Guidelines for Writing Research Proposals and Dissertations
Dr. Mark A. Baron Division of Educational Administration University of South Dakota
Guidelines for Writing Research Proposals and Dissertations The following information presents guidelines for preparing and writing research papers and reports, including theses and dissertations. While these guidelines are generally applicable, specific format and style will be dictated by the nature of the research involved and the requirements of the department and institution for which the research proposal or dissertation is written. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition (2001) or Concise Rules for APA Style (2005) should be consulted for all questions pertaining to form and style that are not addressed in this guide. A typical dissertation/research proposal consists of three chapters or parts: the Introduction (Chapter 1), the Review of Related Literature and/or Research (Chapter 2), and the Methodology (Chapter 3). The completed dissertation begins with the same three chapters and concludes with two additional chapters that report research findings (Chapter 4) and conclusions, discussion, and recommendations (Chapter 5). While the majority of the research proposal is written in the present and future tenses, the methodology and findings in the final report or dissertation are written mostly in the past tense. Preceding the main body of the report are several pages containing the preliminary material. The following lists the elements (in order) that comprise the preliminary material. While both proposals and final dissertations contain a Title Page, the remainder of the preliminary pages are reserved for the final dissertation (although the Table of Contents is optional in the proposal).
Title Page Copyright Page Abstract Committee Signature Page Acknowledgments Table of Contents List of Tables List of Figures
Please note that page numbers for preliminary material are written in small Roman numerals (e.g., iii, iv, v, etc.) that are centered at the bottom margin of the page. The Title Page counts as page i, but the number is not printed on the page. The Copyright Page (if included) counts as page ii, but is also not numbered. The Abstract begins on page iii (if there is a Copyright Page, or page ii if there is no Copyright Page) and the remaining preliminary pages are numbered consecutively. For the main body of the paper, all pages are numbered with Arabic numerals in the upper right corner (on the right margin, from one-half to one inch from the top, with the first line of text beginning approximately one double space below the page number, at approximately one inch from the top). Note that the Word default setting places the page number one-half inch from the top and the first line of text one-half inch below the page number (i.e., one inch from the top). The default setting may be used without further adjustment. Check to assure that the page number font matches that of the narrative. Pages in the main body of the paper (including the Appendixes) run consecutively from page 1 (the first page of Chapter 1). Use a 1-1/2 inch left margin (to allow sufficient space for binding the final copies) and one inch top (i.e., about one inch to the first line of iii
text), bottom, and right margins throughout the paper, including any preliminary pages and appendixes. Please note that your text (and tables or figures) should not extend beyond any of the margins on any page (including appendixes that may be reduced copied if necessary). Since the first three chapters (Introduction, Review of Related Literature and/or Research, and Methodology) are almost identical for both the proposal and final dissertation (except for verb tense in all three chapters), the following discussion of these chapters pertains to both. Chapter titles and suggested section headings appear as they would in an actual proposal/dissertation.
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