An introduction that describes the problem area and motivates the need for your proposed work. In the introduction you need to say why you are doing the proposed work and what its significance is. (i.e. Does anyone else care about what you are doing?) It is in the introduction that you typically also define/explain most of the necessary terms and acronyms. You also need to provide a quick sketch of your proposed solution and briefly explain how it differs from other work. Be sure to build from more general concepts to more specific ones so that the reader will understand everything. You should be able to have someone else read just your introduction and be able to then tell you what you are proposing to do and why it is interesting. That is, the introduction should be understandable by itself without the rest of the proposal.
A related work section that surveys previous work related to what you are proposing. This section should be carefully written and organized to make the relationships between the earlier research efforts clear and to also explain how that research relates to your proposed work. It is primarily this section that makes it apparent to the committee that you are, in fact, prepared to undertake your proposed work. The work you reference should be quite extensive, relevant and recent. Insufficient references suggests to the committee that you may not be aware of all the related work and this means that it is possible that your work may already have been done by someone else. The inclusion of irrelevant (or too many) references may lead committee members to question your understanding of the area. Finally, lack of recent references might suggest that your proposed work is no longer of interest or is, perhaps, too hard a problem that other researchers have chosen to overlook. Finally, be careful to base your related work on quality publications. All (or very close to all) of your referenced papers should be from well-respected, refereed sources (i.e. journals or top tier conferences in your selected area). Referring to dubious papers lessens the committee’s confidence in your thesis proposal. Finally, your selected papers should reflect a reasonable amount of breadth in terms of authorship and source. Insufficient breadth might lead the committee to fear that you are following individual opinion instead of well-founded and widely accepted scientific results.
A detailed problem description. Although you have already described the problem you are addressing in general terms, you need to ensure the committee that you have thought of all the details of that problem (and the environment(s) in which it occurs) that might affect your proposed solution. The detailed problem description further convinces the committee that you know everything that is necessary to undertake your proposed work.
A description of your proposed solution strategy and expected results. Although you may not know the precise details of how you will solve the problem you have just described, you should be able to give the committee sufficient detail to convince them that what you are proposing is a good idea that can be done within the time constraints of an MSc degree and that you understand the issues associated with the techniques you intend to apply. In particular, you should be able to describe how your proposed solution will address the details of the problem and environment described in the previous section of your proposal. You should also realistically summarize what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of your proposed solution and, accordingly, what you expect the results of your work to be.
Last modified: 27/02/2007
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