The prospectus is 20 double-spaced pages (excluding bibliography) and explores four aspects of the PhD candidate’s dissertation topic: the intellectual relevance of the topic chosen, previous scholarship on the subject, the techniques and methods the dissertation will employ, and the primary and secondary sources that will be consulted. Within (at most) twelve months of successfully completing the oral qualifying exam, PhD candidates must submit their dissertation prospectus to their first and second readers for approval. First and second readers must be members of the Graduate School Faculty at Boston University. Once both readers have approved the prospectus, it must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for final approval, along with the Dissertation Prospectus Approval Form, which will be submitted to the Graduate School upon approval by the DGS.
The dissertation is written under the supervision of the first and second readers who approved the prospectus. It is a work of original research on a topic approved by the dissertation advisor. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to assemble all the available historical material bearing on the subject, to analyze and evaluate the material critically, and to interpret the evidence with impartiality and insight. It should also display a creative use of sources, interpretive independence, and the clear presentation of complex arguments. The dissertation should form the basis for a scholarly monograph that will make a significant contribution to existing scholarship.
Upon completion of the dissertation, candidates for the degree defend their dissertation before a faculty committee.
In consultation with the first reader, the student assembles the Dissertation Defense Committee, which consists of at least four faculty members. These scholars must be members of the Graduate School Faculty of Boston University, either by regular or special appointment, though exceptions can be made for members from outside BU. After all revisions have been made to the satisfaction of the first and second readers, the student may begin the process of scheduling the defense. The final version of the manuscript must be provided to all committee members at least four weeks before the defense. The student should then email the Department Administrator, requesting a room for the exam, list the committee members (and their roles) and provide the signature page.
The exam usually lasts for at least one hour. In consultation with the Chair of the Dissertation Defense Committee, BU faculty and graduate students may attend the exam. However, only the defense committee members may participate. To open the proceedings, the student must make a 10-minute presentation summarizing the findings contained in the dissertation. In addition to the grades of Pass or Fail, the examiners may award a grade of “Pass with Distinction,” which will be recorded in the student’s departmental file. Upon successfully defending the dissertation, the student must provide the History department administrator with a copy of the dissertation abstract, including whatever corrections have been agreed upon at the time of the defense.
Applying for Graduation
Students must file an application to graduate with the Graduate School office (check with this office for deadlines). Note that an application is good only for the specified date; if a student must postpone a dissertation defense, a new application must be filed. Note also that a student must be registered for the semester in which they graduate and in the preceding one and that a student must be registered for any semester in which a degree requirement is completed (such as submission of the research paper or passing the language examination).