Dissertation Phd Proposal Template

Are you a PhD candidate? Great – but trust us, we know how much pressure that can entail. One of the most aggravating parts of the doctoral deal can be the PhD proposal. It is understandable to fear that the final dissertation could go wrong and negate your years of hard work and study – all over one research project.

You don’t want that to happen to you – quite understandably. You’ve worked hard to get where you are in your academic pursuits. The thing that stands between you and your ultimate career goals is that pesky dissertation, and the first step in completing it is the PhD proposal. Fortunately, that is something that falls within our area of expertise.

To help you nail down a PhD proposal with awesome results, we have put together this how-to.

In this tutorial, we will help you conquer the following points:

  • Understanding the purpose of a PhD proposal

  • Developing a working title

  • Adding to the discussion

  • Following the right format

  • Planning to write your PhD proposal

  • Writing your PhD proposal

  • Proofreading for awesome results

Let’s get started…

How to write a PhD proposal tip #1: Understanding the purpose of a PhD proposal

The purpose of a PhD proposal is to help you research, complete, and deliver your PhD dissertation with greater ease.

Moreover, the PhD proposal helps you sell your primary instructor on your chosen research topic. Nevertheless, your PhD proposal is as much for you as it is your instructor. Done correctly, your proposal will act as a permanent roadmap as you complete your research and write your dissertation.

The basic objectives in creating a PhD proposal are as follows:

  • Create an outline

  • Engage your instructor and gather feedback

  • Layout a testable, adaptable model for your dissertation

  • Develop the ideas that will make it into the final product

Understanding such purposes as these will influence the rest of the PhD proposal writing process.

How to write a PhD proposal tip #2: Developing a working title

It might sound a bit obvious, but the working title of your PhD proposal has a subtle effect on its success. What you call your project will reflect its PhD statement.

Often your can glean a working title for your PhD proposal from an established thesis statement.

Questions to ask to help you achieve this:

  • What problem does my dissertation seek to solve?

  • What might the research prove?

  • To whom is this information most relevant?

Ideally, every aspect of your PhD proposal will speak directly – and with authority – to your peers working inside your respective field. Choose a title that will grab their attention and shape your research to fit – and to hold your peers’ interest!

How to write a PhD proposal #3: Adding to the discussion

A PhD proposal should prove to your primary instructor that you are immersed in and fully understand a niche topic in your field of study.

The point is to make a contribution to your field – and that’s one of the main concerns your supervising professor will be looking to see in your PhD proposal.

To achieve this goal, try to remember these objectives of a PhD proposal:

  • Carefully evaluating existing research

  • Enriching the broader understandings and implications of your research

  • Proving the practicality of research outcomes

For specific advice relevant to your chosen doctoral degree program, as always, consult with your instructor.

How to write a PhD proposal tip #2: Following the right format

The typical sections of a PhD proposal are:

  • Abstract

  • Introduction

  • Existing literature/significant prior research

  • Thesis or project statement

  • Approach

  • Potential outcomes

  • Limitations

  • Contributions to knowledge

  • Proposed dissertation chapters

To learn more about the specific sections of a PhD proposal (as well as to grab some helpful Panda Tips), take a look at our free PhD proposal template.

How to write a PhD proposal tip #: Planning to write your PhD proposal

Consider the organization of your PhD proposal writing process before you actually start writing.

Don’t let that happen to you. Plan the flow of your writing – and stick to the plan!

The plan to write a PhD proposal is as follows:

  • Roadmap

  • Work out any visual you would like to include

  • Explain your methodology

  • Describe the data to be used

  • Postulate possible outcomes of reviewing the data

  • Introduction

  • Abstract

  • Bibliography

How to write a PhD proposal tip #4: Writing the PhD proposal

After creating a PhD proposal plan, the next step is to start the actual writing process.

Consult with your instructor to make sure you use the right tone and writing conventions, but remember, for the most part, PhD proposals adopt a more formal style than other types of writings – even other academic papers you might have written. Make sure you clear this up, before you start writing.

How to write a PhD proposal tip #5: Proofreading for awesome results

A PhD proposal calls for grammatical correctness throughout.

The best practices for proofreading a PhD proposal are as follows:

  • Read the proposal over and over to yourself to identify unnatural wording

  • Proof, proof, and proof again – taking a break in between writing and proofing sessions to allow your brain to rest

  • Ask a few friends to read your PhD proposal – the more the merrier!

Accuracy is never more important than in a PhD proposal. Make sure extensive proofing is a part of your plan.

Are you ready to write a PhD proposal?

We don’t have to tell you just how important a PhD proposal really is – that much, you already know. We hope our tips and free template serve you well as your take the difficult steps to earn your meritorious doctoral degree!

Needless to say, a PhD proposal is one of the most important documents you will ever have to submit. Do you have any extra tips? Please share them with us, in the comment space below!

Thesis Proposal Template

Proposal Prepared by [NAME] in part fulfillment of the degree requirements for the [DEGREE LEVEL] of [ARTS OR SCIENCES] in [DEGREE AREA].



PandaTip: The Abstract starts off your thesis proposal by introducing a summary of the complete proposal. This will explain the problem or issues you will address, investigate, or research. This section should be fairly brief, but should provide enough basic information to explain your proposed research and/or dissertation fully.


PandaTip: This section provides an introduction to the problem you will be studying. This section, as well as the entire thesis proposal, will differ significantly depending on whether the proposal is for a science discipline or an arts and humanities discipline. This introduction section should emphasize that your topic is an area worthy of great study and attention.

a. Background

The proposed issue of this thesis has been addressed previously by numerous scholars. These scholars include such individuals as [NAMES OF SCHOLARS]. Their assessment of this topic has shown…


The proposed topic of this thesis has been addressed previously by numerous researchers in the field. Their investigations have shown…

PandaTip: Use this subsection to show your grasp of the topic you’ll be researching, providing a brief overview of what knowledge is already available. You will expand upon this in a coming section. You can discuss here various angles on the topic.

b. Significance of Research

PandaTip: Explain here how further research on this subject is important. If your thesis is for a science discipline, you might indicate how further knowledge on your particular area of research would be useful in practical ways. For a humanities thesis, you might emphasize how a new viewpoint on a certain topic could help make new discoveries in that area.


PandaTip: Although you have briefly covered this in a general way above, this section allows you to delve in to the particular existing research which directly affects your topic. In other words, you may here introduce the idea you will be refuting, the author/historian you will be challenging, or the piece of information you feel needs a closer look or new angle. Your understanding of the existing knowledge on your subject should clearly demonstrate that there is a GAP in that body of knowledge, and your proposed thesis intends to fill that gap.


PandaTip: Your thesis statement presents the argument you will make in your thesis/dissertation or asserts the specific question you will be asking or investigating with your research. This should relate to the previous section, by showing how you’ll be filling a gap in the existing body of knowledge or prior research.


PandaTip: Dependent upon whether your thesis is for a science or humanities discipline, this section can be altered to fit your program needs. A science or active research-based thesis may rely less heavily on  the Bibliography of Sources subsection and spend more time detailing research methods to be utilized.

a. Methods

This thesis project will depend upon the following research methods for garnering results:




PandaTip: Methods may include a wide variety of things, such as surveys for sociological or psychological research projects, laboratory experimentation, fieldwork, etc. Be sure to provide highly detailed descriptions of the methods you will use in your research, including specifics such as numbers, dates, locations, resources to be used, and more.

b. Bibliography of Sources


PandaTip: For a scientific thesis, this section may be more brief, including previous research projects and/or reports you will be referencing or using. With a humanities or arts thesis, this section will be much larger. Make sure you are formatting your sources properly, using the same referencing style you will use in your final dissertation or presentation. (Style provided in citation example above is MLA). Some programs require an annotated bibliography, meaning that you will need to briefly assess the viability of each source you will be using, and explain why it will contribute to your research. Check with your university guidelines.

c. Implications of Research

PandaTip: In this subsection you can indicate what implications your research will have in your field. Address how the addition of this research may change or alter the current knowledge on a subject. This will help further cement the need and usefulness of your intended research.


PandaTip: This section is probably unnecessary in an arts or humanities thesis proposal, but should be included in a scientific or active research based thesis. Here you will outline what you believe the results of your research will show. This goes hand in hand with your thesis, as you intend or expect to obtain certain results.


PandaTip: Again, this section may be more applicable to a scientific thesis, but is potentially helpful in a humanities thesis, if applicable. Using this section, discuss any limitations which may affect your research or obstacles which your research may encounter. Address potential faults in your research methods and look at ways in which your research may miss certain points. Having a well-thought out Limitations section will demonstrate that you know the pitfalls and potential challenges with your chosen research methods, but will show that you have selected the best methods with regards to your project.


PandaTip: In this section, elaborate on what contributions your individual research or study will make to the body of knowledge as a whole in your field. Show once more how your thesis will help fill the existing gaps in knowledge or will show a particular topic from a new angle. If performing active research, explain how the intended results will contribute to the knowledge or how the results will change commonly held ideas.


I. Introduction




V. Conclusion

PandaTip: Lastly, show that you have a well-conceived and fully designed thesis by introducing your intended dissertation chapters.This will help you as well, when writing the dissertation, as you will have a clear outline to follow and a well-developed way of introducing your argument, supporting information, and your conclusion. You can provide titles for these chapters, if necessary, or simply indicate what each chapter will contain.

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