"Researchers employ theory, method, evidence, and reasoning to produce findings they claim are important and relevant to the questions of interest. The reasoning producing the findings and relating them to the problem constitutes an argument that is the heart of the dissertation proposal. This argument justifies conducting the study and supports the meaning and utility of the results found. The primary function of the dissertation proposal, then, is to provide this justification for the inquiry."How to prepare a dissertation proposal: Suggestions for students in education & the social and behavioral sciences
David R. Krathwohl & Nick L. Smith
It feels that I have been left to my own devices - by and large - to figure out how to do this thing. You gotta be a bit self-reliant and resourceful (asking for a lot of help from kind strangers) to get this far. Some tips I recommend to other intrepids on the same road...
- Books on how to draft a dissertation proposal, prepare a literature review, etc. My mom used to say my real mother was my books. I gotta admit, there has always been a book on any question or problem I've encountered. I've bought nearly a dozen how-to books for my dissertation and the one I've referenced above is particularly useful.
- I shamelessly ask professors and doctoral students for copies of their dissertations and/or proposals as samples. I download others that are relevant to my topic. I follow their flow, section headings and order, paragraph structure, and so on to give me an idea of how to put mine together.
- UCLA has a "dissertation proposal boot camp" that is Thee Bomb. I highly recommend the abbreviated weeknight version or the 6-week summer series. I did both. Sometime you gotta hear things more than once to really get it.
- When I did a search of journal articles that covered the intersection between urban youth, family communication and posttraumatic resilience, I came across studies that seemed to be designed in the same way that I hope to conduct mine. Because the methods section is pretty recipe-like and straightforward, there is a lot of opportunity to use a good study as a template - replacing their variables for your own. If you're gonna come up with your own banana bread recipe, you can use a standard recipe for the major stuff - like 3 cups of flour to 1 cup of sugar, for example, but then make it your own by adding blueberries and strawberries or cutting the sugar with apple sauce. You don't gotta invent everything from scratch - somethings are pretty standard.
- I started with the research questions and hypotheses. Then I wrote the methods section. Now I'm writing the theory section. I have drafted a million versions of the problem statement and lit review in the last two years. This should be the last thing you write but I didn't know this until after the Dissertation Proposal Boot Camp (which is one of the many reasons I really recommend it). So now I just gotta assemble it. Most of the content has been written. Thanks to this blog, I read, think and write regularly.
- The theory section is important - research should be theory-driven. The thing is, phenomena can be viewed through so many different lenses within and outside of your field. If you can see it and make an interesting case for it, then you might have something. There are so many theories I could use to guide my research study, but for simplicity's sake, I chose two. I may throw in a third. The theory has got to explain why you think you'll see what you predict to find. This is the fun part of research. This is where you use your IMAGINATION. Data don't tell you about the phenomena being studied - your imagination comes up with a story about what you think might be going on and you test it. That is why scientists are like artists - we gotta see things that no one else has seen and tell the story about what's going on in a meaningful way, that is, in a way that other people will get it and buy into it - so it's gotta be interesting, new or unexpected, and coherent. Knowledge development is creative! Ah, I love my life because I found my fit.