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Graduate Department of Religion

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Dissertation Guidelines

General statement: The dissertation proposal is a statement that aims to show the appropriateness, manageability, and significance of the projected research. It is presented for approval to the entire faculty of the Graduate Department of Religion. In writing the proposal the student is responsible for making a convincing case, at least in general terms, for the appropriateness, manageability, and significance of the project, and for doing so in language appropriate to the open forum of educated discourse. The proposal should deal with the following issues, though not necessarily in the order of their listing here:

1. The subject matter. State the subject, and show (1) that the inquiry properly belongs within the jurisdiction of this department, and (2) that adequate direction for the project is available in the faculty.

2. The historical background of the project. As briefly as possible place the inquiry in the context of earlier research on the subject or problem.

3. The problem and its significance. Give a preliminary statement of the problem or thesis and show how the project has some promise of making a significant contribution to knowledge and/or understanding. At the minimum the proposal should map out a coherent line of inquiry; in some instances the research will be far enough along to state a thesis and show how, if it is confirmed, it will make a contribution to the discipline.

4. Scope. Show that the projected inquiry is restricted enough to be manageable and large enough to be significant.

5. Resources. Show that the resources necessary to carry out the project are available here at Vanderbilt or accessible elsewhere.

6. Method and procedure. The student should indicate that the competencies necessary for carrying through with the inquiry have been acquired and that the proposed method is adequate for the inquiry.

The proposal should not be longer than three to four single-spaced typewritten pages in length.