The prospectus is a proposal for dissertation research written under the supervision of a member of the doctoral faculty who is willing to sponsor it. The prospectus examination should be taken by the end of the second semester following advancement to candidacy for the student to maintain satisfactory progress.
The student will consult with a faculty member about sponsoring a dissertation project. When there is mutual agreement about the project the faculty member will notify the Executive Officer.
Students will write an outline of the dissertation project that is 3,000-5,000 words long (not including the bibliography), and a sample section of the dissertation, at least 5,000 words in length. The maximum length of the combined documents will be 10,000 words (not including the bibliography).
The prospectus proper must contain:
Title: The proposed title of the dissertation; student’s name; dissertation supervisor.
Statement of thesis: In 1,000-2,000 words, this section states and motivates the project. It begins with a short abstract of the thesis that states how the student intends to resolve the central question or problem in the dissertation (100-150 words). This section as a whole motivates the topic and locates the thesis within the space of contemporary or historical philosophical ideas; explains the significance of the topic; and displays knowledge of the primary literature. It describes the present state of the issue, indicating the major positions in a debate and – where possible – cites the most important literature.
Project proposal: The plan for the dissertation, in 2,000-3,000 words, stating the method for resolving the central question or problem that is the topic of the dissertation. The proposal documents the proposed lines of argument organized in a logically developed order. Students may find it useful to present these lines of argument in the form of chapter summaries, but it is not required. The proposal is a template or advertisement for the thesis, more like a grant application than like a qualifying paper, a journal article, or an introductory chapter. The aim is to convince the committee of the project’s substance, significance, and philosophical fecundity. (The parts of the dissertation do not all need to be laid out at equal length. It may well be that the student has worked out some part in greater detail, while conceiving another part more sketchily. This difference should be reflected in the space that each part receives in the summary).
Bibliography: The student need not have read all of the sources listed in the Bibliography. It ought instead to include all of the sources the student believes will prove relevant to the project.
Selection from dissertation: Together with the summary, the student will submit a draft of one section of the dissertation. This document can be (all or part of) a paper written for publication, or (all or part of) a Qualifying Paper, or a paper written for a course. This sample should be around 5,000 words long.
The Prospectus Committee
The student’s prospectus will be submitted for approval to a prospectus committee comprising at least three faculty members. These three will consist of the supervisor and two other faculty members, chosen by the student and supervisor and approved by the Executive Officer.
The prospectus committee may contain as many as five faculty members. The one or two additional members may attend the prospectus examination but are not required to.
At least two faculty members on the prospectus committee, including the sponsor, must be from the program faculty, but at most two persons not on the program faculty may be joined to the prospectus committee if the prospectus sponsor and Executive Officer concur. Thus one external examiner is permitted on a committee of three and two on a committee of four or five. But note that the final dissertation examination committee must include three graduate school faculty.
The composition of the committee may change with approval of the supervisor and the Executive Officer.
Setting Up the Prospectus Examination
An oral examination is scheduled to test the proposal and the student’s capacity to undertake it. Once the Sponsor believes that the prospectus is ready for examination, they, in consultation with the student, will submit to the Executive Officer for approval the names of the appropriate and willing faculty members to serve on the examination committee.
The Sponsor (not the student) will arrange the date and time with the committee and then notify the Assistant Program Officer who will arrange a room. The Assistant Program Officer will notify the student and the committee regarding these arrangements. The prospectus must be circulated at least one week prior to the examination.
Prior to the examination, the Assistant Program Officer will appoint the Chair of the Prospectus Examination (a member of the examination committee who is not the Sponsor) and present the Chair with a form that needs to be signed only by the Chairperson and then returned to the Assistant Program Officer.
Outcomes of the Prospectus Examination
The prospectus examination can have any one of three outcomes. (1) The student can pass, in which case, the dissertation research is approved subject to such restrictions and recommendations as the committee may require. A passing mark on the prospectus exam shall be awarded only if a simple majority of committee members assent. (2) The student may pass conditionally, in which case they must satisfy certain conditions before the proposal is approved. (3) The student may fail. In the case of failure, the committee may also decide whether or not the student may submit a new prospectus on the same topic.
Foreign Language and Research Techniques
While the Philosophy Program has no general language requirement, the prospectus examination committee will determine whether a student’s proposed dissertation topic will require that the student be able to read material in a foreign language. It will set any requirements that need to be satisfied for the approval of the dissertation.
The Dissertation Committee
The student and Supervisor must contact the Executive Officer within two weeks of having passed the prospectus examination to discuss the formation of the three-person dissertation supervisory committee. The Supervisor, in consultation with the student, will submit to the Executive Officer for approval the names of two appropriate and willing faculty members to serve on the three-person committee. Two of the members of this committee, including the Supervisor, must be on the GC philosophy faculty; one may come from another GC program or another university.
Once the three-person supervisory committee has been appointed, the Executive Officer will notify the Assistant Program Officer of the names of the committee. The Assistant Program Officer will email a description of the responsibilities of a committee member to the individual members, who will confirm their willingness to serve by return email to the Assistant Program Officer. It is part of the responsibility of the entire supervisory committee to monitor the progress of the student. Both the Supervisor and the student should be sure that completed chapters or sections of the thesis are regularly submitted to the other two members of the committee so they may comment on them (if necessary or desirable) and be kept abreast of the student's progress.
The usual dissertation is constructed like a monograph or book, treating an approved topic in some depth. The student may alternatively opt for a dissertation composed of three substantial essays on approved topics specifically constructed for the dissertation. The candidate’s committee will determine the nature of the connection among the essays.
When the three-person supervisory committee is satisfied that the dissertation is ready for defense, each member emails the Assistant Program Officer to register his/her approval. The Supervisor and student then contact the Executive Officer and communicate their request for the appointment of one or two additional examiners to form the examination committee in conjunction with the three members of the advising committee, or for the original three person advising committee to constitute the examination committee. But note that the examination committee must include three graduate center faculty. If additional examiners are appointed, the student must distribute the final draft to them a minimum of four weeks before the actual defense is to take place. If no additional examiners are appointed, the dissertation advisor can proceed to set up the dissertation defense with the three person advising committee reconstituted as the examination committee, if all three members are graduate center faculty.
If a student must change or replace any committee member, including the Supervisor, the student should speak with the Executive Officer and the Assistant Program Officer as soon as possible.
When the student is ready to take the defense examination, the Supervisor (not the student) will arrange the date and time with the committee and then notify the Assistant Program Officer who will reserve a room. The Assistant Program Officer will notify the student and the committee regarding these arrangements.
The candidate must defend the dissertation before the examination committee in a public oral examination. The grade of the oral examination is decided by a majority of the committee. The grades are: Pass, Pass with minor revisions, Pass with major revisions, Fail. The committee may designate an outstanding performance with a special grade of Pass with Honors on the dissertation and/or the defense. In this case, the Chair of the committee will write a letter to this effect and it will be put in the student’s file.
The Assistant Program Officer will appoint the Chair of the defense and present the Chair with a form that needs to be signed by all members of the defense committee and returned to the Assistant Program Officer. In the event of a voting draw by a four-person examination committee, an additional examiner will be appointed whose vote will determine the outcome.
The student must obtain the rules and requirements for dissertation deposit from the Dissertation Librarian in the Mina Rees Library.