Development of a Dissertation Proposal
The comprehensive requirement must be successfully completed before a dissertation topic is approved and a committee struck. However, it is advisable to begin discussing the research topic, even before completing the comprehensive requirement, with anyone whose consultation and advice is thought to be helpful, and to be refining the focus of the thesis.
Once the comprehensive requirement is successfully passed the candidate should consult with the Associate Dean PhD Program about identification and selection of a preliminary Supervisor who will guide the candidate in the development of the dissertation proposal. When the proposal is completed, the preliminary supervisor may be proposed to the PhD Committee as the permanent Supervisor, and in consultation with the Supervisor and the Associate Dean PhD Program additional members of the Committee will also be proposed to the PhD Committee at this time. The candidate will then present his/her proposal to the entire Dissertation Committee and make any changes the Committee will require.
The Dissertation Proposal
The proposal is to be developed in accord with the guidelines that follow. The candidate should prepare copies for each member of the Dissertation Committee. One copy of the approved proposal should also be given to the Associate Dean for deposition into the candidate's file, along with a copy of the signed PhD Dissertation Proposal Approval Form. The original signed copy will be sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and a copy placed in the student's file. Please access the form using the following link: PhD Dissertation Proposal Approval Form.
This general outline is designed to accommodate a broad range of approaches to dissertation research.
1. Title: The thesis title should give a clear indication of the topic being studied.
2. Thesis Focus and Rationale: The thesis proposal should include a clear presentation of the topic(s) to be addressed. Depending on the research approach, this may be a statement about the topic(s) to be investigated coupled with the particular questions of interest. Or the statement might focus on specific research questions and, in some cases, hypotheses to be tested.
In all proposals, a statement providing the rationale for undertaking this research is to be provided. Normally, this would include a discussion of its likely contributions to social work knowledge as well as its potential benefits for social work practice, policy and/or other applications.
3. Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations:
In most instances, the proposal should include a discussion of the initial theoretical or conceptual framework/s that will guide the research. This should be based on an analysis and integration of the appropriate literature and research. For more emergent research approaches, the discussion should present the initial concepts guiding the research and a discussion of when and how a more complete theoretical or conceptual framework/s is to be developed. In many instances, it will be relevant to include information about the contexts influencing the topic(s) to be investigated (e.g., prevalence of events, common explanations of events, historical evolution, policies, service delivery networks, organizations, program models, norms and expectations, etc.). Generally, the literature analysis helps to frame the studentís approach to the questions / issues that are being examined in the research study.
In many instances, the presentation of the theoretical and conceptual foundations(s) in the dissertation proposal would extrapolate from and add to the material developed in the comprehensive paper.
An explanation and rationale for the general research approach should be provided (eg. participatory action research, experimental, feminist, ethnographic, etc). Information should be provided about the nature and requirements of the general research approach to be used. This should include a discussion about why this general approach is appropriate for the research focus and research questions.
The proposal should describe the research design(s) for the investigation: where and when information is to be gathered. It should also specify the sources of information for the study (e.g. documents, individual and group respondents, researcher observations etc.). It should identify the sampling strategies to be used to select sources of information in the study. Methods for gathering the information should be described. Where appropriate, it should provide an initial plan for analyzing the data. The connections between these methodological considerations and the studyís research focus, questions and/or hypotheses should be explained.
The strengths and limitations of the proposed research methods should be discussed.
Any ethical concerns emanating from the proposed research should be identified and plans for addressing these concerns presented.
Only items cited in the text should be included.
6. Work Plan:
At the end of the proposal the student is expected to attach an addendum that provides a detailed work plan and time line for the research.
7. Length of the Proposal:
The length of the dissertation proposal should be negotiated with the Advisor and Dissertation Advisory Committee.
Ethics Review of a Dissertation Proposal
See Instructions for Ethics Review at Laurier.