Thesis and Project Proposals

Once you have decided on a topic for your thesis or special project, you must prepare a proposal. A proposal outlines in detail the nature and intent of your thesis or project, and includes a statement of the types of sources you intend to use to complete your research.

Remember, your GAC chair and the MALS Director must approve your proposal before you can proceed with your project or thesis. Therefore it is important that you explain your topic, working thesis, potential sources, and research objectives clearly in your proposal.

Common Questions about Proposals

+ What should I write in my proposal?

A proposal is much like a prospectus for any research project; the difference is that this proposal should be more detailed and developed, and the final document will have your GAC chair's approval. A proposal should outline the nature and intent of the project or thesis and discuss the sources (type and extent), methodologies, and theoretical paradigms you plan to use to achieve the goal of your project.

A proposal for a special project should include the project design plus a support paper prospectus.

+ Can I revise my proposal if my objectives change?


Yes. Research is a dynamic, at times unpredictable, endeavor. It is quite common for your research to uncover new possibilities for your argument, or for you to encounter obstacles that merit changing course within your research process. Keep in mind, though, that all changes to your research and/or your proposal must be approved by your GAC chair.

+ What if I want to change my topic altogether?

It is generally not a good idea to change topics outright once your proposal has been approved. In fact, the proposal writing process should be the time for you to think through the strength of your topic, your level of interest in researching your topic, the interdisciplinarity of your research, and the availability of sources for your research. This is not to say that your research won't change course somewhat, but unless there is a compelling reason (and your committee chair agrees) to start from scratch, it is best to work through the rough patches.

+ Will the proposal be graded?

Your proposal won't be graded as a course assignment, but the strength of your proposal will affect the quality of your project or thesis and the chances of its being approved. In other words, the feedback your committee gives on your proposal will provide a useful assessment of your readiness to continue with your thesis or project.

+ Do I need to cite specific sources in the proposal? How many do I need?

It is a good idea to cite some prior research in your topic area to demonstrate how your thesis or project will fit into the scholarly conversation in your field. A good proposal is built on adequate knowledge of your topic to be confident that your research can answer the "So what?" question.