Guidelines for writing the MS/PhD Research Proposal

The Proposal is a written contract between the student and his/her thesis committee that defines the scope of the MS or PhD research program. Thus, it is a professional document that needs to be well written, concise and precise, emphasizing the hypothesis(es), what has been done and what is to be done.

The Proposal is expected normally to be 3,000-5,000 (MS) or 5000-10,000 (PhD) words of text (excluding figures, tables, appendices and references). The cover page must list the title, author, submission date, and identify the Proposal Review Committee members and the advisor. The text should be 1.5-spaced or double-spaced (not single-spaced) with 1" margins. The figures and tables may be embedded into the body of the text or follow the references. Tables are to be properly labeled and accompanied by appropriate footnotes and/or headings/captions as necessary to interpret the information presented. All figures are to be accompanied by captions that briefly describe the figure and define elements in the figure. Material in figures or tables taken from other sources should be properly attributed. References are to be cited fully (i.e., with author name(s), year of publication, full title of article and journal and other identifying information); the reference format should be typical of the style used in an appropriate leading journal in the student's field of Earth Sciences.

The Proposal should be treated like a paper to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, and so it must be a polished piece of writing. It should provide background information to familiarize a geoscientist outside the immediate field with an understanding of the issues at hand and the work that has been done in the field to date (including any works published by the student). The background section should be on the order of 10-30% of the document. The remainder of the document should define the hypothesis (hypotheses) that is (are) to be tested, describe the work that has already been accomplished and define the scope of the work to be carried out to complete the research project. If there are questions about what material needs to be included in the Proposal, the student should consult with members of the Proposal Review Committee, particularly the advisor. Matters of interpretation of Department or Graduate School policies or any disputes should be referred to the Graduate Studies Director for resolution.

The Proposal is to be submitted electronically to all members of the Proposal Review Committee 1 week before the oral presentation to the committee, normally after it has been recommended for oral presentation to the committee by the advisor; the student may expect feedback from members of the committee before the oral presentation. A final printed copy of the accepted (and corrected, if necessary) Proposal must be submitted with the APPROVAL OF MS THESIS or PH.D. DISSERTATION PROPOSAL to the Director of Graduate studies within 1 month of the student approval for candidacy.