The Content of the Thesis Proposal
The proposal should contain six clearly defined components in one page:
2. Research Question
3. Background/Motivation (Max 400 words)
4. Hypotheses/Research propositions
5. Research Objectives
6. Methodology (Max 250 words)
7. APPENDIX (in a second page) including timeline, resources and references
• A first attempt. Work in progress. It should reflect the current content of the proposal.
2. Research Question
• What is the precise focus of your research? The risk here is lacking focus and attempting to answer too many questions, so keep your descriiption concise.
• It should be carefully motivated by the relevant literature in the background section.
3. Background (max 400 words)
• One of the most important parts of the proposal. It should tell the reader why your research question is important and how motivated you are to pursue this project, based on what you perceive as a contribution you can make to the body of research on your topic.
• Here you demonstrate your knowledge of the relevant literature, so you should include important works regardless of the date of publication as well as up-to-date literature.
• It should clarify to the reader where your proposal fits into the debate, as shows the literature you choose to support your proposal.
• You are expected to show a clear link between your proposal and previous work in your field.
• Here you state your preliminary answer(s) to your research question, which you are going to challenge in the remaining of the thesis. A hypothesis could arise from some theory in the background section, or from intuition and priors (this is a deductive approach, common in quantitative research). A proposition could be based on observations, or for instance as gained through interviews, survey, case studies, etc. (this is an inductive approach, common in qualitative research)
5. Research Objectives
• Precise written objectives leading to observable outcomes (not just general statements of intent)
• How you plan to achieve your research objectives (i.e. sketch your “Research Design”)
Ø Where you intend to conduct your research (a single organization, an industry, a sector of the economy, etc.)
Ø Identity of your research population (managers, investors, households, labor union officials, etc.)
• Justify your choice of method in the light of those objectives (i.e. sketch your “Data Collection”)
Ø How specifically the data are to be collected (questionnaires, interviews, analysis of secondary data, or a combination of data collection techniques)
Ø How you plan to distribute the questionnaires, or how many interviews you plan to conduct and the duration, etc.
Ø How you are going to adhere to relevant ethical guidelines
Ø At this point it is not necessary to provide the precise details of the method.
For a detailed guide on research terms and academic expectations, please consult the Information Center’s Primer on research terms: https://infocenter.esmt.org/node/154
Theses from previous years (both qualitative and quantitative) are available for reference in the Information Center.
How the Thesis Proposal will be evaluated
A. Are your ideas organized into a coherent statement of your research intent?
B. Do the components of the proposal fit together?
Ø Are the research question and research objectives well motivated by reference to
relevant literature? (The research question and research objectives should flow directly
from the background section, which should include relevant theory papers in the area).
Ø Does the proposed methodology flow directly from the research questions and
C. Viability of the proposal
Ø Your ideas might be organized in a coherent way and your research plan might look
exciting, but is your plan feasible?
Ø Can this research proposal be carried out satisfactorily within the timeframe and with available resources?
Attributes of a Good Thesis Topic
Capability: is it feasible?
Ø Is the topic something by which you are really fascinated?
Ø Is the research topic achievable within the available time?
Ø Is the research topic achievable within the financial resources that are likely to be available?
Ø Are you reasonably certain of being able to gain access to data you are likely to require for
Appropriateness: is it worthwhile?
Ø Does your research topic contain issues that have a clear link to theory?
Ø Are you able to state your research questions and objectives clearly?
Ø Will your proposed topic provide fresh insights into the field?
Ø Are the findings for this research topic likely to be symmetrical, that is, of similar value
whatever the outcome?
Ø Does your research topic match your career goals?