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  • How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education & the Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Kathleen M. Boyle
How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education & the Social and Behavioral Sciences David R. Krathwohl and Nick L. Smith Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005, 289 pages, $24.95 (softcover)

In How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal, Krathwohl and Smith provide what they describe as,

an assembly manual that will (1) identify and explain the components of a dissertation proposal, (2) assist you in constructing the needed elements, and (3) guide you in combining the pieces to produce a complete and convincing proposal.


Various learning styles are addressed, allowing a student to identify an independent course of action. The authors suggest students may want to approach the book's chapters "in an atypical order" dependent on their learning style. The idea of an assembly manual brings to mind mechanical step-by-step instructions, yet the authors caution that what they have produced is much more than that.

According to Krathwohl and Smith, graduate students need to understand the "whys" behind the proposal (p. xv); the connections and relationship building that occurs with faculty mentor, how the proposal fits into the "bigger picture" of research, and how the logic of research in this area is situated in this research proposal. The book is predicated on two basic assumptions: a proposal topic has been found and research skills have already been developed by the reader. Krathwohl and Smith qualify that this is not a research text as well as a proposal manual.

The book is organized by sectioning 14 chapters into six parts: (a) concepts fundamental [End Page 232] to proposal writing, (b) advice common to most proposals, (c) advice specific to particular kinds of studies, (d) additional considerations, (e) annotated proposals, and (f) funded proposals. Throughout the book, the authors provide checklists, models, and examples to assist the reader.

Comprised of the first three chapters, part 1 focuses on fundamental concepts to proposal writing: What is a proposal? What are the functions of a dissertation proposal? How does the proposal provide a chain of reasoning?

What is a proposal? "That's obvious," you say, "let's get on with it!" We would agree with you, except that it always pays to have a precise idea of where one is going; it makes it so much easier to get there!

(p. 3)

In each chapter, the authors provide definitions, typical guidelines, student examples, and assessments and worksheets. Krathwohl and Smith recommend that everyone should start with this section, even if they read the rest out of order.

Advice is the theme of the second and third sections. Part 2 (chapters 4-6) includes creating a description of the problem and method, along with ensuring feasibility of the proposal. Each of the proposal parts are analyzed by the authors. In part 3 (chapters 7-9) Krathwohl and Smith focus on specific kinds of studies: emergent, qualitative, philosophical, historical, experimental, causal modeling, meta-analysis, survey, evaluation, development, and demonstration. Descriptions of proposal format, structure, and aspects requiring special attention are tackled for each type of study identified.

Part 4 (chapter 10) challenges the reader with additional considerations. Krathwohl and Smith discuss potential disagreements between the recommendations in their text and the advice of committee members, the struggles to get started, demonstrating competence, and several additional issues. The chapter concludes with an impressive general checklist of a dissertation proposal, which the authors acknowledge may differ from institution to institution.

Students may find part 5 the most helpful. This section is comprised of three actual student proposals differing by method and topic. The proposals include annotation connected back to the advice provided by the authors in parts 2-4.

Finding funding is the focus of Part 6. Krathwohl and Smith suggest that students first seek institutional funding noting that special funds exist for this purpose. Funding is an ever-present issue for those of us in higher education and this is an important addition to this book for students and faculty.

Often dissertation chairs and committee members recommend their favorite dissertation "self-help" books texts to their advisees (Bolker...


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