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How to Write a Purpose Statement for a Dissertation Proposal


The purpose statement of a dissertation proposal explains why a researcher’s study will be conducted and what the study will accomplish. It guides the research, describes the expected outcomes, and explains the means for collecting data. Purpose statements typically are a half to three-quarters of a page in length and should include a single statement that clearly identifies the research method and design, problem, population and setting.

Identify the Research Method

The purpose statement should clearly indicate the research method to be used in the study. The researcher should identify whether the method will be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative research uses numerical data. Qualitative research uses descriptive or narrative data.

Identify the Research Design

Once the researcher identifies the research method, the research design should be identified next. Qualitative research designs include: case study, phenomenological, grounded theory and ethnographic. Quantitative research designs include: experimental, correlational and historical. For example, a writer might state that, "The purpose of this qualitative grounded theory study is to develop a theory regarding ninth-grade students who are reading below grade level."

Identify the Problem

An effective purpose statement will relate back to the specific problem identified in the problem statement. The problem explains what will be studied. For example: Ninth-grade students are reading below grade level.

Identify the Population

It should be clear in the purpose statement the specific population the researcher intends to study. The population reflects the individuals who are affected by the problem to be studied, such as ninth-grade high school students who are reading below grade level.

Identify the Setting

Explain where the problem takes place by clearly identifying the setting. The environment should be specific to the population being studied. For example: an urban Title I high school in southwestern Ohio.

About the Author

Heather Dennull has been active in the education field since 2003. She teaches developmental English and introductory courses in humanities and philosophy at the college level. She has a master's degree in education and is working toward a doctorate in educational leadership.

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