Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation (M. Phill) Seminar, for Historical Musicology and Music Theory only, is designed to help you in writing a successful dissertation proposal. When choosing a dissertation topic, you should consult the faculty members who know you and your work best. You should register to take the Dissertation Seminar (3 points), in your fifth, or at latest sixth semester, with an advisor whose expertise is close to your chosen topic and who agrees to work with you. The expectation is that you will work closely with your Dissertation advisor, meeting on a regular basis throughout the semester concerned, and will make significant progress towards writing the proposal. You will not be given a passing grade for this course until your Dissertation advisor has seen a complete draft of the proposal. Once you and your advisor consider the proposal finalized, you should submit it to your area advisor.

The Dissertation Proposal

In Historical Musicology and Music Theory, the dissertation proposal is written in the context of the M.Phil. Seminar, taken in the fifth, or at latest sixth semester (see above). In Ethnomusicology, it is written under the guidance of your advisors.

The dissertation proposal should be 1,500-3,500 words in length (in Historical Musicology, 3000-5000 words) and should include in addition a substantial bibliography. It should consist of a title, summary of the dissertation contents, justification for undertaking the proposed research, description of intended methods, an outline and/or table of contents, and finally the bibliography.

Once you and your advisor(s) are satisfied with the proposal, you should submit it to your area advisor, and this should be no later than the midterm date of the seventh semester. It will be read by members of the appropriate area subcommittee (the prospective defense committee), which may return it to you for revision or may declare that you are ready to defend your proposal. If it is returned to you, you may resubmit only once. If it is not approved on the second occasion, you will not be permitted to proceed to the Ph.D.

The Proposal Defense

The Proposal Defense gives you an opportunity to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and competence in the projected area of your dissertation,
  2. receive questions and advice on your dissertation area from several faculty members, and
  3. defend your dissertation proposal.

The examination lasts up to three hours. Passing the Proposal Defense is the final stage before "doctoral candidacy" -- i.e. the point at which you embark on writing your dissertation.

Once your proposal is recommended for defense, the Director of Graduate Studies (Musicology) will schedule your Proposal Defense as expeditiously as possible. Your defense committee will include at least three faculty members, the majority of whom will represent the discipline(s) in which you are specializing. If you fail this defense you have one chance to retake. If you fail on the second occasion, you will not be permitted to proceed to the Ph.D.

Be sure to check out the GSAS Dissertation Office for information regarding the dissertation proposal as well as the GSAS Teaching Center's tips for completing the dissertation.