Student Dissertation Proposal

Students must have fulfilled all conditions set by the School for filing proposals. The information below is department specific and complimentary to that provided by the School.

To be eligible to submit your dissertation proposal review, you must:

  • Have taken the Dissertation Proposal Seminar (MPAIA-GE.3097), or equivalent course as required by your program.
  • Have successfully completed the topic review process.
  • Have a full dissertation committee already appointed (see Dissertation Committee below).
  • Have met with all members of the committee, and have their approval for submission. This is formalized by the committee’s signing of a Dissertation Proposal Cover Sheet available from here. The form must be completely filled out and attached to the front of the proposal.
  • Complete the IRB Form (found in the UCAIHS site) and include it with the proposal, only when your study involves human participants (interviews, subjects for observation, data collection, etc.). Please note that this form is not to be submitted to UCAIHS until after your proposal has been approved. Students planning to file for exemption should also complete and include the form appropriately filled out for the exemption with their submission.

Generally, proposals are submitted for review no earlier than the semester following topic review (Typically Spring of the third year for full-time students).

Dissertation proposals should be emailed to Dr. Jonathan Jones ( by the pre-specified deadline each semester. You may begin submitting a week prior to the deadline. See more information on deadlines in the section below.

Prior to submitting your dissertation proposal, your dissertation committee must have been selected and officially appointed. It is your responsibility to approach members of the faculty to ask them to serve on your committee, starting with the Chair. Once you have secured a Chair, you might wish to discuss with her/him the possibility of other members of the committee, before inviting them to serve.

The dissertation committee should be comprised of three professors, usually including faculty members from the doctoral candidate’s program, and at least one member outside the candidate’s discipline or program. Most committee members will be from the full-time faculty, but in rare occasions Adjunct Professors with earned doctorates may also serve.

See information on the official process of appointing a dissertation committee.

The dissertation proposal document should address and include the following: 

  • Titlepage (The same format as for the dissertation, which can be found here.)
  • Table of Contents
  • Title
  • Problem Statement
  • Statement of Subproblems
  • Definitions
  • Delimitations/Limitations
  • Need for Study
  • Discussion of Related Literature
  • Discussion of Method as related to each sub-problem
  • A sample of method applied to a portion of data (i.e., sample analysis, pilot study, etc.), or a deep discussion of theory or other factors if a sample analysis is not appropriate to the study
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices

This enumeration of factors to be included is not intended as a prescription of form, but as elements that must be addressed in some formal manner in the proposal.

Additionally, the submission must include:

  • The candidate’s Curriculum Vitae
  • A filled-out copy of the Dissertation Proposal Cover Sheet, signed by all three members of the dissertation committee
  • A filled-out copy of an IRB form, whenever applicable

The review of the proposal will be the responsibility of a committee, consisting of two members appointed by the Director of Doctoral Studies from among all available and qualified doctoral faculty. The committee will typically include at least one faculty member from the student’s program. The student and Chair of the Dissertation Committee are expected to attend the review.

The outcome of the review will fall into one of the following categories: Approved, Approved with Major or Minor revisions, or Rejected. Whatever the outcome, all students will receive a written summary of the review including the committee’s recommendations going forward. In the case that revisions are requested, the summary letter will also specify a timeline for the completion of those modifications.

No proposals are to be submitted to the graduate office until the student has received the response of the Departmental Proposal Review Committee and complied with its recommendations and any revisions required by Human Subjects Review. See information about dissertation proposals. 

Spring 2018

Submission Due          Monday, February 5 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, February 27 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, March 5 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, March 27 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, April 2 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, April 24 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Proposals may be submitted in summer (May – July) but reviews will be subject to faculty availability. Students are responsible for confirming their chair’s availability prior to submission.

Fall 2018

Submission Due          Monday, September 3 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, September 25 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, October 1 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, October 23 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, November 5 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, November 27 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.

Spring 2019

Submission Due          Monday, February 4 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, February 26 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, March 4 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, March 26 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Submission Due          Monday, April 1 – Submit via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones

Reviewed                    Tuesday, April 23 – 12:30-4:30 p.m.


Proposals may be submitted in summer (May – July) but reviews will be subject to faculty availability. Students are responsible for confirming their chair’s availability prior to submission.

As students work on completing their field statements and finishing up their coursework, they should also work on developing a proposal for Ph.D. field research.  Students are expected to successfully defend their proposal before the end of their third year in the program (or second year if they entered with an M.A. degree). A good dissertation proposal typically includes a review of the literature, an explication of how or why the student's specific subject or approach will constitute a significant contribution to the anthropological literature, a methodological section, a tentative timetable for research, and, if appropriate, a budget. 

A dissertation proposal committee normally consists of the student’s principal advisor and at least three additional members of the Graduate Faculty of Anthropology.  However, because of the interdisciplinary nature of much anthropological research, the Graduate School will also allow dissertation proposal committees in this program to include only three members of the Graduate Faculty in Anthropology and one person from another graduate program at Rutgers or from another university.  Independent scholars deemed qualified by the Graduate School may also serve as outsiders.  Once these requirements are met, additional members of the graduate faculty and/or outside members may also serve.

Dissertation Proposal Defense:  Dissertation proposals are evaluated in an oral dissertation proposal defense conducted by the student’s dissertation proposal defense committee.  A dissertation proposal defense may only take place after the student has completed at least 48 credits of coursework and had their two field statements approved by the Graduate Faculty.  At the defense, students should be prepared to discuss their research proposal, to relate their intended research to wider anthropological scholarship, and to make informed responses to any relevant critiques. The committee may require the student to make further revisions to the proposal, and sometimes even to defend it in another proposal defense. Other faculty may attend the dissertation proposal defense, but the members of the student’s dissertation proposal committee make the final decision on a candidate.  Students will be permitted to defend their dissertation proposals no more than twice.  If a student fails his or her defense twice, his or her enrollment in the graduate program will be terminated.  A student’s second proposal defense shall occur no later than one calendar year after the first.

On successful completion of the proposal defense, the members of a student's dissertation defense committee sign the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form, after which the student is officially admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.  A final copy of the dissertation proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Director for placement in the student’s files. Although many students find it useful to do some preliminary data collection before their dissertation proposal defense, students are normally expected to wait to conduct the bulk of their dissertation-related data collection until after they have successfully defended their proposals and thus become Ph.D. candidates.

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