thesis writing


Writing A PhD Dissertation Proposal: Structure Rules To Remember

Each university and discipline provides specific guidelines for writing PhD dissertation proposals. However, there are common rules that apply to all proposals regardless of the discipline or university. These rules must be followed considering the significance of the proposal in your academic journey.

General Format

The following must be captured in your proposal:

  • Title page
  • Table of content
  • Abstract
  • Background of the study
  • Statement of problem
  • Definition
  • Limitations
  • Necessity for study
  • Discussion of related literature
  • Research methodology
  • References
  • Appendices


The number of pages varies from one proposal to the other. However, your dissertation proposal should not go beyond 20 pages. These pages include references and appendices.


The content of the Phd dissertation proposal includes a description of the project you are going to undertake and its significance. You also must discuss the methodology you are going to use and your sources of information. The paper will involve extensive literature review. Thus, you must highlight some of the reviews you will make and the approach you will adopt. Your proposal should include a tentative outline for chapters and the title of each chapter. Finally, include a tentative research and writing timetable.

Here is the allocation of pages and details of each section for the Phd dissertation proposal.

  • Summary of the project including its significance and question(s) under examination- 2-3 pages
  • Historiography of the project- it includes ideas or the point at which it departs from existing studies- 6-10 pages
  • Research methodology- it includes primary data sources like visual, printed and others as well as archival
  • sources- 3-6 pages
  • Outline of chapters- this is an imagination of the appearance of the final dissertation- 1-2 pages
  • Research and writing timetable- 1 page
  • Bibliography- it captures the books you have identified for reference purposes. You are not required to read all of them and at the same time are allowed to add others.


Phd students should consider using the appendices to capture such details as instruments to be used, consent forms, figures and tables. There are lengthy descriptions or definitions of non-core items that should not be in the proposal. They form part of the appendices. You are allowed to give abridged versions of these documents if they are lengthy.

The Phd dissertation proposal guidelines given above can be altered slightly depending on the institution. The differences do not affect the content of each section. It is advisable to get a sample from your supervisor or department and identify the specifics required in your institutions.

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