Dissertation prospectus

Candidates submit the prospectus (see the document on prospectus guidelines) to the Graduate Officer who establishes the advisory committee for the PhD project. If the committee deems the prospectus acceptable the candidate is invited to discuss it with the committee members. The student can subsequently start work on her/his dissertation. If the prospectus is not deemed acceptable by one or more committee members, they inform the Graduate Officer of their concerns. The Graduate Officer will then call a meeting with committee members to discuss whether or not the prospectus discussion with the candidate should be postponed. If the committee members agree to postpone the discussion of the prospectus (majority vote), the supervisor will inform the candidate of the decision and pass along a list of recommended changes to the candidate. The candidate is to revise the prospectus and resubmit it normally within 6 weeks. The prospectus discussion is a public event. The supervisor informs the Graduate Officer about the completed prospectus discussion in writing. This memorandum, together with the prospectus, will be kept in the student’s file.

Dissertation prospectus guidelines

  • Title: A title reflecting the topic and the perspective taken by the student. 
  • Research question: A description of the research question(s) to be addressed. This need not necessarily be formulated as a question, but it should capture the main issues being taken up in the study. 
  • Objectives: A description of the objectives of the thesis with regard to the research question(s) and its contribution to knowledge (including a succinct and well-defined thesis statement or argument). 
  • Context: A summary of the context surrounding the primary work(s) and/or research question (consisting mainly of a critical review of research and an explanation of how the student’s research fits into previous scholarship). 
  • Methodology: The method(s) to be employed in analyzing the research question according to the direction given by the thesis statement/argument. 
  • Outline: An outline of chapter divisions, with chapter titles and a brief indication of the content of each.
  • Timeline: A timeline for the completion of the thesis. 
  • Works cited: A list of works cited in MLA or APA style. 

The prospectus must be typed, double-spaced, and written according to the MLA Handbook or the APA Publication Manual, and adhere to UW  regulations. The prospectus should be about 12 (and no more than 16) pages long (including works cited).


During the work on the dissertation, the student will present suitable aspects of her/his work at doctoral colloquia which are organized in cooperation with the Graduate Officer, and in consultation with the supervisor. The student presents her/his work for about 30-40 minutes. The format of the colloquium is flexible. Candidates can choose to give a presentation followed by a discussion, or to present parts of their work, each followed by a discussion, or to organize a discussion of selected material. Since the purpose of the doctoral colloquia is to report on the 
progress and current state of the art of dissertation projects, candidates may wish to think of appropriate ways of conveying their work and getting feedback. Doctoral colloquia are public.