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Header-Program Handbook


Dissertation Proposal Course Syllabus
Proposal Formatting and Expectations

Part I: Course Syllabus: RES 985 Dissertation Proposal (4 credits)

Course Description
Course Prerequisites
Course Topics
Course Objectives
Required Study Materials
Other Recommended Study Materials
Course Assignments
Student-Faculty Communications
Suggested Completion Timeline
Course Grading

Part II: Proposal Formatting and Expectations

Required Elements of the Dissertation Proposal
Dissertation Proposal Guidelines
Proposal Outline
Sample Cover Page for Proposal
Required Readings on Proposal Writing

Author: Dr. LaWanna L. Blount
Last Revision: April 2004

The purpose of this course is to write an approved doctoral dissertation proposal in the standard format containing the specifications required for doctoral research. The Research Proposal shall be a minimum of 20 double-spaced typewritten pages in length. The first half of the document shall be devoted to the background and literature review and the second half devoted to the design elements of the research study. The standard formats for dissertation proposals will be required, as set forth in the University document entitled "Required Elements of a Dissertation Proposal". Students begin by selecting a topic of interest and proceed to clearly define the problem statement and the research hypotheses/questions for their research. Students write a comprehensive review of the literature, including a review of other dissertation research related to their study. Students develop a design of their study with a discussion of the methodology to be used including selection of a sample, instrumentation and its testing, sources of data and the data collection process. Students describe how their data will be treated and analyzed and the significance and limitations of their study.

Completion of a minimum of 36 required credits of coursework including the major and minor fields of study and research preparation coursework.


  • Standard Requirements of a Dissertation Proposal
  • The Topic and Researchable areas for study
  • Defining The Problem Statement, its importance as the foundation of the Dissertation.
  • Hypotheses or Questions
  • Writing a Review of the Literature as a Case for the Study
  • Utilizing a Theoretical Model
  • Terms and Definition
  • Design of Study
  • Sources of Data
  • Sampling and Population
  • Instrumentation and Testing
  • Analysis of Data and Treatment of Data
  • Significance of the Study
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Drawing Conclusions from Findings
  • Importance of making Recommendations and suggestions for Further Research

Upon completion of this course Students will have demonstrated competencies in writing an approved doctoral dissertation proposal, which will comprise:

  1. A clearly defined problem statement, hypotheses/questions for their doctoral research project.
  2. A review of the literature, in the area of their study, which builds a case for their research.
  3. An appropriate research design for their doctoral research project.
  4. Identification of the sources from which to collect the data.
  5. A discussion of procedures for collecting their data for the study.
  6. A selection of a sample from a population/ justification of a case for case study research.
  7. A tested and appropriate instrument for his/her research (if applicable)
  8. A statement of appropriate techniques to be used for analyzing data of their study.
  9. A statement of the limitations of their study.
  10. A statement of the significance of their study


Instructors will recommend research methodology texts and related materials specific to the research discipline. The following information is strongly recomended by the faculty leadership across the University's fields of study.

Campbell, William G., Stephen Vaughan Ballou and Carole Slade, "Form and Style, Theses, Reports, Term Papers," Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., Any recent edition 8-11. NOTES: Form and Style 11th Edition is authored by Carole Slade. All editions include discussions about the MLA, Chicago and APA styles.

Guba, Egon G., "The Writing of Proposals", mimeo, n.d. (included in Proposal Package).

Madsen, David, Successful Dissertations and Theses: A Guide to Graduate Student Research from Proposal to Completion, San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1992, Second Ed, 216 p.

Samples of Doctoral Research Proposals
One sample of an effective research proposal will be provided by the course instructor or the University administration.

Style Manuals
Students are to select one Style Manual.

Turabian, Kate, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987.

APA Manual of Style, Manual of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.


Burgess, Robert G. (Ed.) Strategies of Educational Research, Philadelphia: The Falmer Press, 1985.

Cresswell, John, Research Design, Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Method Approaches, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, 2002.

Davis, Gordon B., and Clyde A. Parker, Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach, Barrons Educational Series, New York: Woodbury, Second Edition, 1997.

Fox, David J. , The Research Process In Education, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, (any edition).

Kerlinger, Fred N. Foundations of Behavioral Research, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., (any edition).

Merriam, Sharan B., Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1998

Sax, Gilbert, Foundations of Educational Research, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, (any edition).


Assignment #1
Make contact with your instructor and discuss your ideas for your doctoral dissertation. Review the sample proposal provided in your materials and the paper by Guba, focusing on the criteria for the selection of a problem in your research. Discuss with your instructor your ideas for your doctoral dissertation project. Write out your topic /area of investigation and any of the Study Design that you have thought about for your instructor to comment on. Begin your review of the literature on your topic. Subscribe to Akamai Questia Media Library and also use any local libraries to do a search of books and the Reader�s Guide and Education Indexes for appropriate articles on your topic. Send your ideas about your doctoral project to your Instructor for feedback.

Assignment #2
Working on the comments and suggestions from your instructor, work with your topic to more clearly define the problem statement and hypothesis and questions. Search the Dissertation Abstracts to identify other dissertation projects in your topical area. Continue to review the literature for research articles, books, reports that have been completed on the topic and their findings, conclusions and recommendations for further research. Read the articles on writing a research proposal. Write out your ideas for a problem statement and the need for the research on paper with any ideas about your study design and send to your instructor for comments.

Assignment #3
Continue working on clearly defining your Problem Statement and reviewing the literature to present the case for research on the problem in which you are interested in investigating. Develop your Background or Orientation to the Problem. Working closely with your instructor, discuss your problem statement and hypothesis or questions. Send the draft of the problem statement and hypothesis or questions to the instructor. Review Fox, and other research methods references as to appropriate types of methods. Write up a draft, which includes the Introduction, Problem Statement Hypothesis/ Questions and Review of the Literature. Sketch out your ideas for the design of your study. Send draft to instructor. Your instructor will comment and provide further suggestions.

Assignment #4
Working on the comments from your Instructor, develop a research design for your dissertation. Refer to the recommended readings to read about designing a research study. Write out a draft of your research design, include the sample from a population, or a case, include a copy of your draft questionnaire, and how you will collect the data. Review your Sample Proposal. Discuss your design with your instructor. Present a draft of your proposal following the outline presented in the handout materials.

Assignment #5
Working from the suggestions made by your instructor to your draft outline refine your research design and if you are using an instrument test it. Write your data collection section. Discuss how you will collect your data giving the data sources. Write any cover letters to respondents and to any persons that must give you permission to access any materials for your study.

Assignment #6
Complete your draft proposal and send to your instructor for comment. Working from those comments prepare your final proposal. Send to instructor for approval and/or further comments. Finalize your doctoral dissertation proposal.


Telephone Contacts
Students will contact the instructor within one week of the enrollment of the course. This initial contact will help familiarize the student and instructor with each other, and permit the transmission of clear expectations for completion of course requirements. Periodic telephone interaction, required course materials, mailings, and postage at student�s expense throughout the duration of the course.

Email Communication
Frequent email communications between student and instructor should be initiated and sustained for the duration of the course.

Alternative Communications
Students may initiate and send communications or materials via postal service as appropriate.

Students should schedule completion of Assignment #1 during the first week. Each assignment should be completed on a timely basis with completion of Assignment #6 during or before the final or 17th week. The entire four credit course should be completed and graded by the end of 17 weeks. NOTE: Students are permitted four weeks for the date of submission of the Course Enrollment Form to gather the required learning materials in anticipation of the formalcourse start date.

Assignment 1: To be completed by the end of week #2
Assignment 2: To be completed by the end of week # 3
Assignment 3: To be completed by the end of week # 8
Assignment 4: To be completed by the end of week # 12
Assignment 5: To be completed by the end of week # 14
Assignment 6: To be completed by the end of week # 17

The grading is based upon a percentage derived from the following 140-point system

Assignment #1: 20 points
The student will clarity ideas toward developing a doctoral research project

Assignment #2: 20 points
The student will progress on implementation of instructor suggestions on clarity of definition of problem and hypothesis and questions and will progress on review of the literature

Assignment #3; 20 points
The student will progress in development of the review of literature in building a case for the research.

Assignment #4: 20 points
The student will progress on review of literature and development of methodology

Assignment #5: 30 points
The student will progress in Design of the Study

Assignment #6: 30 points
The student will finalize the proposal


Title Page

Orientation to the Problem or Background to the Study

  • Review of the Literature
  • Theoretical Model (if appropriate)
  • Statement of the Problem

Design of the Study

Hypotheses or Questions

  • Definition of Terms
  • Instrumentation
  • Population and Sample
  • Data Collection

Significance of the Study

  • Limitations of the Study

Data Analysis

  • Thorough explanation of how the data will be analyzed
  • Clarification of the operations the data will be put through to result in the findings.


  1. All students should review actual dissertation proposals from their field of study
  2. The University shall make a sample proposal available for review
  3. The suggested length of the proposal document is 20 pages
  4. Approximately one-half of the Dissertation Proposal is reserved for the Review of the Literature and the other half for the Design of the Study

NOTE: The material provided has been excerpted and adapted from Eye and Netzer, "Standardistic and Stylistic Suggestions For Proposal and Dissertation Writing", Third Edition, mimeo, n.d. University of Wisconsin, Department of Educational Administration


Review of Literature
Design of the Study
Analysis of the Data
Summary and Conclusions


A. The parts of the Review of the Literature

  1. Orientation to the Study or Background of the Study
  2. Related Literature
  3. Problem Statement
  4. Significance of the Study
  5. Summary

B. Purpose of the Review of the Literature is to provide the background or set the stage for the study.

C. Preface the review of the literature with the pivotal points that will be discussed.

D. Reference each author whose research is cited. Use Turabian for correct Referencing or APA style.


A. The purpose of the Design of the Study is to describe and qualify the basic components of the research design in order to arrange the conditions for collecting and analyzing the data utilized in the study.

B. If you are adapting from a theoretical model, it should be included as a separate chapter.

C. Parts of the Design of Study

  1. Problem to be Investigated
  2. Hypotheses or Basic Questions
  3. Ancillary Questions (optional)
  4. Definition of Terms
  5. Instrumentation
a. Discuss the history of the development and construction of the instrument.
b. Include sample items of the instrument in the text of the chapter.
c. Include entire instrument and directions in the Appendix. Make reference to the instrument in the text with an accompanying footnote notation.
d. The complete name of the instrument is used the first time reference is made to it; the initials can be used to condense space after the initial reference.
Example Leadership Action Questionnaire (henceforth referred to as LAQ)
e. Describe the testing of the instrument
  • Validity and Reliability
  • Population and Sample: Describe the population and the resultant sample and how sample was selected.
  • Collection of Data: Describe how the data will be collected. E.g. by interview questionnaire
  • Treatment of Data: Describe how the data will be treated after it is collected.
  • Limitations of the Study: Discuss the types of conditions, which will affect the generalizations made (e.g. sampling, limitations of case studies)


    In the proposal, fully describe how the data will be analyzed.
    A. The analyses of the data should contain the who, what, when, where but not the why
    B. This chapter contains the organization of the data collected
    C. This chapter does not contain the interpretation of the data
    D. Tables are used to summarize and condense the data


    A. Review the background and literature, the design, the methods and the statistical analyses in order to link the integral parts of the study to the research problem.
    B. The generalizations, conclusions, speculations, and implications, and recommendations are formulated in this chapter. You must distinguish between these. Underlining the words, conclusions, implications, speculations, and recommendations is suggested.
    C. It is important that you conclude this chapter with suggestions for further research.


    A. Contents of Appendices
    1. Instrumentation
    2. Copies of letters of any transmittals relating to the study
    3. Original data, summary tabulations, supplementary illustrative material
    4. Format of Appendices
    B. List by Capital Letters (Ex.: APPENDIX A)
    C. Precede each Appendix section with a half-title page.
    D. Tables or materials referred to in the text, but located in the Appendices, are footnoted in the body of the dissertation.
    E. The table numbers in the Appendices follow chronologically from the last table number in the text.
    F. The titles of the Appendices are listed in the Table of Contents after the Paging of the Bibliography.
    Ex: APPENDICES�167
    • Teacher-Supervisor Interaction Instrument
    • Results for Validity Test One


    1. Guba, Egon, "The Writing of Proposals" , n.d. 15 pages, (mimeo)

    2. Turney, Billy and George Robb, "Preparing the Research Proposal" in RESEARCH IN EDUCATION, AN INTRODUCTION, Hinsdale, Ill, Dryden Press, 1971, pp. 22- 31.

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