Dissertation Prospectus & Defense

Dissertation Prospectus

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.


Dissertation Defense

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. 

University of Pennsylvania
208 S. 37th Street, Room 217
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6215
Phone: (215) 898-7641

Anne Norton Chair
Matthew Levendusky Graduate Chair
Marc Meredith Undergraduate Chair