Dissertation Idea Paper (from Dissertation Guide at http://www.scis.nova.edu/)
This must be a short document with length in the range of 7–14 double-spaced pages. Students submitting longer papers risk outright rejection. The dissertation idea paper is not intended to be a one-time or static document. As dissertation work proceeds, goals evolve. After a while, the original idea paper may not represent the current work. When this happens, the student may need to update the idea paper. The idea paper must accurately track the dissertation project, independent of the stage of the project. The outline and instructions given next must be followed:
1. Problem Statement and Goal
This section must contain a concise statement of the problem to be addressed (why the work is being undertaken) and a concise definition of the goal of the work (what the work will accomplish). You should provide supporting evidence of the problem and goal from the literature. Every effort should be made to define a goal that is measurable, i.e., the faculty must be able to use the goal statement to determine whether you have succeeded when you say you are finished. The goal contained in the idea paper is a step in that direction, i.e., it attempts to establish some degree of measurability. Many students do not provide an adequate statement of the problem and this has been the basis for rejection. If you can't say why you're doing it, you don't have the basis for a dissertation.
2. Relevance and Significance
This section serves to strengthen the statement of the problem to be addressed. It contains a brief description of the relative value of the work proposed. While a full literature search is not required at this stage, a brief discussion and synthesis of key relevant work must be included (usually 10 or fewer items at this stage). The result of your work must, in a significant way, advance knowledge, improve professional practice, and/or contribute to understanding in the field of study. It should be possible to distill from your completed dissertation a paper that is worthy of publication in a journal or conference proceedings or as a textbook or monograph.
3. Barriers and Issues
Why has this goal not already been met? Is it because the work is difficult and the solution elusive? That might make it appropriate for a dissertation. If, on the other hand, the work would be easy but no one, until now, has thought of it, then it might not be doctoral-level work. In this section, you discuss the underlying problem(s) and issues and the expected degree of difficulty of their solution.
Address how you expect to accomplish the stated goal. Prepare a list of the major steps, in sequence, you believe will have to be taken to accomplish the goal.
If appropriate, provide a preliminary description of the facilities or human resources to be used to accomplish the stated goal.
6. Reference List
The reference list must contain an entry for every work cited in the paper.