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Perfecting your proposal

Writing a proposal is the first step for master- and doctoral-degree students before they start writing their thesis or do their research. The proposal will help the adviser decide if their topic is feasible and if it is interesting enough to win funding from private or public agencies.

Perfecting your proposal

Rookie offers some suggestions on writing a perfect proposal.


Theory comes first

The purpose behind every thesis is to find the explanation to a hypothesis, and the tool that helps answer these questions is called the theory.

For example, if the thesis is about the US and its role in the world, the idea might be explained through the theory of hegemony.

However, according to Asst Prof Dr Thira Nutpiam, one of the reasons why many students' proposals get rejected is that they can't find the right theory.

"Without a valid theory, [for your adviser to grant you permission to continue with your thesis], you will get lost in the jungle," says Thira, a senior researcher of Institute for Social and Economic Studies at Dhurakij Bundit University. "This means you will never know what information to collect or how to analyse it for a conclusion to your research."

Thira says this problem occurs because many students only think about the topic before choosing the theory. He suggested doing it the other way around.

"Selecting the theory first will help you narrow down a wide range of topics into one related to your selected theory. So, there won't be any problems once you've explained the relationship between the selected theory and the topic in a proposal."


Don't propose a topic that is "too-fresh"

It is good to base your proposal on a topic that no one else has touched upon before. But Assoc Prof Dr Amporn Tamronglak from Thammasat University warns that this type of issue could turn into a "double-edged sword".

For instance, you might be very passionate about the latest anti-coup protest, but where would you find sources apart from the Internet and newspapers?

"I suggests that you put aside issue like this and pick them up again after five years," she advises.

In other words, for a subject to be feasible, you should give it a fair deal of consideration.

"Don't be too confident that you will win a scholarship from agencies like the United Nations or the Thailand Research Fund just because the topic you've chosen is 'hot'. If there isn't enough information about the topic, how can you research it? Why would they give grants for a study that has less chance of being completed?" says Amporn, a doctorate degree holder from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, US.


The point's in the name

Believe it or not, some thesis proposals have been rejected just because their names sounded far-fetched.

"The title should show that the study can be done in one go and not sound like it will need a series of studies," says Prof Dr Sombat Chantaravong, a lecturer at the Thammasat University's Faculty of Political Science and a senior lecturer at the Thailand Research Fund.

"Let's say your proposed topic is the Role of the Labour Ministry in Thai History. Which period in Thai history is the scope of your thesis? 1957 or at present? The title seems to cover too a wide range of time. It would be better if you stuck to a specific period to avoid being bogged down and give yourself more of a chance of finishing it."

Note: This information has been gathered from the seminar on "How to Write a Research Proposal" organised by the PhD Programme in Political Science, Thammasat University.


By Watchara Saengsrisin

The Nation


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