Thesis Proposal

Rationale: to prepare students to successfully defend a thesis proposal in the allotted time span (6 months).

Components: four components make up the in-house thesis proposal protocol. The first is the establishment of a broad topic area; the second is a comprehensive literature review for that topic area; the third is a narrowing down of the topic in the form of a thesis statement. The fourth is the presentation, in writing and orally, of a thesis proposal. The components in detail are as follows:


1) The first component involves student deliberation on the broad topic area. This may already be done by the time the student reaches the comprehensive examination.

2) The second component consists in amassing a sizeable literature. This literature will be reflected in the written proposal. The literature should be comprehensive: it should deal with the issue in terms of its depth (the precise issue that is being discussed) and its breadth (how and where the issue touches other relevant issues). It should cover the secondary literature on a thinker in that particular area under investigation and it should do so historically. A good number is 25-50 sources, including the literature relevant to the specific issue at hand.

3) The third component consists in a narrow thesis statement: the statement should specifically delineate the boundaries of the question/issue the student is investigating. The thesis statement will reflect what, and who, that includes (in the primary and secondary literature). The thesis statement should reflect the narrowest possible problem/issue and its solution. The statement should be no more than a few sentences in length.

So, for example, the student shouldn’t set out to do a paper on Robert Brandom and Hegel; the student should find a specific problem regarding Brandom’s use of Hegel that has been insufficiently dealt with, either by Brandom or the secondary literature.

4) The fourth component is a presentation, both oral and written, to the supervisory committee. The presentation will include the following:

a) Written document, including Introduction (why this issue?), literature review, gaps in the literature/un-or under-investigated issues or problems/misleading or mistaken exegeses, the reason for this contribution, thesis statement, outline of chapters, working bibliography. I anticipate the final written document to be approximately 10-12 pages in length, plus working bibliography. While the working bibliography should at this state be fairly comprehensive (25-50 sources), this does not need to be directly reflected in the written statement, which will concentrate on the issues and problems directly germane to the thesis statement. The written assignment must be vetted by the supervisory committee before the student undertakes her oral presentation.

b) Oral presentation. This will include a brief introduction/summary of the proposal. The student will then entertain questions from the supervisory committee. At the end of the presentation (approximately 2 hours), the candidate will be ranked according to the following criteria: Pass with distinction, Pass, Revise/resubmit

Timeframe: 6 months from initiation to completion (oral examination). The timeframe is flexible, but it is to be hoped that the student will have amassed a significant literature and developed a comprehensive thesis statement by the end of the timeframe.

Supervisory Committee Interaction: This is the most important phase of dissertation writing, and the student should expect weekly/bi-weekly meetings with members of the supervisory committee during the assemblage of the literature and (particularly) the writing and revising of the thesis proposal.