1 Guidelines for writing a successful MSc Thesis Proposal Prof. Dr. Afaf El-Ansary Biochemistry department King Saud University
2 Why are thesis proposals necessary? The Purpose of having thesis proposals is threefold. First, it is to ensure that you are prepared to undertake the work you are proposing. Second, it is to ensure that the work being proposed is of appropriate scope for an MSc degree and has value to the community. Third, to help gurantee the quality of the MSc program as a whole.
3 What is the role of the graduate studies committee (GSC). The committee is charged with ensuring that the three purposes of MSc proposals are met. They must verify that your topic is sound. That you are prepared to do the work That the work seems to be interest. To ensure this, the committee carefully read and review your proposal making comments intended you to improve any defeciences in your proposal and /or proposed studies.
4 What is the role of your advisor and of you, the student? The role of your advisor in the development of your thesis proposal is primarily to: Advise and proofread. Guid you to a specific, well-defined thesis topic. Suggest some initial background reading you should do. Suggest a structure to follow in writing your thesis proposal ( if not, a structure suggested by the university). propose one or more potential solution strategies?methodologies for the work you will propose.
5 What is your role? It is your responsibility to do the necessary background reading to be able to clearly and concisely summarize the work related to your proposal. You must ensure that this summary is complete and that all work discussed in it is relevant to your proposal. Your proposal should be written by you (with your advisor s input if you want it). Your advisor should proofread what you write and may suggest changes in everything from structure to grammar and spelling.
6 It is your responsibility to make these changes. Your goal is to take your advisor s advice and incorporate it to ensure that your proposal document is as close to perfect as possible.
7 Before it has been carefully reviewed by your advisor. Remember that review by your advisor is always faster than review by the GSC. Multiple reviews of your proposal by your advisor prior to submission is the norm.
8 Do a good job and take pride in your proposal document. Remember that the quality of your proposal reflects on both you and your advisor and that the committee will not hesitate to reject a poorly prepared or incomplete proposal and certainly will not accept a proposal until they feel that it is complete, clear and free of presentation problems.
9 What should be in your proposal? Key components of your thesis proposal include: An abstract of the proposed work. A clearly specified problem statement (where problem is taken in the broadest sense). An introduction to the problem and your proposed solution. A review of related work describing how it relates to your proposed work (this review is not intended to be exhaustive but rather representative of existing work in the area). A statement of how you propose to solve your problem including sufficient methodology. to convince the committee that your proposed solution is likely to be successful A description of precisely how you will evaluate the success of your work.
10 A statement of the resources required to complete your work and how you will gain access to them. A timeline for the completion of your thesis providing realistic dates.
11 The length of a proposal often varies somewhat depending on the area of the proposed work and the topic itself. In general, a proposal is normally between 10 and 20 pages, single column, 1.5 spacing using 12pt font including figures and references. This is a guideline and the actual length of your proposal is best discussed with your advisor. Be aware, however, that excessively lengthy documents may be sent back unread to be revised to provide better focus. An upper bound of close to 20 pages is a good limit in practice. Also, please do not use a font size of under 12pt since your proposal should be easy for the committee members to read!
12 While the exact structure and organization of your thesis proposal may vary from the following suggested structure, all the material discussed in each item described below should be included somewhere in your proposal and should be presented in a logical order.
13 A title page That includes: your proposed thesis title, your name and student number, your advisor(s) name(s), and the date of approval.
14 An abstract - that, in one or two paragraphs, provides a concise summary of the work you are proposing including a statement of the problem that you are trying to solve and how you expect to solve it. - This is one of the most challenging parts of the proposal to write since you must provide some detail without the reader having yet been given the background knowledge. It is probably best to write the abstract last!
15 Introduction -An introduction that describes the problem area and motivates the need for your proposed work. -In the introduction you need to say why you are doing the proposed work and what its significance is. (i.e. Does anyone else care about what you are doing?). -It is in the introduction that you typically also define/explain most of the necessary terms.
16 -You also need to provide a quick sketch of your proposed solution and briefly explain how it differs from other work. - Be sure to build from more general concepts to more specific ones so that the reader will understand everything. -You should be able to have someone else read just your introduction and be able to then tell you what you are proposing to do and why it is interesting. -That is, the introduction should be understandable by itself without the rest of the proposal.
17 Related Work: A related work section that surveys previous work related to what you are proposing. This section should be carefully written and organized to make the relationships between the earlier research efforts clear and to also explain how that research relates to your proposed work.
18 It is primarily this section that makes it apparent to the committee that you are, in fact, prepared to undertake your proposed work. The work you reference should be quite extensive, relevant and recent.
19 Insufficient references suggests to the committee that you may not be aware of all the related work and this means that it is possible that your work may already have been done by someone else. The inclusion of irrelevant (or too many) references may lead committee members to question your understanding of the area.
20 Finally, lack of recent references might suggest that your proposed work is no longer of interest or is, perhaps, too hard a problem that other researchers have chosen to overlook. Finally, be careful to base your related work on quality publications. All (or very close to all) of your referenced papers should be from well-respected, refereed sources (i.e. journals or top tier conferences in your selected area).
21 The detailed problem description further convinces the committee that you know everything that is necessary to undertake your proposed work. A detailed problem description. Although you have already described the problem you are addressing in general terms, you need to ensure the committee that you have thought of all the details of that problem.
22 A description of your proposed solution strategy and expected results. Although you may not know the precise details of how you will solve the problem you have just described, you should be able to give the committee that what you are proposing is a good idea that can be done within the time constraints of an MSc degree and that you understand the issues associated with the techniques you intend to apply.
23 Resources Required: A statement of the resources required, if any, to complete your work and a description of where you will gain access to these resources.
24 Timelines: A tabular set of timelines that provide realistic estimates of when the major phases of your thesis will be completed (including the writing of your thesis). These are often difficult to predict without experience so be sure to involve your advisor in setting these dates.
25 Remember that it almost always takes longer than you expect to get anything done and that you will likely also have other responsibilities while you are trying to complete your thesis.
26 A bibliography of the papers, etc. you have read and cited in your proposal. The bibliography should be ordered in a convenient way, normally by last name of first author and should use a consistent style for all entries.
27 The Review process: A minimum of three members selected by the chair, will provide reviews of your proposal to the chair. The committee as a whole will consider the comments of the reviewing members and will place your thesis proposal in one of three categories:
28 Category I (acceptable as submitted) The first category is for thesis proposals that are approved without any changes This category is rarely used.
29 Category 2 (only minor changes required) The second category is for thesis proposals that require relatively minor changes/clarifications. Proposals in this category are resubmitted directly to the chair of the committee who verifies that the required changes/clarifications have been made and then approves the proposal without involving the rest of the committee.
30 Category 3: (major changes required) The third category is for thesis proposals that have omitted one or more significant portions or that are otherwise considered unacceptable by the committee. In this case, the proposal must be rewritten to address the concerns of the committee and resubmitted for review by the entire committee members.
31 Common problems with MSc Proposals The most common serious problems seen in previous MSc thesis proposals include: Failure to identify and clearly state a specific problem that you are addressing. Failure to clearly describe the methodology you will use to complete your work.
32 Failure to properly organize your proposal. Failure to make comparisons between related work
33 Failure to remember that the college committee is, by its constitution, a multidisciplinary committee You must write your proposal accordingly. You are not writing to an expert audience within your specific chosen area of study. As a consequence, you must always define all acronyms and explain terms before you use them. explain everything beyond that. Always follow the old adage: Know your audience!
34 Some common, less serious, problems often seen in MSc thesis proposals include: Grammatical and spelling errors: These are characteristics that are fundamental to success in scientific research and higher-level study such as the MSc and PhD degrees. You should remember that negative impressions of your written work will often be reflected later in such things as reference letters written for you. As a first step, you should always spell check your thesis proposal.
35 Inadequate and/or dated citations: Always try to avoid the use of old citations that might have been superseded by more recent work.
36 Incomplete and/or inappropriate references: Each reference you provide should be as complete as possible. This means that it should include such things as page numbers, and date of publication, etc.
37 Do your best for your proposal to be acceptable as submitted (Category I )
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