Before conducting research for your master’s thesis, you must first communicate to your academic program that you have a viable research question and an appropriate plan of action. This question and plan are communicated to your academic program by writing a thesis proposal.
The thesis proposal outlines your topic of interest, poses an important research question, and provides a specific outline for how you plan on conducting the research to answer that question. Writing a successful thesis proposal consists of several steps.
Select an adviser
Your advisor will guide your thesis progress, point you in the right direction in terms of research topic and methods, and will support you when you propose your research plan to the rest of your academic department. You should select an adviser who you know well, who will be interested in working with you, and who is interested in the topic you wish to study. It is recommended that you choose an adviser you have worked with in the past, so you know you are compatible with them.
Form a committee
Select one or more academic faculty in your department to serve on your thesis committee. Explain your research topic to them, listen to their questions and suggestions, and ask them if they would be willing to review your proposal.
Write an outline
Meet with your adviser to discuss your thesis research. Listen to their concerns and questions. Once you know the topic you wish to tackle, provide your adviser with an outline with the following sections: introduction/literature review, hypotheses, methods, implications. Pay extra attention to your adviser’s recommendations regarding what he or she hypothesizes the results of your study will be, as well as their recommended methods.
Fill in the outline and create a rough draft
Once you have met with your adviser and they have approved your topic and given recommendations on the hypotheses and methods, you should write a rough draft of your thesis proposal. Fill in all the sections in the outline by reading pre-existing literature on the topic, collecting relevant materials, and reading sample theses and dissertations.
Obtain committee feedback
When you have written one or more drafts of your thesis, it is time to collect feedback from faculty in the department. First approach your adviser. Give him or her as long as a month to review your draft and provide detailed comments. Edit your thesis proposal accordingly. Trust your adviser’s judgment. Once you have done this a few times, submit your thesis proposal to your committee for their feedback. This may take several rounds of revisions.
After several rounds of feedback and revisions, it will be time to present your thesis proposal to your committee (or to the whole department). Answer any questions in a gracious, clear manner. If your paper has been approved by your committee, you are free to begin your thesis research!