Before starting any research project, you think about it and make a plan. It’s no different with a dissertation/thesis. The thesis proposal (this plan) really matters and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Forget that road trip where you get in the car and drive off into the sunset with just your wallet in your pocket, your favorite music blaring out…. Spontaneity is not the name of the game when trying to put your thoughts together for a thesis. This is like that pre-booked trip you think you’re too young, too free, too hip for.

Before you start, you need to be pretty sure where you are going, why, how long it’s going to take, what there is to read about it and even how you are going to get there and who’s part of the trip.

What is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal is a detailed plan of what the complete content of your thesis is going to be. It really does include a lot of the nitty gritty down to the reasons and relevance of the topic through a detailed table of contents right until how you are going to analyze the data collected.

How Can You Plan in This Detail Before You Really Do it?

Valid question, valid worries, but have a look…… Of course, the detail you plan, is flexible, the proposal is not written in stone and things will probably change. However, it really helps (your nerves, your sanity, your flatmate’s sanity), if you are sure that this thesis is do-able, there is a clear research question, the aims and objectives are clear, the topic is relevant, there is accessible literature, you can collect primary data etc.

You won’t believe how much better you will sleep, if you start this thesis writing having already done the groundwork and being sure of where you’re going and how. It really is a lot easier to write and a lot fewer questions arise in the process, if you have a good proposal. The cherry on the top is also that your supervisor will love you, if you come with a proposal and don’t book a meeting to talk round and round in circles about maybes/possibles/could dos.

What’s the Point, Can’t You Work it Out as it Develops?

Again, good question and you’re right that things will change as you research and write. Nevertheless, checking from the beginning that there is a clear thread from beginning to end simply makes sense. You can already check that your research question and aims are reflected in your literature and in your data collection. Of course you have to tweak it later, but that’s part of the process.

Where’s the template?

Firstly, don’t expect me to do the work for you….. there is not one way to do this. However, I have created some key points and if you work through these then I’m sure you’ll be well prepared. Just don’t forget, simply filling in the spaces, isn’t enough. This proposal has to make sense. Read it through, proofread, is it detailed enough, is it feasible? Ultimately, talk it through with your supervisor and do some fine tuning.

In the template, there are numbered sections, but also points in each section to help you organize your thoughts and writing and make it clear what these section headers mean. Some of the points clearly depend on what exactly you are doing e.g. ‘find at least 10 initial sources’ – it may well make sense to find a lot more and the focus should certainly be on the academic literature i.e. peer reviewed journals.

Read it carefully, it takes time and effort to complete this. Read the small print – there are lots of reminders which link to further articles on this site (writing the Literature Review etc).


Also do not forget to watch our video series to help you during the entire development of your thesis.


• A proposal saves you time later.
• Putting in the effort now prepares you better for during the thesis.
• The proposal is hard work, but helps clear your mind and structure ideas.

What works best without a plan: