Dissertation Prospectus and Oral Defense

During their third year, students enroll in Philosophy 590 (Research) for one unit of credit during each of the three quarters. Students should use their work in 590 to find a dissertation topic and to prepare a dissertation prospectus (described below).

Third-year registration for 590 Research will be done with an advisor only after consulting with him or her and obtaining his or her signature on the registration form. Students may work with different advisors in different terms, and when the dissertation topic comes into sharper focus, they will go on to form their permanent dissertation committees.

Prospectus advisors will assist students with the preparation of a dissertation prospectus. Students are expected to pursue the following activities throughout the year: wide consultation with department faculty, and in particular regular consultation with potential members of the dissertation committee; a reading program structured towards achieving competence in the dissertation area; a presentation at the dissertation research seminar; discussion of a dissertation prospectus with faculty.

The dissertation prospectus should lay out the topic and plan for the dissertation work. It is not a philosophy paper, but rather a thesis plan that (a) articulates an interesting philosophical problem in a way that (b) displays the student’s knowledge of the problem’s place in the corresponding philosophical field as well as the leading attempts to resolve it and (c) gives as clear an indication as the student can give at this early stage of how he or she intends to organize the thesis, and of what he or she expects her contribution to be. The prospectus should give an overview of the chapters that are planned for the dissertation and the contents of each chapter. The length of the prospectus should be around 5000 words. In addition, it must contain a bibliography (normally at least 25 works). Students should work closely with their advisors in preparing the prospectus.

In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D., students must pass an oral defense of the dissertation prospectus by the end of the Spring Quarter of the third year. The oral defense will involve a discussion of the dissertation prospectus, and all three members of the dissertation committee need to be present. The oral defense should convince the dissertation committee that the student is ready to write a dissertation and that the thesis plan described in the prospectus is feasible. If the prospectus receives a conditional pass, the revised prospectus must be approved no later than October 15th of the fourth year.

After passing the oral defense of the prospectus, students may choose to study abroad in consultation with their advisors. A petition to study abroad before passing the oral defense would be granted only if there are special circumstances. Petitions to study abroad before passing the oral defense will be examined by the Graduate Advisory Committee. As part of his or her petition, the student must outline a research plan along the lines of the dissertation prospectus and the plan must be approved by the prospectus advisor.