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Bloomington, IN 47405

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Bloomington, IN 47405

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E-mail: musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu

musicdgs [at] indiana [dot] edu (Prof. Eric Isaacson), Director
serbes [at] indiana [dot] edu (Sara Erbes), Academic Advisor
anmiller [at] indiana [dot] edu (Angie Miller), Recorder
musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu (Victoria Wheeler), Secretary
musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu (John Porter), Doctoral Clerk

More Information

Topic Proposal for DM Final Project


General information

DM students in all majors except piano and composition complete a doctoral final project. Students must propose a topic for their final project in which they outline their research, final product, and public presentation for approval by a proposed research committee. This proposal must be approved before the written major-field examination may be scheduled.

Please read this entire document before completing the DM final project topic proposal form [PDF].

There are different guidelines for the Dissertation in Composition, Doctoral Piano Essay, and PhD/DME Dissertation topic proposals.

Step 1: Identify a topic

In consultation with a prospective research director, the student identifies a topic and chooses from among several choices for research, for a final product with a written component, and for a public presentation.

Research can cover any topic appropriate to the degree and field for which the student has the preparation to do advanced work.

Possibilities for a written component include a prose document of ca. 80-100 pages; a document of 50-80 pages from which to draw a script and program notes for a 60-minute lecture recital with at least 30 minutes of lecture; a detailed curriculum, method or other instructional materials with a substantial prose component; a critical edition of a composition with a substantial prose introduction and critical materials; an instructional CD-ROM or other multimedia product with a substantial prose component; or an original composition with a substantial related prose essay (students must have a degree or doctoral minor in composition to choose this option).

The public presentation can take the form of a public defense; a public lecture of 60 minutes followed by questions from the research committee and others; a 60-minute lecture recital with at least 30 minutes of lecture and questions from the research committee and others; or a public performance of an original composition with an appropriate oral presentation.

The student should choose from among the various options in consultation with a prospective research director. Topics will lend themselves to various different final products and public presentations. Students may change their choices, with the approval of the members of their research committee and the director of graduate studies, by submitting a new form.

The DM final project topic proposal form has more information.

Step 2: Write the topic proposal

The student drafts a proposal in consultation with a prospective research director and (when appropriate) with other prospective members of the research committee and fills out the DM final project topic proposal form

The research committee consists of three faculty members from the major field and one from outside the major field. One member from the major field, usually the student's teacher, serves as chair.  The chair of the research committee is always the same as the chair of the advisory committee. That is the one person who is required to serve on both committees. 

One of the four members of the committee serves as research director, working most closely with the student on research and the preparation of the final product. It is possible for the chair of the committee to also be the research director, but that is not a requirement.  Any of the four members of the committee can be appointed the research director. For the role of research director, students are encouraged to enlist a faculty member with expertise in the subject and experience in research.

Research committee members must be tenured or tenure-track members of the faculty or librarians who are members of the Graduate Faculty. Departments may petition to allow other faculty to serve on a research committee.

The topic proposal should adhere to these guidelines. Please be sure to use a serifed font such as Times New Roman and to include page numbers (bottom-center is preferred).

On the first page, include the following information:

NAME, ADDRESS, DEGREE, MAJOR

The topic proposal may be brief and should cover the following subjects:

  1. PROPOSED TITLE: Be brief—you will eventually include this title on your c.v. and other places.
  2. JUSTIFICATION: Explain the need for and the purpose of the study.
  3. SOURCES & MATERIALS: Specify the sources and materials to be used in the study.
  4. ORGANIZATION: State briefly the proposed organization of the study. A chapter outline can be helpful.
  5. METHODOLOGY: State briefly the methods to be followed in accomplishing the study.
  6. RESULTS AND/OR CONCLUSIONS EXPECTED: If discernible at the present stage.
  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Provide a bibliography of pertinent related sources, especially those dealing directly with the subject of the proposed study. Differentiate between primary sources (those used as direct objects of analysis, discussion, etc.) and secondary sources (those used for information). Please be sure your bibliography is formatted according to your chosen style manual. If it is not correctly formatted it will be returned to you by the graduate office for correction before it is distributed to the research committee for approval.
  8. STYLE MANUAL: Please list the style manual to be used in this study (Turabian, MLA, etc.).

Step 3: Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval (if needed)

If your research involves work with human subjects (including surveys or interviews) you must get permission from the University's Institutional Review Board. Information on IRB approval process can be found here.

You must forward to musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu evidence that you have submitted the necessary paperwork to start the human subjects approval process before we will distribute the proposal to the committee, and you must submit a copy of the written approval of your research by this committee before your proposal can be approved by the Jacobs School of Music.

Step 4: Research director approval and submit topic to Music Graduate Office

With the approval of a prospective research director, the student submits a complete proposal to the Music Graduate Office, including a short description of the topic; the identification of the form of the project, the written component and the public presentation; and a detailed proposal.

Do this by filling out the top section of the DM final project proposal form. Supply a title ("Schubert's settings of texts by Klopstock"); propose four members of a research committee, designating one as research director; write a short description of your research ("Harmonic analysis and textual study of the songs Franz Schubert wrote to texts by Klopstock, exploring the influence of earlier settings by Telemann and C.P.E. Bach and the place of the works in Schubert's output."); indicate what form your written component will take; indicate the nature of your public presentation.

Attach the form to the proposal drafted in Step 2. Have the form signed by your prospective research director; submit the completed topic proposal form and detailed proposal directly to the Music Graduate Office (either one paper copy or a PDF attachment of the entire proposal). If necessary, include a copy of Institution Review Board (IRB) approval (required for students who will use human subjects as part of the research for the final project).

If you are living outside Bloomington, you may send your proposal copy by mail to the address below if you do not submit the proposal electronically. Your research director may indicate approval via email to musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu:

Doctoral Clerk
Music Graduate Office
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
1201 E Third St
Bloomington, IN 47405

Step 5: Final approval

The proposal, approved by the prospective research director, is circulated by the Music Graduate Office to other prospective members of a research committee for their approval.  The committee is asked to respond to the graduate office within two weeks (not including breaks). After their approval, the director of graduate studies checks for IRB permission (if required), appoints an appropriate committee, and gives final approval.

The Music Graduate Office will inform you by email when your topic proposal has been approved and your research committee appointed. The topic proposal must be approved before a student may schedule a written major-field qualifying examination.

Topic Proposal Changes

If your proposal has already been approved and you wish to make changes (for example, to elect a lecture recital in place of a defense), please do the following:

  • Print a copy of the topic proposal form and fill out the top section.
  • If you are simply changing the nature of the final project (for example, writing a curriculum rather than a traditional document) or changing your choice of a public presentation (for example, giving a lecture rather than having a formal defense), use the space on the form for the short description to explain the changes you are proposing. Starting with your research director and chair, speak with the members of your research committee and get their approval for the change. Ask each to sign the form, then turn it in to the Graduate Office. Simple changes should present no problem.
  • If you are substantially changing your subject or the essence of your project, please submit a complete proposal following the usual guidelines.