Dissertation Prospectus

Students should consult the GSAS guidelines for preparing and defending the dissertation prospectus.

In preparing a dissertation prospectus (also known as a dissertation brief), students should bear in mind that it is not meant to be a dissertation in miniature; it functions, rather, as a blueprint for the dissertation to come. It envisions what the dissertation will do, but it does not undertake those things itself. While the brief necessarily reflects a good deal of preliminary research and thought, it remains a proposal for work yet to come.

The dissertation prospectus should

  • articulate the core idea of the dissertation (the questions and insights that drive it, the argument that is emerging
  • identify the material to be drawn upon in the analysis
  • characterize any methodological or theoretical perspectives that will be brought to bear on the material
  • establish the scholarly significance of the study, situating it in the field(s) to which it aspires to belong
  • outline the dissertation’s projected structure

The prospectus includes the following sections:

  1. the body of the document, which serves the purposes listed above.
  2. an expanded table of contents supplying a provisional title for each chapter and a description of the content and function of each one (maximum one page per chapter).
  3. a working bibliography, including sources you intend to read as well as those you have already consulted. 

Approximate length: 12 pages, exclusive of bibliography.

Students should inform the DAAF and DGS of plans for the dissertation brief defense.  Upon defending a dissertation brief, a student should file a GSAS Dissertation Proposal Committee Report.