Dissertation Prospectus


The dissertation prospectus is a requirement for all doctoral students. The goal of the prospectus is to help students frame their future dissertation work in terms of its content, methodology, and timeline to completion.


The prospectus should be written and evaluated within one to three months after the student has passed the comprehensive examination.


The dissertation prospectus committee is normally made up of the supervisor and two other professors (who are full or associate members of the School of Graduate Studies, but not necessarily the department). This committee is often the same as the student’s comprehensive examination committee, but does not have to be. The prospectus committee normally supervises the student over the course of writing the dissertation, although changes in committee members are allowed if necessary or appropriate.

Form of the Prospectus

Students should consult with their supervisors early to ascertain expectations for the prospectus. In general, the prospectus should be approximately 15-20 pages in length and address the following areas:

  • description of topic and expected contribution to the field
  • discussion of theoretical issues germane to the dissertation
  • review of primary sources
  • review of secondary scholarship
  • proposed research methodology
  • proposed outline of sections of the dissertation
  • bibliography of primary and secondary sources


The student will provide the prospectus to the supervisor within one to three months of completing the comprehensive examination. The supervisor will distribute the prospectus to the other members of the committee and arrange a time for all to meet with the student to discuss the prospectus. The meeting should be 1-2 hours in length and offer the student feedback and suggestions from the committee in oral and written form. The committee may ask the student to make revisions and even set up a second meeting. Once the student has revised the prospectus in response to the suggestion of the committee, the student should then submit the prospectus to the supervisor for final approval. That approval should be given in writing to the student and cc’d to the departmental Chair and Associate Chair, Graduate. At this point the student is officially advanced to candidacy, having fulfilled all requirements of the PhD program with the exception of the dissertation itself.