Dissertation Prospectus Guidelines

Before a PhD student can start writing his or her dissertation, he or she must outline the proposed project in a formal prospectus.  A prospectus must be approved by the student’s readers, as well as the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) and GRS.  The information below details the formal requirements and academic standards of the GDRS regarding PhD prospectus.

Steps for Creating a Successful Prospectus

1. Find Readers

The student is required to have a minimum of two Readers, but may have as many as three.

Once graduate students reach the prospectus-writing stage, they may, in consultation with their Advisor, choose a different faculty member from the GDRS to serve as the First Reader on their Dissertation Committee (Dissertation Advisor). Students who exercise this option must inform the GDRS Director, DGS, and the Program Coordinator of this decision. The First Reader is responsible for ensuring that the prospectus and the dissertation conform to the standards of the GDRS.

Normally, GDRS faculty will serve as readers for GDRS dissertations. Students may draw on full-time graduate faculty outside of the GDRS (but within BU) by permission of the Director to serve in the position of second or third reader. Students may also request to have an external faculty member serve as a second reader or third reader, by submitting a special service appointment form. External readers can be formally approved only by the Dean, and only after the prospectus has been approved. Students requesting readers from outside the GDRS (or outside BU) should familiarize themselves with the rules governing dissertation committees. In all cases, the majority of the full dissertation committee (of five—two or three readers, along with three or two additional examiners) must be GDRS faculty. Although the full committee need not be established at the prospectus stage, requests for external readers may trigger questions about the make-up of the eventual committee. Students with questions about these matters should consult their first reader, the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Director.

If a student chooses a second or third from outside BU or the GRS, they must submit Special Service Appointment Paperwork .

A student’s readers must approve the prospectus before the student submits it to CAP.  All prospectuses submitted for the CAP’s review must be accompanied by a brief letter of endorsement from the First Reader of the proposed dissertation, attesting to the project’s feasibility and contribution. In addition, an Acknowledgement of Prospectus Submission form must be filled out and signed by your first and second readers and returned to the GDRS by your chosen submission deadline. Your first reader will have copies made available to him/her, and is responsible for circulating the form to the second reader, who will then return the form to the GDRS office.

2. Prepare the Prospectus

Students must successfully submit their prospectus and receive CAP approval within one year of qualifying exams. It is recommended that students start drafting it while preparing for the exams, in close consultation with their First and Second Readers. Readers commonly review the prospectus a number of times before declaring it ready for submission.

Please review the Formal Requirements of a Prospectus as well as the hard copies of other students’ successful prospectus (available outside Religion 302) before you begin writing.

3. Submit the Prospectus

Once the prospectus is approved by the Readers, submit a Prospectus Submission form, 7 print copies (6 double-sided plus 1 single-sided) of the finished prospectus as well an electronic version in PDF format to the GDRS Program Coordinator . Submission deadlines for this academic year are:

  • · September 1
  • · October 15
  • · December 1
  • · February 1
  • · March 17
  • · May 1

The Program Coordinator will then pass it on to the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) for their review and approval.

The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP)

The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) comprises the Director of the GDRS, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and four members of the core faculty. The CAP meets five times each academic year to discuss and evaluate student prospectus submissions. Its purpose is to ensure that all dissertation proposals are both appropriate to the field of religious and theological studies and will make a contribution to a particular field of study. The CAP also ensures that the proposal is understandable to educated non-specialists.

Once the CAP has reviewed the prospectus, the DGS will communicate the decision to the student in writing. The CAP can make one of three decisions: to accept the prospectus; to accept the prospectus with a request for revision(s); or to require the student to resubmit. In the latter two cases, the Committee will communicate suggestions for revisions directly to the student.

Prospectuses are examined closely by all members of CAP. Students will receive a written response from the CAP Chair within a month of submission.

Please note that the Office of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) must approve projects involving research with human subjects.

4. Approval

After CAP approves the prospectus the student must submit a completed Dissertation Prospectus Approval Page (also available in the GDRS or GRS offices), signed by the Readers, to the Program Coordinator. The Program Coordinator will obtain the Director’s signature and submit the prospectus to the GRS office. A copy will also be kept in the student’s file.