The Oral Presentation

The written proposal should be emailed to the committee no later than three weeks prior to the scheduled oral exam. Committee members may reschedule the Examination if not given the appropriate amount of time to prepare.

The committee members should read the proposal prior to the exam, and while they can provide informal feedback to the student if they wish, they cannot convey their consideration as to whether the document is acceptable or requires revision prior to the meeting of the committee at the oral exam.

Since the Committee members will have read the written document before this presentation, the student should use this opportunity to give a brief summary of the particulars of the research and the proposal. This presentation should not be a reiteration of the written proposal and should be limited to 20 minutes, a time limit that should be enforced by the Chair of the Committee. Prior to the presentation, the student should discuss, with the Chair of the Committee, whether he/she/they would prefer uninterrupted presentation vs. one in which questions will be asked as they arise during the presentation. If the latter is chosen, the 20-minute time limit does not apply. If the former format is chosen, there will be a questioning period following the presentation.

In either case, the student should be able to answer questions about the specifics of the proposal as well as general knowledge of the field as related to the proposal. The student should be able to defend the rationale for the particular approach(es) being used and explain how this will answer the questions being asked. Potential problems should also be anticipated with alternative approaches that could be used. Students will not be expected to defend these alternatives in great detail.

  • The proposal should be written by the student, not the dissertation advisor. It is the role of the dissertation advisor to guide the student in preparing a coherent, intelligible document to be distributed to the members of the Thesis Proposal Committee. However, the dissertation advisor should also ensure, to the best of her/his/their ability, that the proposal is an original document and that the language of the proposal is that of the student. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the student to provide an acceptable document.

  • The whole proposal should be in the best traditions of scholarship, e.g., identify sources, and balance one's presentation by including conflicting data and counterarguments. The proposal should convince the Committee that the dissertation project is reasonably important and practicable.

  • A student should not present tables that are not entirely his/her/their own work, unless this is unavoidable because the data are necessary to develop the story. In that case, the precise contribution of the student must be made clear and appropriate attribution should be made.

  • Detailed methods should not be presented for work not actually conducted by the student, including work done by the Core Facilities or other colleagues; such presentations convey the impression that the student actually carried out the procedures.

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