Thesis Proposal Presentation

Approval of your Dissertation Proposal by the Supervisory Committee

The format of the Dissertation Proposal will be decided by the Supervisory Committee. The student must present the proposal in a public seminar, but may also be required to provide the committee with a written proposal. All members of the committee must approve the proposal as indicated by signing the Thesis Proposal Approval form. Students may be requested to revise the proposal based on committee input.

Format for your Thesis Proposal Presentation

Your Thesis Proposal Presentation should indicate that you have investigated the literature in your area and show that your research is novel. It should be clear that your experimental design and chosen methods are the most suitable for your work. We recommend you include the following in your proposal presentation:

  • Introduction/Motivation
  • Relevance to the Field and Originality Statement- what is new about your work that no one has done before
  • Research Question- What are the main objectives of your research? Your thesis should have at least three chapters, and it should be clear to the committee what your three chapters will be.
  • Research Strategy- Experimental Design
  • Research Methods and Tools
  • Expected Outcomes
  • Timelines and Milestones- Indicate which years you expect to do each part of the research. What journal articles do you expect to publish and when.
  • Plan B- What if the experiments you plan do not give good results? Do you anticipate any difficulties? How will you respond?

You may also wish to include any preliminary results you have obtained and any anticipated difficulties and how you plan on dealing with them.

Supervisory Committee Members

As part of your duties, you are being asked to evaluate the research proposal for the PhD candidate. As a supervisory committee member, you can advise the candidate on how their thesis proposal may be improved to meet the following requirements. To be approved, a research proposal should meet the following requirements: 

  • Contribution to knowledge: the research proposed is expected to contribute substantially to knowledge in the field. E.g., the work proposed is publishable in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
  • Originality: the research proposed contains at least one component that represents an original contribution to the field.
  • Independency: the research proposed indicates that the candidate has the ability to design and conduct an independent research project.
  • Feasibility: research methods are appropriate to conduct the research proposed, are feasible within the resources available to the PhD candidate, and can be completed within the timeframe of the program (3-4 years).

A research proposal that is aligned with these requirements is more likely to lead to a dissertation that will be approved by an external reviewer without problems.     

Planning the Research

Be strategic in developing your research. Consider these points when finding and developing a research topic 

  • Can it be enthusiastically pursued?
  • Will it sustain your interest?
  • Is the problem solvable?
  • Is it worth doing?
  • Will it lead to other research problems?
  • Is it manageable in size?
  • What is the potential for making an original contribution to the literature?
  • Will the research prepare you in an area of demand or promise for the future?

Are you ready to prepare your research proposal?

  • My supervisor supports the research I am proposing
  • I have done a literature review that shows that:
    • my proposed research is needed and the
    • methods I am suggesting are the most appropriate
  • I know the steps I need to take to conduct the research
  • I have the technical skills to perform each of the steps to complete the research (or I am capable of acquiring them)
  • I have the motivation and drive to complete each of the steps


Scheduling your Thesis Proposal Presentation

You can use Doodle to find a time that will work for all your members. The program coordinator should be included in your scheduling as they must be present to chair the meeting. You may wish to invite the member who will act as external examiner at your comprehensive exam to introduce them to your topic.  Your committee will sign the Approval of Dissertation Proposal form at the end of your presentation and after any discussion. This indicates they are satisfied with your proposed (and possibly amended) research plan. In some cases, the committee will request written work in the form of a literature review on a particular topic or a description of methodology to be submitted before final approval is given.