2.6 Dissertation Prospectus Examination

Purpose. The purpose of the Dissertation Prospectus Examination is to assess the student’s preparedness to write a dissertation on the topic he or she has chosen. Additionally, the Dissertation Prospectus Examination is intended to help the student in defining the direction, scope, and organization of the dissertation.

Scheduling. Examination must be completed no later than the final week of the seventh semester of full-time graduate study (not including summer or May terms), typically the Fall Semester of the student’s fourth year.  

The Dissertation Prospectus Examination Committee. After passing the Candidacy Examination, the student will submit his or her choice of a dissertation Advisor to the Graduate Committee for approval. If the Graduate Committee approves, and the faculty member chosen as an Advisor by the student agrees as well, that faculty member will be the student’s Advisor of record (see sec.1.4 above). If the Graduate Committee does not agree with the student’s choice of Advisor, the Committee will convey this information to the student and ask the student to submit another choice of Advisor. The Advisor will also help the student in preparation for the Dissertation Prospectus Examination. The other two members of a student’s Dissertation Prospectus Examination Committee and Dissertation Committee (if the Dissertation Committee members are different from those who serve on the Dissertation Prospectus Examination) are also to be approved by the Graduate Committee and must agree to serve.

Structure and Procedure. The Dissertation Prospectus Examination will consist in a written part and an oral part. The written part will consist of the student’s dissertation prospectus and a substantive paper on the subject of the dissertation (perhaps a chapter of the dissertation).
1.    The prospectus is to include a chapter-by-chapter outline of the dissertation. The prospectus is supposed to give to the committee members a good idea of how the student intends to put the whole dissertation together. It is therefore best that the prospectus include an outline of each chapter in as much detail as the student can provide.
2.    The prospectus also includes a detailed bibliography of material relevant to the dissertation topic and upon which the student’s knowledge of the field is based. This is typically more tightly focused and extensive than the Bibliography prepared for the Candidacy Examination (see sec.2.5 above).
3.    The substantive paper submitted for the Dissertation Prospectus Examination should not be a mere introduction to the dissertation, nor a mere summary and exposition of some main ideas to be discussed in later parts of the dissertation. One or two ideas that are central to the dissertation should be developed at some length.
4.    The oral part of the Dissertation Prospectus Examination is based upon the student’s written work, and will include an examination of the student’s knowledge of the specialized field of the proposed dissertation. More generally, the examination is also testing the student’s knowledge of the broader field of philosophy of which the dissertation topic is a part.
5.    The oral part of the Dissertation Prospectus Examination is a closed examination, i.e. other students and faculty not on the Dissertation Prospectus Examination committee are not to attend the examination.
6.    Passing the Dissertation Prospectus Examination requires a unanimous vote of the committee members.
7.    If the examination is taken unsuccessfully, as described below, it may be repeated, in which case it must be successfully completed the following semester.   Students should note the time constraints on the awarding of financial aid and on the completion of degree requirements: see the Graduate School Handbook (Section 9-10-1).

The student is responsible for submitting the appropriate Departmental form to schedule the oral portion of Dissertation Prospectus Examination, which must be signed by the Director of Graduate Studies, the Department Chair, and the student’s Advisor. The form must be returned to the Director of Graduate Studies at least two weeks before the oral portion of the Dissertation Prospectus Examination is to be held. The written portion of the exam comprising the prospectus and substantive paper must also be turned in two weeks before the oral portion of the exam.  When the examination is scheduled, the student’s Advisor should obtain the Departmental form for recording the results of the Dissertation Prospectus Examination. That form is to be completed and returned to the Director of Graduate Studies at the completion of the examination.
If a student is scheduled to take a Dissertation Prospectus Exam, and the student does not successfully petition for an extension of the deadline for taking that examination but also fails to take the scheduled examination, then the student will automatically fail that examination.

Next page: Dissertation Seminar