Dissertation Research Proposal

The department places high priority on refining students' doctoral research proposals, both to further students’ education and to maximize the chances that they can obtain extramural funding for doctoral fieldwork. The student will meet periodically with his/her individual graduate advisor (or other committee members) in formulating their research design.

Proposal Development and Defense

  • A meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies and the students will take place during the Spring semester of their 2nd year and during the Fall Semester of their 3rd year to discuss and set reminders for the steps leading to the proposal development and presentation.
  • Students are advised to develop the basic framework of their research proposal during the second semester of their second year of coursework, and are required to attend departmental grant and funding workshops. Successful past proposals are kept on a Blackboard conference for students to browse. Contact the Graduate Coordinator for more information regarding access.
  • Students generally revise research proposals over the summer of their second year.
  • During early spring of the third year (1st week of January), students are to circulate a written proposal to their committee (and other relevant faculty) to solicit advice and feedback.
  • Students present their proposal formally to the department in spring (March/April).
  • Proposals are finalized to meet appropriate funding deadlines.


A student should publically present his or her doctoral research proposal before the department during the spring semester of the third year. Students cannot fail a proposal defense; however, defenses are occasions at which a student’s ability to articulate and defend a research program is actively probed by the department at large.

  • In December the Director of Graduate Studies will set aside dates on which proposals will be heard.
  • Within 10 days of the scheduled defense, students need to get written approval from all committee members that the proposal is ready for a public defense. If written approval is not obtained, the public defense must be rescheduled.
  • Students must provide a copy of their research proposal to the Graduate Coordinator for distribution to all anthropology faculty at least one week in advance of the defense.
  • Proposal defenses will not take place without this planning.

If a substantial or significant change in focus should occur during the course of developing their research, students are strongly encouraged to represent their research proposals in front of the convened department for additional comments and feedback.

Proposal Format

The proposal should follow the basic format of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant Proposal (DDRIG). The proposal should be 10 to 15 pages in length and should address:

  • Project’s objectives, importance and expected contribution to the field;
  • Project’s background and significance as well as a “big picture” view;
  • Study design and methods, including plan of work, locale(s), procedures and analysis;
  • Qualifications of the investigator;
  • Preliminary data, if available;
  • Broader impacts;
  • Project’s timeline and measure of progress;
  • Project summary;
  • References cited.

The oral presentation should be no more than 15 minutes so that 35-40 minutes are available for questions and comments from the audience. Presenters will be cut off after 15 minutes and thus should prepare accordingly.