Thesis Proposal

By the end of the third year (G2 year for MSTPs), each student is expected to complete a thesis proposal, consisting of a written research proposal, and an oral defense of the proposal.  This serves to sharpen the student’s focus on specific research goals, enables the student to gain experience in preparing research proposals, and helps to identify weaknesses in the research plan.

Thesis proposal meetings should be scheduled no later than October 31st. In the event of extenuating circumstances, a student may request an extension of this deadline by sending a petition to the Assistant Director. The petition should explain the special circumstances
warranting an extension, propose a plan and timeline for completion of the milestone, and be signed by the student and the Thesis Advisor.

The written proposal must be submitted to the members of the Thesis committee at least two weeks before the oral defense. Scheduling of the oral defense is the responsibility of the student.

The Thesis Proposal should be single-spaced using Ariel 11-pt font, on standard size (8 1/2″ x 11″) paper with one-inch side, top and bottom margins.

The following instructions are provided as guidelines.  Students should consult with their advisor and Thesis Committee to establish specific expectations.

a. Title Page. The proposal title and the student’s name, printed on a separate cover page.

b. Summary. A synopsis of the proposed project, including the rationale for the proposed research, a statement of specific aims and objectives, the experimental approaches to be used, and the potential significance of the research. Suggested length: one-half to one page.

c. Specific Aims. Provide a clear, concise point-by-point summary of the aims of the research proposed. Suggested length: one-half to one page.

d. Background and Significance. Explain background information necessary to understand the proposed project and its significance in relation to long-term research objectives. This section should include a critical evaluation of existing knowledge and should identify forward progress that the project is intended to provide. Reference this section thoroughly with a focus on primary literature rather than review articles. Suggested length: three to four pages.

e. Preliminary Data. Succinctly describe preliminary experiments that justify the rationale and/or demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed research. Include figures with legends. Suggested length: two to three pages

f. Experimental Design and Methods. Discuss the experimental design and procedures that will be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Describe the protocols to be used and provide a tentative sequence or timetable for the investigation. Include the means by which data will be analyzed and interpreted. Describe any new methodology and its advantage(s) over existing methodologies. Discuss potential technical difficulties and/or limitations, limitations in interpretation of the results, and alternative approaches that could be used to achieve the aims. Suggested length: three to four pages.

g. References. List all references cited in the text, including all authors and the full title of the publication.

Make every attempt to be clear, precise, and succinct as the best research proposals use relatively few, well-chosen words to describe a focused, coherent set of objectives. Do not exceed the suggested section lengths without permission from your advisor.

The oral defense of the thesis proposal should include a formal presentation of the Background and Significance of the project, relevant Preliminary Data, and the major elements of the Experimental Design and Methods. The presentation will be followed by discussion with the thesis committee designed to critically review and strengthen the proposal.