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Writing a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

Books, websites, and powerpoints to help you write your dissertation or thesis proposal

Plan before Reading!

You will be anxious to start reading all of the literature you've gathered on your refined topic, but don't start until you've done some planning! As you review the literature, you will need to develop two arguments: discovery and advocacy. Deciding ahead of time what information you will glean from each source and how you will organize it will make the task of developing the arguments easier and faster.

A bibliographic management software is an excellent tool for the organizational aspect of reviewing the literature. The UNT Libraries make RefWorks available to all UNT students, staff, and faculty, and its advantage is you have already paid for it through library fees. Zotero and Mendeley are free web-based reference managers you may want to explore; you will have to purchase software/online access for other reference managers, e.g., EndNote, Reference Manager.

The Two-Pronged Approach

"You must build a case for what is known about your topic and determine how this knowledge addresses the research question." – Machi and McEvoy, 2009

You need to develop and intertwine two arguments in your literature review:

  1. Argument of discovery - explain the current state of knowledge that is the context for your research interest
  2. Argument of advocacy - evaluate the knowledge gained in discovery to support your research question(s)

Remember this two-pronged approach as you read: discovery will come from surveying the literature and advocacy from evaluating it. You should be able to answer the questions:

  • “What do we know about the subject of our study?”
  • “Based on what we know, what conclusions can we draw about the research question?”

Also keep in mind that the evidence for your arguments is selective. You don't want to include every source that's related to your research question, just the best and most relevant sources. Let your refined topic be your guide to which sources to eventually include in your literature review.

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