Standard Proposal and Thesis Outline

For all thesis formatting and submission deadlines and information, also reference the SJSU Graduate Studies Thesis Guide.

SJSU is now using Montezuma Press as the interface with graduate students finishing their theses. They will review your formatted manuscript free of charge, or you can hire them to format it for you.

Front Pages

Please refer to the guidelines listed in the Thesis Front Pages.

Generic Proposal Outline

For format information, please reference the SJSU 14 Formatting Rules.

Introduction (include in both proposal and thesis)

(page numbering restarts at 1)
  • Motivation/Scope - Importance of the problem, big picture. (1-2 pages)
  • Background - Broad logic leading to specific choice of research questions. (1-2 pages)
  • Literature Review (10-15 pages, with 30-45 references). Organized from the general to specific. Subheadings should reflect internal organization. Often includes:
    • Theoretical framework
    • Related research
    • Similar research methods

Cite other authors throughout this section.

Problem Statement (include in both proposal and thesis)

Concise (less than 3 pages) statement of central problem culminating in the:

  • Objectives - 1 to 3 sentence summary of overall goals of research
  • Research Questions
  • Hypotheses (if appropriate) - 3 to 5 specific testable predictions (active or null/statistical hypotheses)

Methods (include in both proposal and thesis)

Generally includes the following subsections (depends on committee):

  • Study System/Site
  • Study Design - organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
  • Data Collection - organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
  • Positionality Statement
  • Data Analysis - organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses.

Include citations only relevant to methodology.

Results (include in only the thesis)

  • Describe what your research found succinctly.
  • Organize by research objective(s) and hypotheses as relevant.

Will not contain external citations, on average.

Discussion (include in only the thesis)

  • Interpret your findings in light of the literature, including theoretical and applied contexts.

Cite other authors throughout this section.

Conclusions (include in only the thesis)

  • Very short take-home message, no citations

Recommendations (include in only the thesis)

  • Please use complete sentences and tie directly to your findings.
  • May be bulleted.

Literature Cited (include in both the proposal and thesis)

  • Cite all sources referenced in the text, but none beyond that.

Appendices (include in both the proposal and thesis)

  • Timeline (proposal only, remove from thesis)
  • Budget (proposal only, remove from thesis).
  • Curriculum Vitae (proposal only, remove from thesis)
  • Original data? Relevant permits, etc. (thesis only)