Students are required to develop a prospectus outlining their dissertation project, which they must successfully defend in an oral examination by their Thesis Advisory Committee.
The maximum length for a prospectus is 4500 words, including notes, but excluding the bibliography. Examples of successful prospectuses are available from the Graduate Program Assistant.
The prospectus defence provides an opportunity for a draft of a thesis prospectus to be reviewed by several faculty members who are knowledgeable about the proposed area and topic of the student’s thesis before the final version is approved and the student begins to write the dissertation. The intended thesis supervisor is responsible for assembling qualified faculty members, who will then ordinarily serve as readers on the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee. The aim is to examine the prospectus, collectively and collegially, to identify omissions and weaknesses and to suggest ways in which content, method, and organization can be improved. The desired outcome is a prospectus that presents a clear, coherent, promising plan of research that can successfully guide a student through the process of writing a thesis.
The procedure of the defence will be as follows:
1. A solid draft of the prospectus must be submitted to the examiners at least two weeks prior to the prospectus defence date.
2. The intended supervisor will both chair and participate in the defence.
3. Once the examiners and the student have assembled for the defence, the student will ordinarily be asked to leave the room so that the examining committee may determine the order of questioning, the number of rounds, and the length of each round (recommended: two rounds, first round 15-20 minutes per examiner; second round 5 minutes per examiner). The student will be invited back into the room. This step may be skipped if the examining committee has agreed upon the format in advance of the meeting.
4. The committee will ask the student to give a brief (5-10 minute) overview of her or his prospectus.
5. Then it will proceed to rounds one and two of questioning in the pre-determined order and for the pre-determined length of time per examiner.
6. The student will be asked to leave the room so that the examiners may discuss the prospectus and the defence. The examining committee determines the revisions that need to be made before the prospectus may be considered approved.
7. The student will then be invited back into the room and the committee will explain the expected revisions and the expected timeline for completing them.
8. If the required revisions are minor, the revised version of the prospectus will need to be approved only by the student’s supervisor(s). The revised version must be submitted to the supervisor for approval within two weeks of the defence, unless other arrangements have been made. If the required revisions are substantial, the revised version of the prospectus will be reexamined by the committee, at a time arranged by the supervisor in consultation with the student and the other members of the committee (ordinarily within six weeks of the first defence). When the supervisor(s), in the case of the prospectus requiring only minor revisions, is/are satisfied with the revisions, or the committee, in the case of the prospectus requiring substantial revisions, is satisfied with the revisions, the supervisor will report the successful prospectus approval to the Graduate Chair and to the Graduate Affairs Committee at its next meeting.