Dissertation Prospectus

For HM, Theory & Ethno students, the Dissertation Proposal Seminar I & II is designed to help you in writing a successful dissertation prospectus. 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 Proposal Seminar I & II (6 points), in your third year.  You should enroll in Dissertation Proposal Seminar I with your chosen Faculty Advisor, an individual 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 Faculty Advisor, meeting on a regular basis throughout the semester concerned, and will make significant progress towards writing the prospectus. You will not be given a passing grade for this course until your Faculty Advisor has seen a complete draft of the prospectus. Once you and your Faculty Advisor consider the prospectus finalized, you should submit it to your area advisor.

Prospectus preparation

The dissertation prospectus 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 Faculty Advisor are satisfied with the prospectus, you should submit it to your area advisor, and this should be no later than the midterm date of the 6th semester. It will be read by members of the appropriate area subcommittee (the prospectus defense committee), which may return it to you for revision or may declare that you are ready to defend your prospectus. 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 PhD.

prospectus Defense

The prospectus 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.
  3. Defend your dissertation prospectus.

Once your prospectus is recommended for defense, your area chair or the Director of Graduate Studies  will schedule your prospectus 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 PhD.

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

Be sure to check out the GSAS Dissertation website for information regarding the dissertation prospectus and other dissertation-related matters.