I was talking to some of the MA students here applying to the PhD program. They were told something between 2 pages (single spaced) to 10 pages (double spaced) would be the standard expectations. Mine was a little bit of overkill, but since I hadn’t done a NT research project, I needed to show that I had developed some background in the area in order to go into the PhD program instead of having to do the MATR first and then PhD.
As I’ve marked essays and thought about my own papers and projects, I think a simple but important aspects of thesis proposals/essay introductions are these:
- Context — What’s the larger discussion that your topic fits under?
- Problem — What’s your thesis question? What’s the current state of state of scholarship on that question, and why is your question still unanswered?
- Solution/Thesis — What is it that you might propose as a solution? You may even offer this as a question…’Is it that X is the key to unlock this problem?’
- Plan of Attack/Method — How will you go about answering the question?
Here’s the proposal format that a friend of mine passed on to me and that I used. It’s really designed for the first chapter of a thesis, so you may drop 1.9 and 1.10 for the proposal.
1.2 Framing the Issues (basic readings on the topic—how people approach it)
1.3 Seeing the Problem (what’s the angle you’re looking at and which approach you take)
1.4 Justification of Study
1.5 Asking the Questions
1.6 A Working Hypothesis
1.7 Aims and Objectives
1.8 Tools for the Task (aka Methodology)
The key thing for the proposal is to clarify what question and subquestions you are attempting to answer.