Guidelines for writing a dissertation research plan
Please remember that the structure of the research plan is free. Here are some suggestions intending to help you but you are not obliged to follow them. You will find other instructions on the internet, see e.g. Academy of Finland's research plan guidelines.
The average length of the research plan is 5-8 pages. The font size should be at least 12 point.
1. Title and abstract (0,5 pages)
- Name and contact information of the researcher.
- Title of the project. The title should capture the essential of the research in just a few words.
Doctoral thesis titles usually include an explanatory subtitle in addition to the main part.
- Abstract should describe the main points regarding the project and its objectives. Abstract is a public document, other parts of the research plan are treated as confidential.
2. Introduction to the research topic and literature review (1,5-2 pages)
Introduction describes the topic of the study, its general objectives, and the main research question. It also contains a literature review of previous research and experience pertaining to the topic including most important publications relevant to the topic. Literature review should show that you have already done some work on your topic, and know the framework. It should also describe your theoretical background or at least your perspective to the research question.
You should also tell about eventual links with other research projects and cooperation with other researchers.
3. Objectives and methods (2 pages)
You should specify the objectives of the research and the most important research questions. Typically, the objectives decompose your research question into subtasks.
The methods you plan to use specify how you will answer your question. You should tell which methods you are going to use and how (for example, participatory observation, for how long, where, and when; or interviews, how many people, how you choose them, when and where); how you control for errors and biases; how you gather and process data; how you analyze it; how you plan for validity and reliability, including generalization; and how you tackle ethical problems.
If you want to include your own art productions or design projects to your dissertation you should specify them and tell how your plan to exhibit them.
4. Results and ethical questions (0,5 pages)
- Expected results and their significance.
- Practical applicability of research results.
- Publication and other dissemination of research results.
- It is also obligatory to consider the ethical questions the project may rise.
5. Schedule (1 page)
You should plan you work for four years. Be realistic, the evaluators evaluate whether the proposal is realistic and can be carried out.
- doctoral studies
- studies abroad or in other universities
- funding for the studies (4 years if full time study or 4-8 years if part time study)
- budget for the materials, productions etc. in case there is an artistic production/product development plan included in the dissertation
- research environment (including equipment) and cooperation with other researchers
- The plan should include the 60 cr required for a doctoral degree
In most cases, the first year ought to be reserved for reading, studies, and specifying the research proposal; the second and the third for research; and the final year for writing.
6. References (1-1,5 pages)
- List of the most important research literature. Only sources used in the plan should be listed.
7. After studies have started
It's important to keep your research plan up to date after the start of your studies as you might need it for applying for grants etc. Each funding agencies can have its own intructions for the form and lenght of the research plan, check them out before applying for funding.
During your studies you may ask comments for your research plan from your advisor.