Successful thesis proposals in architecture and urban planning


ISSN : 2631-6862

Article publication date: 1 May 2020

Issue publication date: 11 November 2020

The purpose of this research is to improve the understanding of what constitutes a successful thesis proposal (TP) and as such enhance the quality of the TP writing in architecture, planning and related disciplines.


Based on extended personal experience and a review of relevant literature, the authors proposed a conception of a successful TP comprising 13 standard components. The conception provides specific definition/s, attributes and success rules for each component. The conception was applied for 15 years on several batches of Saudi graduate students. The implications of the conception were assessed by a students' opinion survey. An expert inquiry of experienced academics from architectural schools in nine countries was applied to validate and improve the conception.

Assessment of the proposed conception demonstrated several positive implications on students' knowledge, performance and outputs which illustrates its applicability in real life. Experts' validation of the conception and constructive remarks have enabled further improvements on the definitions, attributes and success rules of the TP components.

Research limitations/implications

The proposed TP conception with its 13 components is limited to standard problem-solving research and will differ in the case of other types such as hypothesis-based research.

Practical implications

The proposed conception is a useful directive and evaluative tool for writing and assessing thesis proposals for graduate students, academic advisors and examiners.

Social implications

The research contributes to improving the quality of thesis production process among the academic community in the built environment fields.


The paper is meant to alleviate the confusion and hardship caused by the absence of a consensus on what constitutes a successful TP in the fields of architecture, urban planning and related disciplines.

  • Urban planning
  • Architecture
  • Built environment
  • Postgraduate research
  • Writing successful thesis proposals

Abdellatif, M. and Abdellatif, R. (2020), "Successful thesis proposals in architecture and urban planning", Archnet-IJAR , Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 503-524.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Mahmoud Abdellatif and Reham Abdellatif

Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at .

1. Introduction

After the postgraduate student completes her/his coursework in a master programme or passes the comprehensive exam and becomes a doctoral candidate in a doctoral programme, s/he is allowed to submit a “Thesis Proposal” (TP) to her/his department whose main concern is to assess whether the topic is suitable for a graduate study and for the time and resources available ( Afful, 2008 ; Kivunja, 2016 ; Reddy, 2019 ).

The department then sends the submitted TP to higher bodies for official approval. Once approved, the TP becomes a legal binding or “a formal contract” ( Walliman, 2017 ) and “a statement of intent” ( Hofstee, 2006 ) between the researcher and the university. If the student adheres to all prescribed TP requirements within the specified time, s/he will be awarded the degree ( Leo, 2019 ).

Guided by his/her academic advisor, the student prepares the TP within which the researcher explains the research problem, questions, aim and objectives, scope, and methodologies to describe, analyse and synthesize the research problem and develop solutions for it ( Paltridge and Starfield, 2007 ). In addition, the proposal includes a brief about research significance and expected contributions; a preliminary review of literature; thesis structure and approximate completion timeline; and a list of relevant references ( Kivunja, 2016 ; Thomas, 2016 ; Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ).

1.1 Statement of the problem and research aim

After decades of writing, supervising and refereeing master and doctoral theses in the fields of Architecture and Urban Planning, the authors noticed that TP's differ in format and content from a school to another. This may be considered a healthy matter because it gives room for flexibility that absorbs the variety of research problems and techniques. Yet, the absence of a consensus on what constitutes a successful TP could cause confusion and hardship to both students and advisors ( Kamler and Thomson, 2008 ; Abdulai and Owusu-Ansah, 2014 ). The review of literature indicates that TP writing has been tackled in depth in many fields (see for instance Gonzalez, 2007 ; Balakumar et al. , 2013 ; Eco, 2015 ; Kivunja, 2016 ; Glatthorn and Randy, 2018 ; Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ). Apart from thesis proposal instruction and guideline manuals posted on universities' websites, the authors believe that there is a lack of in-depth research on the issue of producing successful thesis proposals in the fields of Architecture and Planning.

To propose a successful TP conception which determines the standard components of TP and sets specific definitions, attributes and rules of success for each component.

To apply the proposed conception on several batches of graduate students, then assess its impact on students' performance and output along the years of application.

To validate the proposed conception by getting the insights of experienced academics from architecture and planning schools worldwide, and as such, improve and finalize the conception.

1.2 Research methodology

To propose the Successful TP Conception , the authors relied on two sources: knowledge extracted from their extended experience and a review of relevant studies and instruction manuals and guidelines for preparing TP in several worldwide universities. The Conception has been applied on several batches of master and doctoral students from IAU, KSA for almost 15 years between 2005 and 2020 during their enrolment in three courses in the College of Architecture and Planning, IAU, KSA. These courses are “ARPL 603 Research Methods” and “BISC 600 Research Methods” for the master's level and “URPL 803 Seminar (3): Doctoral Research Methods” for the doctoral level.

From a total of 60 students, 39 students (65%) completed the survey; of whom 12 students (31%) were doctoral and 27 students (69%) were masters students.

- Improve their understanding of the components of a successful TP.

- Enhance their performance in developing their TP's.

- Conduct a more effective self-assessment of their developed TP's.

- Enhance their performance along other stages of producing their theses and dissertations.

- Maintain any other benefits adding to students' research capabilities.

The first part recorded the general characteristics of respondents.

The second inquired about experts' viewpoints on the definitions, attributes and the rules of success of the components of the proposed TP conception.

2. Proposing the Successful TP Conception

2.1 components of a tp for a standard problem-solving research type.

A review of thesis writing guidelines posted on universities' websites and other related literature has indicated that the number of components of a masters' or doctoral thesis proposal varies. After a thorough review of related literature and with their experience, the authors have been convinced that, in its standard form, a TP should include 13 components. Chronically arranged, as appearing in the proposal, they are: title page, abstract, keywords, background, statement of the problem, research questions, research aim and objectives, research scope, research significance and contributions, preliminary review of literature, research methodology, thesis structure and timeline, and references list ( Ostler, 1996 ; Simpson and Turner, 2004 ; Zhou, 2004 ; Davies, 2011 ; Axelrod and Windell, 2012 ; Donohue, 2018 ; Glatthorn and Randy, 2018 ; Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ). It is worth mentioning that these 13 components will differ in the case of a hypothesis-based research whose aim is to validate a specific hypothesis that a specific variable/s is/are or is/are not the main cause/s of an investigated research problem. This paper is limited only to the standard problem-solving research type.

2.2 Building the Successful TP Conception

Setting a general definition for each component including its meaning, importance, functions and contents.

Outlining the most important attributes that must be considered when writing the component.

Based on step 1 and 2, the authors extracted a list of success rules which provides a concise definition for each component of the TP, and/or describes the relationship between the component and other components of the TP (the list is summarized at the end of Part 2).

2.2.1 Research title

This is the first item that appears to the reader. It invites or detains him/her from proceeding to other contents ( Blaxter et al. , 2010 ). The research title is positioned in the title page along with several basic data, namely, the title; the names of the Department, College, University, study programme, researcher and advisory committee; and submission date.

The research title should be useful, discussing an issue critical to society; true, conveying a real message about the investigated problem ( Donohue, 2018 ); concise, presenting the message with the minimum number of words; adequate, using the right wording to explain the intended meaning; and attractive , stimulating the reader's attention. Iterations in refining the research title go hand-in-hand with refining the research question ( Groat and Wang, 2013 ).

2.2.2 The abstract

It is the first item that appears in the TP after the title and of the same significance; yet, it is the last to be written ( Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ). It has a marketing function ( Lamanauskas, 2019 ); it calls the reader in or alienates him out. A comprehensive abstract contains a summary of the problem, aim, scope, methodology, importance, contributions and outline ( Koopman, 1997 ).

The Abstract should be concise or brief with a maximum of 200–300 words; adequate, including profiles of all parts of the proposal; clear, expressing its message without ambiguity; and interrelated, serving as a body of sequential, coherent and connected ideas ( Blaxter et al. , 2010 ).

2.2.3 The keywords

These are a set of words or terms used for archiving, tabulation and electronic search on databases. They should include essential “subject terms” describing the research topic, the unique sub-specializations and focus of the research (what is researched), the contextual scope of the research (where and when), and the used research methodology (how to conduct the research) ( Lamanauskas, 2019 ). They are better written by splitting the title into its separate single words or terms which must be found in the abstract, as well ( Mack, 2012 ).

Keywords should be brief, not more than 8–12 words; adequate, conveying the research theme, scope, aim and approach; exact, focusing on the investigated topic and scope; and standard, using scientific terminology used in the field.

2.2.4 The background

This is a gradual preparation of the reader from the larger scientific field to the specific field, from the wider geographic area to the immediate area, and from the larger timeframe to the immediate one. It starts from the strategic level and general scope of the research and gradually reaches the level closer to the examined problem ( Abdellatif and Abdellatif, 2005 ). It places the study within the larger context of the research, creates interest to the reader and catches his attention, and includes quotations and statistics leading the reader to proceed ( Babbie, 2014 ).

The background statement should be striking, drawing the reader's attention to the research; brief, not lengthy; gradual, moving from the general level surrounding the investigated issue to the specific level; and careful, not speeding up in disclosing the study problem, aim or methodology to the reader ( Axelrod and Windell, 2012 ; Pautasso, 2013 ).

2.2.5 The statement of the problem

Statement of the General Research Problem is a narrative describing a negative aspect/s prevailing in the investigated urban environment/ecosystem or architectural setting; it is equivalent to the negative wording of the research aim ( Abdellatif and Abdellatif, 2005 ). It stimulates interest in the study; scientifically explained to convey a simple, clear and specific issue to which a reader can relate and is useful to the society at large ( Balakumar et al. , 2013 ). In the humanities and social sciences many dissertations endeavour to establish the conditions of the problem, not to solve it ( Dorst, 2011 ).

In formulating the research problem, it is useful to consider it a problem which hinders the natural development of the society and/or environment and leads to a decline in the Quality of Life (QOL) or Quality of Environment (QOE) or both. A development problem is a factor/cause leading to either a quantitative or qualitative deficiency in satisfying a human need or both such as a lack of certain service or inadequate provision of the service ( Abdellatif, 2015 ). To arrive at a successful statement of the general problem, the researcher should pinpoint the main cause/s behind the study problem. All what comes next depends on the clarity of the problem statement.

Technically oriented research (TOR), which places emphasis on the process and procedures as the primary basis of effective design, TOR can be either systematic, or computational, or managerial.

Conceptually driven research (CDR), which can be either psychological or person–environment. The psychological type is driven by the goal of matching knowledge with the nature of the design problem, its components, context and social and environmental requirements. Whereas, the person–environment type places emphasis on the socio-cultural and socio-behavioural factors as they relate to the design process itself and to settings, buildings and urban environments.

Classify the investigated situation to branched dimensions, e.g. demographic, planning, regulatory, economic, social, environmental, etc.

Trace the causes or the influencing factors that lead to the emergence or aggravation of the problem/s in each dimension.

Clarify the problem more by identifying the consequences or adverse effects (the symptoms of the problem) that resulted from those causes. This helps isolate the causes from the consequences to focus on treating the causes not the consequences. Using temporary painkillers will not eliminate the disease; it only tranquilizes the symptoms.

Statement of the consequences of the problem is a narrative that describes the negative effects caused by sub-problems on the investigated environment ( Goetz et al. , 2005 ).

The statement of consequences of the problem should be focused, where each consequence focuses on one independent sub-problem; articulate, not overlapping with other consequences; rooted, relating to one of the roots of the general problems; deep, providing description for specific symptom; and comprehended, could be perceived, described and determined ( Abdellatif, 2015 ).

2.2.6 Research questions

What is the nature of the development problem as defined by the latest findings of previous literature, similar studies and published statistical reports?

What are the key features of the investigated problem according to a direct field survey?

What are the appropriate links between different variables of the study (causes, consequences, etc.) according to the information gathered from the theoretical review and field surveys?

What are the extracted results and the appropriate solutions and/or recommendations to deal with the general research problem and its sub-problems?

What are the critical contributions of the research findings on the life and/or environmental qualities?

How can the research increase the benefits of research results on the ground?

What are the research areas/points that need further investigation?

Research questions should be specific, each question addresses one sub-problem; unduplicated, each question does not repeat itself in a different format; sequential, or arranged according to their importance and order; and interrelated, where each question relates to other questions.

2.2.7 Research aim, goals and objectives

The general aim of the research is a specific and clear statement presenting the overall purpose of the study. It is directed to find an appropriate and effective solution to the general research problem ( Donohue, 2018 ). It is an attempt to fill a gap between a negative reality of an environment/ecosystem/or development situation and a desired positive future to be achieved at the end of the research process ( Glatthorn and Randy, 2018 ). The aim should be properly stated to ensure the success of all the following stages of the scientific research process.

Exploring the problem by defining the research problem, formulating aim and objectives, designing the methodology, defining the scope, and highlighting the expected contributions.

Collecting secondary data by defining basic concepts and terms, reviewing relevant literature and previous studies, and describing the most important characteristics of the investigated environment from secondary sources and statistical reports.

Collecting primary data via direct field surveys and based on the views of concerned population, experts and officials to describe the characteristics of the investigated development problem.

Analysing the gathered data by using theoretical and field data to determine the appropriate links among different variables of the study (e.g. causes, consequences, etc.).

Synthesizing the gathered data by integrating the findings of analysis to build appropriate approaches or solutions to deal with the general problem.

Extracting conclusions and writing recommendations to highlight research findings and make them more useful and effective.

A micro level objective contributes to solving the specific investigated problem (e.g. a specific quantitative or qualitative problem that hinders the development of a sector of society, environment, or eco-system).

A macro level objective contributes to realizing a higher goal (e.g. improving the overall quality of life of a larger community, upgrading the quality of the larger environment, etc.).

Development objectives should apply the SMART goal rule (previously explained); and be non-overlapping by ensuring that each objective is focused and not conflicting with other objectives.

2.2.8 Research scope

Thematic scope clarifies the general and specific areas of the research (e.g. the research falls within the field of sustainable development in general and focuses on social sustainability).

Geographic/Spatial scope specifies the spatial boundaries of the physical environment within which the research is applied (e.g. a specific local or regional setting).

Temporal scope shows the past, present and future spans the research will cover indicating the number of years from the historical information inventory until the expected completion date. If the research aim is to develop future strategies or policies, the span will extend to future target point.

Research Scope should be categorized, by being classified by subject, place and time; focused, by reaching the closest limits of the investigated research problem, environment and time; and clear, by not being so general or ambiguous.

2.2.9 Research significance and contributions

They highlight the most important benefits and the main beneficiaries from solving the research problem; the potential positive impacts of the study on the life and environmental qualities ( Groat and Wang, 2013 ). Contributions differ in nature (theoretical or applied or both) and in size (huge, average, or marginal). There is a positive relationship between the size of contributions and the size of impacted beneficiaries (individuals, groups, institutions, communities, societies), the scale of the impacted geographic boundaries (local, national or global), the type of impacted development sectors (service, production, etc.) and the numbers of the impacted sectors (one, a few, or all sectors). Research significance increases as the size of contributions increases. Specifying the research significance, expected contributions and potential beneficiaries helps promote the research and provides rational justifications for conducting it. The higher the contributions and the greater the sectors of the beneficiaries, the more significant the research is ( Abdellatif and Abdellatif, 2005 ). According to Balakumar et al. (2013) research significance justifies the need for the research that is being proposed.

Research significance and expected contributions should be categorized, in terms of type (theoretical or applied contribution or both), size and nature of the beneficiaries (individuals, institutions, communities, etc.) and geographical extent (small site, district, city, region, nation, etc.); clear, simple and comprehensible to the reader; and realistic, real, accurate and not exaggerated.

2.2.10 The preliminary review of literature

This is an initial review of literature dealt with relevant problems. It aims to build an initial understanding of the problem, identify the most important variables that have been considered, cite methodologies used to deal with the problem; make use of the latest findings and record the various recommendations/solutions suggested to deal with the problem ( Hart, 1998 ; Grix, 2001 ). According to Dunleavy (2003) , it is a critical review on related recent research that is well documented, structured, analysed and synthesized. It offers the researcher an opportunity to engage with other scholars in one's disciplinary community.

In addition to having a separate part, it is useful to combine the literature review with other components of the TP (e.g. the research problem, questions, aim and objectives, and methodology). It is important that the review presents differing perspectives or contrasting views of the topic and reports the complexities of the issue ( Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ). By conducting the review, the researcher becomes able to build an initial but comprehensive understanding of the causes and consequences of the problem, the methodologies used to study and analyse the problem and the solutions proposed to deal with it by synthesizing various viewpoints of previous studies, thereby, supporting her/his principle argument about the study problem with the results derived from previous literature ( Pautasso, 2013 ).

Definitions of key terms and concepts; standard terms to appear in the research and special concepts which are not formally provided by previous scholars. The definitions must be logic and derived from scientifically recognized sources.

Review of previous studies; focusing on identifying several issues, namely, the most important dimensions and variables of the research problem (the causes of the problem; why the problem has emerged or aggravated; the most important consequences of this problem on the human and/or physical environment); the methods used to deal with the problem; the latest findings of previous studies and the various approaches/solutions suggested to deal with the problem.

Contextual aspects of the investigated development situation; including a review of relevant characteristics of the researched environment (its basic dimensions and elements) as found in previous studies. Contextual aspects may be classified into physical and human components; or into environmental, functional, aesthetic, structural, economic and social design determinants; or into demographic, planning, regulatory, economic, social, environmental sectors or other classifications.

Preliminary review of literature should be indexed, from reliable scholarly sources; categorized or documented according to standard classification system; employed, used wisely to achieve a desired purpose; up to date, recent, however, in topics which address chronological development or evolutionary aspects references could be recent and old; and related, relevant to the study problem ( Hart, 1998 ).

2.2.11 Research methodology

Data collection methods including office methods used to collect secondary data from previous literature and case studies as well as field methods used to gather original data through field visits, surveying, questionnaires, interviews with stakeholders, etc.

Data analysis methods including methods used to analyse both the secondary and primary information collected from office and the field surveys such as Statistical Analysis, Environmental Scanning (SWOT), Development Components Analysis, etc.

Data synthesis methods including methods used to compile, synthesize the analysis and develop appropriate alternative scenarios or solutions to deal with the problem.

Data presentation methods including methods to present the research process and findings such as scientific research paper containing narratives, tables, figures, forms, maps, results and recommendations as well as final visual presentation to review panel to get remarks and write the last version of the TP.

Research methodology should be appropriate, aligned with the purpose/s in which they will be used; achievable, within the reach of the researcher; effective, achieving the purpose fast and with high quality; reliable, previously tested, applied and approved in similar cases; and precise, accurate and specific.

2.2.12 Research structure and timeline

This is a brief statement of the main sections of the master's/doctoral thesis with tentative dates for completing the various stages of the research. Careful preparation of research structure and timeline ensures the effectiveness and integrity of the plan of actions towards the completion of the study ( Kivunja, 2016 ). It is also a criterion to judge the achieved progress and seriousness of the researcher.

Research structure and timeline should be sequential, arranged according to a standard scientific research process; logical, proportionate to the total period available for completion; and balanced, distributing time properly among various stages.

2.2.13 The list of references

This is a list which contains a reasonable number of relevant references on the topic which were actually cited in the TP ( Kornuta and Germaine, 2019 ). Including a list of the references about the topic demonstrates that the researcher is familiar with the basic and latest knowledge on his/her problem.

The list of references should be relevant, closely related to the investigated subject; up to date, recent yet containing old and new according the topic and context; and reliable, published in dependable vessels.

2.3 Extracting the success rules

Based on the above definitions and attributes provided for each of the 13 TP components, the authors were able to extract a number of success rules that took the form of equations, each of which describes an equality function between each component and its counterpart component/s as shown in Table 1 . For instance, rule #1 shows that “research title” is equal to “the general aim of the research” and is equal to “the negative wording of the research problem”.

3. Assessing the Successful TP Conception from students' viewpoints

They better understood the meanings of each component (97% agree and strongly agree and 3% neutral).

They better understood the attributes of each component (94% agree and strongly agree and 6% neutral).

They better understood the rules which control the relations between the various components of the TP (87% agree and strongly agree and 13% neutral).

The process of writing the proposal has become easier and more convenient (100% agree and strongly agree).

The effort, cost and time spent in submitting the proposal have been substantially saved (87% agree and strongly and 12% neutral).

The relationship with academic advisor has improved (87% agree and strongly agree and 12% neutral).

The students' confidence in advancing their own learning abilities has improved (93% agree and strongly agree and 7% neutral).

The students' abilities to address the strengths and weaknesses of their personal skills have improved (93% agree and strongly agree and 7% neutral).

The students' abilities to manage their learning process more independently have improved (90% agree and strongly agree, 7% neutral and 3% disagree).

The students have created a clearer and better mutual understanding with their academic advisors (90% agree and strongly agree and 10% neutral).

The students have reduced their distraction from the original target set out in the proposal (81% agree and strongly agree, 16% neutral and 3% disagree).

The students have been able to finish their research on time (78% agree and strongly agree, 19% neutral and 3% disagree).

They gained better analytical skills (87% agree and strongly agree, 10% neutral and 3% disagree).

They gained better problem-solving skills (87% agree and strongly agree, 10% neutral and 3% disagree).

They gained better critical thinking skills (87% agree and strongly agree, 10% neutral and 3% disagree).

4. Verifying the Successful TP Conception based on experts' viewpoints

Having proposed, applied and assessed the Successful TP Conception, it becomes important to validate it using the insights of experienced academics from Architectural and Planning schools worldwide. This part summarizes the results of the experts' inquiry survey conducted in November 2019 to February 2020. It shows the characteristics of experts and their viewpoints and remarks on the originally proposed definitions, attributes and success rules.

4.1 Experts' characteristics

They were from nine countries, namely, the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

About 75% of the experts were males and 25% were females. About 5% were 35–45 years old, 20% were 45–55 years, 55% were 55–65 years and 20% were 65 years and over.

About 5% were Assistant Professors, 10% Associate Professors and the majority (85%) were Professors.

The experts had teaching experiences in undergraduate and graduate levels (masters, doctoral, diploma, postdoctoral and continuing professional development).

The general specialization of 70% of the experts was Architecture and 30% of experts were specialized in Urban Planning. They taught in several built environment fields (Architecture, Interior Design, Building Technology, Urban Design, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning).

The experts had several focus areas, namely, Architecture, History and Theories of Architecture, Assessment of Designed Environments, Design Methods, Pedagogy, Architecture and Digital Technologies, Heritage Conservation, Middle East Architecture and Cities, Construction Project Management, Urban Design, Spatial Development Planning, Landscape, Built Environment and Behaviour, Urban Studies, Techniques and Quantitative Methods of Urban Planning, Urban Conflict, Urban Justice, Community Development, Environmental Management and Planning and Development Approaches.

About 10% of the experts supervised 5 theses, 5% supervised 6–10 theses, 50% supervised 11–20 theses and 35% supervised more than 20 theses.

4.2 Experts' viewpoints and remarks

Concerning the proposed definitions of the TP components, the experts expressed their agreement which ranged between 73 and 96%. Some experts provided additional remarks to help improve the definitions. Table 2 presents the originally proposed definitions, the percentages of agreed experts and their additional remarks.

Regarding the attributes of each component of the TP, the original conception proposed 38 attributes, the experts added 18 attributes resulting in a total of 56 attributes. Table 3 presents a matrix showing the percentages of experts' agreement of the originally proposed attributes as well as the added attributes. The lowest agreement percentage was 59% and the highest was 96%.

Concerning the proposed success rules which were called “equations” in the originally proposed conception, the experts suggested to change the expression into “rules”; which is more appropriate for subjective contents than mathematical expression. Table 4 presents the final 19 success rules for the components/sub-components of a TP and the percentage of experts' agreement which ranged between 57 and 95%.

5. Conclusion

Based on their experience in preparing and supervising masters and doctoral theses and after a thorough review of the literature on preparing thesis proposals, the authors drafted a conception of a successful thesis proposal comprising specific definitions, attributes and rules for each of the 13 components of a standard TP. The conception had been applied over a duration of 15 years (2005–2020) on several batches of master and doctoral students in IAU, KSA. Through an online survey, the majority of students (78–100%) have indicated that understanding and applying the conception helped them improve their performances and outputs during the TP development process and beyond.

The conception was then validated by getting the insights of 39 experienced academics from worldwide architectural schools. The experts accepted the proposed definitions with (73–96%) agreement rate. The experts also accepted the proposed attributes with (59–96%) agreement rate. As for the success rules, the experts' agreed as well with an acceptance rate ranging from (57–95%). The experts suggested constructive remarks which were considered in writing the final version of the conception.

The extracted success rules combine the definitions and attributes of each component of the TP and present them in a concise statement which defines the component and, where applicable, exemplifies its relationship to another corresponding or counterpart component of the TP. For example, rule #1 shows that “research title” should reflect “the general aim and scope of the research” and should also reflect “the negative wording of the research problem”. Extracted also is rule #14 which indicates that “the whole thesis proposal” written in future tenses, should resemble “the introduction of the final thesis” written in past tenses.

A directive tool that assists the researcher in writing a sound TP. Combining the last three tables (2, 3 and 4) into a comprehensive checklist would aid the students in preparing their TP's; enhancing the quality of their performance and outputs.

An evaluative tool that helps in assessing the validity and integrity of the submitted TP's that can be used by the researcher for self-assessment, or by the academic advisor, or by an examiner/evaluator before sending the proposal to higher authorities for approval.

The findings of this paper could be useful not only in evaluating thesis proposals, but also, with proper modifications, in assessing various scientific research documents, including scientific thesis, research papers and others; which is another research topic that will be addressed in the future.

architectural research proposal pdf

The stages of developing the successful thesis proposal conception

Proposed list of success rules for the TP components

An extracted list of success rules for thesis proposals

Source(s) : Prepared by the authors based on the above analysis and the results of expert inquiry

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The authors acknowledge the sincere assistance provided by the team of experts from several Architectural Schools worldwide to verify and improve the TP Conception. Appreciation is also extended to the post graduate students of the College of Architecture and Planning, IAU, who have positively responded to the students' opinion survey.

Corresponding author

About the authors.

Mahmoud Abdellatif is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, College of Architecture and Planning, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), Dammam, Saudi Arabia. He received an MSc from Assuit University, Egypt in 1977 and another MSc from Iowa State University in 1981 and a PhD degree from Texas A&M University in 1985. He has taught and practiced Architecture and Urban Planning for more than 45 years in Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. His main research focus is on research methods, strategic planning and design and development approaches. He is currently the adviser of IAU Vice President for Studies, Development and Community Services. His last book (published in Arabic) entitled The Simplifying-Integrating Approach to Contemporary Design, Planning and Urban Development articulates his own problem-solving approach. He is the principle editor of the Strategic Plan of Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University 2018–2025.

Reham Abdellatif is an Assistant Professor in Architecture, College of Design, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), Dammam, Saudi Arabia. She obtained an MSc degree from Assiut University in 2003 and a PhD degree from Newcastle University, UK, in 2012. She has taught and practiced Architecture and Interior Design for more than 22 years in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Her main research focus is on Architectural Education and Curriculum Development, Analysing Design Learning Activities, Distant/Online Learning, Communication and Computation, VR and Information Technologies in Architecture. She ran the interior design curriculum development committee in Assiut University and in IAU.

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