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The Proposal Of Dissertation Defense

Purpose

The purpose of the dissertation proposal defense is to assure that your plan of researching your proposed research question is complete and holds academic merit. Students work closely with their supervisory committees in determining the composition of the dissertation proposal and in writing the proposal.

Process

At least six weeks prior to the dissertation proposal defense, the candidate contacts Student Services to confirm the members of their supervisory committee. This would include the addition of a non-University of Washington external faculty member if previously agreed upon.

The candidate schedules a date, a time, and a room for the dissertation proposal defense. The candidate also submits details regarding the dissertation proposal defense to the iSchool web calendar, the PhD program chair, and Student Services.

At least two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense date, the final written proposal must be submitted to all members of the supervisory committee. The voting members of the committee, in consultation with the student, determine the length and outline the structure of the defense.

The proposal defense is a public event. However, the deliberations of the supervisory committee are private. The supervisory committee records an official decision using the dissertation proposal defense form.

Once the proposal has been defended and accepted, the candidate is cleared to finish writing the dissertation. The candidate submits one paper copy and one PDF version of the dissertation proposal to Student Services.

More Information

As students work on completing their field statements and finishing up their coursework, they should also work on developing a proposal for Ph.D. field research.  Students are expected to successfully defend their proposal before the end of their third year in the program (or second year if they entered with an M.A. degree). A good dissertation proposal typically includes a review of the literature, an explication of how or why the student's specific subject or approach will constitute a significant contribution to the anthropological literature, a methodological section, a tentative timetable for research, and, if appropriate, a budget. 

A dissertation proposal committee normally consists of the student’s principal advisor and at least three additional members of the Graduate Faculty of Anthropology.  However, because of the interdisciplinary nature of much anthropological research, the Graduate School will also allow dissertation proposal committees in this program to include only three members of the Graduate Faculty in Anthropology and one person from another graduate program at Rutgers or from another university.  Independent scholars deemed qualified by the Graduate School may also serve as outsiders.  Once these requirements are met, additional members of the graduate faculty and/or outside members may also serve.

Dissertation Proposal Defense:  Dissertation proposals are evaluated in an oral dissertation proposal defense conducted by the student’s dissertation proposal defense committee.  A dissertation proposal defense may only take place after the student has completed at least 48 credits of coursework and had their two field statements approved by the Graduate Faculty.  At the defense, students should be prepared to discuss their research proposal, to relate their intended research to wider anthropological scholarship, and to make informed responses to any relevant critiques. The committee may require the student to make further revisions to the proposal, and sometimes even to defend it in another proposal defense. Other faculty may attend the dissertation proposal defense, but the members of the student’s dissertation proposal committee make the final decision on a candidate.  Students will be permitted to defend their dissertation proposals no more than twice.  If a student fails his or her defense twice, his or her enrollment in the graduate program will be terminated.  A student’s second proposal defense shall occur no later than one calendar year after the first.

On successful completion of the proposal defense, the members of a student's dissertation defense committee sign the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form, after which the student is officially admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.  A final copy of the dissertation proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Director for placement in the student’s files. Although many students find it useful to do some preliminary data collection before their dissertation proposal defense, students are normally expected to wait to conduct the bulk of their dissertation-related data collection until after they have successfully defended their proposals and thus become Ph.D. candidates.

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