In the thesis proposal, the student lays out an intended course of research for the dissertation. By accepting the thesis proposal, the student's dissertation committee agrees that the proposal is practicable and acceptable, that its plan and prospectus are satisfactory, and that the candidate is competent in the knowledge and techniques required, and formally recommends that the candidate proceed according to the prospectus and under the supervision of the dissertation committee. It is part of the training of the student's research apprenticeship that the
form of this proposal must be as concise as those proposals required by major
The student proposes to a committee consisting of the student's advisor and
two other researchers who meet
GSAS requirements for dissertation committee membership.
The advisor should solicit the prospective committee members,
not the student. In cases where the research and departmental advisors are different, both must serve on the committee.
The student prepares a proposal document that consists of a core, plus any
optional appendices. The core is limited to 30 pages (e.g., 12 point font,
single spacing, 1 inch margins all around), and should contain
sections describing 1) the problem and its background, 2) the innovative
claims of the proposed work and its relation to existing work, 3) a
description of at least one initial result that is mature enough to be able to
be written up for submission to a conference, and 4) a plan for completion of
the research. The committee commits to read and respond to the core, but
reserves the right to refuse a document whose core exceeds the page limit. The
student cannot assume that the committee will read or respond to any
The complete doctoral thesis proposal document must be disseminated to the entire dissertation committee no later than two weeks (14 days) prior to the proposal presentation.* The must be informed of the scheduling of the proposal presentation no later than two weeks (14 days) prior to the presentation.* *Emergency exceptions to either of these deadlines can be granted by the or the Department Chair on appeal by the advisor and agreement of the committee.
A latex thesis proposal template is available here.
Presentation and Feedback
The student presents the proposal in a prepared talk of 45 minutes to the committee, and responds to any questions and feedback by the committee.
The student's advisor, upon approval of the full faculty, establishes the target semester by which the thesis proposal must be successfully completed. The target semester must be no later than the eighth semester, and the student must be informed of the target semester no later than the sixth semester.
Passing or failing is determined by consensus of the committee, who then
sign the dissertation proposal
form. Failure to pass the thesis proposal by
the end of the target semester or the eighth semester, whichever comes first,
is deemed unsatisfactory progress: the student is normally placed on probation
and can be immediately dismissed from the program. However, on appeal of the
student's advisor, one
semester's grace can be granted by the full faculty.
[Change notes: Removed extraneous paragraph numbering. Clarified which academic staff should be notified. Removed unnecessary footnote about scheduling snafus. Wordsmithing. Issues: Should the timing rule about target semesters be revisited - since we don't seem to be following it? Further, the progress rule seems inconsistent in cases where the target semester is set to be later than the 8th semester - which seems to happen in reality even though that's not what the timing rule says. Also, there's no mention of the possibility of failing the proposal.]
Last updated on
September 13, 2008.