PhD Dissertation Proposals

The PhD Dissertation proposal must be submitted no more than 6 months after taking the Major Field examination, with the title page provided by the Centre. The main purpose of the PhD dissertation proposal is to provide answers to the following questions about the proposed topic of dissertation research: What is it? How does it relate to previous scholarship? How is it likely to contribute to knowledge?.

Though proposals will vary in arrangement and emphasis, each should:

  • indicate the topic of investigation;
  • discuss the status quaestionis. This review of the state of the literature will involve both
    • a preliminary bibliography to indicate essential secondary sources in the field, and
    • a discussion of the primary sources upon which present understanding of the topic is based;
  • set out what the student proposes to investigate. The source materials to be used in the research should be named and, where relevant, discussed. The extent, location, and availability of sources that are not readily available should be cited;
  • state how this dissertation is likely to advance our knowledge. If the student has already made preliminary soundings in the source material, any results should be indicated;
  • put forward a hypothesis, if one has been formulated.

Students who are preparing an edition of a text for their PhD dissertation should, in addition to the foregoing, specify the number and location of manuscripts from which the texts are to be edited, and the type of edition proposed (working, critical, other). Such students should also acquaint themselves with the Centre’s Guide to Text Editions.

Dissertation proposals should be five to seven pages, double-spaced (c. 1,500 words), plus bibliography. They should be specific enough that the supervisor, advisory committee and the Centre may warn the student about possible pitfalls. Proposals also should give some indication of how the dissertation will be organised.

While it is not intended that the proposal be so long and burdensome that it consume valuable research time, the statement should be carefully thought out. When formulating a dissertation proposal, students and supervisors should remember that the Centre has imposed a limit of 90,000 words on all theses (i.e. about 300–350 pages). This count is to include footnotes or endnotes but can exclude the bibliography, appendices, and the text portion in textual editions. No proposal will be accepted which is likely to produce a dissertation in excess of this limit.

Here, as in other scholarly projects, you should include translations of passages written in languages other than English.  Whether you place the original passage in the body of your proposal and the translation in a footnote or vice versa is up to you.  Please discuss this matter with your supervisor if you are not sure how to proceed.

The proposal should contain the title of both the Major Field and the proposed dissertation. The title of the latter should indicate clearly that the dissertation is more narrowly focused than is the Major Field. Also to be included are the names of the dissertation supervisor and other members of the dissertation advisory committee. The dissertation supervisor and committee members must sign the proposal to indicate approval. Each member should retain a copy of the proposal.