By the end of the third semester in residence, each Ph.D. student will meet with their Advisory Committee to present a "prospectus" of their research. The research prospectus should describe a specific project or projects that a student plans to undertake for his or her Ph.D. thesis research. The prospectus presentation allows an opportunity for the Advisory Committee to become familiar with the student's research goals and plans, and to provide useful suggestions.

The research prospectus should include clear written and oral presentations of:

  1. The hypothesis to be tested or the gap in knowledge to be investigated.
  2. A succinct review of the background research/knowledge from the literature that forms the basis for the hypothesis/knowledge gap.
  3. The experimental or theoretical approach(es) to be used in testing the hypothesis or closing the knowledge gap.

Consultation with the major professor during formulation of the prospectus is strongly encouraged.

The research prospectus must be presented both in writing (limited to 10 typed pages, double-spaced) and orally (a 20-minute planned presentation interspersed with questions from the committee) at a meeting of the Advisory Committee to be held by the end of the third semester in residence. This is typically one semester before a student would hold his/her preliminary oral exam for admission to Ph.D. candidacy. (Note: The Graduate School requires both a research prospectus and a preliminary oral examination for admission to Ph.D. candidacy.) The written prospectus should be given to the members of the Advisory Committee two weeks prior to the oral prospectus presentation. Successful completion of the research prospectus requires approval by all but one member of the Advisory Committee.

Note that the prospectus is not a list of required experiments that, once performed, automatically entitles the student to a Ph.D. degree. Research is by nature exploratory and, therefore, its outcome is unpredictable. Furthermore, the quality of the research is not addressed in the research prospectus. The major professor and the Advisory Committee remain the final judges of what constitutes an acceptable Ph.D. dissertation.