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What Is Secondary Research In Dissertation Proposal Example

Penning your dissertation proposal can be a rather daunting task and quite challenging. Most students find it often hard to compose or write a first class dissertation proposal that gets them the best grade. So how exactly do you write an impressive first class research proposal? As a student or researcher, it is important to know what are the basics of a dissertation proposal and the key pointers to write a first class dissertation proposal or research proposal.

The success of your dissertation proposal project corresponds to the topic selection and how clearly that meets your dissertation needs. Do remember that while your dissertation is the core element that follows a research proposal, writing a first class dissertation proposal is the benchmark and guarantee to a successful dissertation. Many students find it difficult to write a first class dissertation proposal as most of them are not aware of what exactly is a research proposal or dissertation proposal and how to structure it appropriately.

Once you have an idea of the basics and purpose of a dissertation proposal, you would be able to compose a winning first class dissertation or research proposal. The next sections in this article will help you understand the core elements of a dissertation proposal, its purpose and structuring to enable you to attain a top grade for your dissertation.

What is a Dissertation Proposal or Research Proposal?

What exactly is the purpose of a dissertation proposal and what should be included in it? Most of you would be wondering what content to add to the proposal that would make it worth the best grade and how to structure it properly. Here you need to understand that a research proposal or dissertation proposal is the foundation or basis of your dissertation and is in fact a layout and explanatory framework of your dissertation plan and execution. It is very different from other academic papers such as case studies and essays (Miller, 1991).

You as a student need to consult your tutors and your instructors regarding the topic chosen for your dissertation and discuss the core concepts and layout of your dissertation with them. The finalized layout and topic requirements including its justification are part of your dissertation proposal. You will need to get your dissertation proposal or research proposal accepted by your instructor before proceeding to write a dissertation paper. Hence, it is very important to write a research proposal that has the perfect content and structuring to get you the acceptance for dissertation writing (Wilkinson, 1991).

A dissertation proposal or research proposal is like a plan and layout for your dissertation that provides details of the needs to address your research objectives. It further provides you with an insight into the research methodology that you plan to use to conduct primary and secondary research. Your dissertation proposal should clearly outline your selected topic, the objectives you wish to achieve as part of your dissertation undertaking and the procedure you have chosen to research the topic and provide substance for it. Your dissertation proposal will provide you with a plan to move ahead with your dissertation and execute your research.

How to Write the Best Dissertation Proposal

Now that you have an idea of the purpose of a dissertation proposal, it is important to consider key pointers to write a first class dissertation proposal or research proposal. These include the proposal structuring, formatting and layout that are essential to consider in order to compose a brilliant research proposal. The dissertation proposal should be structured to clearly provide the reader with an idea of what your chosen topic and dissertation objectives are including an insight into the most appropriate research methodology chosen for your research. The structuring should be insightful yet not too elaborative. Do not cram up the space with too much detail in your dissertation proposal as it is a framework or guide map to your main dissertation paper, and should therefore provide concise but lucid ideas about the research topic, its justification, objectives and the research methodology.

Standard sections of a dissertation proposal may include:

  • Introduction
  • Aims and Objectives
  • Literature Review
  • Research Methodology
  • Action Plan
  • References
  • Any Supporting Section essential to the research proposal

You should consider discussing the draft research proposal with your instructor so that any changes suggested in the structure can be incorporated in your dissertation proposal. In order to write a first class dissertation proposal, you will have to provide relevant details for the research objectives, justification and methodology that gives the reader complete understanding of what your dissertation will include and what objectives will you achieve with your research work. The research proposal language or tone should adhere to expected formal academic standards as the instructors would be looking for academic merit and intellectual ability when assessing your research proposal. Therefore you should ensure that your dissertation proposal contents are well thought out, conspicuous and reflect high intellectual abilities (Miller, 1991). 

You should pay close attention to the formatting, layout and presentation of your dissertation proposal. It is also considered essential for writing a first class research proposal. Knowing how to well present your work can add to the clarity and visual appeal of your dissertation proposal enhancing the overall quality of the academic paper. Remember that even if you have the appropriate content material for your research proposal but have not paid attention to the alignment and formatting then the quality of your research proposal would be hampered and it might not get you the best grades.

Once you have written the core contents of your dissertation proposal, pay careful consideration to create an appealing layout for the contents to enable clarity. Ensure that formatting is according to the requirements and the structuring is well synced with the layout of your research proposal because this would make your research proposal more attractive to the reader adding to its overall quality and appeal. Where academic merit and intellectual ability through well written content is considered a prerequisite for an academic paper, presentation and planning is equally important in order to write a first class dissertation proposal.

Introduction of A Dissertation Proposal

It is always recommended that both you and your supervisor agree to the possible contents or basic sections of your dissertation proposal with your instructor before proceeding to the proposal writing. However, there are always some standard sections that are essential elements of a first class research proposal. The introduction section is one such part of the dissertation proposal that is included in all academic proposals. The introduction of a dissertation proposal aims to provide a highlight of your chosen topic providing basic arguments and justification of the need for undertaking research on your chosen topic. The introduction part is the most important part of your dissertation proposal that is considered the essence of your research paper primarily because it provides an idea of your chose topic, the boundaries it shall cover, any distinctive theories that you will be including as part of your dissertation as well as the type of research, empirical etc, that you plan to undertake.

When selecting a topic for your dissertation, ensure that the subject chosen is current, colossal enough to enable you to achieve your objectives and exciting enough to engage your reader. The ability to break your research question into smaller pieces in order to list the aim and key objectives is vital to the success of your research proposal. This can be achieved by exploring the topic in your own time. Find for and against arguments to your research question. Your dissertation proposal introduction should clearly define the aims and objectives of your dissertation enabling the reader to gain a complete understanding of what objectives you plan to achieve through your research. Remember to keep the objectives of your research lucid, purposeful and achievable. Do not try to step out of the boundaries of your topic field and define goals that are too wide to be covered in your dissertation. It is advised to keep the aims and objectives of your research paper clear, precise and achievable along with any research questions or hypothesis that your dissertation shall cover (Miller, 1991).

Format of Your Research Proposal or Dissertation Proposal

The formatting of your dissertation proposal is extremely important as is the quality of the content material. When you define the layout of your research proposal remember to plan the formatting points including how you would highlight important points and aspects in the structure. Try to emphasize key points of your proposal contents through bullets and lists including headings and subheadings where appropriate to illuminate salient features such as objectives and research justification or hypothesis to the reader. Many academic institutes have their own particular proposal format guidelines that  students must follow while others are flexible with regards to the format and structuring of your dissertation proposal. When writing your dissertation proposal and planning for your proposal’s layout make sure that you have considered the format and structuring requirements of your academic institute.

Typically, the format of a research or dissertation proposal includes standard sections of introduction, aims and objectives followed by supporting sections of methodology and literature review. It is recommended that the basic sections of introduction, methodology design and literature review be included when writing a first class dissertation proposal. Once you have drafted the introduction section as highlighted earlier, you can add a brief section regarding methodology design explaining the type of research you plan to undertake along with any primary and secondary research techniques that you plan to use in order to achieve your dissertation aims and objectives highlighted in your proposal.

You can also add a literature review section in your dissertation proposal to provide an overview of the chosen research topic, presenting arguments available in existing literature regarding the topic and highlighting the work of other researchers and theories related to your topic. This section should be comprehensive to add to the clarity of your dissertation proposal. Once you have completed the drafting of your dissertation proposal contents, make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors and read through the proposal twice to hone it further before submitting it in.

Length of Research Proposal or Dissertation Proposal

The length of your dissertation will depend on the structuring and format of your dissertation proposal. The word count requirement of a dissertation proposal assignment is typically clearly stated in the guidelines/instructions provided to you by your university. A research proposal is like a sales pitch to the readers so one of the key skills you should demonstrate is to encourage your readers to wait for your research to be completed to find answers to the research questions. The contents should be engaging so do not add unnecessary detail. Keeping the contents conspicuous is essential in order to write a first class dissertation proposal (Miller, 1991).

If you are wondering how to write a first class dissertation proposal that gets you a distinction then be sure to keep the above highlighted pointers in check before you start on your journey towards creating a standout dissertation or research paper.


  • Locke, L. F., Spirduso, W. W., & Silverman, S. J. (1987). Proposals that work: A guide for planning dissertations and grant proposals (2nd ed.). Newbury park, CA: Sage.
  • Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing qualitative research: Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Miller, Delbert Charles (1991) Handbook of research design and social measurement, 5th edition.
  • Wilkinson, A. M. (1991). The scientist’s handbook for writing papers and dissertations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
The two most common types of secondary data sources are labelled as internal and external.

Internal sources of data are those that are internal to the organisation in question. For instance, if you are doing a research project for an organisation (or research institution) where you are an intern, and you want to reuse some of their past data, you would be using internal data sources.

The benefit of using these sources is that they are easily accessible and there is no associated financial cost of obtaining them.

External sources of data, on the other hand, are those that are external to an organisation or a research institution. This type of data has been collected by “somebody else”, in the literal sense of the term. The benefit of external sources of data is that they provide comprehensive data – however, you may sometimes need more effort (or money) to obtain it.

Let’s now focus on different types of internal and external secondary data sources.

There are several types of internal sources. For instance, if your research focuses on an organisation’s profitability, you might use their sales data. Each organisation keeps a track of its sales records, and thus your data may provide information on sales by geographical area, types of customer, product prices, types of product packaging, time of the year, and the like.

Alternatively, you may use an organisation’s financial data. The purpose of using this data could be to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and understand the economic opportunities or outcomes of hiring more people, buying more vehicles, investing in new products, and so on.

Another type of internal data is transport data. Here, you may focus on outlining the safest and most effective transportation routes or vehicles used by an organisation.

Alternatively, you may rely on marketing data, where your goal would be to assess the benefits and outcomes of different marketing operations and strategies.

Some other ideas would be to use customer data to ascertain the ideal type of customer, or to use safety data to explore the degree to which employees comply with an organisation’s safety regulations.

The list of the types of internal sources of secondary data can be extensive; the most important thing to remember is that this data comes from a particular organisation itself, in which you do your research in an internal manner.

The list of external secondary data sources can be just as extensive. One example is the data obtained through government sources. These can include social surveys, health data, agricultural statistics, energy expenditure statistics, population censuses, import/export data, production statistics, and the like. Government agencies tend to conduct a lot of research, therefore covering almost any kind of topic you can think of.

Another external source of secondary data are national and international institutions, including banks, trade unions, universities, health organisations, etc. As with government, such institutions dedicate a lot of effort to conducting up-to-date research, so you simply need to find an organisation that has collected the data on your own topic of interest.

Alternatively, you may obtain your secondary data from trade, business, and professional associations. These usually have data sets on business-related topics and are likely to be willing to provide you with secondary data if they understand the importance of your research. If your research is built on past academic studies, you may also rely on scientific journals as an external data source.

Once you have specified what kind of secondary data you need, you can contact the authors of the original study.

As a final example of a secondary data source, you can rely on data from commercial research organisations. These usually focus their research on media statistics and consumer information, which may be relevant if, for example, your research is within media studies or you are investigating consumer behaviour.

TABLE 5 summarises the two sources of secondary data and associated examples: