Students writing a thesis or dissertation are required to submit an approved Proposal to the Graduate School by the deadline set by the program. For PhD students, this deadline will occur no later than 18 months prior to the PhD dissertation defense date.
(Graduate Studies Council 12/2003)
The proposal should follow the organization of a grant application to the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, or other funding agency, depending on the format specified by each particular graduate program. It should be typed single-spaced with 12 point font or the equivalent. Unless specified otherwise by a particular graduate program, the recommended length of the proposal is 20 to 25 pages, excluding the literature cited and appendices. Figures and tables should be included in the appendix and numbered according to their order of appearance in the text.
Specific Aims: The hypothesis that the student intends to test should be stated. A set of Specific Aims that define the key components of the experimental strategy needed to test the hypothesis should be listed and briefly described. This section should not exceed 1 page.
Background and Significance: This section should consist of a review of the literature that is relevant to the proposed research. The review should include sufficient information to put the proposed research into perspective within the current status of the field. This section should also indicate the scientific merit of the proposed research. There is no page limit for this section, but in general 5 pages should be sufficient for the text portion of this section.
Preliminary Results: This section should include unpublished data obtained by the student that are relevant to the proposed Specific Aims. It may also be appropriate to include unpublished results from other investigators in the advisor's lab, provided credit is given. It is recommended that the text portion of this section not exceed 8 pages.
Experimental Methods: This section should consist of a description of the experimental protocols that will be used to achieve the Specific Aims. Experimental details about reagents, cells, environmental conditions, equipment, and controls that are required to establish the feasibility of the experiments should be provided when possible. Alternative experimental approaches that may be needed to circumvent technical problems should be presented. Methods for analysis of data, including statistical methods, should be included. Sources for critical reagents that are not available commercially or in the advisor's lab should be identified.
Literature Cited: This section should be a list of all published information referred to in the preceding sections. It is recommended that the format for the references follow departmental guidelines.
Appendix: This section should include tables, figures, and diagrams (and their accompanying legends) numbered to correspond with their order of appearance in the text. In some cases a list of abbreviations used in the text may be included in this section.
Submission: The student will give the completed proposal to all members of the Committee at least 1 week before the Committee meets to discuss the proposal. At this meeting, the student will present an overview of the proposal and address any questions or concerns that the Committee may have. During this meeting, Committee members should identify any potential problems with the proposal and agree upon any modifications that are needed before the proposal is accepted. The student should make these recommended changes in the proposal within 2 weeks of the Committee meeting and resubmit the revised proposal to Committee members. If necessary, a second Committee meeting may be held to review the changes. Committee members will indicate their acceptance of the final proposal by signing the Proposal Approval form. This form and a copy of the completed proposal will be submitted to the department chair/program director for approval and then forwarded to the Graduate School Dean for final approval.
During the course of the student's research, it may be necessary to modify or change either the hypothesis to be tested or the Specific Aims. These changes should be discussed with the members of the student’s Thesis or Dissertation Committee. In instances where the committee determines that major modifications are recommended, the student should prepare a brief document that includes, as necessary, (1) the revised hypothesis to be tested, (2) modified or new Specific Aims, and (3) modified or new methods. This modified document does not need to be approved by the department chair/program director or the Dean of the Graduate School but will become a part of the student's permanent record in the Graduate School Office.