While requirements will vary among universities and departments, a few general guidelines apply to all dissertation proposals. Your proposal should serve as a road map for your upcoming research. The fundamental elements within a solid dissertation proposal are a title, abstract, introduction, objectives, literature review, statement of research question, methods, discussion and bibliography. Ask for copies of recent proposals from students who have passed their proposal defense to help you prepare. Prior to your proposal defense, all committee members must fully read your proposal.
Each university has its own specific guidelines for a dissertation proposal defense. Check with your committee chair and department to confirm your specific guidelines. At Purdue University’s Hispanic linguistics department, for example, a dissertation proposal defense consists of a 20- to 30-minute presentation that includes handouts or a graphics presentation.
Following your presentation, you will field questions from your committee to identify possible problems with your proposed research and to examine ways to improve your dissertation. Your committee is looking for you to have a clear understanding of your proposed research methodology.
Know the Literature
During your dissertation proposal defense, you are not expected to present research results. Yet, you should be familiar with statistical literature related to your proposed research topic.