[Work Log] Dissertation Proposal - Preparation, Organization

January 06, 2014

Spent morning and early afternoon doing preparation for my dissertation proposal by doing some background reading and laying out a rough sketch of what I'd like to cover.

Read Ernesto's dissertation proposal. The bulk of Ernesto's proposal seemed to be his two published papers, with an extended literature review and a brief description of remaining work to be done. This isn't too surprising, since he was so far along in his research when he wrote the proposal. Unfortunately, I have no such publications to draw on, but I may be able to use part of the tracking paper, which I was third author on. But on the whole, I'll need to lean more in the "proposal" direction, and less in the "dissertation" direction than Ernesto was able to. Time to dig for more representative examples of the proposal I'll be writing...

Read this article, describing a dissertation proposal in science. The second page has a nice organization of possible sections for my proposal.

According to the aforementioned article, length is 10-40 pages. This is supported by Ernesto's proposal (25 pages w/ references), and these example proposals from computer science, which fall between 9 and 20 pages, with references. The number of references is between 14 and 85, with a median around 20.

I was surprised to see the level of brevity and abstractness in most of the example proposals above. I'm assuming these were written early in the research phase, shortly after the end of coursework; it is encouraging to see that this document need not be a tour de force. Overall, I'm thinking that since I've developed my research so extensively, my proposal will probably be heavier on references and detail, and likely longer than the average. However, I need to avoid falling into the trap of trying to write my dissertation instead of a proposal.

I'm feeling more confident now that I can finish this by the deadline I set for myself of January 31, and a reschedule hopefully won't be needed. My initial investigation suggested that writing the proposal should take three to nine months, a surprise that knocked the wind out of me. I realize now that much of that time is spent investigating topics, doing initial research, and reviewing literature, not specifically writing. Since I've completed those steps (extensively!) it should be reasonable to assume I can write the full document in 2.5 weeks. I'd like to get Kobus a first draft within the week, with at least the rough structure layed out, so he can correct my course if I'm way off.

I briefly reviewed the computer science department's graduate program policy for comp exams (something I haven't looked it in probably far too long!) and realized I should have scheduled my dissertation proposal in Fall 2011!! It should be no surprise the department was urging me to complete this right away!

Organizational Notes

Below are notes I jotted down while reading Ernesto's proposal.


Research items worth covering in the proposal (or dedicating chapters to in the dissertation proper)

Background / Related work

Layout Ideas

An initial strategy for laying out the proposal is below. I may want to rethink this after reading this guide, which suggests a much higher-level strategy. However, the level of detail in the strategy that follows may be justified by the late stage I'm at with my research; could contribute to a stronger argument. Should sleep on it.

Intro. describe problem, motivate and give background. Body. One Seciton per part, with one or more of the following parts

Future Work



Miscellaneous Thoughts

Proposal TODO:


Posted by Kyle Simek
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