Campus MyThesis Academy

The unique, worldwide Campus where you´ll learn how to write a thesis advised by an expert who graduated summa cum laude

How to write a thesis proposal

Table of Contents

Developing the perfect thesis proposal can be highly challenging for students, especially those who are working out such a conception for an academic thesis for the first time. Before you start to work on yours, you should have a clear idea of what it is: A thesis proposal is a document that outlines the research project that a student undertakes as the final part of the degree program. It is an essential part of the thesis writing process, as it helps the student to organize their ideas, identify their research questions, crystallize the aims, objectives, theoretical underpinning, and research design, and develop a plan of action for their investigation.

In this article, I will provide tips and guidelines on how to write a thesis proposal that will get you started on the right track toward completing your degree. Whether you are a graduate student or an undergraduate student, you will learn about the key tools and resources you need to write a successful thesis proposal.

How long should a thesis proposal be

When it comes to writing a thesis proposal, one of the most common questions students ask is, “How long should a thesis proposal be?” The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including the specific requirements of your department or program, the type of thesis you are proposing, and the complexity of your research topic.

In general, most thesis proposals range from 15 to 20 pages in length, although some may be shorter or longer depending on the specific requirements of your university, program, and degree. It’s important to keep in mind that the length of your proposal should not be the focus of your writing; rather, your proposal should be orientated on providing a clear and concise overview of your research project, outlining your research question and objectives, and providing a detailed methodology for how you plan to conduct your research (as short as possible – as long as necessary).

When writing your thesis proposal, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. Your proposal should be written in a clear and concise style, using an academic tone, with a focus on providing enough detail to give your readers a sense of what your research project will involve, without overwhelming them with unnecessary information.

However, no matter the length, your proposal should be focused on clearly and concisely outlining all essential aspects, ideas, and key points and providing a compelling argument for the importance of your research project.

The 7 parts of a research proposal

Remember, that your research proposal is a fundamental tool to outline your research project’s goals, methods, and timeline. In addition, it is essential for researchers seeking funding, academic approval, or collaboration. A well-written research proposal should be structured and comprehensive, covering every aspect of the research project. Here are the seven parts of a research proposal:

Title: Seek to formulate the title of a research proposal clearly, concisely, and informative. It should convey the research question or problem, the research design, and the target population.

  1. Introduction: The introduction should contain a brief overview of the research problem, the context of the study, and the significance of the research. It should also provide a clear research question or hypothesis.
  2. Literature Review: The literature review provides a comprehensive and critical analysis of the existing literature on the research topic. It should identify gaps in the literature and explain how the proposed study will contribute to the field.
  3. Methodology: Try to outline the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques here. Explain, how the research will be conducted and how the data will be analyzed.
  4. Results: The results section should describe the expected outcomes of the research project. It should outline the expected findings, discuss their significance, and explain how they will contribute to the field.
  5. Discussion: This section interprets the findings of your research project and explains their significance. It should also address limitations and suggest future research.
  6. References: Provide a list of all the sources cited in the research proposal. It should be formatted according to the appropriate citation style in your final bibliography.

In summary, focus on writing your research proposal well-structured and comprehensive, covering every aspect of the research project. 

Seek to create it in seven parts, including the title, introduction, (a short) literature review, methodology, findings, discussion, and references

Preparing your thesis proposal summary as a first step


Before developing the final version of your thesis proposal, you may be asked to hand over a thesis proposal summary to your supervisor or committee members. It is a brief overview of your proposed research, which should provide your reader(s) with a clear understanding of what your research is all about. Here are some key tips and points you should consider and cover when writing a thesis proposal summary:

  • Your summary should start with a clear introduction that sets the scene for your research. Introduce your research question and provide some context for why it is important.
  • Provide a brief review of the actual literature, highlight any gaps and clearly state your research objectives: These objectives should be specific, measurable, and achievable within the time frame of your research before outlining your research design and addressing data collection and analysis techniques you plan to use.
  • Your summary should also highlight the expected outcomes of your research. What do you hope to achieve through your research, and what implications could your findings have for your field of study?
  • Conclude with a clear statement of purpose: Finally, your summary should conclude with a clear statement of purpose. This should wrap up the main points of your summary and provide a clear statement of why your research is important and what you hope to achieve through it.

As writing a thesis proposal summary requires careful planning and attention to detail, following these key points, you can ensure that yours effectively communicates your research idea and sets the stage for a successful thesis proposal.

The utility of thesis proposal samples

Do you still feel that you need a concrete example after the theoretical description? Have a look at a thesis proposal sample PDF. This is a document that showcases the format, structure, and content of a thesis proposal. It serves as a guide for students who are in the process of writing their thesis proposal to get a better understanding of what is expected of them. 

To write a thesis proposal, you need to follow a specific format and structure, including an introduction that provides background information about the research question and the thesis statement, a literature review that summarizes the existing research on the topic and identifies the gaps, a methodology section that outlines the research methods and tools that will be used to collect and analyze data, while the timeline section should provide a realistic timeline for completing the research.

A thesis proposal sample PDF should contain all of these elements, including the appropriate headings, subheadings, and citations. Students can use a thesis proposal sample PDF as a reference when writing their own proposal, keep it as an illustrative example of what it should look like, and make them understand what is expected of them. However, students should always remember to use the sample as a reference and not copy it, as plagiarism can have serious consequences in academic writing.

Follow these steps to create a proposal for your thesis


As a well-written thesis proposal is an essential requirement for most graduate programs, and sets the foundation for your entire research project, it is necessary to make sure that your proposal is convincing enough and that your ideas follow a logical flow to secure your supervisor’s approval. The following guide leads you through the steps & stages of your proposal-writing process:

  • Identify your research question: The first step in writing a thesis proposal is to identify a research question that you want to explore. Your research question should be specific, well-defined, and relevant to your field of study.
  • Review the literature: Once you have identified your research question, the next step is to review the recent and relevant literature to see what has been done before in your field of study. This will help you to identify and outline gaps in the existing research that you can explore in your thesis.
  • State your hypothesis: Based on your research question and literature review, you can go ahead and state your hypothesis. It should be a tentative (and supported) answer to your research question that you will test through your research.
  • Outline your research methodology: You should also outline the research methodology that you will use to test your hypothesis. This should include details on your data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and any ethical considerations that you need to address.
  • Create the timeline: It is essential to set a timeline for your research project. This will help you to stay on track and ensure that you complete your research project within the required time frame.
  • Include a bibliography: Finally, add a bibliography of the sources that you have consulted. This will demonstrate that you have done your research and that you are familiar with the relevant literature in your field of study.

To sum it up, writing a thesis proposal is not an easy task, but it is an essential step in the first stage of the thesis-writing process and on your way to obtain a degree. Following the steps outlined in this article will facilitate to create a well-structured and persuasive proposal that will convince their supervisors to approve your research project. 

It is important to remember that a good proposal is not just a summary of the research topic, but it demonstrates a student’s ability to conduct independent research, analyze data, and contribute new knowledge to the field. With dedication, patience, and careful attention to detail, you can create a compelling proposal that will set you on the path to academic success.

Additional Resources for Writing a Thesis Proposal


Writing a thesis proposal can be a challenging task. To guide you through the process, we’ve compiled some helpful tips and resources.

  1. Understand the purpose: A thesis proposal outlines your research plan and provides a roadmap for your study. It helps you clarify your research objectives, identify the required resources, and demonstrate the significance of your project.

  2. Structure your proposal: A well-structured proposal typically includes an introduction, literature review, research question, methodology, and proposed timeline. Be sure to follow your institution’s specific guidelines.

  3. Improve your writing skills: Clear, concise, and error-free writing is essential for an effective thesis proposal. Tools like Grammarly can help improve grammar, punctuation, and style in your proposal.

  4. Organize your literature review: A comprehensive literature review demonstrates your understanding of the research landscape and identifies knowledge gaps your study will address. Use reference management tools like Zotero to efficiently organize your sources.

  5. Cite your sources: Ensure you follow the appropriate citation style for your field of study. The Chicago Manual of Style Online is a widely-used resource that can help you navigate different citation formats.

  6. Seek inspiration: Stay curious and open-minded as you explore potential research questions. Attending conferences and watching TED Talks can provide inspiration and help you identify compelling research questions.

  7. Adhere to academic guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the expectations for thesis proposal writing by reviewing documents such as the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) Outcomes Statement.

By following these steps and utilizing the provided resources, you’ll be well-equipped to write a compelling and effective thesis proposal.

About the author:

Dr. Friederike Jurth
Dr. Friederike Jurth

Possibly you already heard of me through different media channels. My name is Dr. Friederike Jurth, and since 2010 I give lectures on Methodology, Empirical Research, Anthropology, and Transcultural (Music) Studies in collaboration with universities in the United States, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. In 2010 I started to carry out 7-year-long fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro and to present my research at conferences all around the world, such as in Japan, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, and many others. In addition, I worked as a lecturer and researcher with Germany’s famous UNESCO Chair.

After finalizing my doctoral dissertation with summa cum laude, it became my aim to unite, condense and share the steps, ways and details of my unique methodological and structural approach that I could develop and elaborate during my Ph.D. and that finally helped me to achieve this result. By concentrating and putting them together to an elaborated academic conception, MyThesis Academy was born. Motivated by the only aim and objective to help my students through all steps and stages of their thesis journey, it enables them to achieve their best possible result in shortest time, independent of their specific area of research.

Read more

EBook Free

Masterclass Free