Dissertation Prospectus

Within 5 months of successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student must submit the final draft of the dissertation prospectus, prepared in consultation with the student’s Supervisory Committee, to the Supervisor, the other members of the student’s Supervisory Committee, and the DGS (who will circulate the prospectus to the Graduate Committee).

Excellence in the Prospectus will be determined by criteria including the originality and value of the project, the quality of research, and care of preparation and presentation. Should the student’s Supervisory Committee or the Graduate Committee decide at this stage that the program of research has not yet been adequately described and rationalized, they will invite the student to revise the relevant portions of the prospectus for a second delivery within six weeks. The student will be notified of this decision within two weeks of the submission of the proposal. If, on this second occasion, the Supervisory Committee or the Graduate Committee remain dissatisfied, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program.

Upon the approval of the submitted proposal, an oral colloquium will be scheduled for a date within two weeks. At this colloquium, which is open to the public, the student will be expected to address concerns and suggestions raised by their PhD Supervisor, members of the Supervisory Committee, interested faculty members, and any others from the scholarly community. The colloquium will be 1.5 hours in duration.

At the conclusion of this colloquium the audience and the student will withdraw from the colloquium meeting-room and the Supervisory Committee will meet with the DGS as chair. The participants will discuss and ultimately vote on the approval of the student’s PhD dissertation topic, thereby admitting the student to ABD-status.

Guidelines for preparing a prospectus may be found below:

Prospectus Guidelines

The dissertation prospectus is not a research essay. It is better to think of it as closer to a grant application or a book proposal. The prospectus is not a detailed blueprint and it allows for changes of direction. We do not expect precise conclusions to enquiries not yet fully entered into; it is more important at this stage to indicate the kinds of questions that will be posed in the dissertation. However, the prospectus should make clear the overall organization of the dissertation as envisaged at this point in terms of potential chapters and the chief sources and/or topics to be addressed. A timeline for production of the chapters is not required but strongly recommended.

The prospectus should be 4000-5000 words in length, excluding bibliography, and should contain five components:

A. Introduction. The introduction should include a short summary of the major questions behind your research, as well as provide the context of those questions within a larger academic framework. Those who read the introduction should be able to understand what you are attempting to discern through your research and writing.
B. Problem Statement. Describe your research issue, and provide the background and particular context of the problem in relation to the particular academic field.
C. Scholarship Review. You must situate your dissertation in its field, showing how it develops or departs from previous research and what you hope it will contribute to scholarship. It is crucial to situate the topic in relation to previous scholarship.
D. Methodology. In this section you will describe what you plan to do, why you plan to do it, and how you are going to go about doing it. Be sure to include all the details of your methods and theories of research and demonstrate how they relate to your research question. This component should articulate as clearly as possible the “why” as well as the “what” of the methodology.
E. Bibliography. As a research tool, the bibliography is crucial: it demonstrates the candidate’s awareness of existing scholarship that may prove relevant to the topic of the dissertation. There is no expectation that the candidate will already have read all the contents of the bibliography submitted in the prospectus, although candidates are encouraged to indicate the relevance of works that they do know. Rather, the bibliography provides a plan for reading during the first months of study. It should be shaped by whatever categories are most suitable for the topic. Make sure to follow the required academic style.