Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Thesis proposal


As our program grows, more and more students are asking to do theses.  This is awesome, and we are here to help as much as we can.  It is important for you to keep in mind that thesis spots are limited and you may have to wait a bit for a spot to open up so a professor can provide you the attention and guidance you will need through this process.  

It will also really help if you consult with the professors who have open spots about your research topic before you get your heart set on one, or you may have to wait a little longer (i.e. if you email a professor a set thesis topic s/he may redirect you to a colleague with a full agenda, so it is easier if you have an open mind and topic flexibility).  Remember this varies by program and school, so this is only my opinion of how it works in the M. S. Sport Administration at A-State. Ask your advisor for specifics on how thesis advisors are assigned in your program and at your institution. 

Once your professor and you have agreed on a topic and the proper paperwork has been filled out it is time to get to work.  Here is an outline of a proposal a kind colleague shares with her dissertation advisees that may be helpful to you as you progress through your thesis writing.  Cite your sources throughout the thesis document. 

1. Chapter 1. Introduction

  • Introduction
    • It introduces the topic, giving background information, citing literature as appropriate and needed
    • It grabs the readers’ attention and highlights the importance of the study
    • In some cases a historical overview of the topic is introduced.
  • Conceptual framework
    • Rational/theoretical/model based model for the study
    • Historical, theoretical nature, and background of the research topic
    • Includes
      • Key variables under investigation
      • Any believed interrelations between dependent and independent variables
  • Problem statement
    • Explain gap in knowledge in the current literature, not the fallacy of such
    • How the proposed study will fill this gap in the literature
    • Highlights the need for such a study and the specific problem that will be addressed
  • Purpose of the study
    • Identify the research design: Qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, ethnographic...
    • Identify the population you plan to research
    • Identify the research variables
  • Significance of the study
    • Highlight the importance of the study to address the literature gap and contribute to the field
      • How will the knowledge improve human conditions?
      • How will the knowledge improve policy? 
      • How will the knowledge advance the filed?
  • Research questions
    • Bases of data collection to address the purpose of the study
  • Limitations and delimitations
    • Explain how you plan to control potential problems in the research design
    • Limitations are factors the researcher has no control over
    • Evident limitations are potential weaknesses of the study
    • Delimitations are the limitations imposed by the researcher
  • Key definitions
    • Terms defined here should be directly related to the research and used consistently throughout

2. Chapter 2. Literature review
  • Introduction
    • Background of problem, literature gap, and chapter organization
  • Content
    • Research summary demonstrates the actual gap in the literature, not the fallacy of such claim
    • Every research study included is closely related to the subject of the study
    • The chapter discusses major conclusions, findings, and methodological issues of the current literature
    •  The review offers a balance coverage of the literature, which may entail different points of view or outcomes
    • Recent literature published in peer-reviewed journals or other scientific sources
    • Older research only cited to provide historical background or theoretical grounding for the research topic/concept
    • Review of the current and relevant research is extensive and in depth
    • The literature review establishes a convincing basis for the proposed study
      • Organization
        • The chapter presents a clear, logical, and complete explanation of the major areas to be reviewed in the chapter
        • The review is organized in major sections from general to specific
        • The use of subheadings is logical and highlights the chapter's organization. 
    • Summary
      • Recap main findings of recent literature
      • Reminds the readers of the literature gap to be filled by the proposed study
3. Chapter 3. Methodology
  • Introduction
    • Briefly state the problem being investigated, purpose of the study, and significance. 
    • Describe the organization of the chapter
  • Research questions
    • Exactly as listed in chapter 1
  • Research design
    • Specify research method: Experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, causal-comparative, quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, or another research design. 
    • Explain method choice (why this and not another?)
    • Explain how the method fits the research purpose
    • The variables mentioned in chapter 1 are operationalized in chapter 3. 
  • Population
    • Target population precisely defined
    • Sample selection method is specified, along with the approximate number of participants to be included in the sample. 
  • Instruments
    • Describe all the instruments in great detail
      • Information for each instrument includes reliability and validity
      • Scale scoring needs to be described as well if applicable
    • Include instruments in the appendixes, but a reference to the appendix is included in this section. 
  • Data collection
    • Describe the method of data collection in great detail
  • Data analysis
    • Methods of statistical analysis that will be used to answer the research questions are described throughly
  • Ethical considerations
    • Demonstrate ethical concerns are addressed, particularly in reference to planning, conducting, and evaluating research. 
    • Care is taken for participants to fully understand the nature of the study and that their participation is voluntary
    • Include a statement about how the confidentiality of the data collected will be maintained at all times, and identificaiton of participants will not be available during or after the study. 

Pro tips: 

  1. Your thesis must follow A-States theses and dissertations format. You can find it at the A-State theses and dissertations website
  2. Theses normally take two full semesters to complete (16 weeks each). If you are a student in our 7-week per term online program we will do our best to get you finished in two terms (7-week terms). However, finishing a thesis before the end of the term does not guarantee you will be graduating on that term as A-State has form and thesis final manuscript deadlines that are way early than the end of a term. You can see the academic calendar at the registrar's website and keep that in mind. 


Congratulations to my wonderful peer Dr. Amany Saleh for a great dissertation opening session for her Educational Leadership doctoral students, and the biggest thanks for allowing me to share her outline resources with my thesis students. 

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