Guidelines on How to Write a Thesis Proposal Outline: General Writing Rules

As students progress in their schooling, writing proposals for term papers, theses, research papers, and dissertations becomes increasingly important. Just getting the topic and research plan approved becomes a high stress situation as students reach graduate school. It doesn’t have to be, however. Here’s how to write a thesis proposal outline that is sure to lead to an approved thesis topic.

Refine the Thesis Statement

Before beginning the outline, the student should be very certain their thesis statement is in its final form. Of course, it may evolve as they research, but for the purposes of the proposal it must be as polished as possible. Plus, having a clear thesis statement will make writing the outline that much easier.

Do Some Preliminary Research

Of course, one isn’t going to devote too much time to research if the proposal hasn’t been approved yet, but getting some good background information can ease the outline making process by helping the student shape their ideas and organize them. In doing this preliminary reading, the student should start making categories for the information that will be included in the final paper, and therefore will be introduced in the proposal. It can also help the student get a better idea of what research strategy they should pursue.

Outline Each Section of the Proposal Separately

Take a look at the published proposal writing guide for the institution. Make a note of each section that the student is expected to include in their thesis proposal. For each of these sections, create an outline that includes an introduction, body, conclusion, and transition. It’s important to include notes on the transitions between paragraphs and sections to show that the entire proposal will be a cohesive whole. However, sometimes it is simpler to create each outline first and then, when they are all done, to go back and add in the transitions.

Make the Outline Detailed

While students are used to creating vague outlines for their own use, they need to understand that a thesis proposal is itself a professional document, and should be detailed, polished, and in-depth. It should demonstrate not only that the student has a plan for their thesis, but that they are organized and informed enough to complete the research, organization, and writing of the thesis itself. As such, it’s not just a reference for personal use.

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