Writing a PhD Prospectus: Your Step-by-Step Guide

dissertation prospectus

A dissertation or thesis prospectus is one of the most important documents because you cannot start working on the dissertation without it. And, your guess is right – it is not an abstract, which is a summary of the final dissertation or the introduction to the thesis. Rather, it is the first official document done and presented to the thesis supervisory committed upon confirmation of PhD candidacy. Although not so long, as we are going to demonstrate in this post, most PhD students find it very challenging to write. This means they get stuck even before commencing writing the main dissertation.

If you are one of the PhD students stuck trying to craft a prospectus, which will greatly define the journey of preparing the dissertation, there is no need to get stressed anymore because we are here to help. This post is a comprehensive guide, highlighting the main steps with examples to help you craft that PhD prospectus like a pro. Keep reading as we answer every question about dissertation prospectus, including, “What is the purpose of a prospectus?” and “How long should a prospectus be?”

What is a Dissertation Prospectus?

Before demonstrating how to write a thesis prospectus, it is important to go back to the beginning and establish what it is. So, what is a research prospectus?

A thesis prospectus is an attempt to demonstrate what you are planning to study in your dissertation before embarking on the task. Because you are required to submit the prospectus after the confirmation of your candidacy, it should not be a very long document. In most cases, it is around 10-25 double-spaced pages.

As we have highlighted, the purpose of a prospectus is to give a preliminary description of the dissertation ahead. Therefore, you should delineate the thesis topic and the area that it will focus on. So, what is your dissertation topic, and why is the area worth studying. You should also include a provisional prospectus outline and a comprehensive bibliography. The bibliography is likely to get modified along the way as you embark on writing the thesis.

Prospectus vs Proposal: What is the Difference?

When looking at the definition of a dissertation prospectus, it is not uncommon for students to confuse it with other preparatory documents, especially the proposal. A dissertation proposal is a document that provides an outline of the thesis and defines the main issues that you will address. You identify a problem and highlight a solution to it. In most cases, the outline of the proposal includes the introduction, a literature review, methodology, and a references list page.

On the other hand, a thesis prospectus is a document that highlights the roadmap for the proposed study. The document is intended to get the student thinking about the study project early enough and further provide the dissertation committee with a concise description of what you want to do. Using the prospectus, the supervisory committee will be able to check the soundness of the conceptualization of the targeted study.

In short, a thesis proposal provides an outline of the thesis that you are going to prepare and demonstrating its importance, while the prospectus focuses on the whole idea. Why is the topic worth studying? As we mentioned earlier, the prospectus is the first document that you submit to the supervisory committee after the confirmation of your candidacy. So, you should do it professionally to get your dissertation approved.

How to Write a Dissertation Prospectus: A Step-By-Step Guide

A prospectus is a preliminary statement capturing and communicating what you anticipate to do in your dissertation. Therefore, it should be as clear and concise as possible. Also, appreciate that there is no specific recipe for writing a prospectus. However, some universities have their preferred structures, and it is important to stick to your department’s recommendation.

Like any other type of paper, the first step in preparing a good prospectus should be creating an outline, which tells you what to put where. So, here is an example of one of the best outlines:

  1. Provide the Title of the Study
  2. This is the first and perhaps the most important component in a prospectus, and indeed, the entire dissertation. Unlike in the past, when some PhD students used to look for their dissertation titles at the last minute, things are different today because you need to do that early enough. So, think carefully about the title and ensure that it articulately aligns with your problem and statement of thesis. It is true that you are just getting started, but what you do must be clear, and this has to start with the title. Here are some great examples of titles in different subjects:

    • Governing the renewable energy transition.
    • The rediscovery of a language and renaissance of a culture.
    • Brexit: The impacts that could finally break down European Union.
    • Same-sex relationships and violence: A case study of Russia.
    • Race, class, and changing “civicness” in Bonn, Germany: A contemporary analysis.
  3. Develop the Statement of Thesis
  4. In this part, you provide a clear description of what you want to do. No need to write a lot on this section – one or several paragraphs should be enough. The best way to handle this section is to think of it as the primary question for the dissertation. Let us put it differently: can you wrap the focus of the entire dissertation in just one question? If the answer is “no,” the chances are that the dissertation is very broad.

    The statement of the thesis part of the prospectus will ultimately become your purpose statement in the dissertation. Therefore, it will be a good idea to ask yourself one major question, “What is the problem that I am looking forward to solve?” Then review the answer and narrow it down to the purpose of your work.

  5. Give a Summary of the Existing Literature
  6. Once done with the statement of thesis, jump to the next step, which should be creating a summary of the existing literature for the study. This section will be the starting point for the dissertation’s literature review. Therefore, you need to dig deep into the subject of study to ensure it is as clear as possible. The goal is to ensure you fully understand the topic of study and related work to avoid repeating what has already been done.

    The supervisory committee will be looking forward to understanding how your work will build on the current knowledge and its contribution in the respective field. Below is an example of a summary of the existing literature:

    According to Barrington (2015), older workers are more likely to remain unemployed in the long term compared to employees of other ages. Therefore, age discrimination may be a major cause for the huge difference in the unemployment rates between different age groups. Barrington’s argument is supported by Barnett (2016), who suggests that ageist thinking is present in most workplaces all over United States. Older ladies are further disadvantaged because of additional discrimination based on gender…”

  7. Explain the Methods that You Will Use
  8. Although most students hold the view that it might be too early to think of the methodology when preparing a prospectus, there is no way out. So, you have to determine whether your study will be quantitative or qualitative. Then, explain why the selected method and theory are the right pick for the work. Go ahead and bring out any conceptual frameworks that will be used in the study.

  9. Prepare an Outline for Every Chapter
  10. In most cases, this is not required. However, there are some universities that require you to break down each chapter into smaller parts. So, if you are required to, go ahead and carry additional research to determine the subtopics of every section. As we highlighted at the start of this guide, the outline you provide does not mean that you cannot change it. As you gather more information when working on the dissertation, do not hesitate to modify the subheadings and add others. Also, new developments in the area of study can necessitate the addition of more subtopics within your outline.

  11. Provide the Timeline for Your Study
  12. Like the outline for each chapter, not all universities require you to provide a timeline before the prospectus approval is given. Even when not part of the requirement, it will be good to think of an appropriate time to start and finish the study. Indeed, most colleges have a specific timeline for thesis writing. So, try to ensure that everything falls within the provided timeline.

  13. Prepare the Prospectus Bibliography
  14. The last item on your prospectus is the bibliography, which is a list of resources that you are going to use. Because you are still at an early stage of dissertation development, the chances are that the resources you already have are still few. This is what you should provide in the prospectus. In addition, you should dig out more resources that will be used for the study and include them in the bibliography.

Below is an example of a prospectus bibliography:


  1. Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2011. Print.
  2. Kotrla, Kimberly. “Domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States.” Social Work 55.2 (2010): 181-187. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Mar 2012.
  3. Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. “Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults.” American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

Note how the references are arranged in chronological order. They also have to be in line with the recommended formatting style, such as APA or MLA.

Special Tips for Crafting a Great PhD Prospectus

  • Comprehensively Research Your Topic

To present a strong case for your topic, you need to have the right information. Therefore, start by studying it well for more knowledge on the area. Particularly, you should pay attention to what other researchers have done, their findings, and link to current affairs.

  • Read Other Dissertation Prospectus Examples

One way of honing your skills when it comes to writing a thesis prospectus is reading what other PhD students, especially the revered ones, did. The goal is not to copy what they did but to improve on what they have.

  • Work with the Latest Resources

While there are some studies where using old resources would be okay, such as when studying ancient civilizations in history studies, you should aim to use the most recent literature. This would provide you with a better grasp of what has been done in your discipline and existing gaps in your discipline. Indeed, you might find the latest studies the perfect starting point, especially if researchers identified areas that require further studies. Try to identify and use peer-reviewed journals and books for your prospectus.

  • Make Sure to Proofread Your Work Well

Like other forms of academic writing, your work should be properly proofread to ensure it is free from errors. Particularly, ensure that the ideas presented on the prospectus are flowing well from the start to the end. Furthermore, you should ensure that the message is clear and the words selected are correctly placed. This will also be a good moment to confirm that all the instructions were followed.

Time to Get Thesis Writing Help

Now that we have provided the writing guide and tips for preparing a good prospectus, are you ready to write down one? Many university students find preparing PhD prospectus a hard nut to crack because of poor understanding of the subject matter. For others, it is the lack of enough resources, competing assignments, and tight deadlines. So, what challenge is standing on your way to preparing a prospectus that will be approved by the supervisory committee?

The good news is that you can easily get prospectus approval with our online professional help. We have a team of professional academic writers who are ready to assist you in crafting the best grades. Well, the writing experts have all the qualifications and experience to help you not just with the prospectus but with your exams and term papers. They will also come in handy when preparing the dissertation. Remember that even if your assignment has a tight deadline, our writers are very fast and can beat it. Our services are also cheap.

When it comes to writing your dissertation, be it the prospectus, a chapter of it, or the entire thesis, you should work with the best. You can never go wrong with our professional writers!

Leave a Reply

Error message
Error message
Error message
Error message

Your message has been sent!
We will answer your question shortly.
Fast-Forward to Graduation