Dissertation Prospectus Guidelines

The academic policies and procedures of the GRS require that students who have completed their language requirements, coursework, and qualifying examinations prepare a dissertation prospectus before the more extensive phase of dissertation research is undertaken. The prospectus must be approved by a committee consisting of the student’s advisors, Director of the GPR, the DGS, and any other members of the Graduate Faculty of Religion (GFR) deemed relevant. 

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. Readers are selected at the prospectus stage; additional committee members (also called “examiners”) are normally added later, as the student prepares to defend a completed dissertation.

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

Normally, GPR faculty will serve as Readers for GPR dissertations. Students may draw on full-time graduate faculty outside of the GPR (but within BU) by permission of the Director to serve in the position of second or third Reader. In consultation with their advisor, students may also request to have a professor from outside of BU serve as a second Reader or third Reader by submitting a Special Service Appointment form. Students requesting Readers from outside the GPR (or outside BU) should familiarize themselves with the rules governing dissertation committees. In all cases, the majority of the full dissertation committee of five must be GPR faculty.

2. Prepare the Prospectus

Students must successfully submit their prospectus and receive 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.

Students should review the Content Requirements of a Prospectus as well as the hard copies of other students’ successful prospectuses (available outside 145 Bay State Road Room 302) before beginning the writing process.

3. Submit the Prospectus

Students must submit a Word Document of the prospectus and a signed Acknowledgement of Prospectus Submission Form  to the Department Admin. no later than 5 pm on one of these submission dates:

  • September 6
  • October 17
  • December 6
  • January 30
  • March 12
  • May 1

An administrator will then arrange for their review and approval.

4. Prospectus Review and Approval

Please note that the Institutional Review Board must approve projects involving human subjects.  Students must submit an IRB application as soon as the prospectus is approved. For assistance in completing that application, the student may contact the IRB member currently assigned to the GPR, Shayne C. Deal.

Once the prospectus has been reviewed, the DGS will communicate the Committee’s decision to the student in writing within one week of the scheduled.  The committee 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 and the First Reader.  The student and his or her First Reader are also encouraged to meet with the DGS to discuss the committee’s recommendations.

Repeated failure to produce a successful prospectus may be grounds for dismissal.

Final Prospectus Approval

Once the prospectus has been approved, the student is required to submit a completed GRS Dissertation Prospectus Approval Page to the Department Administrator. The Administrator will obtain the Director’s signature and submit the materials to the GRS office. If the committee requires a student to make substantive changes to the prospectus as a condition of their approval, the student’s committee must review the revised prospectus before signing the approval form and an updated copy must be submitted to the Department Administrator.