Template for the Dissertation Proposal


This page furnishes a template for writing the prospectus for your dissertation. We should go through this and look at examples before you begin. Read this page in conjunction with the page on How to Write a Dissertation in History. The prospectus consists mainly of a summary of the project and an outline of its chapters. Appended also are a bibliography, a vita, and a timetable.




No title page, plastic cover, or any such window dressing is necessary. Just begin at the top of your first page with a heading that gives a straightforward working title, something like this:


"Strip Mining on the Northern Plains" (Working Title)


Proposal for a Dissertation, by Lena Lignite


Summary of the Project


Under the heading on your first page, provide a summary of the dissertation project. In your own words (and you can resort to first person), tell what you are going to do. Be sure to state the scope of the work, its major thesis, and the contribution it will make. Describe the general contour of the argument and narrative; comment briefly on the main primary sources available; and situate your study in the context of the historical literature. This sounds like a lot, but keep the summary to the one page, double-spaced.


Chapter Outline


Provide an outline listing and describing the chapters in the dissertation. This is best handled with a table.


Download this Template for Chapter Outline


You can add rows to the table if necessary. The description of each chapter should be three or four sentences—a short paragraph. Your outline of chapters likely will run a couple of pages. This chapter outline is an important piece; it’s the map of the dissertation that lets the committee see clearly the direction you are going with your work.




Provide these items:


         A preliminary bibliography, with entries grouped into appropriate categories, no more than four pages

         A vita, two pages

         A timetable, or rather a paragraph indicating your intentions. Begin with when, in your best estimation, you will begin submitting chapters to me for initial review; when you expect to finish the dissertation; and when, if you can see this far ahead(!), you expect to take the PhD degree.



The Wizard / Tom Isern