Dissertation Proposal

During Year 3, Semester 2, students will prepare a dissertation proposal addressing questions generated during the Preliminary Examination. The DGS will call at least one meeting of the cohort to review the process and provide advice. The proposal should be ten to fifteen pages consisting of a key question as well as a discussion of evidence and method. A short bibliography of crucial texts should be attached, but the proposal itself should not be simply or centrally a review of the literature, but rather in the form of a proposal explaining the project's scholarly contribution. The proposal should also include a one paragraph abstract.

Students should present a draft of the proposal to their committee, including one faculty member who will serve as chair and two who will be readers. All committee members should be current or former Brown faculty. When the faculty have each approved the proposal, the chair should call a meeting. The dissertation proposal meeting must take place before the end of Year 3, Semester 2.

At the Dissertation Proposal Meeting, the students and faculty should discuss a research agenda and timetable for completion, as well as the challenges of the particular project. The student and faculty should agree on how and when the faculty will:

  • meet with the student,
  • review chapters and comment, and
  • discuss needed changes in drafts.

After the meeting, students must file a copy of their dissertation proposal with the DGS who will make it, and an abstract of the project, available to the other faculty members in the department.

While preparing their dissertation proposal, in Year 3, Semester 2, students will sign up for reading courses -- two credits with their advisor, one credit with each of their readers.


Students should begin their dissertations in the summer after their third year. Dissertations (including format, content, and length) may vary depending on disciplinary conventions and students should consult the chair of the dissertation committee for advice. The Department of American Studies expects that students will meet with the chair of their dissertation committees at least once a semester (and probably more frequently) and recommends that the dissertation committee chair call a meeting of the entire committee with the student once a year, even if some of those in attendance need to phone or Skype into the conversation.