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Office Location
East Studio Building 120 (JS 120)
205 S. Jordan Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405

Mailing Address
1201 E. 3rd Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

Hours: 8 am–12 pm, 1–5 pm
Phone: 812-855-1738Phone

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

musicdgs [at] indiana [dot] edu (Eric Isaacson), Director 
serbes [at] indiana [dot] edu (Sara Erbes), Advisor
anmiller [at] indiana [dot] edu (Angie Miller), Recorder
musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu (Collin Lewis), Secretary
musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu (Janis Cooper Parker), Doctoral Clerk

More Information

PhD and DME—Topic Proposal

Topic Proposal Procedure

Approval of the dissertation topic is the first step in the process of writing a dissertation. 

There are different guidelines for the Dissertation in Composition, Doctoral Final Project, and Doctoral Piano Essay topic proposals.

The topic proposal outlines the subject of the dissertation. Here is the procedure:

  • Line up prospective members of your Research Committee, which is ordinarily made up of three members of your major department and one member from outside the department. Committee members for PhD dissertations must be members of the University Graduate Faculty. These are generally full-time tenured or tenure-track members of the faculty or (in some cases) librarians. 
  • Write a topic proposal according to the guidelines provided by your department.
  • The next step varies slightly depending on your major field.

Musicology majors: Have the topic proposal endorsed by a prospective Research Director. Circulate copies of the topic proposal to prospective members of a research committee, in consultation with the prospective Research Director. When each member of the prospective research committee has endorsed the topic proposal, the proposal must be reviewed by the Musicology department (contact the department chair for more information). Once that is complete, a copy of the endorsed proposal should be forwarded to the Music Graduate Office with a recommendation of an appropriate research committee by the department.

Music Theory majors: A dissertation prospectus is developed during enrollment in T650, which is ordinarily taken in the last semester of coursework. The prospectus should include a proposed title, names of committee members and research director, table of contents, 3–4 pages of text, and bibliography. Once each member of the research committee has approved the prospectus, students should make it available to the department faculty electronically for comment for two weeks. The final version, which addresses suggestions from the faculty, receives final approval by the research committee. A full dissertation topic proposal is developed after that. While students are welcome to submit the proposal before qualifying exams, the proposal can also be submitted during or after exams. The proposal should contextualize the topic within existing literature, expand on the text of the prospectus, and include a sample analysis when appropriate. As with the prospectus, the topic proposal should first be approved by the research committee, then circulated to the department faculty for two weeks for comment, with final approval again by the research committee. Once that is complete, a copy of the endorsed proposal should be forwarded to the Music Graduate Office with a recommendation of an appropriate research committee by the department.

All Musicology and Music Theory students: If your research involves work with human subjects (including surveys or interviews) you must get permission from the University's Institutional Review Board before your topic proposal will be formally approved and updated to your records by the Music Graduate Office. Information on the IRB approval process can be found here.  

Music Education majors: Have the topic proposal endorsed by a prospective Research Director. Circulate copies of the topic proposal to prospective members of a research committee, in consultation with the prospective Research Director. When each member of the prospective research committee has endorsed the topic proposal, a copy of the endorsed proposal should be forwarded to the Music Graduate Office with a recommendation of an appropriate research committee by the prospective Research Director.

Music Education majors only: If your research involves work with human subjects (including surveys or interviews) you must get permission from the University's Institutional Review Board before you start your research, but the Music Graduate Office will formally approve and update your records with your topic proposal before that process is completed. Information on the IRB approval process can be found here.  You must work with your Research Committee to ensure that you have the proper IRB approval at each step of your research.

For PhD students only: once the topic proposal is formally endorsed by the department, you must submit a "Nomination of Research Committee for the PhD" eDoc form online for the University Graduate School.  Instructions will be emailed to you once your proposal is approved by your department.

Please note the following restrictions on taking and scheduling written and oral exams:

Degree Program Topic proposal is approved... Topic proposal is approved by...
PhD Musicology Before or after exams Department & University Graduate School
PhD Music Theory

Before or after exams (2017 bulletin year)

Before oral exam (pre-2017 bulletin year)

Department & University Graduate School
PhD Music Education Before major written exam Research Committee & University Graduate School
DME (Music Education) Before major written exam Research Committee

Institution Review Board (IRB) approval (for any research involving human subjects)

As mentioned above, 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 the IRB approval process can be found here.

Musicology and Music Theory majors 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 or the University Graduate School.

Topic proposal changes

If your proposal has already been approved and you wish to make substantial changes (for example, you decide to switch to a different topic), then please repeat the entire topic proposal procedure.

If you need to change members of your Research Committee, then you should email musdoc@indiana.edu with a proposal for that change.