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OASIS Writing Skills

Doctoral Capstone Preproposal Starter Kit:
Doctoral Capstone Preproposal Starter Kit

Writing Resources for Doctoral Students in the Initial Stages of Development
These resources are for doctoral students at the premise and prospectus stages and who are not yet working on their official proposal documents.


These resources are for doctoral students at the preproposal stage and who are not yet working or are just beginning to work on their official proposal documents.

Receiving a doctoral degree means you have demonstrated your ability to do independent, original scholarly work at the doctoral level. At Walden, this means completing a doctoral capstone document—dissertation, doctoral study, project study, or doctoral project—to be published in the ProQuest database.

Part of becoming an independent academic writer means knowing the skills you need to develop in your writing process as well as the resources available to help you develop them. The time you spend working with faculty to develop your preproposal document(s) is also a perfect opportunity to reflect on your writing skills and what further work you need to do to prepare yourself to write the proposal and final study.

The Writing Center offers instructional feedback on premise and prospectus documents through the paper review appointments in myPASS. The Preproposal Starter Kit offers resources to help you hone your scholarly voice and plan, draft, and polish your writing at the doctoral level so you are prepared once you start work on your proposal.

Writing support for longer writing projects required of doctoral students like proposals and final studies can be found on the Doctoral Capstone Form and Style site, where numerous services and resources for students at the capstone stage are housed. The Form and Style editors have a limited amount of time to review proposal and final study chapters or sections, by faculty request only; committee chairs can find the application for the Chapter Edit service on the Toolbox for Faculty site.

Approaching the Doctoral Capstone Writing Process

As you begin planning and preparing to write the dissertation, doctoral study, project study, or project to fulfill your degree, understand that there are key differences between writing successfully for courses and writing a long-form, doctoral-level manuscript.

While you have been developing the strong research, writing, and citation skills throughout your program, for the doctoral capstone you will write and revise one document in multiple phases, with multiple stages of approval, and with feedback from multiple people.

In the Doctoral Capstone Students webinar series, review the Transitioning from Coursework to Doctoral Capstone Writing and Writing Process for Longer Research Projects webinars to get a fuller idea of what to expect as you transition from student to doctoral scholar.

Doctoral programs in the U.S.-style academic system are generally divided into two stages:

  • Doctoral coursework, when you develop your expertise and hone your research interests.
    • Writing takes the form of completing assigned topics, goals, and objectives.
    • The audience is generally limited to individual faculty members or the other people enrolled in the course.
    • Assignments receive grades, and students receive feedback to apply in future assignments.
  • “The capstone,” when you design and conduct original research and demonstrate your authority and expertise.
    • Writing goals and objectives become more self-directed as doctoral students take on the responsibility of developing their own unique focus.
    • The audience becomes the broader scholarly community, as completed doctoral capstone documents are published and available in ScholarWorks and the ProQuest database.
    • Drafts go through hundreds of revisions, with several rounds of feedback and input from faculty and staff.
    • The doctoral student is essentially building toward one manuscript from the time they begin the preproposal process to the time they graduate.

Long-form research writing allows scholars room to explore complex issues and ask more sophisticated questions. A doctoral capstone study represents:

  • an “original contribution” to scholarship,
  • depth and breadth of knowledge in your field, and
  • months of writing, rewriting, and more writing.

Completing a longer research project is how doctoral-level scholars demonstrate they are independent researchers. You will need to be self-directed, self-sufficient, and self-aware about your writing skills and your writing process.

Use the resources in this kit to build a strong foundation so you can support yourself through the doctoral writing journey ahead.