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Research Proposal

Information for All Applicants

A research proposal should be clear, coherent and compelling, contain all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the committee to evaluate the proposed study. The proposal should situate the project’s objectives in the context of existing research, debates and literature on the topic. The research design should be realistic in scope and responsive to theoretical and methodological concerns of a particular discipline but should also be of demonstrable cross-disciplinary interest. Applicants should show an appropriate level of training and skill to undertake the proposed study, including evidence of language fluency adequate to complete the project and participate in the German language colloquium at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Applicants should demonstrate a sound knowledge of the local academic context and the available research resources and specify why an extended period of research in Berlin is critical to the successful completion of their proposed research.

Regardless of the discipline, research area, the methodology and academic level of the research project, all proposals should include the following information:

  • An explicit statement of the major questions to be explored or hypotheses to be tested.
  • Importance of the research to disciplinary concerns.
  • An explicit description and justification of the research methods.
  • Availability and quality of sources/material/data.
  • Preliminary research already completed or plans for research prior to going overseas.
  • Proposed location(s) for research and explanation of why the project requires overseas research and why Berlin is of particular significance for the project.
  • Contacts/affiliations which have or will be established with institutions/interview partners etc. relevant to the proposed research project in Berlin/Germany/Europe.  
  • A research schedule with bimonthly target dates as well as reflections on possible challenges and how to address them. Include the local sources (archives, libraries, museums, data, institutions, individuals)  you will be working with or are planning to work with.
  • Bibliography listing most important topical sources including German-language publications - or other European language publications respectively - which reflect the state of research on your topic.

Information for Postdoc Applicants

The Berlin Program funds recent postdocs, i.e. applicants whose Ph.D. was conferred in the last two calender years or will be conferred before the fellowship - if granted - would begin.

An application for a postdoc fellowship may  involve:

  • revising a dissertation into a book manuscript,
  • launching a new research project,

If you are proposing a dissertation revision, state this, explaining the changes to the manuscript that you plan, and how you will accomplish these goals. Use this the opportunity to highlight how your dissertation contributes to the field, but also how your proposed research will advance your study. Make sure you clearly describe the questions you will ask beyond those examined in your dissertation. As you will have the potential readership of your future book in mind and try to extend the publication’s reach to the broader academic community, reflect on additional research questions, analysis of additional sources/data/literature.

If you are applying for support of a new project, and this may seem a bit of a challenge as you are still finishing your dissertation and had not had time to work on the new project, do not be alarmed. As described above, provide an overview of the new project, explaining the basic ideas, problems, or questions examined by your research, i.e. help the committee get the bigger picture and the new avenues you are pursuing. You could reflect on how the new research connects to your existing work or adds new dimensions in your research foci (e.g.  a change of century, adding a comparative dimension, or a shift in methodology etc.). Identify the methods, sources etc. by which you will accomplish these research goals. Describe how the project will complement, challenge, or expand relevant existing knowledge in the field. Demonstrate your ability to do this in the time line submitted.

If you are apply for funding to both revise your launch a new project, make sure you include both titles in the project description, the research proposal and the research schedule. If applicable, explain the connection between the both.

Learn from our skills workshop How to Become a Superapplicant run in November 2021 by BP alumni Veronika Fuechtner (Dartmouth College) and Johannes von Moltke (Michigan University).

Continue with Pointers and Advice .

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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - School of Business and Economics

Bachelor and master dissertations - frequently asked questions, preliminaries.

The following material provides relevant information related to dissertations at the Chair of Information Systems (CIS). Unless stated otherwise, the information applies to both Bachelor and Master theses. We organize the page as an FAQ. You may wish to navigate directly to the parts that interests you most.

Table of Contents

  • Is there a fixed date at which I have to start with my dissertation?

Is there anything I should consider when choosing a starting time for my thesis?

  • Is there a maximum  or minimum length for my thesis? How long is a dissertation on average?

I plan to write my thesis in the next semester. What should I do beforehand?

Can i suggest my own topic, i was asked to prepare an extended abstract for a topic of my choice. what does that entail, are there any core research areas from which thesis topics are normally selected, is it possible to collaborate with industry, how do i find a topic, how about formatting requirements for my thesis, do i have to write my thesis in english/german, what is the typical structure of a bachelor thesis, i plan to apply for a master program, when do i have to start with my bachelor thesis, what is the typical structure of a master thesis, i understand that many theses at the cis involve empirical work. how do i acquire the data for such a task, do i have to complete certain modules before being eligible to write my thesis at the cis, in addition to mandatory modules, are there any other skills that i need/should possess, how do i register my thesis, is there a fixed data at which i have to start with my dissertation.

No. At present, we accept theses throughout the whole year. Please note that we may not be able to offer such flexible regime forever. Depending upon demand and resources, it may be necessary to implement a structured approach where all dissertations start at fixed dates (e.g., begin/end of a semester). However, by the time of writing, students can begin their dissertation anytime.

Back to the table of contents

You may want to consider that opportunities for personal meetings are somewhat limited during summer breaks due to conference attendance, research visits, etc. Therefore, if you seek very close collaboration with your supervisor, consider to schedule your thesis such that the majority of the writing time is within lecturing periods.

Is there a maximum or minimum length? How long is a dissertation on average?

On average, Bachelor and Master theses are 30 and 35 pages, respectively. Deviations are possible. See also the explanations on our new moodle page on dissertations .

It is good to plan well ahead. However, as far as we are concerned, there is not much that needs to be done long in advance. In particular, please understand that we allocate our thesis topics on a first come first serve basis. That means that we don’t reserve topics for students who plan to start their dissertation in a few months’ time. However, you may want to consider suggesting your own thesis topic. In such a case, we could fix a thesis topic before the start of the actual thesis.

Yes, you can. If you wish to work on a topic of your choice, please prepare an extended abstract and send it to your supervisor for discussion. We assess the potential of your proposition for a Bachelor/Master thesis and might suggest extensions/revisions. In general, we prefer topics that relate to our research areas . However, exceptions are possible, so feel free to elaborate any topic related to information systems research.

An extended abstract is about two to four pages long and should clarify:

  • What research question(s) you plan to analyze
  • What is the academic and practical importance of your topic
  • How your thesis will contribute to the existing literature 

In addition, an extended abstract includes a selection of relevant literature.

There certainly are. In general, our research focuses on big data analytics (BDA). Approaches associated with the support of managerial decision-making and quantitative, data-driven methods are of particular interest. This scope offers a variety of research questions to be examined in a dissertation. Potential business applications to study include, but are not limited to:

  • Marketing and e-commerce
  • Consumer finance and risk management
  • Speculative financial and betting markets

In terms of methodology, we employ a broad variety of techniques to solve planning problems, explain decision maker behavior, and assess the effectiveness of formal decision aids. Examples of such planning methods include:

  • Ensemble selection (e.g. for marketing or credit-scoring problems)
  • Kalman filters (e.g. for time series data or real-time targeting of advertising in e-commerce)
  • Multi-armed bandit models (e.g. for or real-time targeting of advertising in e-commerce)
  • Deep learning (basically applicable everywhere)
  • Survival models (e.g. for price optimization in the automotive industry)
  • Choice models/hierarchical Bayesian models (e.g. for or real-time targeting of advertising in e-commerce or betting markets)
  • (Recurrent) neural networks (e.g. for turnover or financial markets predictions or in interaction with metaheuristics for model training or model selection)
  • Metaheuristics (e.g., to build predictive decision support models or develop normative decision aids)

Furthermore, there is a large body of literature on novel learning paradigms, which differ substantially from conventional explanatory (e.g. regression or classification) or descriptive (e.g. clustering) methods. Surveying the state-of-the-art in such fields and/or evaluating such modelling strategies in business settings is an interesting task for a dissertation. Some examples include:

  • Active learning
  • Causal machine learning
  • Learning with privileged information (e.g. financial forecasting)
  • Semi-supervised/transductive learning (e.g. for churn prediction)
  • Imbalanced learning (e.g. for marketing or credit scoring)
  • Multi-task learning (e.g. financial forecasting)
  • Reject inference (credit scoring)
  • Online learning

Yes, we support collaborative theses written with an industry partner. In general, industry partnerships are more common for master dissertations. However, writing a bachelor thesis with an industry partner is also feasible. In some cases, our list of open topics includes such collaborative theses. Alternatively, you can propose a topic that you’d like to study together with an industry partner. However, please note that we normally do not sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). If you are in contact with an organization where you’d like to write your thesis, you may want to check whether your industry partner accepts this policy.

That is the key question. In general, you can browse through our list of open topics and see whether some of our propositions fit your interests. Alternatively, you can propose a thesis topic to us, preferably but not necessarily in one of our research areas .

We do not enforce specific formatting requirements. Instead, we recommend that students follow the author guidelines of scholarly outlets such as, e.g., the European Journal of Operational Research.  Note that these guidelines might also mention a minimum/maximum length. Such recommendations do not apply to your thesis and can be ignored. Instead, please adhere to our own recommendations related to thesis length.

MSc. theses are generally prepared in English. For a BSc. thesis, you are free to decide whether to write in English or German.

There are some general guidelines that any academic thesis follows. If you have already participated in one of our seminars (for Bachelor or Master students), you will be familiar with these guidelines. Otherwise, make sure that you have a careful read through our recommendations related to academic writing .

In addition to general guidelines, a typical Bachelor thesis written at the CIS adopts one of three paradigms.

First, the majority of dissertations is organized as a literature survey or, in other words, a state-of-the-art . Consider for example the question of IT business value. To which extent increases the use of information and communication technologies the performance of a firm? Several research projects have been undertaken to shed light on this question. A Bachelor thesis can review this field, identify sub-streams in the literature, and distill some overall conclusions. In addition, it might be possible to identify research gaps in the literature. In a nutshell, such a thesis provides a holistic overview of a clear-defined field.

Second, a bachelor thesis can be organized as a meta-analysis. A good example for such an endeavor is the paper of Jamain and Hand (2008) , who conduct a meta-analysis for the field of consumer credit scoring. In brief, this field is concerned with the question how a money lender can predict whether a credit applicant would pay back her loan, if the loan were granted. You can imagine that many papers have been written about this topic, and you can also imagine that several of these papers present some sort of forecasting method. Often, the proposition of a novel forecasting method is accompanied by an empirical evaluation to showcase that the new method predicts well. Given a large number of empirical studies that adopt this approach (i.e., present and compare forecasting methods), a meta-analysis first gathers empirical data about these comparisons (i.e., papers). This could be, for example, i) how many different forecasting methods have been compared in a paper, ii) how many times did some method A beat some other method B, iii) which measures have been used to assess the accuracy of a forecasting methods, etc. Next, a meta-analysis performs some statistical analysis on this data and, in doing so, distills some overall conclusions; for example, method A is better than B. You see that the outcome is the same as in the previous setup of a Bachelor thesis. Only the way in which one arrives at this outcome differs. Clearly, not every topic facilitates a meta-analysis. If you are generally interested in this format, feel free to contact our team members to find out which possibilities are available.

Third, it is also possible to organize a Bachelor thesis as a ‘little Master thesis’. This means that you conduct your own research study, which, at the CIS, would typically entail some empirical or analytic work. Such a study can span the whole research process – from gathering relevant data over data analysis to interpreting the observed results and drawing conclusions, or focus on specific steps in this process. Consider once again the above example of credit scoring. Given some credit scoring data set, your task could be to compare some novel forecasting method to some established benchmark. Given the similarity to Master theses in terms of format and organization, we do not publish dedicated topics for Bachelor theses that fall into this category. Students who are interested in the “small-scale Master thesis format” can review our topics for Master dissertations and ask the corresponding supervisor whether the topic could be changed such that it fits the smaller scope of a Bachelor thesis.

Every Master program has its own rules. We cannot make any recommendations related to programs offered at other universities. More specifically, the following guidelines apply only to our Master program Information Systems .

If you are considering to apply for the above program, you need to proof that you have collected at least 150 ECTS by the time of application. Say you want to start your Master in IS at the Humboldt-University in the winter semester 2016/2017. Assume for example that the application deadline is 30 th of April 2015. So, by end of April, when submitting your application, your transcript must show at least 150 ECTS. It is not necessary that you have completed your Bachelor studies. In particular, you can still be involved with your Bachelor thesis, or does not even have started with your Bachelor thesis. However, you need at least 150 (see ZSP-HU 1.1.2) .

There are some general guidelines that any academic thesis must follow. If you have already participated in one of our seminars  (for  Bachelor  or  Master  students) , you will be familiar with these guidelines. Otherwise, make sure that you have a careful read through the recommendations related to academic writing .

In addition to these general guidelines, a typical Master thesis written at the CIS addresses a research question(s) in the business fields mentioned above and contributes to the literature through providing some novel insight (e.g., original empirical results, evidence in favor of or against previously derived hypotheses, a new piece of methodology, etc.). Most dissertations contain an empirical part related to some real-world planning problem. For example, evaluating the effectiveness of a novel method from the realms of big data analytics in a real-world setting through empirical experimentation is a common task for a Master thesis. Such endeavor may also include the development of an entirely new methodology or the extension of some known technique to better fulfill the requirements of the application setting in question.

There are several possibilities to acquire the data for dissertation. Examples include:

  • The master’s thesis is written in cooperation with an industry  partner who provides data
  • The data is collected during (as part of) the thesis (e.g., through accessing a data provider’s API, say Twitter, or web scraping)
  • The data comes from an academic data mining/forecasting competition (KDD Cup, Data Mining Cup, NN3 or NN5 Competition, etc.) or a Kaggle competition (
  • The data is associated with a current research project of the CIS. At the moment projects/data sets from the following areas are available:
  • Direct marketing/churn modeling
  • Automotive industry/sales of pre-owned vehicles
  • Real-time targeting in e-commerce
  • Credit scoring or PD modeling
  • Markets for sports betting

The typical setting is such that students first complete some of our modules prior to starting their dissertation at the CIS. In particular, our seminars modules provide relevant background on the scientific method, academic writings, etc. Therefore, it is compulsory to complete the module Bachelorseminar Wirtschaftsinformatik to write a Bsc. thesis at the CIS. For master students, it is compulsory to complete one of our seminars, Masterseminar Information Systems or Applied Predivtive Analytics .

We gurantee that every student who has successfully completed the relevant seminar is given an opportunity to write her/his BSc./MSc. thesis at the CIS. Of course, there will still be a need to agree on the topic.

In general, completing our Bachelor/Master modules equips you with a firm understanding of research in information systems and big data analytics in particular. Moreover, our courses give you an opportunity to develop the skills typically needed to write a dissertation at the CIS.

Having said that, given your research interests and focus on analytic/empirical work, some useful skills include, e.g., scientific computing, databases, programming (preferably in Matlab, R, Python or Julia), econometrics and statistics, machine learning.

First of all, to be eligible to register for the final thesis you have to fulfill certain requirements (e.g. you must have completed certain modules or have earned a certain amount of ECTS – depending on your degree program). To verify that, you can consult the examination office. Afterwards, you have to receive a thesis application form in the student office that you need to fill in and hand in to your supervisor for signing (on the form you will have to indicate the exact datum when you have received the final topic). Afterwards, submit the signed registration form to the examination office: either give it personally during the office hours or send per post. You will also receive a copy of the filled form once the examination office processes the documents. 

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Dissertation search tools available at Yale

  • Orbis (Yale dissertations only) Orbis holds records for all Yale dissertations for which microfilm copies exist, i.e. all dissertations completed in departments of the Graduate School since 1965, plus select dissertations completed in departments of the Graduate School between 1892 & 1965. Yale dissertations can be located in Orbis by: (1) Entering the author / title in a Simple Search (2) Using the terms “dissertation” or “thesis” and words known to be in the bibliographic record in a Keyword search. more... less... If you do not locate a Yale dissertation in Orbis, check the card catalog at Manuscripts and Archives. Except for some early dissertations that are not available, all Yale dissertations are held at Manuscripts and Archives.
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses This database makes nearly every dissertation ever filed in the United States available in PDF format. Not all dissertations are available, however, as authors with dissertations under contract with a press are sometimes encouraged not to make their dissertations freely available. In these cases you can at least read an abstract. Note that you can search by school, department, and adviser.

From European institutions

  • DART-Europe The European portal for finding electronic theses and dissertations. DART-Europe is a partnership of research libraries and library consortia who are working together to improve global access to European research theses.
  • Deutsche Nationalbibliothek German dissertations since 1998 are comprehensively collected by the National Library of Germany, so search its online catalog by clicking on the link above.
  • Dissonline Searches electronic university publications held by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, including dissertations and "Habilitationen".
  • Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) EThOS offers free access, in a secure format, to the full text of electronically stored UK theses--a rich and vast body of knowledge.
  • Index to Theses A Comprehensive Listing of Theses with Abstracts Accepted for Higher Degrees by Universities in Great Britain and Ireland since 1716. Abstracts are available from many theses since 1970 and for all since 1986.
  • Österreichische Dissertationsdatenbank This database references over 55,000 dissertations and theses held at Austrian universities; select dissertations are available online.

From international institutions

  • CRL Center for Research Libraries Foreign Doctoral Dissertations Holds 800,000 dissertations from universities outside the U.S. and Canada. However, only 20,000 of these are cataloged in the database. If you know the exact title of a dissertation and do not find it in the database, CRL recommends searching the CRL Catalog. If the title does not appear in the database or the catalog, contact CRL directly to inquire if it is held. CRL continues to acquire about 5,000 titles per year from major universities.
  • Networked Digital Library of Theses & Dissertations (NDLTD) The NDLTD is an international organization dedicated to promoting the adoption, creation, use, dissemination, and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). The NDLTD Catalog contains more than one million records of electronic theses and dissertations. For students and researchers, the Union Catalog makes individual collections of NDLTD member institutions and consortia appear as one seamless digital library of ETDs.
  • The Universal Index of Doctoral Dissertations in Progress This site holds a database of voluntarily-registered, author-identified doctoral dissertations in progress around the world. Its goal is to avoid duplications in doctoral dissertations, create the ultimate meeting place for researchers, and allow for interaction between them. Bear in mind, though, that only dissertations which have been registered by their authors can be found in the database. Registration and access to the database are free.
  • Theses Canada This is your central access point for Canadian theses. From here you will be able to: - search AMICUS, Canada's national online catalog, for bibliographic records of all theses in Library and Archives Canada's theses collection; - access & search the full text electronic versions of numerous Canadian theses and dissertations; - find out everything you need to know about Theses Canada, including how to find a thesis, information on copyright, etc.
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How to Write a Dissertation Proposal | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on 14 February 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 11 November 2022.

A dissertation proposal describes the research you want to do: what it’s about, how you’ll conduct it, and why it’s worthwhile. You will probably have to write a proposal before starting your dissertation as an undergraduate or postgraduate student.

A dissertation proposal should generally include:

  • An introduction to your topic and aims
  • A literature review  of the current state of knowledge
  • An outline of your proposed methodology
  • A discussion of the possible implications of the research
  • A bibliography  of relevant sources

Dissertation proposals vary a lot in terms of length and structure, so make sure to follow any guidelines given to you by your institution, and check with your supervisor when you’re unsure.

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Table of contents

Step 1: coming up with an idea, step 2: presenting your idea in the introduction, step 3: exploring related research in the literature review, step 4: describing your methodology, step 5: outlining the potential implications of your research, step 6: creating a reference list or bibliography.

Before writing your proposal, it’s important to come up with a strong idea for your dissertation.

Find an area of your field that interests you and do some preliminary reading in that area. What are the key concerns of other researchers? What do they suggest as areas for further research, and what strikes you personally as an interesting gap in the field?

Once you have an idea, consider how to narrow it down and the best way to frame it. Don’t be too ambitious or too vague – a dissertation topic needs to be specific enough to be feasible. Move from a broad field of interest to a specific niche:

  • Russian literature 19th century Russian literature The novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
  • Social media Mental health effects of social media Influence of social media on young adults suffering from anxiety

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Like most academic texts, a dissertation proposal begins with an introduction . This is where you introduce the topic of your research, provide some background, and most importantly, present your aim , objectives and research question(s) .

Try to dive straight into your chosen topic: What’s at stake in your research? Why is it interesting? Don’t spend too long on generalisations or grand statements:

  • Social media is the most important technological trend of the 21st century. It has changed the world and influences our lives every day.
  • Psychologists generally agree that the ubiquity of social media in the lives of young adults today has a profound impact on their mental health. However, the exact nature of this impact needs further investigation.

Once your area of research is clear, you can present more background and context. What does the reader need to know to understand your proposed questions? What’s the current state of research on this topic, and what will your dissertation contribute to the field?

If you’re including a literature review, you don’t need to go into too much detail at this point, but give the reader a general sense of the debates that you’re intervening in.

This leads you into the most important part of the introduction: your aim, objectives and research question(s) . These should be clearly identifiable and stand out from the text – for example, you could present them using bullet points or bold font.

Make sure that your research questions are specific and workable – something you can reasonably answer within the scope of your dissertation. Avoid being too broad or having too many different questions. Remember that your goal in a dissertation proposal is to convince the reader that your research is valuable and feasible:

  • Does social media harm mental health?
  • What is the impact of daily social media use on 18– to 25–year–olds suffering from general anxiety disorder?

Now that your topic is clear, it’s time to explore existing research covering similar ideas. This is important because it shows you what is missing from other research in the field and ensures that you’re not asking a question someone else has already answered.

You’ve probably already done some preliminary reading, but now that your topic is more clearly defined, you need to thoroughly analyse and evaluate the most relevant sources in your literature review .

Here you should summarise the findings of other researchers and comment on gaps and problems in their studies. There may be a lot of research to cover, so make effective use of paraphrasing to write concisely:

  • Smith and Prakash state that ‘our results indicate a 25% decrease in the incidence of mechanical failure after the new formula was applied’.
  • Smith and Prakash’s formula reduced mechanical failures by 25%.

The point is to identify findings and theories that will influence your own research, but also to highlight gaps and limitations in previous research which your dissertation can address:

  • Subsequent research has failed to replicate this result, however, suggesting a flaw in Smith and Prakash’s methods. It is likely that the failure resulted from…

Next, you’ll describe your proposed methodology : the specific things you hope to do, the structure of your research and the methods that you will use to gather and analyse data.

You should get quite specific in this section – you need to convince your supervisor that you’ve thought through your approach to the research and can realistically carry it out. This section will look quite different, and vary in length, depending on your field of study.

You may be engaged in more empirical research, focusing on data collection and discovering new information, or more theoretical research, attempting to develop a new conceptual model or add nuance to an existing one.

Dissertation research often involves both, but the content of your methodology section will vary according to how important each approach is to your dissertation.

Empirical research

Empirical research involves collecting new data and analysing it in order to answer your research questions. It can be quantitative (focused on numbers), qualitative (focused on words and meanings), or a combination of both.

With empirical research, it’s important to describe in detail how you plan to collect your data:

  • Will you use surveys ? A lab experiment ? Interviews?
  • What variables will you measure?
  • How will you select a representative sample ?
  • If other people will participate in your research, what measures will you take to ensure they are treated ethically?
  • What tools (conceptual and physical) will you use, and why?

It’s appropriate to cite other research here. When you need to justify your choice of a particular research method or tool, for example, you can cite a text describing the advantages and appropriate usage of that method.

Don’t overdo this, though; you don’t need to reiterate the whole theoretical literature, just what’s relevant to the choices you have made.

Moreover, your research will necessarily involve analysing the data after you have collected it. Though you don’t know yet what the data will look like, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and indicate what methods (e.g. statistical tests , thematic analysis ) you will use.

Theoretical research

You can also do theoretical research that doesn’t involve original data collection. In this case, your methodology section will focus more on the theory you plan to work with in your dissertation: relevant conceptual models and the approach you intend to take.

For example, a literary analysis dissertation rarely involves collecting new data, but it’s still necessary to explain the theoretical approach that will be taken to the text(s) under discussion, as well as which parts of the text(s) you will focus on:

  • This dissertation will utilise Foucault’s theory of panopticism to explore the theme of surveillance in Orwell’s 1984 and Kafka’s The Trial…

Here, you may refer to the same theorists you have already discussed in the literature review. In this case, the emphasis is placed on how you plan to use their contributions in your own research.

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You’ll usually conclude your dissertation proposal with a section discussing what you expect your research to achieve.

You obviously can’t be too sure: you don’t know yet what your results and conclusions will be. Instead, you should describe the projected implications and contribution to knowledge of your dissertation.

First, consider the potential implications of your research. Will you:

  • Develop or test a theory?
  • Provide new information to governments or businesses?
  • Challenge a commonly held belief?
  • Suggest an improvement to a specific process?

Describe the intended result of your research and the theoretical or practical impact it will have:

Finally, it’s sensible to conclude by briefly restating the contribution to knowledge you hope to make: the specific question(s) you hope to answer and the gap the answer(s) will fill in existing knowledge:

Like any academic text, it’s important that your dissertation proposal effectively references all the sources you have used. You need to include a properly formatted reference list or bibliography at the end of your proposal.

Different institutions recommend different styles of referencing – commonly used styles include Harvard , Vancouver , APA , or MHRA . If your department does not have specific requirements, choose a style and apply it consistently.

A reference list includes only the sources that you cited in your proposal. A bibliography is slightly different: it can include every source you consulted in preparing the proposal, even if you didn’t mention it in the text. In the case of a dissertation proposal, a bibliography may also list relevant sources that you haven’t yet read, but that you intend to use during the research itself.

Check with your supervisor what type of bibliography or reference list you should include.

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Special announcement

German studies research grant.

University students talking to their teacher while learning the lecture over Internet at campus.

This specialized DAAD program offers German Studies Research Grants to highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students who are nominated by the professor supervising their research project. The grant may be used for short-term research (one to two months) in Germany. The program is designed to encourage research and promote the study of cultural, political, historical, economic and social aspects of modern and contemporary German affairs from an inter- and multidisciplinary perspective.


Who can apply?

Undergraduates with at least junior (third-year) standing pursuing a German Studies track or minor may be nominated for the grant by the professor supervising their research project.

Master’s level graduate students in the humanities and social sciences earning a certificate or working on a project in German Studies may be nominated for the grant by the professor supervising their research project.

PhD students in the humanities and social science disciplines in the process of preparing their dissertation proposals on modern German topics may be nominated for the grant by their principal advisor. Students whose dissertation proposals have already been formally accepted one year or more before the application deadline are not eligible for nomination. The intent of the program is to provide an opportunity for short-term exploratory research to determine the viability or to delimit the scope of their proposed dissertations. The program is not intended to supplement or substitute for regular dissertation field work abroad which should lag the short-term research stay by at least one semester.

All applicants are expected to have completed two years of college-level German language studies and a minimum of three courses in German Studies (literature, history, politics or other fields) at the time of nomination.

* Advanced doctoral students are advised to consider DAAD’s Long-Term Research Grants or Short-Term Research Grants instead.

* Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the US and Canada who are enrolled full-time at the US or Canadian college or university that nominates them, or, in the case of international students, must be enrolled in a degree program at a US or Canadian college or university and living in the US or Canada for a minimum of six months by the time of the application deadline.

Terms of Award

Research support ranging in value from $2,000 to $3,000 is available to individual scholarship recipients and is intended to offset living and travel costs during the active research phase. Support cannot be provided for stays in Germany in the context of study abroad programs.

For more information about the German Studies Research Grant, click here .

Application Deadlines: May 1 and November 1

  • Application deadlines for 2024 are in May and November.
  • Any awards made will be subject to the ratification of the German federal budget for the same fiscal year.
  • Applications postmarked the day of the deadline or earlier will be accepted; those with later postmarks cannot be processed. Incomplete applications are invalid.
  • Please note: Application materials will not be returned, and no reasons for a decision will be given.

DAAD will announce its decision approximately eight weeks after each deadline.

Application Guidelines

If possible all parts of the application form should be electronically generated, typewritten, or otherwise neatly printed. Confidential letters of recommendation and official transcripts should be forwarded in sealed envelopes. Please do not staple any of the application materials.

A complete application consists of the following parts:

  • Completed DAAD application form
  • Curriculum vitae (résumé)
  • Detailed description of the research project or the pre-dissertation proposal, including a research plan, timeline, and itinerary with specific start and end dates
  • Budget statement
  • List of German language and German Studies courses taken
  • Two letters of recommendation, including one from the professor supervising the German Studies research project or curriculum. Please ask your reviewers to send a scan of the signed letter to grandel .
  • DAAD language evaluation form (“Sprachzeugnis”). The language evaluation form is a mandatory part of the application form, and must be completed and signed by a faculty member of the German Department at the applicant’s institution.
  • Master’s level graduate students and PhD students: Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work completed
  • Undergraduates:  Official transcripts of all undergraduate work completed
  • Optional: an applicant may also choose to include a host invitation letter from a contact/advisor in Germany where their research will be conducted, if preferred to strengthen their application, though this is not required and will not be considered against an applicant if not included

Important: All applications must be handed in 1) via regular mail (see address below) and 2) via email to grandel in a single pdf-file. In order for your application to be complete, you must hand in an electronic and a paper version of your application.

All applications must be sent to:

DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) German Studies Research Grant 871 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions section.

If you have any questions regarding the DAAD German Studies Research Grant, please send your inquiry to: grandel

Further Quicklinks

University Summer Course Grant

Download Application Documents

Language evaluation form [pdf, 212.16kb], application form: german studies research grant [pdf, 197.83kb].

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DAAD - German Studies Research Grant


Application deadlines are May 1 and November 1. 

Additional information is available on the DAAD website . 

Award Overview

This specialized DAAD program offers German Studies Research Grants to highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students who are nominated by their department/program chairs. The grant may be used for short-term research (one to two months) in Germany.

The program is designed to encourage research and promote the study of cultural, political, historical, economic and social aspects of modern and contemporary German affairs from an inter- and multi-disciplinary perspective. 

Master's level graduate students in the humanities and social sciences earning a certificate or working on a project in German Studies may be nominated for the grant by their department and/or program chair. Applicants are expected to have completed two years of college-level German language studies and a minimum of three courses in German Studies (literature, history, politics or other fields) at the time of nomination. 

Period of Study

Undergraduates  with at least junior (third-year) standing pursuing a German Studies track or minor may be nominated for the grant by their department and/or program chair. Applicants are expected to have completed two years of college German and a minimum of three courses in German Studies (literature, history, politics or other fields) at the time of nomination.

Master's level graduate students  in the humanities and social sciences earning a certificate or working on a project in German Studies may be nominated for the grant by their department and/or program chair. Applicants are expected to have completed two years of college-level German language studies and a minimum of three courses in German Studies (literature, history, politics or other fields) at the time of nomination.

PhD students  in the humanities and social science disciplines in the process of preparing their dissertation proposals on modern German topics may be nominated for the grant by their department and/or principal advisor. Students whose dissertation proposals have already been formally accepted are not eligible for nomination. The intent of the program is to provide an opportunity for short-term exploratory research to determine the viability or to delimit the scope of their proposed dissertations. The program is not intended to supplement or substitute for regular dissertation field work abroad which should lag the short-term research stay by at least one semester. Applicants are expected to have completed two years of college-level German language studies and a minimum of three courses in German Studies (literature, history, politics or other fields) at the time of nomination.

Grants are restricted to citizens or permanent residents of the US and Canada who are enrolled full time at the university that nominates them.

Special Considerations

Master's and PhD students should work with the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships . 

Research support ranging in value from $2,000 to $3,000 is available to individual scholarship recipients and is intended to offset living and travel costs during the active research phase. Support cannot be provided for stays in Germany in the context of study abroad programs.


A complete application consists of the following parts:

  • Completed DAAD application form
  • Curriculum vitae (résumé)
  • Detailed description of the research project or the pre-dissertation proposal, including a research plan and itinerary
  • Budget statement
  • List of German language and German Studies courses taken
  • Two letters of recommendation, including one from the professor supervising the German Studies curriculum or the research project. Please ask your reviewers to send a scan of the signed letter to  grubersliva(at) .
  • DAAD language evaluation form (" Sprachzeugnis "). The language evaluation form is a mandatory part of the application form, and must be completed and signed by a faculty member of the German Department at the applicant's institution.
  • Master's level graduate students and PhD students: Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work completed
  • Undergraduates:  Official transcripts of all undergraduate work completed
  • Recent Graduate
  • Post-baccalaureate
  • Non English

Program Type

  • Graduate Study
  • Study Abroad
  • Undergraduate

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Grad Coach

How To Write A Research Proposal

A Straightforward How-To Guide (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | August 2019 (Updated April 2023)

Writing up a strong research proposal for a dissertation or thesis is much like a marriage proposal. It’s a task that calls on you to win somebody over and persuade them that what you’re planning is a great idea. An idea they’re happy to say ‘yes’ to. This means that your dissertation proposal needs to be   persuasive ,   attractive   and well-planned. In this post, I’ll show you how to write a winning dissertation proposal, from scratch.

Before you start:

– Understand exactly what a research proposal is – Ask yourself these 4 questions

The 5 essential ingredients:

  • The title/topic
  • The introduction chapter
  • The scope/delimitations
  • Preliminary literature review
  • Design/ methodology
  • Practical considerations and risks 

What Is A Research Proposal?

The research proposal is literally that: a written document that communicates what you propose to research, in a concise format. It’s where you put all that stuff that’s spinning around in your head down on to paper, in a logical, convincing fashion.

Convincing   is the keyword here, as your research proposal needs to convince the assessor that your research is   clearly articulated   (i.e., a clear research question) ,   worth doing   (i.e., is unique and valuable enough to justify the effort), and   doable   within the restrictions you’ll face (time limits, budget, skill limits, etc.). If your proposal does not address these three criteria, your research won’t be approved, no matter how “exciting” the research idea might be.

PS – if you’re completely new to proposal writing, we’ve got a detailed walkthrough video covering two successful research proposals here . 

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

How do I know I’m ready?

Before starting the writing process, you need to   ask yourself 4 important questions .  If you can’t answer them succinctly and confidently, you’re not ready – you need to go back and think more deeply about your dissertation topic .

You should be able to answer the following 4 questions before starting your dissertation or thesis research proposal:

  • WHAT is my main research question? (the topic)
  • WHO cares and why is this important? (the justification)
  • WHAT data would I need to answer this question, and how will I analyse it? (the research design)
  • HOW will I manage the completion of this research, within the given timelines? (project and risk management)

If you can’t answer these questions clearly and concisely,   you’re not yet ready   to write your research proposal – revisit our   post on choosing a topic .

If you can, that’s great – it’s time to start writing up your dissertation proposal. Next, I’ll discuss what needs to go into your research proposal, and how to structure it all into an intuitive, convincing document with a linear narrative.

The 5 Essential Ingredients

Research proposals can vary in style between institutions and disciplines, but here I’ll share with you a   handy 5-section structure   you can use. These 5 sections directly address the core questions we spoke about earlier, ensuring that you present a convincing proposal. If your institution already provides a proposal template, there will likely be substantial overlap with this, so you’ll still get value from reading on.

For each section discussed below, make sure you use headers and sub-headers (ideally, numbered headers) to help the reader navigate through your document, and to support them when they need to revisit a previous section. Don’t just present an endless wall of text, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph…

Top Tip:   Use MS Word Styles to format headings. This will allow you to be clear about whether a sub-heading is level 2, 3, or 4. Additionally, you can view your document in ‘outline view’ which will show you only your headings. This makes it much easier to check your structure, shift things around and make decisions about where a section needs to sit. You can also generate a 100% accurate table of contents using Word’s automatic functionality.

dissertation proposal german

Ingredient #1 – Topic/Title Header

Your research proposal’s title should be your main research question in its simplest form, possibly with a sub-heading providing basic details on the specifics of the study. For example:

“Compliance with equality legislation in the charity sector: a study of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ made in three London care homes”

As you can see, this title provides a clear indication of what the research is about, in broad terms. It paints a high-level picture for the first-time reader, which gives them a taste of what to expect.   Always aim for a clear, concise title . Don’t feel the need to capture every detail of your research in your title – your proposal will fill in the gaps.

Need a helping hand?

dissertation proposal german

Ingredient #2 – Introduction

In this section of your research proposal, you’ll expand on what you’ve communicated in the title, by providing a few paragraphs which offer more detail about your research topic. Importantly, the focus here is the   topic   – what will you research and why is that worth researching? This is not the place to discuss methodology, practicalities, etc. – you’ll do that later.

You should cover the following:

  • An overview of the   broad area   you’ll be researching – introduce the reader to key concepts and language
  • An explanation of the   specific (narrower) area   you’ll be focusing, and why you’ll be focusing there
  • Your research   aims   and   objectives
  • Your   research question (s) and sub-questions (if applicable)

Importantly, you should aim to use short sentences and plain language – don’t babble on with extensive jargon, acronyms and complex language. Assume that the reader is an intelligent layman – not a subject area specialist (even if they are). Remember that the   best writing is writing that can be easily understood   and digested. Keep it simple.

The introduction section serves to expand on the  research topic – what will you study and why is that worth dedicating time and effort to?

Note that some universities may want some extra bits and pieces in your introduction section. For example, personal development objectives, a structural outline, etc. Check your brief to see if there are any other details they expect in your proposal, and make sure you find a place for these.

Ingredient #3 – Scope

Next, you’ll need to specify what the scope of your research will be – this is also known as the delimitations . In other words, you need to make it clear what you will be covering and, more importantly, what you won’t be covering in your research. Simply put, this is about ring fencing your research topic so that you have a laser-sharp focus.

All too often, students feel the need to go broad and try to address as many issues as possible, in the interest of producing comprehensive research. Whilst this is admirable, it’s a mistake. By tightly refining your scope, you’ll enable yourself to   go deep   with your research, which is what you need to earn good marks. If your scope is too broad, you’re likely going to land up with superficial research (which won’t earn marks), so don’t be afraid to narrow things down.

Ingredient #4 – Literature Review

In this section of your research proposal, you need to provide a (relatively) brief discussion of the existing literature. Naturally, this will not be as comprehensive as the literature review in your actual dissertation, but it will lay the foundation for that. In fact, if you put in the effort at this stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when it’s time to write your actual literature review chapter.

There are a few things you need to achieve in this section:

  • Demonstrate that you’ve done your reading and are   familiar with the current state of the research   in your topic area.
  • Show that   there’s a clear gap   for your specific research – i.e., show that your topic is sufficiently unique and will add value to the existing research.
  • Show how the existing research has shaped your thinking regarding   research design . For example, you might use scales or questionnaires from previous studies.

When you write up your literature review, keep these three objectives front of mind, especially number two (revealing the gap in the literature), so that your literature review has a   clear purpose and direction . Everything you write should be contributing towards one (or more) of these objectives in some way. If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself whether it’s truly needed.

Top Tip:  Don’t fall into the trap of just describing the main pieces of literature, for example, “A says this, B says that, C also says that…” and so on. Merely describing the literature provides no value. Instead, you need to   synthesise   it, and use it to address the three objectives above.

 If you put in the effort at the proposal stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when its time to write your actual literature review chapter.

Ingredient #5 – Research Methodology

Now that you’ve clearly explained both your intended research topic (in the introduction) and the existing research it will draw on (in the literature review section), it’s time to get practical and explain exactly how you’ll be carrying out your own research. In other words, your research methodology.

In this section, you’ll need to   answer two critical questions :

  • How   will you design your research? I.e., what research methodology will you adopt, what will your sample be, how will you collect data, etc.
  • Why   have you chosen this design? I.e., why does this approach suit your specific research aims, objectives and questions?

In other words, this is not just about explaining WHAT you’ll be doing, it’s also about explaining WHY. In fact, the   justification is the most important part , because that justification is how you demonstrate a good understanding of research design (which is what assessors want to see).

Some essential design choices you need to cover in your research proposal include:

  • Your intended research philosophy (e.g., positivism, interpretivism or pragmatism )
  • What methodological approach you’ll be taking (e.g., qualitative , quantitative or mixed )
  • The details of your sample (e.g., sample size, who they are, who they represent, etc.)
  • What data you plan to collect (i.e. data about what, in what form?)
  • How you plan to collect it (e.g., surveys , interviews , focus groups, etc.)
  • How you plan to analyse it (e.g., regression analysis, thematic analysis , etc.)
  • Ethical adherence (i.e., does this research satisfy all ethical requirements of your institution, or does it need further approval?)

This list is not exhaustive – these are just some core attributes of research design. Check with your institution what level of detail they expect. The “ research onion ” by Saunders et al (2009) provides a good summary of the various design choices you ultimately need to make – you can   read more about that here .

Don’t forget the practicalities…

In addition to the technical aspects, you will need to address the   practical   side of the project. In other words, you need to explain   what resources you’ll need   (e.g., time, money, access to equipment or software, etc.) and how you intend to secure these resources. You need to show that your project is feasible, so any “make or break” type resources need to already be secured. The success or failure of your project cannot depend on some resource which you’re not yet sure you have access to.

Another part of the practicalities discussion is   project and risk management . In other words, you need to show that you have a clear project plan to tackle your research with. Some key questions to address:

  • What are the timelines for each phase of your project?
  • Are the time allocations reasonable?
  • What happens if something takes longer than anticipated (risk management)?
  • What happens if you don’t get the response rate you expect?

A good way to demonstrate that you’ve thought this through is to include a Gantt chart and a risk register (in the appendix if word count is a problem). With these two tools, you can show that you’ve got a clear, feasible plan, and you’ve thought about and accounted for the potential risks.

Gantt chart

Tip – Be honest about the potential difficulties – but show that you are anticipating solutions and workarounds. This is much more impressive to an assessor than an unrealistically optimistic proposal which does not anticipate any challenges whatsoever.

Final Touches: Read And Simplify

The final step is to edit and proofread your proposal – very carefully. It sounds obvious, but all too often poor editing and proofreading ruin a good proposal. Nothing is more off-putting for an assessor than a poorly edited, typo-strewn document. It sends the message that you either do not pay attention to detail, or just don’t care. Neither of these are good messages. Put the effort into editing and proofreading your proposal (or pay someone to do it for you) – it will pay dividends.

When you’re editing, watch out for ‘academese’. Many students can speak simply, passionately and clearly about their dissertation topic – but become incomprehensible the moment they turn the laptop on. You are not required to write in any kind of special, formal, complex language when you write academic work. Sure, there may be technical terms, jargon specific to your discipline, shorthand terms and so on. But, apart from those,   keep your written language very close to natural spoken language   – just as you would speak in the classroom. Imagine that you are explaining your project plans to your classmates or a family member. Remember, write for the intelligent layman, not the subject matter experts. Plain-language, concise writing is what wins hearts and minds – and marks!

Let’s Recap: Research Proposal 101

And there you have it – how to write your dissertation or thesis research proposal, from the title page to the final proof. Here’s a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • The purpose of the research proposal is to   convince   – therefore, you need to make a clear, concise argument of why your research is both worth doing and doable.
  • Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research   before   you put pen to paper.
  • Title – provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms
  • Introduction – explains what you’ll be researching in more detail
  • Scope – explains the boundaries of your research
  • Literature review – explains how your research fits into the existing research and why it’s unique and valuable
  • Research methodology – explains and justifies how you will carry out your own research

Hopefully, this post has helped you better understand how to write up a winning research proposal. If you enjoyed it, be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach Blog . If your university doesn’t provide any template for your proposal, you might want to try out our free research proposal template .

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

You Might Also Like:

How to write the conclusion chapter of a dissertation


Mazwakhe Mkhulisi

Thank you so much for the valuable insight that you have given, especially on the research proposal. That is what I have managed to cover. I still need to go back to the other parts as I got disturbed while still listening to Derek’s audio on you-tube. I am inspired. I will definitely continue with Grad-coach guidance on You-tube.

Derek Jansen

Thanks for the kind words :). All the best with your proposal.


First of all, thanks a lot for making such a wonderful presentation. The video was really useful and gave me a very clear insight of how a research proposal has to be written. I shall try implementing these ideas in my RP.

Once again, I thank you for this content.

Bonginkosi Mshengu

I found reading your outline on writing research proposal very beneficial. I wish there was a way of submitting my draft proposal to you guys for critiquing before I submit to the institution.

Hi Bonginkosi

Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we do provide a review service. The best starting point is to have a chat with one of our coaches here: .

Erick Omondi

Hello team GRADCOACH, may God bless you so much. I was totally green in research. Am so happy for your free superb tutorials and resources. Once again thank you so much Derek and his team.

You’re welcome, Erick. Good luck with your research proposal 🙂


thank you for the information. its precise and on point.

Nighat Nighat Ahsan

Really a remarkable piece of writing and great source of guidance for the researchers. GOD BLESS YOU for your guidance. Regards

Delfina Celeste Danca Rangel

Thanks so much for your guidance. It is easy and comprehensive the way you explain the steps for a winning research proposal.

Desiré Forku

Thank you guys so much for the rich post. I enjoyed and learn from every word in it. My problem now is how to get into your platform wherein I can always seek help on things related to my research work ? Secondly, I wish to find out if there is a way I can send my tentative proposal to you guys for examination before I take to my supervisor Once again thanks very much for the insights

Thanks for your kind words, Desire.

If you are based in a country where Grad Coach’s paid services are available, you can book a consultation by clicking the “Book” button in the top right.

Best of luck with your studies.


May God bless you team for the wonderful work you are doing,

If I have a topic, Can I submit it to you so that you can draft a proposal for me?? As I am expecting to go for masters degree in the near future.

Thanks for your comment. We definitely cannot draft a proposal for you, as that would constitute academic misconduct. The proposal needs to be your own work. We can coach you through the process, but it needs to be your own work and your own writing.

Best of luck with your research!

kenate Akuma

I found a lot of many essential concepts from your material. it is real a road map to write a research proposal. so thanks a lot. If there is any update material on your hand on MBA please forward to me.

Ahmed Khalil

GradCoach is a professional website that presents support and helps for MBA student like me through the useful online information on the page and with my 1-on-1 online coaching with the amazing and professional PhD Kerryen.

Thank you Kerryen so much for the support and help 🙂

I really recommend dealing with such a reliable services provider like Gradcoah and a coach like Kerryen.


Hi, Am happy for your service and effort to help students and researchers, Please, i have been given an assignment on research for strategic development, the task one is to formulate a research proposal to support the strategic development of a business area, my issue here is how to go about it, especially the topic or title and introduction. Please, i would like to know if you could help me and how much is the charge.

Marcos A. López Figueroa

This content is practical, valuable, and just great!

Thank you very much!

Eric Rwigamba

Hi Derek, Thank you for the valuable presentation. It is very helpful especially for beginners like me. I am just starting my PhD.


This is quite instructive and research proposal made simple. Can I have a research proposal template?

Mathew Yokie Musa

Great! Thanks for rescuing me, because I had no former knowledge in this topic. But with this piece of information, I am now secured. Thank you once more.

Chulekazi Bula

I enjoyed listening to your video on how to write a proposal. I think I will be able to write a winning proposal with your advice. I wish you were to be my supervisor.

Mohammad Ajmal Shirzad

Dear Derek Jansen,

Thank you for your great content. I couldn’t learn these topics in MBA, but now I learned from GradCoach. Really appreciate your efforts….

From Afghanistan!

Mulugeta Yilma

I have got very essential inputs for startup of my dissertation proposal. Well organized properly communicated with video presentation. Thank you for the presentation.

Siphesihle Macu

Wow, this is absolutely amazing guys. Thank you so much for the fruitful presentation, you’ve made my research much easier.


this helps me a lot. thank you all so much for impacting in us. may god richly bless you all

June Pretzer

How I wish I’d learn about Grad Coach earlier. I’ve been stumbling around writing and rewriting! Now I have concise clear directions on how to put this thing together. Thank you!


Fantastic!! Thank You for this very concise yet comprehensive guidance.

Fikiru Bekele

Even if I am poor in English I would like to thank you very much.

Rachel Offeibea Nyarko

Thank you very much, this is very insightful.

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Writing a dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal

What is a dissertation proposal?

Dissertation proposals are like the table of contents for your research project , and will help you explain what it is you intend to examine, and roughly, how you intend to go about collecting and analysing your data. You won’t be required to have everything planned out exactly, as your topic may change slightly in the course of your research, but for the most part, writing your proposal should help you better identify the direction for your dissertation.

When you’ve chosen a topic for your dissertation , you’ll need to make sure that it is both appropriate to your field of study and narrow enough to be completed by the end of your course. Your dissertation proposal will help you define and determine both of these things and will also allow your department and instructors to make sure that you are being advised by the best person to help you complete your research.

A dissertation proposal should include:

  • An introduction to your dissertation topic
  • Aims and objectives of your dissertation
  • A literature review of the current research undertaken in your field
  • Proposed methodology to be used
  • Implications of your research
  • Limitations of your research
  • Bibliography 

Although this content all needs to be included in your dissertation proposal, the content isn’t set in stone so it can be changed later if necessary, depending on your topic of study, university or degree. Think of your dissertation proposal as more of a guide to writing your dissertation rather than something to be strictly adhered to – this will be discussed later. 

Writing a dissertation proposal

Why is a dissertation proposal important?

A dissertation proposal is very important because it helps shape the actual dissertation, which is arguably the most important piece of writing a postgraduate student will undertake. By having a well-structured dissertation proposal, you will have a strong foundation for your dissertation and a good template to follow. The dissertation itself is key to postgraduate success as it will contribute to your overall grade . Writing your dissertation will also help you to develop research and communication skills, which could become invaluable in your employment success and future career. By making sure you’re fully briefed on the current research available in your chosen dissertation topic, as well as keeping details of your bibliography up to date, you will be in a great position to write an excellent dissertation.

Next, we’ll be outlining things you can do to help you produce the best postgraduate dissertation proposal possible.

How to begin your dissertation proposal

Writing a dissertation proposal

1. Narrow the topic down  

It’s important that when you sit down to draft your proposal, you’ve carefully thought out your topic and are able to narrow it down enough to present a clear and succinct understanding of what you aim to do and hope to accomplish in your dissertation.

How do I decide on a dissertation topic?

A simple way to begin choosing a topic for your dissertation is to go back through your assignments and lectures. Was there a topic that stood out to you? Was there an idea that wasn’t fully explored? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you have a great starting point! If not, then consider one of your more personal interests. Use Google Scholar to explore studies and journals on your topic to find any areas that could go into more detail or explore a more niche topic within your personal interest. 

Keep track of all publications

It’s important to keep track of all the publications that you use while you research. You can use this in your literature review.

You need to keep track of:

  • The title of the study/research paper/book/journal
  • Who wrote/took part in the study/research paper
  • Chapter title
  • Page number(s)

The more research you do, the more you should be able to narrow down your topic and find an interesting area to focus on. You’ll also be able to write about everything you find in your literature review which will make your proposal stronger.

While doing your research, consider the following:

  • When was your source published? Is the information outdated? Has new information come to light since?
  • Can you determine if any of the methodologies could have been carried out more efficiently? Are there any errors or gaps?
  • Are there any ethical concerns that should be considered in future studies on the same topic?
  • Could anything external (for example new events happening) have influenced the research?

Read more about picking a topic for your dissertation . 

How long should the dissertation proposal be?

There is usually no set length for a dissertation proposal, but you should aim for 1,000 words or more. Your dissertation proposal will give an outline of the topic of your dissertation, some of the questions you hope to answer with your research, what sort of studies and type of data you aim to employ in your research, and the sort of analysis you will carry out.

Different courses may have different requirements for things like length and the specific information to include, as well as what structure is preferred, so be sure to check what special requirements your course has.  

Dissertation proposal example

2. What should I include in a dissertation proposal?

Your dissertation proposal should have several key aspects regardless of the structure. The introduction, the methodology, aims and objectives, the literature review, and the constraints of your research all need to be included to ensure that you provide your supervisor with a comprehensive proposal. But what are they? Here's a checklist to get you started.

  • Introduction

The introduction will state your central research question and give background on the subject, as well as relating it contextually to any broader issues surrounding it. 

The dissertation proposal introduction should outline exactly what you intend to investigate in your final research project.

Make sure you outline the structure of the dissertation proposal in your introduction, i.e. part one covers methodology, part two covers a literature review, part three covers research limitations, and so forth.

Your introduction should also include the working title for your dissertation – although don't worry if you want to change this at a later stage as your supervisors will not expect this to be set in stone.

Dissertation methodology

The dissertation methodology will break down what sources you aim to use for your research and what sort of data you will collect from it, either quantitative or qualitative. You may also want to include how you will analyse the data you gather and what, if any, bias there may be in your chosen methods.

Depending on the level of detail that your specific course requires, you may also want to explain why your chosen approaches to gathering data are more appropriate to your research than others.

Consider and explain how you will conduct empirical research. For example, will you use interviews? Surveys? Observation? Lab experiments?

In your dissertation methodology, outline the variables that you will measure in your research and how you will select your data or participant sample to ensure valid results.

Finally, are there any specific tools that you will use for your methodology? If so, make sure you provide this information in the methodology section of your dissertation proposal.

  • Aims and objectives

Writing a dissertation proposal

Your aim should not be too broad but should equally not be too specific.

An example of a dissertation aim could be: ‘To examine the key content features and social contexts that construct successful viral marketing content distribution on X’.

In comparison, an example of a dissertation aim that is perhaps too broad would be: ‘To investigate how things go viral on X’.

The aim of your dissertation proposal should relate directly to your research question.

  • Literature review

The literature review will list the books and materials that you will be using to do your research. This is where you can list materials that gave you more background on your topic, or contain research carried out previously that you referred to in your own studies. 

The literature review is also a good place to demonstrate how your research connects to previous academic studies and how your methods may differ from or build upon those used by other researchers. While it’s important to give enough information about the materials to show that you have read and understood them, don’t forget to include your analysis of their value to your work.

Where there are shortfalls in other pieces of academic work, identify these and address how you will overcome these shortcomings in your own research.

Constraints and limitations of your research

Lastly, you will also need to include the constraints of your research. Many topics will have broad links to numerous larger and more complex issues, so by clearly stating the constraints of your research, you are displaying your understanding and acknowledgment of these larger issues, and the role they play by focusing your research on just one section or part of the subject.

In this section it is important to Include examples of possible limitations, for example, issues with sample size, participant drop out, lack of existing research on the topic, time constraints, and other factors that may affect your study.

  • Ethical considerations

Confidentiality and ethical concerns are an important part of any research.

Ethics are key, as your dissertation will need to undergo ethical approval if you are working with participants. This means that it’s important to allow for and explain ethical considerations in your dissertation proposal.

Keep confidentiality in mind and keep your participants informed, so they are aware of how the data provided is being used and are assured that all personal information is being kept confidential.

Consider how involved your patients will be with your research, this will help you think about what ethical considerations to take and discuss them fully in your dissertation proposal. For example, face-to-face participant interview methods could require more ethical measures and confidentiality considerations than methods that do not require participants, such as corpus data (a collection of existing written texts) analysis. 

3. Dissertation proposal example

Writing a dissertation proposal

Once you know what sections you need or do not need to include, it may help focus your writing to break the proposal up into separate headings, and tackle each piece individually. You may also want to consider including a title. Writing a title for your proposal will help you make sure that your topic is narrow enough, as well as help keep your writing focused and on topic.

One example of a dissertation proposal structure is using the following headings, either broken up into sections or chapters depending on the required word count:

  • Methodology
  • Research constraints

In any dissertation proposal example, you’ll want to make it clear why you’re doing the research and what positives could come from your contribution. 

Dissertation proposal example table

This table outlines the various stages of your dissertation proposal.

Working title

This is not set in stone and is open to being changed further down the line.


Background information to your dissertation, including details of the basic facts, reasons for your interest in this area, and the importance of your research to the relevant industry.


Details of the sources you are planning to use – eg surveys, modelling, case studies. Are you collecting quantitative or qualitative data? Explain how you will analyse this data.


List out the goals that you are hoping to achieve through your research project.

Literature review

Titles and URLs of proposed texts and websites that you are planning to use in your research project.

Constraints & limitations

Clearly state the potential limitations of your research project, eg sample size, time constraints, etc.

Ethical considerations

If your dissertation involves using participants, it will need to undergo ethical approval – explain any ethical considerations in the dissertation proposal.


All factual information that is not your original work needs to be accompanied by a reference to its source.

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Dissertation Proposal Presentation: Sina Meissgeier

Sina Meissgeier (Doctoral candidate in Transcultural German Studies) will present her Dissertation Proposal "Erzähltes Leben im geteilten Deutschland nach dem Holocaust: Frauenfiguren in der Erinnerungsliteratur zum KZ Ravensbrück zwischen 1945 und 1989." The event will begin with a ca. 30-minute presentation by the candidate, then 10-15 minutes for audience questions. At that point, the committee (Jacobs, Nagelschmidt, Kosta, Burdorf) will deliberate without the candidate, and then provide feedback for the last 20 minutes. The public portion lasts from 9AM to approximately 9:45AM and will take place in German.

In her dissertation project on the representation of female characters in literature about Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, Sina Meissgeier is examining how German-speaking communist, German Jewish, and so-called "asocial" and "criminal" prisoners are portrayed. The autofictional texts at the heart of her project were written between 1945 and 1989 by Ravensbrück survivors and secondary witnesses. The project argues that these Holocaust texts do not portray the camp prisoners as mere victims in a binary of "Nazi perpetrator vs. victims," nor as a group of women who showed absolute solidarity towards each other. Rather, hegemonic relationships developed within the prisoner community, which excluded some individuals and groups, while others gained privileges and power. These tensions were suppressed in the  anti-fascist narrative surrounding Ravensbrück in the GDR, which aimed to show communist resistance and solidarity above all. Based on sources from the Ravensbrück archive, Sina's project includes both texts that support the GDR narrative and others that subvert it.  The dissertation will contribute to the discussion about women's literature and the Holocaust, antifascism past and present, and the discourse on Nazi concentration camps. 

dissertation proposal german

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How To Write A Dissertation Proposal: Learn With Guides And Tips

how to write a dissertation proposal

Don’t know how to write a dissertation proposal? Don’t worry about it! In this blog post, you will learn everything there is to know about the dissertation proposal. We will show you what it is and why it is important to write one correctly. We will discuss the dissertation proposal format in great detail and show you a dissertation proposal outline that works great for most topics. In addition, you will get an example of dissertation proposal for free.

To help you write a great proposal, we have also included a step by step guide on how to write a proposal for dissertation. Finally, we have compiled a list of tips, tricks and advice that should help you do an even better job. Are you ready to start writing a dissertation proposal? Read on!

Table of Contents

What is a dissertation proposal, why is the dissertation proposal important, a simple dissertation proposal outline, how to write dissertation proposal: a step by step guide, tips, tricks and advice, a free dissertation proposal sample.

So, what is a dissertation proposal? Why is it important? Why would you want to write one? A dissertation proposal is a document that outlines the proposed research project that a student intends to undertake as part of their doctoral program. The purpose of the proposal is to convince the student’s academic committee that the proposed research is worthwhile, feasible and original. The proposal typically includes:

An introduction Literature review Research methodology Research aims and objectives Expected outcomes A timeline for completion

The proposal should also address any potential ethical considerations or limitations of the study, and should provide a justification for the significance of the research. Once the proposal is accepted, the student can begin working on their dissertation, which will be a more extensive and detailed version of the proposal.

Before we show you how to write a proposal for a dissertation, we want to make sure you understand just how important this paper is. A proposal is important because it:

Provides a framework for the research project. The proposal outlines the structure of the research project, including the research questions, methodology, and expected outcomes. Demonstrates the student’s readiness for the research. The proposal requires the student to undertake a rigorous review of the literature and develop a research plan. Helps to identify potential issues. The proposal provides an opportunity to identify any potential issues or limitations with the research project before it even begins. Facilitates feedback and discussion. The proposal is typically reviewed and critiqued by the student’s academic committee.

If you’re looking for an example proposal dissertation, you’re in luck. The thesis proposal format is not overly difficult, but you should definitely take a look at our outline to get a feel of how you should structure your paper:

I. Introduction Introduce the topic of the dissertation and provide background information. Write a clear research question or statement of the problem that the study aims to address. Explain the significance of your research and discuss the contribution it will make to the field of study. II. Literature Review Review and critically evaluate relevant literature in the field of study. Identify gaps or inconsistencies in the literature; gaps that the research project will address. Demonstrate how the proposed research fits into and advances the existing body of knowledge. III. Methodology Describe the research design and methodology that will be used to collect and analyze data. Justify the choice of methodology and explain how it aims to answer the research question. Address potential limitations and ethical considerations related to the methodology. IV. Research Aims and Objectives Clearly state the research aims and objectives that the study will address. Explain how these aims and objectives are linked to the research question and contribute to advancing the body of knowledge on the matter. V. Expected Outcomes Talk about the expected outcomes of your research. Explain how these outcomes will contribute to the existing body of knowledge and address the research question. VI. Timeline for Completion Provide a detailed timeline for completing the research project. Clearly present key milestones and deadlines, including the expected completion date for the dissertation. VII. Conclusion Summarize the main ideas in your proposal. Reinforce the significance of the research project. Indicate the potential implications of your findings.

If you want to learn how to write dissertation proposal quickly, the best way to do it is to follow a reliable step by step guide. The good news is that our experts have written one such guide for you. Here is exactly what you need to do to write dissertation proposal papers the right way:

Choose a topic. Start by choosing a topic that interests you and that is relevant to your field of study. The topic should be specific enough to allow you to conduct focused research and broad enough to allow for adequate exploration. Research existing literature. Conduct a review of all of the existing literature on the topic you’ve chosen. This will help you identify any gaps in knowledge that you can address in your research. Define your research questions. Based on the literature review, develop specific research questions that you will address in your dissertation. Your research questions should be clear and concise. Remember that you will need to answer these questions. Develop the research methodology. Choose a research methodology that is appropriate for your research questions. You can use qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. Be sure to justify your choice of methodology so that the committee doesn’t ask for clarifications. Write the introduction. Start your proposal with an introduction that provides an overview of your research topic, research questions and methodology. You should include the thesis in the introduction. Write the literature review. Next, write a literature review that summarizes existing research on your topic. Identify any gaps in knowledge that you will address in your research. Present your methodology. Describe your research methodology in detail, including your data collection methods and data analysis techniques. Another researcher should be able to replicate your experiments and get the same results after reading your methodology. Define your expected results. Based on your research questions and methodology, define the expected results of your research. Be very specific about what you aim to demonstrate with your paper. Develop a timeline for writing a proposal for dissertation. Create a timeline that outlines the different stages of your research, from data collection to analysis and writing. Also, don’t forget to include the date on which you expect the paper to be completed. Write the conclusion. End your proposal with a conclusion that summarizes your research topic, research questions, methodology, and expected results. Show your readers why your research is important. Edit and proofread your work. Before submitting your proposal, be sure to edit and proofread it carefully to ensure that it is free of errors and presents your research clearly. You want your proposal to be perfect in every way.

It is usually a good idea to have your friends and family take a look at the proposal and give you some feedback. You’d be surprised by how many things can be improved this way. Even better, you could get in touch with our expert editors and proofreaders and have them revise your work. This is a sure way to ensure that your proposal is top notch.

how to write a dissertation proposal

Before we get to the dissertation proposal example, we want to share some effective tips, tricks and advice that will help you do a better job writing your paper:

Start early. Give yourself plenty of time to write your dissertation proposal. It’s a complex document that requires careful planning, research, and writing, so don’t leave it until the last minute. Get feedback. Before submitting your proposal, share it with your supervisor or another academic who can provide feedback. Be clear and concise. Use clear and concise language to communicate your research topic, questions and methodology. Provide context. Provide context for your research by explaining why it’s important and how it fits into existing research in your field. Justify your methodology. Be sure to explain why you have chosen a particular methodology and how it will help you answer your research questions. Be realistic. Make sure your proposed research is feasible given your time, resources and skills. Avoid proposing research that is too broad or ambitious, as this can make it difficult to complete your dissertation on time. Follow guidelines. Follow the guidelines provided by your university or department for formatting, length, and content. This will help you avoid unnecessary revisions and ensure that your proposal meets the requirements. Keep it organized. Use clear headings, subheadings and sections to organize your proposal. This will make it easier for your readers to follow your argument and find the information they need. Use citations. Use citations to acknowledge the work of other researchers and to support your own arguments. This will demonstrate that you have done your research and are aware of existing literature on your topic.

Are you looking for an excellent dissertation proposal template that you can follow? Our experts are here to help you with your school projects. We have written a great dissertation proposal sample that you can use for free. You can use this example to learn how PhD dissertation proposals are written, but you should avoid copying content from the sample because a plagiarism detector can flag your paper. If you need more than the following example of a dissertation proposal, get in touch with our experts:

Background of the Problem Employee performance is a significant concern of any organization because it determines business performance. According to Fachrunnisa, Adhiatma & Mutamimah (2014), employees achieve the desired level of performance when they are effectively engaged or involved in the management of the organization. However, the impact of organizational culture on both the engagement and performance of employees has not been measured distinctively using empirical evidence, as illustrated by Breevaart, Bakker, Demerouti & Derks (2016). Statement of the Problem Organizations provide their employees with requirements related to expected level of participation in work activities and performance. However, business leaders and managers often forget that they must create a supportive organizational culture that will inspire employee engagement and motivate performance. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the proposed investigation is to determine how organizational culture influences employee engagement and their performance at work. The study aims at providing business leaders and managers with evidence-based insights for establishing organizational cultures that inspire employee engagement and motivate performance. Research Objectives To assess the impact of organizational mission, vision and values on employee engagement in the service sector. To determine how organizational culture influences job performance in the service sector. To establish the relationship between the consistency of organizational culture and employee engagement and job performance in the service sector Research Questions To what extent do the mission, vision and values of organizations in the service sector influence employee engagement? How does organizational culture influence job performance in the service sector? How does the consistency of organizational culture shape employee engagement and job performance in the service sector? Significance of the Study The proposed study is significant to business management practice. It will specifically provide business leaders and managers with practical reasons for establishing supportive organizational cultures that are meant to improve the level of employee engagement and improve their performance at work. Methodology Research Design A descriptive research design will be applied in carrying out the proposed investigation. This design will allow for description of the characteristics of work environments under study in terms of working culture, employee engagement and motivation for performance. Descriptive studies are also useful in establishing relationships existing between research variables (Sekaran & Bougie, 2016). Study Population The population of the proposed study is composed of members of organizations within the service sector. This includes the business leaders, managers and employees of these organizations. Sampling Stratified sampling will be applied in selecting a representative sample from the study population to participate in the research process. The selected sampling technique is useful in categorizing members of a study population into homogenous subgroups, from which participants are randomly selected (Bryman & Bell, 2015). A sample of 120 participants, including business leaders, managers and employees of 10 organizations in the service sector will be selected and engaged in the research process. Data Collection Methods Self-administered questionnaires will be used to gather data for the study. Questionnaires are preferred because they are standardized, efficient and cost-effective data collection tools (Sekaran & Bougie, 2016). The questionnaires will have open and closed ended questions pertaining to the background information of participants, the culture of their organizations, employee engagement strategies and employee performance. Data Analysis Descriptive statistics will be applied in the analysis of research data. Through descriptive statistics, research data will be organized and interpreted in line with the relationship between organizational culture, employee engagement and performance.

Get Quick Help Writing A Dissertation Proposal

Do you need fast online dissertation help? Our experts are ready to spring into action and write you the best possible PhD dissertation proposal. Our writers have extensive experience with such projects as writing a thesis proposal or academic papers, so you will receive a high quality, custom paper written according to your specifications.

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Below, you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the dissertation proposal:

Can I make changes to my dissertation proposal after it is approved?

It is possible to make changes to the dissertation proposal after it is approved, but any significant changes may require additional review.

How long should a dissertation proposal be?

The length of a dissertation proposal can vary depending on the requirements of the program. Most proposals are typically between 10 and 20 pages.

Who reviews the dissertation proposal?

The dissertation proposal is typically reviewed by the student’s academic committee.

How long does it take to write a dissertation proposal?

On average, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to write a good dissertation proposal. You need professional help if you are about to miss the deadline.

What if my dissertation proposal is not approved?

If the dissertation proposal is not approved, the student will need to revise and resubmit it for review. You can get editing help from an online dissertation writing service , so you have no reason to stress!

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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.


The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

If you’re an educator, feel free to download and adapt these slides to teach your students about structuring a dissertation.

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What support and funding opportunities does the DFG offer to researchers in early career phases? Where can you find important background information and helpful hints? 

This website describes your options in each phase of your early research career and offers advice for preparing your first DFG proposal.


While studying, student assistants can work in knowledge-driven research projects funded by the DFG.

Research Training Groups and DFG funded research projects offer doctoral positions.

After your PhD

The DFG offers funding opportunities for independent research in early and advanced postdoc phases. 

Guidance to DFG Funding Opportunities

  • In our regular info talk s online and at research institutes in Germany, we present an overview of the DFG funding opportunities for postdocs, give advice on preparing a proposal and answer your questions.
  • Our how-to web page s provide insights into DFG individual grants programmes and give useful hints for preparing your first proposal to the DFG.

Video Clips

Who are the DFG-funded researchers, what is their research about and what do they say about the funding they receive? Find out in our portraying films:

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Faces: The Walter Benjamin Programme of the DFG

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Faces: The Emmy Noether Programme of the DFG

Who can apply for funding in the Walter Benjamin Programme, what are the funding conditions, and what helps when preparing a proposal? Our video clip gives you first impressions of the programme:


Das Walter Benjamin-Programm (with English subtitles)

Dfg funding proposals: the route to a final decision.

dissertation proposal german

Guidance to DFG funding opportunities for postdoc s

Ten Principles for Attractive Research Careers

The DFG has published ten "Principles of Effective Career Support in Academia" that define good support structures and conditions for researchers in early career phases in Germany.

  • Principles of Effective Career Suppor t
  • Infobrief "Staying in Research. Research funding and career paths: an update (1/2023) "
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If you have any questions on the DFG‘s research career support, please send us an e-mail:



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dissertations in german studies

Congratulations to our recent PhDs in the field of German studies!

Help us spread the word about recent dissertations in the field(s) of German studies by submitting information about your (or e.g. an advisee's) thesis via this  submission form . Please also submit the form if you completed your dissertation in an earlier year and are not represented on one of the lists below! Previous years:


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  1. Leaflet on Dissertation Proposals

    A dissertation proposal (German: Exposé) is a short text that provides an introduction to the topic of your dissertation for a general audience. It serves as an outline, plan, and schedule for your project. Your proposal describes what you want to deal with in your dissertation and how. A well-written proposal also demonstrates that you have ...

  2. PDF Information Sheet

    Informationen für Bewerberinnen und Bewerber. Merkblatt - Forschungsexposé. Ein gut ausgearbeitetes Forschungsexposé (oder Research Proposal) ist in der Wissenschaft ein zentraler Bestandteil jeder Bewerbung. Dieses Merkblatt dient dazu, Ihnen einen kurzen Überblick darüber zu geben, was Sie beim Verfassen eines Exposés beachten sollten.

  3. Research Proposal • Berlin Program for Advanced German and European

    The proposal should situate the project's objectives in the context of existing research, debates and literature on the topic. ... including evidence of language fluency adequate to complete the project and participate in the German language colloquium at the Freie Universität Berlin. ... revising a dissertation into a book manuscript,

  4. dissertations in german studies 2018

    Top Bangor, Kaleigh. Tintenterror: Joseph Roth's Analysis of Documenting and Policing Individuals 1919-1939.Vanderbilt University, Department of German, Russian and East European Studies. Meike Werner. August 2018. Abstract: After the end of what would eventually be known as the First World War, the Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and German empires rapidly collapsed along with the ...

  5. PDF Guidelines for the preparation of a Master's Thesis proposal

    The proposal will also be commented on by your fellow students and the supervisors in the thesis seminar and must be comprehensible to them. As a rule, your written proposal should not be much longer than three pages. Additionally, the proposal should include the planned outline of the thesis, schedule and bibliography (see below: 4.5 to 4.7).

  6. dissertations in german studies 2021

    August 2021. Abstract: This dissertation examines the professions, subjectivities, and social and cultural forms associated with new media for storing and transmitting information during the Weimar Republic—Germany's first democratic state (1919-1933). I focus on three technologies—telephone, film, and typewriter—that propelled German ...

  7. dissertations in german studies 2020

    dissertations in german studies 2020. Bahr, Katrin. Postkoloniale Solidarität: Alltagsleben von DDR-Bürgern in Mosambik. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of German and Scandinavian Studies. Advisor: Andrew Donson. May 2020. Abstract: My dissertation examines the everyday life and work of East Germans and their families sent to ...

  8. Bachelor and Master Dissertations

    An extended abstract is about two to four pages long and should clarify: What research question (s) you plan to analyze. What is the academic and practical importance of your topic. How your thesis will contribute to the existing literature. In addition, an extended abstract includes a selection of relevant literature.

  9. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic. The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development ...

  10. German Language and Literature: Dissertations & Theses

    German dissertations since 1998 are comprehensively collected by the National Library of Germany, so search its online catalog by clicking on the link above. Dissonline Searches electronic university publications held by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, including dissertations and "Habilitationen".

  11. How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

    Table of contents. Step 1: Coming up with an idea. Step 2: Presenting your idea in the introduction. Step 3: Exploring related research in the literature review. Step 4: Describing your methodology. Step 5: Outlining the potential implications of your research. Step 6: Creating a reference list or bibliography.

  12. German Studies Research Grant

    This specialized DAAD program offers German Studies Research Grants to highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students who are nominated by the professor supervising their research project. The grant may be used for short-term research (one to two months) in Germany. The program is designed to encourage research and promote the study of cultural, political, historical, economic and social ...

  13. DAAD

    Detailed description of the research project or the pre-dissertation proposal, including a research plan and itinerary; Budget statement; List of German language and German Studies courses taken; Two letters of recommendation, including one from the professor supervising the German Studies curriculum or the research project.

  14. How To Write A Research Proposal (With Examples)

    Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research before you put pen to paper. Your research proposal should include (at least) 5 essential components : Title - provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms. Introduction - explains what you'll be researching in more detail.

  15. How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

    A dissertation proposal should include: An introduction to your dissertation topic. Aims and objectives of your dissertation. A literature review of the current research undertaken in your field. Proposed methodology to be used. Implications of your research. Limitations of your research.

  16. Dissertation Proposal Presentation: Sina Meissgeier

    Sina Meissgeier (Doctoral candidate in Transcultural German Studies) will present her Dissertation Proposal "Erzähltes Leben im geteilten Deutschland nach dem Holocaust: Frauenfiguren in der Erinnerungsliteratur zum KZ Ravensbrück zwischen 1945 und 1989." The event will begin with a ca. 30-minute presentation by the candidate, then 10-15 minutes for audience questions.

  17. dissertations in German studies 2020

    University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of German and Scandinavian Studies. Advisor: Andrew Donson. May 2020. Abstract: My dissertation examines the everyday life and work of East Germans and their families sent to Mozambique between 1979 and 1990. I investigate the issues of state and individual solidarity and the interactions within ...

  18. How To Write A Dissertation Proposal Guide By Experts

    I. Introduction. Introduce the topic of the dissertation and provide background information. Write a clear research question or statement of the problem that the study aims to address. Explain the significance of your research and discuss the contribution it will make to the field of study. II.

  19. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  20. DFG, German Research Foundation

    In our regular info talk s online and at research institutes in Germany, we present an overview of the DFG funding opportunities for postdocs, give advice on preparing a proposal and answer your questions. Our how-to web page s provide insights into DFG individual grants programmes and give useful hints for preparing your first proposal to the DFG.

  21. dissertations in german studies

    2024. Help us spread the word about recent dissertations in the field (s) of German studies by submitting information about your (or e.g. an advisee's) thesis via this submission form. Please also submit the form if you completed your dissertation in an earlier year and are not represented on one of the lists below! Previous years: 2023. 2022.

  22. Dissertation Proposal German

    Dissertation Proposal German, How To Write A Movie Review Essay Example, How To Write A Chronological Resume, Essay On Knowledge Is Treasure, Personal Essay Magazines Anecdotes, Ielts Essay Of Comparing And Contrasting Online And Traditional Learning, Top Biography Ghostwriter Services For University