After completing all coursework, language requirements, and the qualifying examinations, each student identifies a dissertation advisor and prepares a dissertation prospectus. The prospectus ordinarily should include a statement of the precise nature of the topic, its significance, its relationship to previous work, the method and sources to be employed in the dissertation, a chapter outline, and select bibliography. The prospectus (typically 15–20 pages including bibliography) is reviewed by a faculty committee with expertise in the dissertation topic, including the dissertation advisor and usually two other faculty. (The advisor is normally a single person, but co-advisor arrangements are also possible.)
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.
At the prospectus colloquium each student will stipulate when they expect to submit a first chapter draft. Soon after the first chapter is completed, the dissertation committee will convene a workshop with the student to read, review, and assess the chapter.