You are here: Home / Programs / Ph.D. Degree in Applied Linguistics / Guidelines for the Dissertation Proposal Document

Guidelines for the Dissertation Proposal Document

Guidelines for the Dissertation Proposal Document
Department of Applied Linguistics


Format of the Exam Paper

The written proposal takes the form of a full research proposal using an established formatting style (APA, LSA; 12-point, Times New Roman).  The proposal is to be submitted in electronic format to committee members unless they explicitly request a hard copy.  The proposal, along with page limits, is as follows.

Abstract (1 page, double spaced)

The summary is a succinct presentation of the entire project.  Without headings, it should address the following areas:

  1. Background.
  2. Problem.
  3. Specific Aim(s), including research questions and/or hypotheses.
  4. Methods, including data sources and data collection procedures.
  5. Analysis, including coding and/or statistical procedures
  6. Significance, describing intellectual merit and broader implications


Research Proposal (no more than 25 pages, double-spaced, excluding references)

The research proposal is a detailed presentation of the problem, a review of the literature, the presentation of preliminary data analyses, and the description of the proposed project.  It should include the following sections, with headings.  Page limits are suggestive.

  1. Introduction (one paragraph). A brief articulation of the research topic (“This study will investigate…”) and the research questions to be addressed.
  2. Literature Review/Background (8-9 pages).  This is a review of the relevant literature.  As applicable, it should include a discussion and evaluation of competing or alternate theories, gaps in the literature, the strengths and limitations of particular analytic techniques, and promising directions for scholarship and practice.  The discussion should lead logically to demonstrate the importance of the overall research question(s) posed by the student.
  3. Preliminary Data/Data Analysis (4-5 pages).  If you have preliminary data,  then you can present the analysis of these data here.  Only data that speaks directly to your question, methods, or analytic techniques is appropriate.  Include details about the source of the data, information about data collection and preparation of the data for analysis (e.g. transcription and coding), description of interpretative or analytic methods, examples of the data, and summary of the results of the analysis. These analyses should show that you are familiar with the kind of data collection and analysis that you propose.
  4. Research Design (12-15 pages). This section should begin with a re-articulation of the research question(s) and/or hypotheses and a brief introduction to the design of the research (1/2 page).  However, it should not include information already presented in the literature review.  Rather, this section should present detailed information about the following:
  • data sources and availability of these sources (e.g. corpora, media, human participants),
  • data collection techniques (e.g. audio or audiovisual recording, interviews, structured tasks, use of archived data, etc),
  • data preparation (e.g. transcription practices, spreadsheet management, etc),
  • data analysis (e.g. coding schemes, interpretive methods, statistical tests, etc)
  • a description of the range of expected results and implications.
  • Timeline (1 page).  You should include a timeline that takes the form of a Gantt chart showing your estimated periods of data collection, data analysis, and dissertation write-up.
  • Reference List.  No more than 35 references should be included.