Dissertation Prospectus & Candidacy

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is a written précis of the proposed dissertation research, its significance, the sources and methods to be used, the relevant bibliography including primary source materials, and the plan of completion. It is intended to form the substance of grant proposals students will write in order to apply for both internal and external grants and fellowships. Each field of study has its own expectations for the length of the prospectus, but normally these should be concise documents not to exceed ten-to-twelve (10-12) pages in length, followed by a bibliography. In all fields, the prospectus is developed by the student in close collaboration with the advisor and other members of the examination committee.

The preparation of the prospectus includes the following stages:

  1. An initial version of the prospectus.
  2. A one-hour oral examination based on that initial version.
  3. A final version incorporating any revisions suggested by members of the dissertation committee and approved by the advisor submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.

Timeline: The initial draft version of the prospectus should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator during the first half of the student’s sixth semester before the student takes the major field examination, normally at the same time as the special field essay. The one-hour oral examination of the prospectus based on the initial version is scheduled during the second half of the student’s sixth semester in the program following satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations. The final version of the prospectus as approved by the advisor is due on the first day of the academic semester that immediately follows the comprehensive examination. (Also see the “Combined Timeline for Comprehensive Examinations and the Prospectus” at the end of this document.)

The Relationship between the Prospectus and the Special Field Essay: The special field essay normally covers the historiography of the entire subfield within the major field in which the dissertation is anchored, while the prospectus is more narrowly concerned with the specific research topic of the dissertation.

The Examination Committee: The prospectus oral examination committee consists of the advisor and at least two other members of Graduate Faculty, who are normally also members of the student’s dissertation committee. The advisor chairs the examination. All committee members contribute questions to the oral examination and make suggestions for revisions. Upon passing the oral examination, the student will complete any revisions requested (as determined by the advisor and the committee) and submit the final prospectus approved by the advisor to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

MA “Along the Way”

When a student receives a pass or pass with distinction and the endorsement to continue on in the Ph.D. program, the student has the option to request that the Master of Arts degree be conferred "along the way," subject to fulfillment of the standard requirements of the MA degree.

In some instances, the examination committee may recommend that a PhD student taking comprehensive examinations be given a pass at the MA level, sufficient for the conferral of a terminal master's degree. Such a recommendation will be made with the expectation that the student not continue on towards doctoral candidacy.

Petition for Re-examination

In the case of failure of a language examination taken for the second time or one or more components of the comprehensive examinations and the prospectus preparation process (special field essay, take-home major field examination, two-hour oral examination, and prospectus oral examination), the student may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to take the whole examination or the relevant component(s) a second time. If the petition is approved, the student may retake the examination as soon as possible. A student may petition only once to retake all or part of the comprehensive examinations and the prospectus preparation process.

Successful completion of the prospectus is typically the last step before application for advancement to candidacy.

Advancement to Candidacy

A doctoral student advances to candidacy when all degree requirements (i.e., course work, demonstrated competence in languages or special skills, comprehensive examinations, and the dissertation prospectus) have been satisfied, with the exception of the dissertation.

Formal admission to candidacy (sometimes known as "All but Dissertation" or "ABD" status) is granted by the Dean of the Graduate School. The application is routed through the Director of Graduate Studies.