Developing a Thesis Proposal(and getting it approved!) Tom Sork Department of Educational Studies University of British Columbia January 25, 2010
A Few Caveats • Expectations vary • By discipline/program • By supervisor/committee • Differences between “empirical” and “theoretical/conceptual” research • Most advice favors “conventional” rather than “cutting edge” research
Content of the Proposal • Background/context to “situate” the study • Clear and concise purpose/problem statement and research questions • Convincing argument that study is worthwhile—the “so what?” question. • Your “location” in relation to the research (with relevant personal history)
Content of the Proposal (cont.) • Critical analysis of relevant research/ theory/concepts; definition of key terms • Research procedures, their justification and limitations; ethical considerations • Proposed structure of the thesis—a draft table of contents • Realistic timeline
Length & format of proposals • No clear expectations about length, but most are 20-50 double-spaced pages • Always attach a cover page with the title, your name and current date • Always number the pages consecutively • Follow FoGS formatting requirements—they override some style manual rules.
Getting it Approved • Selling your idea to a supervisor • Recruiting committee members • Clarifying expectations • Negotiating meaning/understanding • Hearing and responding to feedback
Getting it Approved (cont.) • Defending your work without being defensive • Clarifying roles and responsibilities • Attending to details • “Managing” your committee
A few tips… Start with a 1-2 page “idea paper” Get feedback from several people Incorporate the best ideas Know why you are rejecting advice Prepare each draft like it is a “final” Decide on a style manual, learn it and use it!
A few tips (cont.) A proposal/thesis/dissertation is an extended argument. Your argument should be: carefully organized coherent convincing
A few tips (cont.) It’s good to be: unconventional cutting edge creative provocative