Guidelines for Thesis Proposal Meetings

Overview: The doctoral thesis proposal meeting is intended to serve several important functions.  First, the meeting is an opportunity for the committee members to come together to provide the student with consensus feedback on their thesis research plans.  In other words, this meeting should help ensure that the supervisory committee members (including the student’s supervisor) are themselves consistent in their expectations for the student’s doctoral thesis research.  Second, the meeting is meant to provide the student with reassurance that their thesis will meet the scholarly standards we expect from those who receive doctorates from our program, assuming the research unfolds as proposed and is defended successfully. 

How to prepare: Once the student and supervisor have a sufficiently well-developed plan for the doctoral thesis research, they should approach the student’s supervisory committee members in advance of a proposal meeting to ask them what they would find helpful in evaluating the student’s proposed research.  For example, the committee may ask the student to prepare a brief presentation, a brief written precis of the proposed work, or both.  The student and supervisor may also ask the committee to meet prior to the proposal if group feedback would be useful at earlier stages of thesis development. 

The meeting: The proposal meeting is less formal than the thesis defense and there are very few specific requirements for the meeting.  The meeting may include a brief presentation (see previous section) but will primarily be a group discussion of the proposed research focused on giving the student feedback on any issues or concerns the committee members have about the research plans.  The supervisor will also be involved in the discussion, in contrast to the thesis defense.  At the end of the discussion, the student will leave the room to allow the committee members to discuss the proposal. The student should bring this form to be completed at the meeting.   Please refer to the form for a list of possible outcomes of the proposal meeting.   

Other notes: It is possible that an unforeseeable issue will necessitate changes in the student’s proposed thesis research.  In such cases, the student and supervisor should work together to ensure that the supervisory committee is kept apprised of any major changes.  When in doubt, it is always best to ask committee members about any changes that need to be made; this is why regular supervisory committee meetings are useful even after the proposal.