The Chuck Norris Effect: How You Can Prepare a Dissertation Proposal without Being Sidetracked?

“Chuck Norris wears sunglasses so that his eyes don’t hurt the sun.” “Chuck Norris’s calendar goes straight from March 31 to April 2, because nobody fools Chuck Norris.” “If anyone could delete the Recycle Bin, it’s none other than Chuck Norris himself.” The list of Chuck Norris facts goes on and on, and it seems like people are never going to get tired of these facts. The American actor, who is also a martial artist, a producer, a screenwriter, and a former US Air Policeman, is a one-man army, and if he had played the role of a Spartan in the movie "300", the title would have been changed to "1".

The series of jokes focusing on absurd and satirical facts about Chuck Norris started to circulate on the Internet around 2005, and they immediately gained immense popularity among the crowd. People particularly enjoyed those bizarre hyperbolic facts that highlighted Norris’s attitude, toughness, masculinity, virility and sophistication. The “Chuck Norris effect” is a real thing and it is referred to the instances where a person’s legacy is exaggerated beyond what they have actually done. Just look at the aforementioned Chuck Norris facts, and you will get the drift.

Now, coming to the main topic - dissertation proposal. As a student, you might be aware of the fact that before you write your dissertation paper, you are expected to submit a dissertation proposal no matter which level you are studying at. Once you receive affirmation from your department, only then you can start working on the said dissertation paper. You are clearly not Chuck Norris, so you can’t expect your teachers to approve any topic you like. It will be wiser if you stick to the basics and choose a topic that seems feasible. Dissertation proposals are your ticket to the main dissertation so it is better to keep the Chuck Norris in you asleep and write a proposal that sounds humanly achievable.

Finishing a dissertation on your own can be a daunting exercise, and since it requires a great amount of time, it can be really difficult for a student to maintain the same level of consistency throughout the entire process. Writing a dissertation proposal is the first step in deciding upon a subject area, addressing the research question, and selecting the methods that you will be using while gathering and presenting the required data. As mentioned before, you are not Chuck Norris. So you have to follow some guidelines and instructions. Do check with the course and institution requirements before you submit the paper.

Now how should you write an objective dissertation proposal without getting sidetracked?

Well, we have a few tips for you. Firstly, you need to understand what the purpose of the dissertation proposal is. The most accepted explanation states that a coherent dissertation proposal should help a student communicate the goals and objectives of the dissertation (research) to his supervisor. The supervisor then evaluates the paper and expresses his critical opinion about the topic, stressing on the areas where he feels the student may face difficulty, ethical concerns or perhaps lack of transparency. They may ask you to make some modifications to your methodology if they feel your methodology won’t be effective. Also if they find even a tiny bit of “Chuck Norris Effect” in the proposal, they can and will isolate it and ask you to make it more achievable.

No offence to the almighty Chuck Norris, but there are certain limitations in every field. But they should never hold you back. If your supervisor/professor asks you to make alterations to your decided methodology or suggest you to take a different approach, it is to boost your chances of getting accurate results. So, take note of all the changes that your supervisor/professor has told you to make and focus on how you can incorporate those changes in the revised proposal for the dissertation. As mentioned previously, the dissertation will showcase your plan of action for the dissertation that you are going to prepare for some time, so be very careful of what you describe in the paper. You can stick to the following steps to make an impressive dissertation proposal at one go.

  1. Read around the subject and choose a topic

Go through your assignments, class notes and lecture slides of the particular subject and see what things have you covered by now. You may find a few topics that sound interesting. In fact, there’s a high possibility that you find a concept that requires further study. If you can’t find anything interesting in your notes, you can always refer to the journals and other publications until you find something to work on. While going through the publications always remember to take notes as you may need to include them in your bibliography.

The process of referencing is usually performed when the dissertation is done drafting. However, it is crucial to take note of every information that is used from an existing document/publication whether it’s from online or offline. You can consult the department handbook or ask your supervisor/professor if you need any further clarification on the matter of referencing. Also, make sure the topic is appealing enough. What your supervisor thinks about the topic will matter to a certain extent, but how you feel about the topic is more important in the longer run. If you are bored with the topic halfway through it, then it may create a problem for you.

  1. Narrowing your focus

As you might be aware, you need to refine the research question in order to make it concise and on point.  If the area is broad, you will require too much content to cover the entire topic and chances are there that you may run out of space in your word count. Also, you may find one interesting study while going through the publications, but there is also a huge possibility that the findings may be outdated or it is difficult to apply them on the modern times. If you wish you can decide to investigate whether the finding would be similar in more advanced research.

  1. Time to write

The Chuck Norris effect cannot be completely ignored when it comes to writing the dissertation proposal. Students often tend to get sidetracked from their objective and make some silly efforts to impress their supervisor which often leads to rejection. Firstly, take a deep breath and decide what your hypothesis will say. The hypothesis is a proposed explanation or an assumption made on the basis of limited evidence which will dictate the further investigation. If you were Chuck Norris (which you can never be), you would have made an assumption first, and your research question would have shaped itself according to the assumption or hypothesis. But that does not work for the ordinary beings like us. So never make the mistake of writing the hypothesis first and then create the research question. Maintain the order.

It is not a problem if you are still not very clear about the hypothesis. Your supervisor/professor can guide you on that matter. However, by the time you may develop a better understanding of the potential of your research and what the conclusion might be. The research work for the dissertation would depend on the nature of the course. For instance, if the course is of scientific nature (or mathematical nature), you would require quantitative analysis with definitive results; while for theoretical courses, your research work will be focused on qualitative analysis. Once you are clear with the basics of the dissertation you are going to draft, you can proceed to the main body of the proposal. A dissertation proposal is usually compose of the following segments.

  • Methodology

The methodology section explains all the methods that you are planning to implement to collect and process the required data. Chuck Norris won't require a methodology because he already knows the results, but you don't. You only have an assumption, and with the help of relevant data, you will be justifying your assumption. If the research is quantitative in nature, the methodology would include the reference to a survey, questionnaire or data source, while mentioning the scope of the research (such as how many people will be involved in the survey). You also need to mention why you have selected the specific group of people for the research with the explanation of how you would select them.

  • Goals and objectives

In this segment, you are required to highlight the issues that you are trying to explore. What is it that you want to achieve through the research, what are the queries that you want to answer and what assumptions can you make? – All these need to be explained in this section.

  • Literature review

Literature review plays an important role in defining the arguments for your research. It connects you to the previous works that have been conducted on the similar lines. You can list all the important sources of information and can mention how those data have helped you in your research so far. The literature review adds value to your proposal and shows that you have made enough preparation for the proposal. If you find out any potential error in the existing work while going through them for your research, you can also mention that and suggest how this can be avoided in your dissertation. There’s no need to add unnecessary sources to fill up the section. Mention those sources that add value to your research work.

  • Limitations

As mentioned before, you are not Chuck Norris. So like any other student, you will also face some limitations while doing the research. It is a part of writing a comprehensive piece to identify the limits that fall upon your ability to explore and present your findings. Word count can be one of the most significant ones, as it often restricts a student from explaining further issues that require exploration. Drafting this section will reflect the idea that you have started working on the particular subject and are quite familiar with broader concepts relating to your topic.

  • Ethical considerations

Apart from the limitations that you should be highlighting in the aforementioned section, there are some matters of ethical concerns relating to the research that will require your attention. You need to secure permission from the participants whom you will be interviewing for the research. You may also require the permission of an expert (someone whose view would matter) whose opinion on the subject can be beneficial for your research.

  • Timeframe

You will also need to mention how much time (an estimated timeframe) you are going to require delivering the work to your supervisor. You can define the timeframe on a chapter-by-chapter basis or you can begin with your dissertation so that you can have a better idea about the required timeframe while writing this section. From the very beginning, it has been told that you need to be realistic with the approach and not to think yourself as Chuck Norris. So don't make any unrealistic assumptions that you may be able to finish the dissertation paper in a couple of weeks or maybe in much lesser time. Take the proper time to conduct in-depth research and take adequate time to produce an effective dissertation.

  1. Concluding the proposal

Now, it’s time to wind up the dissertation proposal. The conclusion segment does that for you effectively. However, in a dissertation proposal, you usually do not require a conclusion, but it can be a good idea to wrap the proposal up while reminding the readers about the reasons for selecting the topic, what type of research this is going to be, and what are you expecting from the research. In other words, this should summarise the proposal quite concisely while touching every significant detail that is mentioned in the paper.

Additional features of a postgraduate proposal

When you are approaching a Master’s dissertation proposal, there are certain areas where you require more work. For instance, your supervisor would expect you to present a more thorough methodology segment while being a bit more critical of the existing literature in the literature review segment. You also need to study a lot more around the subject so that a complete awareness of the topic comes more naturally. Hopefully, you won’t try to pull off a Chuck Norris by doing something stupid.

For a PhD thesis proposal, the requirements are a bit more. In this case, you are expected not just to go over the existing theories and studies; you are also needed to show that you are able to competently widen the existing work of study by contributing, rather than just interpreting and criticizing. There are a few things that you need to incorporate into a PhD thesis proposal which wasn't mentioned in this article before.

  • Since a PhD research proposal is submitted directly to the department of your choice, you need to be very assertive about the reasons why you chose that particular institute for your research work. For instance, the department may have hosted several scholars who have worked in the similar line, or there may be a research grant that you may be eyeing for, etc.
  • While you are drafting the methodology segment, it is crucial to describe the research techniques that you are willing to perform. Also mention if those are fresh techniques or they have been used by other researchers on the similar studies before.
  • And finally, always stick to the guidelines and instructions that are given by your department when it comes to word count. Also, when you are applying for the research grant, always make sure that your writing should always reflect the aims and objectives that are outlined in the additional details.

Dissertation proposal can be prepared quite easily if you just concentrate on the aims and objectives of the research and remember to be realistic. Since you are not Chuck Norris, you can’t make unrealistic claims and get away with them. You need to provide reasons and enough evidence to support your claim, and before you can exercise those in your research paper, you need to get the approval from your supervisor. So follow these aforementioned tips and avoid falling for the Chuck Norris effect. Remember, there’s only one Chuck Norris in the whole universe.

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