Dissertation Prospectus Guidelines
The academic policies and procedures of the GRS require that students who have completed their language requirements, coursework, and qualifying examinations prepare a dissertation prospectus before the more extensive phase of dissertation research is undertaken. A prospectus must be approved by the student’s Readers as well as the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP).
Steps for Creating a Successful Prospectus
1. Find Readers
The student is required to have a minimum of two Readers, but may have as many as three. Readers are selected at the prospectus stage; additional committee members (also called “examiners”) are normally added later, as the student prepares to defend a completed dissertation.
Once graduate students reach the prospectus-writing stage, they may, in consultation with their Advisor, choose a different faculty member from the GDRS to serve as the First Reader on their Dissertation Committee. Students who exercise this option must inform the GDRS Director and the Program Coordinator of this decision. The First Reader is responsible for ensuring that the prospectus and the dissertation conform to the standards of the GDRS.
Normally, GDRS faculty will serve as Readers for GDRS dissertations. Students may draw on full-time graduate faculty outside of the GDRS (but within BU) by permission of the Director to serve in the position of second or third Reader. In consultation with their advisor, students may also request to have a professor from outside of BU serve as a second Reader or third Reader by submitting a Special Service Appointment form. Students requesting Readers from outside the GDRS (or outside BU) should familiarize themselves with the rules governing dissertation committees. In all cases, the majority of the full dissertation committee of five must be GDRS faculty.
2. Prepare the Prospectus
Students must successfully submit their prospectus and receive CAP approval within one year of qualifying exams. It is recommended that students start drafting it while preparing for the exams, in close consultation with their First and Second Readers. Readers commonly review the prospectus a number of times before declaring it ready for submission.
Students should review the Content Requirements of a Prospectus as well as the hard copies of other students’ successful prospectuses (available outside 145 Bay State Road Room 302) before beginning the writing process.
3. Submit the Prospectus
Students must submit a Word Document of the prospectus and a signed Acknowledgement of Prospectus Submission Form to the GDRS Program Coordinator no later than 5pm on one of these submission dates:
* September 6 * October 17 * December 1 * January 30 * March 15 * May 1*
The Program Coordinator will then pass the student’s prospectus on to the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) for their review and approval.
4. The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) Prospectus Review and Approval
The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) comprises the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who chairs the committee, the Director of the Division, and representatives from each of the four tracks. The CAP meets multiple times each academic year to discuss and evaluate student prospectus submissions. Its purpose is to ensure that all dissertation proposals are appropriate to the field of religious studies and will make a contribution to a particular field of study. The CAP also ensures that the proposal is understandable to educated non-specialists.
Please note that the Institutional Review Board must also approve projects involving human subjects. Students must submit and IRB application as soon as the prospectus is approved by the CAP. For assistance in completing that application, the student may contact the IRB member currently assigned to the GDRS, Shayne C. Deal.
Once the CAP has reviewed the prospectus, the DGS will communicate the Committee’s decision to the student in writing within one week of the scheduled CAP meeting. The CAP can make one of three decisions: to accept the prospectus; to accept the prospectus with a request for revision(s); or to require the student to resubmit. In the latter two cases, the Committee will communicate suggestions for revisions directly to the student and the First Reader. The student and his or her First Reader are also encouraged to meet with the DGS to discuss the CAP’s recommendations.
Repeated failure to produce a successful prospectus may be grounds for dismissal.
Final Prospectus Approval
Once the CAP approves the prospectus, the student is required to a completed GRS Dissertation Prospectus Approval Page to the Program Coordinator. The Program Coordinator will obtain the Director’s signature and submit the materials to the GRS office. If the CAP committee requires a student to make substantive changes to the prospectus as a condition of their approval, the student’s committee must review the revised prospectus before signing the approval form and an updated copy must be submitted to the Program Coordinator.
After passing the Ph.D. preliminary examinations, students should participate in the Research Workshop and develop a 15-to-20 page dissertation prospectus. In consultation with his/her faculty adviser, the student organizes a Prospectus Committee which will normally consist of 3 faculty members, but no fewer than 2. While preparing the Ph.D. prospectus, the student should seek advice from this committee.
The Ph.D. dissertation prospectus typically includes the following:
(1) description of the topic to be investigated;
(2) justification of the importance of the selected topic;
(3) list of major sources and a strategy for identifying and pursuing additional sources;
(4) methods to be used;
(5) possible alternative approaches to the problem;
(6) tentative timetable for completion of the Ph.D. dissertation;
(7) potential sources of external funding (including due dates and major requirements of the applications).
A rough draft of the prospectus must be presented to the prospectus committee by the end of the student's fifth semester. The student defends the finalized proposal in a meeting with the committee in the student's sixth semester. After the presentation, the members of the Prospectus Committee, by majority vote, choose one of three options: (1) approve the proposal; (2) approve the proposal contingent on specified changes to be checked by a designated faculty member or members; (3) reject the proposal, requiring a substantially new draft and another presentation.
When the student’s committee judges that the Ph.D. dissertation is ready to be presented, he or she notifies the Graduate Assistant, who then prepares the appropriate paperwork and helps the student schedule the defense. After a presentation open to other interested faculty and students, the committee decides the acceptability of the dissertation by majority vote. Its possible decisions include (a) acceptance with no revisions or only minor editorial changes required; (b) acceptance contingent on revisions to be approved by a designated faculty member or members; and (c) rejection requiring major revisions and a new defense.