Upon successful completion of the qualifying exams, the student will begin the process of working on the dissertation prospectus. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect students to have successfully defended a dissertation prospectus by the end of the fall semester of the fourth year. The selection of a dissertation topic is fundamentally the responsibility of the student, but it is expected that the student will make this decision in close consultation with the Hebrew Bible faculty, one of whom the student will select to be the primary advisor. Though a student may naturally work closely with an individual faculty member whose expertise aligns with the proposed dissertation topic, and who will most likely serve as the primary advisor, the guidance of the dissertation is effectively done by committee, including, but not limited to, the entire Hebrew Bible teaching group. The makeup of the dissertation committee should be a joint decision of the student and the primary advisor. If reasonable, the student should feel free to include in this committee one faculty member from outside of Yale.
A prospectus is not a mini-dissertation. It is not expected that the student should already know the entire shape of the finished product. What is required at this stage is an appropriate question and a clear path to answering that question; it is not necessary that the answer to the question be known at the prospectus stage. It should be the case, however, that either the question or the path to answering it should in some way be new to the field, such that the proposed project would be a definable contribution to biblical scholarship.
Shortly after submission of the prospectus to the committee, a colloquium is held. The colloquium is a cooperative, collegial enterprise, the goal of which is to facilitate the success of the dissertation project. The scope, significance, and feasibility of the topic is discussed, the student receives constructive feedback, and (barring complication) the prospectus is approved. After approval by the committee, the student submits a two-page summary of the prospectus to the entire graduate faculty in Religious Studies and thence (if none object) to the Dean of the Graduate School. The student is then admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. The dissertation colloquium committee will continue to provide support and feedback throughout the dissertation writing process.
The expectation is that the prospectus colloquium and approval will occur before the end of the registration period for the seventh semester – roughly four to six months after the qualifying examinations.