student in his or her future academic studies (and possibly in the professional world of work, too). But what you have to decide is whether you want qualitative or quantitative research. These are terms that involve philosophical and epistemological issues and is well beyond the scope of this blog post to cover thoroughly.
But to be very brief here. Qualitative work embraces the idea that reality is not measurable, that it is messy, lived and experienced, and as such can be accessed ‘inside the minds’ of knowing subjects. Keeping with our example, qualitative interviews could be held with employees and managers of the chosen firms to determine whether there is a gap in terms of what managers profess to exist in the organization versus what employees experience on a day to day basis. Observations and focus groups are other kinds of data collection methods that fit with the qualitative method.
Alternatively, quantitative research is underlined by the positivist philosophy, which holds reality is, in fact, objective and able to be measured. Typically, quantitative work is executed through surveys or perhaps experiments. Keeping with our example, a student interested in using quantitative research for the aim presented above might review the literature on HR versus personnel management and create hypotheses that they would test by administering a survey to employees and management (of the chosen firms). By no means, however, are these two methods entirely exclusive.
It Is Up To You
In many cases researchers many choose to employ a ‘mixed methodology,’ meaning using both quantitative and qualitative research. Indeed the choice is not without limitations.
On this point, I also want to emphasize here that students need to research carefully to determine which method (or both) is right for their study. Indeed, no matter what anyone tells you, quantitative research is NOT (yes, I repeat, NOT) better than qualitative research, or vice versa. Sometimes quantitative research is simply not suitable for the aim, and so the researcher may discard it as a viable strategy. The choice is up to you. But you need to make sure in your proposal that you not only explain your choices but justify them and let your tutor know you are fully aware of the limitations of your work.
Create a Timetable
With your topic introduced, justified, research aim and objectives and method presented, the next thing to do is to create an appropriate timetable. Tutors want to know that you have an idea of not only the steps that you need take to move on with your project but that you can appropriately plan for these steps. I would suggest using a GANTT chart for this task. It is beneficial. If you need tips on this, you can search Google. There are even readymade charts available that you can download, so you do not have to create your own in Excel.
In the end….
Writing a dissertation proposal is indeed a time-consuming task. You have to think and carefully plan everything. But if you do this, you will find that working through the dissertation is much more rewarding and less stressful than if you just try and ‘wing it.’ If you need further help to write your dissertation proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us! We will be happy to hear from you!