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Dissertation Prospectus

The prospectus signifies two things. The first is that the student has an acceptable thesis proposal, which is defended at an oral examination. The second is completion of all coursework which comprises the field course requirements including the history requirement, and two Economics 501 presentations.

 The oral examination ascertains whether the student's dissertation topic is feasible. The student selects a prospective thesis advisor and a committee of examiners. The student works with the advisor and committee to write a thesis proposal, which is the basis of the oral examination. It is important that the student choose a thesis advisor several months before the proposed oral examination. The advisor's assistance is invaluable in developing a thesis topic.

 The terms “advisor” and “committee chair” are used interchangeably.

Read some advice on committee formation.

Committee Composition

 Rules on the composition of the committee are:

  1. The committee must have three or more individuals.
  2. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty.
  3. The chair of the committee must hold a tenure-line appointment in the Economics Department or have a voted courtesy appointment in the Economics Department.
  4. If the committee chair holds a courtesy appointment, at least one other member of the committee must hold a tenure-line appointment in the Economics Department.

 Exceptions to conditions 3 and 4 are only permissible with prior written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Faculty outside Economics holding courtesy appointments are:

Time Limits

The department expects that students making good progress should have completed their coursework and successfully defended their dissertation prospectus by August 31 at the end of their third year. This is a requirement for fourth year funding.

If a student has not completed their coursework and successfully defended their dissertation prospectus by the end of the Fall Quarter in their fourth year of study, which falls on the last date of the 13th quarter of study, they are placed on departmental probation. A student who fails to resume satisfactory academic standing within two quarters, which is the last date of the Spring Quarter in their fourth year of study (last date of the 15th quarter of study) is excluded from the program and Northwestern University.

Administrative Procedures

After completing all course work, and scheduled the oral qualifying examination, initiate the process by submitting the Prospectus Committee form to TGS on-line using GSTS. Select the "TGS Forms" tab, and then select the prospectus from the pull-down menu.

TGS then asks the department to verify that the course work is complete, and a successful prospectus defense occurred. So that the department can do this, the candidate should complete the department's  Certification of a Dissertation Prospectus form.

Complete sections 1 to 3 of this form before the oral examination. These sections ask for information on course work. Take the form to the oral examination, where committee members can sign their acceptance of the prospectus in section 4.

The completed form, along with a transcript (which can be downloaded from CAESAR), should be returned immediately to the Graduate Program Manager’s office. The Director of Graduate Studies reviews the form and authorizes TGS to accept the prospectus.

A Note on Human Subjects

Even though we are a social science rather than a medical science, it is possible that government restrictions on the privacy of human subjects may apply. Collecting new data, or even using previously collected data on individual identifiable people, may require prior approval from Northwestern's Institutional Research Board. Read the Submitting to IRB > Getting Started page of their website to see if it applies. The website also includes information on the approval process if that is necessary.