A student who has passed the preliminary examination will arrange with a tenured faculty member to become his or her dissertation director. Initially, the dissertation director will guide the student in shaping the project, which will usually result in a preliminary bibliography.


Candidates preparing their prospectus must register for ENGL 591 with their committee chair. Candidates should register for no more than four hours total. Candidates must submit an Independent Study/Research form each semester they register. Students should attach a 100-150 word summary on the proposed work to the completed form.

Note: If students are registering for both ENGL 591 and ENGL 599 in the same semester, they need only turn in one Independent Study/Research form with information for both sections filled out.

Committee Composition

In consultation with the student and the DGS if necessary, the dissertation director will appoint a four-member dissertation committee, consisting of the dissertation director and three other readers. One of these readers may be from outside the English department (and may be from outside the university). If any subsequent changes are to be made to this committee or to the defense committee, the changes must be approved by the dissertation director and by petition to the DGS.

For the dissertation defense, a fifth member is added to the committee; one of the readers must be from outside the department. This fifth member or outside reader may participate in the prospectus colloquium as well, but is not required.

Writing and Defense

The prospectus will then be discussed with the candidate in a colloquium with the members of the dissertation committee. The prospectus should be at least 10 pages; it should include a bibliography where applicable, and should have content appropriate to the student's chosen concentration. The student is to prepare this document ideally no later than the semester following the preliminary examination. The prospectus should be circulated to all members of the dissertation committee at least two weeks prior to the colloquium date. The colloquium date is set by the dissertation chair in consultation with the members of the committee.

At the colloquium, committee members generally give feedback on the scope and length of the project and discuss time to degree particulars. At that point, the dissertation director will submit the approved prospectus along with the list of four committee members present at the colloquium to the Director of Graduate Studies. A copy of the prospectus and the Colloquium Form is then filed in the graduate office.

If any major substantive changes are made to the approved prospectus or to the subsequent dissertation by the student (including a change of direction, focus, methods, or materials covered), the dissertation director, at her discretion, may ask for a revised prospectus and request that the student follow all the above procedures again.

Critical Paper for Students in the Program for Writers

Students in the Program for Writers may elect to prepare a critical paper of approximately 30-40 pages in addition to their creative dissertations. Students pursuing this option are to provide a 1-2 page description of the critical paper for the prospectus meeting. The faculty member directing this portion of the dissertation project may be one of the members of the preliminary examination committee. Students are encouraged to let the Graduate office know that they intend to submit a critical paper as part of the dissertation, so that the appropriate paperwork can be submitted to the department; students should also consult with the director of the preliminary exam committee for advice on appropriate faculty directors.

Samples of the prospectus are available in the Office of Graduate Studies.


At the start of the semester, students are required to turn in an Independent Study/Research form. In advance of the actual prospectus colloquium, students need to prepare a Prospectus Colloquium Report form. This form must be present during the colloquium, signed and turned in to the Graduate Studies office with a copy of the approved prospectus.