How to Write a Dissertation Prospectus

The background for your dissertation prospectus is an examination of the current literature and research on your topic. This section is important for two reasons: it shows your readers that you understand your topic and it gives you a chance to prove that your dissertation will not just rehash existing information but will actually contribute to the field of study. The background information should also contain sources that you plan to use to help support your thesis.

Tips to Writing a Good Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is a brief document (10-15 pages) prepared by PhD students who have advanced to candidacy and are prepared to undertake their dissertation research. This prospectus, which is developed and written in consultation with the Supervisory Committee, is regarded as a proposal for dissertation research that provides the Social Welfare Faculty with enough information about the candidate’s plan of dissertation research to assess its appropriateness, originality, rigor, and feasibility. Preparation and approval of the dissertation prospectus is a required preliminary step before the implementation of dissertation research. The dissertation prospectus serves as a critical benchmark for evaluating the adequacy of the candidate’s dissertation. The Prospectus should be approved by the supervisory committee and submitted to the PhD Program Office for review by the PhD Steering Committee within two quarters after the General Examination.1


Dissertation Prospectus | Department of Comparative Studies

Dissertation Prospectus

A dissertation prospectus should set out three things: thesources (primary and secondary) that you think will shape your work; the issue(or issues) that will drive your project; and the structure of the dissertation(ie, a chapter outline) that you will be the result of your labors. Obviously at the prospectus writing stagethis is all subject to change, the archive you thought would have everythingyou needed might have very little, your understanding of the issues that youare investigating will probably (hopefully, in fact) change dramatically overthe course of your work on your dissertation, and few chapter outlines survivewriting the initial chapter. But while a prospectus’ shelf life is often notvery long, its value lies in helping you and your committee get an initialhandle on your project and its place in the historical literature.