What is a PhD Proposal?
- Not the end product but rather the brainstorming and planning part of the process
- A succinct write-up of your proposed research goals, strategies, justifications, and contributions
- Allows you to get feedback from your committee
- Helps you focus
- Use your abstract to recruit your committee members
- Write the proposal and iterate with your supervisor (length will depend on department)
- Give the proposal to the committee after your supervisor agrees it's ready
- Prepare a lot, reduce nervousness
- Present the proposal to committee
- Expect hard questions to follow
Makeup of the Committee
- Faculty in topic area
- Faculty outside topic area (great for high level feedback)
- External member (possibly in your area - good chance for networking)
Role of the Committee
- Gives you guidance, feedback, and eventually reference letters
- They make sure you know your stuff at the defence, that you have thought about the issues, that the work will be novel and important enough for a PhD, and that your techniques are sound
Goals of Proposal: Be Sure You Clearly Answer These Questions
- What problem are you studying?
- Why is it important?
- What results have you achieved so far and why do they matter?
- How substantially different is your approach from prior work?
- How will you systematically evaluate your results?
- What do you need to complete the work?
Before You Start Writing
- Figure out what you want to accomplish
- Write a succinct thesis statement or hypothesis
- Discuss your ideas with others
- Present parts of thesis at seminars, conferences, etc
- Think about 3-4 major contributions or papers
- Formulate your contributions in writing
- Think about your audience (they are not aware of the prior work, your skills, etc), and provide the appropriate background, terminology, and so on
- Figure out how the state of the art relates to your problem
- Attend other proposal/thesis defences
- Thank the committee
- Introduce yourself and your background
- Be polite about interruptions for questions
- Ask someone to take note of the questions asked
- Remember that it's ok to not have an answer to a question, and to ask for help and direction