The Dissertation Prospectus

Graduate students will be required to begin the formal process of developing their specific dissertation topics during the third year of study; however, all students at earlier stages in their programs of study, including first-year students, are encouraged to start thinking about possible areas of dissertation research as early as possible.  This is especially important for those who may decide to do archival or other research abroad in connection with their dissertations.  In such cases, graduate students might want to carry out exploratory or preliminary research during the summer between their first and second year of study, or between the second and third year.  Because this may require finding additional sources of financial support, all interested students should consult the relevant Graduate School web page, which has links to several extensive data bases; this process should be initiated far in advance of the time when students may want to travel to do research:

The dissertation prospectus is a detailed description of the student’s future dissertation and must be submitted to the department no later than April 15th of the sixth term of study.  The department will inform the Graduate School by the end of the spring semester if the prospectus has been accepted.

Students will develop their prospectuses in two stages.  The first is preparation for the “preprospectus” examination in February of the sixth term of study (see Examinations under Ph.D. Requirements).  After passing all written qualifying examinations by December of the third year of graduate study, the student will choose two faculty members, one primary and the other secondary, to act as advisors on developing a subject that will be the focus of the “pre-prospectus” examination.  If this examination is successfully passed, during the period between February and April (i.e., during the sixth semester of study), the student will expand and refine the “pre-prospectus” examination text into a fully developed prospectus.  This will be done in consultation with a primary and a secondary advisor–normally the same members of the faculty who served as advisors for the “pre-prospectus” examination.  In addition, all students who are working on their prospectuses at the same time will be invited to a workshop coordinated by the DGS that will provide them with the opportunity to discuss the issues involved in formulating a full-fledged prospectus.

After consulting with both the primary and secondary advisors and receiving their approval, by April 15 of the third year the student will submit a twenty to twenty-five page long dissertation prospectus to the Director of Graduate Studies.  The first page should state that this is a “Ph.D. Dissertation Prospectus Submitted to the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Yale University”; this should be followed by the proposed dissertation’s Title, the student’s Name, the Names of the advisors, and the Date.  The prospectus should include a statement of the problem or issue that the student plans to address, why this is deemed important, what has been done on it by others, and how the student proposes to proceed (what are the theoretical issues? what resources are necessary and where are they? what are possible obstacles? etc.).  The prospectus should also include a proposed chapter outline of the project, a schedule including when the student expects to complete the chapters, and a focused bibliography that includes primary and secondary works.  The chapter completion schedule should accord with the Department’s and Graduate School’s expectation that the dissertation will be submitted in time for the student to receive the Ph.D. after a maximum of six years of study.

The DGS will schedule a prospectus defense/colloquium between April 15th and the end of the spring semester to which all the departmental faculty and graduate students will be invited, and will circulate the prospectus to everyone in advance of the defense/colloquium.  The point of including all faculty and students is to provide the candidate with as much feedback as possible, to give rising students a sense of what awaits them, and to foster collegiality in the department by making everyone aware of what others are working on.  The faculty decision about whether or not the prospectus is acceptable as prepared will be communicated to the student in writing.  Upon completion of all pre-dissertation requirements, including the prospectus, students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.  Work on the dissertation will be carried out in consultation with both the director of the dissertation and the second advisor.  This will entail regular meetings with both.

Students should note that the Graduate School has set a six-year goal for completion of the Ph.D. and that only those who have been making normal progress on their dissertation will be eligible for the “Dissertation Year Fellowship” in their fifth or sixth year.  The graduate program as outlined above is designed to allow all graduate students to complete their programs in six years or less:  two years for course work, one year for examinations and developing a prospectus, and two to three years to write the dissertation.

First Dissertation Chapter Colloquium and Dissertation Progress Colloquia

During the fourth year of study, all graduate students will participate in a departmental hour-long colloquium in which they formally present a first chapter or other sizable section of their dissertations to the department’s faculty and other graduate students. Normally, this will entail distributing the student’s chapter or other dissertation section to all members of the department a week before the colloquium and then engaging in a discussion and analysis of the work. The aim of this colloquium is to give the graduate student feedback regarding the progress of the dissertation that supplements what the advisors provide. The other aim is to keep all members of the department informed about their colleagues’ work. 

A related requirement is that all students who are writing dissertations will be required to present a yearly update (twenty minutes long) on their progress at regularly scheduled departmental colloquia to which all members of the department will be invited. Students will be provided with written evaluations of their progress by the faculty.

Applications for Positions after Graduate Study

All graduate students who are planning to apply for academic or other positions are strongly encouraged to have their cover letters, CVs, teaching statements, and writing samples vetted by their dissertation advisors, the Director of Graduate Study, or other members of the faculty.  All job applicants are also strongly encouraged to arrange for mock interviews with members of the faculty in order to prepare for real interviews, and to schedule trial job talks before members of the department prior to any on-campus visits.