A proposal for your thesis serves (at least) two purposes:

  • We clearly agree on the goals
  • You familiarize yourself with the topic (and convince me that you did that)

A proposal typically consists of the following parts:

Introduction and Motivation

Explain the general background of your topic. What is the application, what is the task, what is the challenge you focus on. Why is this a relevant research topic and area.

Introduce relevant papers regarding the task and application, previous attempts to solve the task or similar tasks. From this section, it needs to become clear what the current state of research is. This leads then to…

Goals and Objective

Based on the introduction and motivation, in which you explained the challenge your work on and the previous work, it should now be clear what the research gap is, the small area you want to fill with novel knowledge. This section is comparably short and clearly states what you plan to achieve. This is typically formulated as a research hypothesis or a goal what should be possible after your completed your thesis that has not been possible before. This section can also include the artefacts your generate in your thesis (programs, resources, corpora, etc.).

Material and Methods, Approach

Now the task is clear, the current state of research is introduced, and the goals are set. In this section (which is often the longest in a proposal), you explain how you build on previous work to address and reach the goal which you motivated at the beginning of the text. This can include things like resource generation, annotation, software design and implementation, problem analysis, implementation of a baseline system, a first prototype, an extended version, performing experiments, analyzing the results.

Time Plan

The approach section explains how you do your work. This section consists of a table in which the left column defines a date and the right column explains a milestone to reach. Explanations are not needed here, the titles of the milestones should be clear from the approach section.

Typically, a couple of iterations of writing the proposal, getting feedback from your supervisor, refining are needed. When you are done and your supervisor agrees, you register your thesis. This cannot wait long: After the thesis is well-defined, you need to register as soon as possible. You cannot start to work and register later.