Dissertation Prospectus Defense

After the successful completion of coursework, language requirements, and General Examination, students, now Ph.D. candidates, focus on their dissertation research. The first step is the development of a Dissertation Prospectus, which must be approved by a committee of advisors in the form of a written statement and a public oral defense. The committee includes the primary advisor and two other faculty from within or outside the Department who may or may not have served on the student’s General Examination committee.While there is no set format for the prospectus paper, it consists of a synthetic statement of the dissertation research that candidates develop in close consultation with their primary advisor. On average, it is expected to be a 10 to 15 page-long paper, which includes a clearly defined topic of research, an account of the state of the field and how the proposed research relates to it, an outline of the methodology employed, an account of the sources to be explored, a specific research plan and timeline. The paper may include a preliminary chapter outline. In addition to the paper, candidates should add a substantial bibliography of primary and secondary sources pertinent to the project.

The dissertation prospectus paper must be submitted to the Department at least one week before the oral presentation and will be distributed to the Department faculty and graduate students. At the prospectus defense, the candidate is given about twenty minutes to introduce the prospectus; this will be followed by faculty comments and an open-floor discussion.

The prospectus defense is typically planned according to the following schedule:

General Examination Date Prospectus Presentation
May of 2nd year No later than October of 3rd year
October of 3rd year No later than January of 3rd year
January of 3rd year No later than May of 3rd year

It is the responsibility of the student to observe this schedule. If candidates do not successfully complete the general examination and the dissertation prospectus defense by the end of the third academic year, their reenrollment will be deferred until a successful prospectus defense. 

The possible outcomes of the prospectus presentation are: 1) accepted; 2) accepted with revisions; 3) rejected. If the prospectus is accepted with revisions, the student has four weeks to present a revised version to the committee, which will decide on its acceptance without a second public presentation. If the initial prospectus is rejected, a new date for another public presentation must be scheduled in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. A second rejection results in withdrawal from the University with a terminal M.A.