A thesis/dissertation proposal should include descriptions and logical articulation of a manageable research plan, with sections presented in the following order:
The cover page includes a tentative research title, your name and affiliation, degree program, major professor and steering committee members, and submittal date.
One-page with 4 ingredients: 1) the problem you will study and its importance; 2) the methods you will use and the reasons you choose them; 3) the results you expect and methods you will use to analyze them; and 4) the intellectual merit and broader impacts of your research.
Clearly define your research objectives (2-3 for M.S.; 3-4 for Ph.D.) to address research problem(s). This section demonstrates complete literature review and your critical thinking in identifying research problems and proposing research objectives and hypotheses. Ph.D. students strive to propose hypothesis-driven scientific inquiry in addition to task-based applied research.
This section presents the rationale of your objectives. Elaborate on the research gaps and needs that your research will fill, or the significant debates or controversies that your research will shed light on. Identify 2-3 external funding programs to which your proposal may be submitted for funding.
This section provides overall description of your approach, materials, and methods. You have to describe methodology to address each objective and test each hypothesis. You should address: 1) the methods you will use; 2) the field/lab experiments you will perform to test your hypotheses and achieve the objectives; 3) the materials you will use; and 4) the methods to analyze data. Briefly justify the selection of a specific method/process/material/model if it's a significant one. If you have obtained preliminary results, incorporate them into description of the methods devised, tools/techniques to adopt or develop, and study sites/resources to use. You must identify available resources (e.g. study site, instruments, software, etc.).
Clearly state the products (outputs) and outcomes to be produced by your research in the context of intellectual merit and broader impacts, in particular, unique contributions to a body of knowledge, education, and/or outreach.
Give specific dates or periods with milestones for research, manuscript/thesis writing, committee meetings, and defense. A timetable is sufficient. Keep your overall scholarship timeline in mind.
Follow the Instructions to Authors in a prestigious journal of your field on citation in the text and reference list; be consistent in style throughout your proposal. Length varies with research topics.