Writing the Ph.D. Proposal


The objective of the Ph.D. Proposal is to allow an early assessment of your chosen topic of research for the satisfactory completion of the doctoral degree.  The proposal should delineate your specific area of research by stating the purpose, scope, methodology, overall organization, and limitations of the proposed study area. The proposal should include a review of the relevant literature and indicate the expected contribution of the research.


All graduate students who have successfully completed the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination should submit a Ph.D. proposal to the Woodruff School Office of Student Services within one year after completion of the qualifying examination. A student will not be allowed to graduate without a minimum of six calendar months between the time that his/her Ph.D. Proposal is approved and the time in which he/she completes the Ph.D. Dissertation Defense.


A well-conceived Ph.D. proposal will help you:

• Develop the critical research questions
• Lay the foundation for the research work to be done
• Isolate pending problems
• Manage your time efficiently
• Map your research progress
• Think through the whole process, indicating the need for an integrated approach

Your proposal should contain a concisely stated hypothesis.  After a successful proposal presentation, the Woodruff School Graduate Committee will inform you if the topic is appropriate and that the committee understands what is planned.  After the proposal is presented, you are ready to move from perception and comprehension of critical questions to a resolution of the problem.



Cover Sheet: The cover sheet for the Ph.D. proposal is the Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacyform.  The cover page is essentially a formal statement that names the dissertation advisor, sets forth the dissertation topic selected for the investigation, and enumerates a 200-word summary (or abstract) of the proposed dissertation research.  The title of the proposed dissertation topic should be brief, scientifically and technically valid, understandable to a scientifically or technically literate reader, and suitable for use in the public press.

The 200-word summary of the proposed research should be a self-contained description of the activity.  The summary should be written in the third person and include a statement of objectives, methods to be employed, and the significance of the proposed work to the advancement of knowledge.  It should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically literate reader.

Table of Contents: A table of contents is required and should show the location of each section as well as the major subdivisions of the project description, such as a summary of previous work, and the methods and procedures to be used.

Project Description: The main body of the proposal should be a clear statement of the work to be undertaken.  It is limited to 15 pages and should include:

•  Objectives of the proposed research and its expected significance
•  Relation to longer-term goals of the investigator's project
•  Relation to the present state of knowledge in the field, to work-in-progress elsewhere
•  Plans of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken, an adequate description of experimental methods and procedures, and, if appropriate, plans for preservation, documentation, and sharing of data, samples, physical collections, and other related research products.

Bibliography: Citations must be complete (including the full name of the authors, title, year and location in the literature).  There is no page limit for this section of the proposal. 

Style and Format: Brevity will assist your Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee in reviewing the Ph.D. proposal.  The project description must not exceed 15 pages (30 double-spaced pages is acceptable).  Graphical elements, including charts, graphs, maps, photographs, and other pictorial presentations are included in the 15-page limit.  Pages should be of standard size (8½" x 11"; 21.6 cm x 27.9 cm) with 1" or 2.5 cm margins at the top, bottom, and on each side.  The type font size must be clear and readily legible and in standard size, which is 10 to 12 points. (Nothing smaller than 10 points should be used.)

Pursuant to the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, as amended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, your proposal must use the metric system of weights and measures, unless impractical or inefficient.

For more information, please refer to the Thesis Manual, Thesis Templates, and Citation Tools at:  http://gradadmiss.gatech.edu/theses-dissertations