Prospectus Hearing Instructions

Please note that all coursework and any incompletes must be finished prior to scheduling the prospectus hearing.

Development of Prospectus and Selection of Dissertation Committee

After successful completion of the Qualifying Examination, the candidate and the first reader proceed to select a dissertation problem and a framework for the research.  The first reader must have a primary appointment in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.  The Brain, Behavior & Cognition Program requires that the first reader is also a member of the student’s program. However, the Program will entertain petitions for exceptions to this policy, subject to the requirement that a member of the Program is actively involved in the student’s dissertation research and serves as second reader on the dissertation committee.  A second and third reader are chosen and consulted during this period.  All three readers critically review the Prospectus drafts. Please note that all three readers are required to attend the prospectus hearing. One committee member, who is not the first reader, can attend via audio/video communication during the prospectus hearing. 

Special Service Appointments: Any reader who is not a member of the Graduate School Faculty (cf. Graduate School Bulletin) must receive a Special Service Appointment from Boston University.  Initiating such appointments requires a letter from the student’s first reader outlining the person’s expertise.  A current CV must be attached. The letter and CV should be sent electronically to Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai.

Research Ethics: Research involving human subjects must be reviewed by the University Institutional Review Board. The applications are available at the IRB website. Please contact Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai ( with any questions.  All animal research requires review by the University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Please discuss with your mentor the specific ethics training requirements necessary for the conduct of research in your area.

Format of the Prospectus

The prospectus should contain:

  1. An introduction
  2. A description of methods
  3. A description of research design (including the hypothesis of each experiment and information such as the number of subjects and a data analyses plan)
  4. A trouble-shooting section at the end of your document indicating what might go wrong and is the study valuable if hypotheses are not supported, etc.
  5. A bibliography

The abstract should not be included in the prospectus. The abstract is submitted separately. (Please see instructions under prospectus hearing procedures.) The prospectus must not exceed twenty double-spaced pages, not including the title page or the bibliography. The title page should not be numbered. Margins should be 1” on all sides and the font of the entire document, including headers, should not be smaller than 11 point. Appendices should be reserved for non-essential information. Please note that a description of measures is essential information and should, therefore, be included in the text of the prospectus. Students may contact Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai ( to arrange to look at previously filed copies of prospectuses. 

Prospectus Hearing Procedures

I. Two weeks before hearing, the following documents must be submitted electronically to Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai at

A) A copy of the full prospectus, which must not exceed twenty double-spaced pages.  

B) A single document containing a 2 to 3 page abstract of the prospectus, along with an invitation to the faculty (see link to Sample Prospectus Hearing invitation at the bottom of this page). The invitation should indicate:  1) time and location; 2) committee members; 3) place (Rm. 149A) where faculty and others may find a full prospectus.  The Senior Staff Assistant ( will assign the hearing room for students who would like to schedule their defenses at 64 Cummington Mall. The Clinical Program Coordinator ( will schedule the room for students who would like to schedule their hearings at 900 Commonwealth Ave.

II. The Hearing:

The candidate, the three readers and any other interested faculty meet to assess the Prospectus. The Prospectus must be approved and signed on the Dissertation Prospectus Approval Form (available on the GRS web site, select Dissertation Prospectus) by all three readers, after any required revisions are made by the student. The three readers now become the candidate’s permanent Dissertation Committee. 

III. After the Hearing and approval by the three readers:

The candidate submits an electronic copy of the final version of the prospectus and the signed Dissertation Prospectus Approval Form to Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai, who will obtain approval from Dr. Alice Cronin-Golomb, Director of Graduate Studies, and Dr. David Somers, Chair. After approval has been obtained, the candidate will be notified. 

Sample Prospectus Hearing invitation