- Decide to do it and keep doing it
- Develop alliances between self, topic, research, supervisor. Then there's the negotiation with friends/family. And the coherence between self, research question, research methodology. This is the work, pulling this together and keeping these together.
- Learn to juggle; some might call this the first exercise in time management.
- Establish a means to take control of the reading and the writing. Read about the topic, the research method possibilities, the writings of your supervisor, the writing suggested by your supervisor...as well as how to write, including how to structure a proposal especially for your institution. I have found endnote to be the second most useful piece of software on the planet (after word). My use of it means as i read articles, texts, newspaper items etc... these are entered into my library , and written about in the notes section, and a copy of the article is attached as an image in the image section.
- Chicken and egg / Ideas and writing. I suspect its only other people who have ideas then write them up. I write into my ideas.
- Establish the trajectory. If you have an inkling that what you want to study is too big, it probably is. What is the question, argument (or thesis), being studied, how are you going to get there, why's it so important, and so what? Convince the reader that your study going to make a difference. My institution required this in 400 words or less. Wisdom from cj was, "so where's the cure for cancer?" Barbara Grant said "learn to kill your darlings". David Seedhouse's advice was "say it once and say it well". Get it peer reviewed- other students, friends, family ... their asking questions means it could be clearer.
- Write it and rewrite it and know it will still change. There is no perfect research proposal. Latour says a good thesis is a finished one. This is equally true of a thesis proposal. Invisible work is not wasted, it is the substance on which a finished product lies; a symphony is only good once the learning, the practices and the coming together, have occurred.
Thesis proposals only look easy afterwards. In academia most of our earlier work was about handing in finished product, now's the time to get used to handing over work in progress. A thesis proposal is still only a work in progress. Feel free to polish it , wordsmith it, but know that it's not the end. It's a map, it's not the world. Even if it feels like the world at the time.