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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 2.9.2

Thesis Proposal

Write a clear thesis proposal. A thesis proposal identifies a research problem, gives some preliminary view of existing research on the problem, identifies needed resources, and sets down the schedule for the research and writing process. Proposal writing is a way of defining problems in terms of necessary levels of involvement, scheduling, and resource allocation.

The thesis proposal normally includes the following:

  1. The background and context of your research problem. Why is the work important? What other work has been done on the problem thus far? What are some of the issues that concern the research you are proposing? Identify the meaning of any key terms you will be using.
  2. Problem definition and approach. Succinctly state your problem in two or three sentences. What other approaches were considered and why is your approach a more effective one? What criteria are you using to measure your success? One or more drawings may greatly help in your problem definition.
  3. Theoretical background. What, if any, state-of-the-art theory is important to your problem? If there are some crucial assumptions in your approach, this is the place to state them. Provide some account of the published literature, citing the leading articles, reports, or books that have treated relevant aspects of the problem.
  4. Procedure. Explain how you will approach the problem by providing a detailed series of steps. This sequence of steps should be accompanied by one or more drawings.
  5. Materials and support. What materials, instruments, facilities, and financial support will you need to carry out your research? List and briefly discuss them.
  6. Project task breakdown and schedule. Prepare a task breakdown and schedule of your work. Develop this section with some care, since it will provide you a means of measuring your progress in relation to your allotted time. If your time estimates turn out to be poorly gauged, then you may need to seek your advisor's help in redefining your goals.
  7. Bibliography. List the publications you have consulted in planning your research.

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