One common issue dissertation students face when writing their proposal is that the problem statement, the research questions, and the literature review fail to match up properly.
This is known as a lack of “alignment,” and it happens when students have so many ideas that the dissertation proposal becomes unfocused and rambling.
In this article, we’ll explore:
What alignment is
Why it matters, and
How you can achieve it
What Do We Mean by Alignment?
A well-aligned dissertation proposal is one in which everything you present lines up clearly with your research questions.
In other words, the context should be the context of those questions, the problem statement should show why they are relevant questions, the literature review should establish they have not been adequately answered already, and so on.
Why is Alignment Important?
Dissertations need to be focused like a laser on a specific problem or topic. Without alignment, however, this focus can get lost.
This makes it hard for a reader to follow the line of logic you are establishing.
By aligning all parts of your dissertation proposal to your research questions, you will help your reader recognize the research gap you are filling, follow your argument, and assess the viability of your study.
How to Achieve Dissertation Proposal Alignment
One easy way to make sure your dissertation proposal sections are aligned to your research questions is to use a chart when you are drafting.
First, create a table. Then, put your research questions in the first column, your objectives (if applicable) in the next column, different aspects of the problem in the next column, key lit review sources and gaps you have identified in the next, and so on. Then check—does each row make sense and line up properly?
If it does not, try to work out where you have gone off track. Maybe your objectives need rethinking, or you need to complete more literature research. Keep tweaking the project until the chart tells you everything lines up. Only then are you ready to start writing your proposal.