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The Auto-W deadline for dropping FALL 2018 classes is Sunday, October 21.

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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

Guidelines for the Doctoral Final Project


Purpose, level and focus of the DM final project

The capstone for all doctoral degrees is a substantial research project or composition. For students in most DM programs, the capstone project is the Doctoral Final Project. There are different guidelines for Dissertation in Composition, the Doctoral Piano Essay, and the PhD/DME Dissertation.

The final project ("document") for the DM degree should be carried out at the highest level. It should build on the work a student has done in the major field and be relevant to that field's repertory, pedagogy, history or practice.

The number of credits earned for the final project varies (2 to 4) from degree to degree, but the expectations for the size of the project are not connected with the number of credits.

Students need submit an application for graduation no later than the beginning of the semester in which they plan to graduate. Click here for dates and information.

Components of the DM final project

Every final project should have three principal components:

  1. Research. This may include library research, archival work, collection of repertory, source study, musical analysis, questionnaires or surveys, or observation. By this work you demonstrate that you can conduct original and well-focused research from a clear plan.
  2. Final product with a written component. This may be an essay, lecture text, or substantial critical essay. The written material might be a self-contained written document (like a short dissertation) but might also be part of a CD-ROM, Web site, critical edition, method book, composition, or other appropriate medium. The text must be supported by appropriate documentation like a bibliography, work list, discography, or critical notes. In the written component, you should demonstrate that you can organize and present you findings in clear prose.
  3. Public presentation. This may take the form of a public defense, a lecture, or a lecture recital with a substantial prepared text. In the public presentation students should demonstrate that you can communicate what you have learned to the Jacobs School of Music community and answer questions about your research.
Guidance of the DM final project

The final project should be guided by a committee of four permanent faculty members: three from the major field and one from outside. These committee members ensure that the project is relevant to the field and that it speaks to its scholars and practitioners. One major-field member of the committee (typically your teacher) serves as chair, and one member of the committee serves as research director. Especially for the role of research director, you are encouraged to enlist a faculty member with expertise in the subject and experience in research. The same faculty member may serve as both chair and research director, but this is not required.

The Writing Stage

Step 1: Topic Proposal

You must propose a topic for your final project in which you outline your research, final product, and public presentation for approval by a proposed research committee.

Detailed instructions for the topic proposal are provided here.


  • Some students begin this process while still completing coursework. Others wait until they have started preparing for or taking their qualifying exams.
  • The final project topic must be approved before a date for the major field written qualifying exam can be scheduled.
  • The approval time for the topic proposal can be 2-3 weeks, not counting breaks.
Step 2: Conduct research and prepare written component

Conduct research and prepare the project, including the written component. A prose written component is a required part of every project, but it will take different forms depending on the nature of the final product.

  • If the final product is an 80 to 100 page document, that document is the written component.
  • The written component of an edition of a composition would consist of a substantial prose introduction and critical materials.  The prose should be 30 to 50 pages.
  • An original composition requires a substantial related prose essay.  The prose essay should be at least 20 pages.
  • For an instructional CD-ROM or other multimedia product, the written component would be an organized collection of all the prose (for example, all the composer biographies and analyses in a project on a particular repertory).
  • If the public presentation is a lecture recital, the written component consists of 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.

Whatever the form of the final product, the written component must include complete formal documentation like a bibliography, work list, and discography, as appropriate to the project.

Ordinarily, only the research director will be closely involved during this stage and the other committee members will wait until the after the research director has approved the final project for distribution before reading it, but you should ask the other members of the research committee how they would like to be involved at this stage of the final project.


  • The document must conform to these style guidelines for final projects. You are strongly encouraged to set up your document according to the guidelines from the start.
  • You should ensure that the prose is edited for correct grammar, usage, and style before submitting drafts to your research director. While research directors can be expected to make editorial suggestions, correct occasional typographical errors, and so on, they should not be expected to work with poorly written or non-idiomatic English. Documents with extensive problems may be returned by the research director at step 3, or by the committee at step 5. This will of course delay completion of the degree.
  • Some students begin the writing process while still completing coursework. Many get a lot done in parallel with preparing for qualifying exams. Most students do the bulk of the work after passing the oral qualifying exam.

The Review Stage

Step 3: Approval by research director

When the research director is satisfied with your completed draft of the final project, the research director approves it for circulation to the rest of the research committee. Ask your research director to send an e-mail message to musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu or a written note to the doctoral clerk in the Music Graduate Office.


  • Depending on how closely you have been working with the research director during the writing process, the time the research director needs to review the document and approve it for distribution to the research committee may range from a couple weeks to a few months.
Step 4: Submit copies for research committee approval

Submit your final project to the Music Graduate Office for distribution to the Research Committee. You should ask each committee member whether they prefer a printed or electronic copy and submit a printed copy for each faculty member who prefers it in that form. You must also submit a copy to keep on file in the Music Graduate Office (we encourage electronic submission for the office copy, but a printed copy will be accepted as well). The final project will not be distributed for the committee to review until all necessary copies have been submitted to the Music Graduate Office. 

Electronic copies must be submitted using the electronic submission form below:

Electronic submission form for document drafts

On the electronic submission form, you will be asked to submit the names of research committee members who have asked to receive the document electronically and the names of committee members for whom you are submitting printed copies. If we learn from a faculty member that they have not approved receiving an electronic copy, you will need to submit a printed copy and the 8-week review period for the entire committee will restart on the date the printed copy is distributed.

Printed copies may be submitted in person to the East Studio Building Room 120 or by mail (including UPS, FedEx, etc.) to the following address:

Music Graduate Office
1201 E. 3rd Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

You are strongly encouraged to submit printed copies double-sided. These copies do not need to be bound, but should be clearly separated.

If you are submitting ONLY printed copies for committee members, remember to submit either a paper or electronic copy for the office. We cannot distribute your final project to your committee until we have received an office copy.


  • If your public presentation is a lecture-recital, you may schedule your public performance through the JSoM Scheduling office at this point. You should submit your written component at least ten weeks before the proposed date of the public performance, to allow time for Step 5 to be completed; please review Step 6 below for additional details.
  • If your public presentation is a public defense or public lecture, you may not schedule the public presentation until the research committee has approved the document (Step 5). Those who submit their final project written component within the first two weeks of the fall or spring semester are ordinarily able to complete all remaining steps and graduate in that semester, though this is not guaranteed.
Step 5: Approval by research committee

By Jacobs School of Music policy, members of the research committee may take up to eight weeks to review the document and decide whether to approve it for public presentation. Additional time is provided if the review period includes the summer break or if the review deadline falls during the summer term or a break.

The Music Graduate Office will inform you by e-mail when your project has been approved by all the members of your research committee. You should not ask committee members for updates. The graduate office will follow up with faculty who do not respond by the requested response date.

Committee members may indicate in writing any changes or revisions necessary in the approved text. If the research committee does not approve the project for public presentation, you will be required to make revisions as directed by the committee and to resubmit the document for another full review (Steps 3 and 4). Only when the project has been approved by all committee members may you make the public presentation.

The Public Presentation Stage

Step 6: Schedule and make the public presentation

Make a public presentation attended by the members of the research committee and other members of the Jacobs School of Music community. The research committee decides on the acceptability of the presentation. Specific details of the different public presentation options are given below.

For defenses, every member of the Research Committee must ordinarily be present in person at the public presentation. For the defense format (only), when it is otherwise impossible to schedule a defense because of faculty schedules, you may petition to have one member of the Research Committee participate by video. See the following for guidelines:

Guidelines for off-site participation by a member of the research committee

For the lecture-recital and public lecture formats, every member of the Research Committee must be present in person at the public presentation. There are no exceptions.

Other members of the Jacobs School of Music community are welcome to attend the public presentation.

The members of the research committee will meet privately immediately after the public presentation to decide on its acceptability for the degree. The Music Graduate Office will supply the chair of the research committee with a form on which the committee can record its judgment; this form should be delivered by the following business day to the Music Graduate Office.

If the public presentation is not considered passing, the committee will offer specific recommendations on matters relating to the document or the presentation that must be addressed before the student may make a second attempt.

If the public presentation is judged to be passing, the committee may yet ask you to make revisions to the written component. These may be relatively minor, but sometimes the committee requests more substantive changes, even though the public presentation is judged to be passing.

If you plan to use the electronic submission method to submit your final copy (see step 7), there is no signature page. If you plan to submit bound paper copies, you should bring multiple copies of your signature page to the committee for them to sign at the public presentation (be sure that the paper for the signature pages matches the paper type of the final copies).

If the public presentation is a defense or public lecture:

You may schedule the event through the Music Graduate Office only after all members of your research committee have notified the graduate office that they approve the project for public presentation. Defenses and public lectures are held in a classroom reserved by the Music Graduate Office, Mondays through Fridays at 4:00 pm during most of the fall and spring semesters (not during the first week of classes, during final exam week, or on holidays or during breaks). If all committee members are available, events may be scheduled during the portion of summer term in which Jacobs School of Music courses are offered (the second eight-week session); students hoping to schedule during the summer should consult the Music Graduate Office before March 15th.

Once your project has been approved, you may tentatively reserve an available date for the public presentation. This date will be held for one week while you confirm it with the members of your committee. Once the date is confirmed, inform the Music Graduate Office so that an announcement can be sent to you and your committee members. Your entire Research Committee must be present, in person, at the public presentation. There are no exceptions except in the case of an approved off-site participation for a defense (see above for more information). For a public lecture, there is no off-site participation option. If a tentative date is not confirmed within one week, that date may be offered to another student.

The Music Graduate Office will also send a reminder before the event and the event will be included in the weekly announcements sent by the graduate office. You are encouraged to try to avoid end-of-semester dates because faculty schedules can be more difficult to coordinate.

A defense typically begins with a short presentation in which you explain how you came to the topic and giving an overview of the research and its results. This is followed by questions on the project and topic from members of the committee (and, if time permits, from guests). It usually lasts about an hour.

A public lecture should last 60 minutes and will be followed by questions from members of the research committee and others present.

If the public presentation is a lecture-recital:

You may schedule the lecture-recital once you have a general idea of when you will submit the document for distribution (see Step 4 above). You should schedule the recital to take place at least 10-11 weeks after you will submit your document to the Music Graduate Office for research committee approval.  Please note that the performance of the recital cannot take place until the entire Research Committee has approved the document through the Music Graduate Office (see Step 5 above).

Be sure to allow a minimum of 10-11 weeks between the date you submit your document for distribution to your research committee and the scheduled recital date. That should allow enough time for the committee to review and approve the document in time for the performance. If the document is not approved before the scheduled recital date, that date must be cancelled and a later date scheduled.

The lecture-recital is ordinarily scheduled during the fall or spring semester. If all committee members are available, events may be scheduled during the portion of summer term in which Jacobs School of Music courses are offered (the second eight-week session); students hoping to schedule a lecture-recital that will take place during the summer term should consult the Music Graduate Office before March 15th.

Lecture-recitals are scheduled through the JSoM Scheduling Office according to the rules of normal doctoral recitals (contact the JSoM Scheduling Office for more information). Just as with a regular doctoral recital, you may reserve a lecture-recital date with the approval of the chair of your research committee well in advance (after you have submitted your document for distribution to the research committee, Step 4 above). You must consult with all members of your committee when reserving the recital date, since it must be scheduled at a time when your entire committee can be present in person. This date is tentative until all the members of your research committee have approved the written component of the project. When they have approved it, the Music Graduate Office will send an e-mail message to you and to the Recital Scheduling Office confirming that the program may be printed and the lecture-recital presented. Please note that this must happen several weeks before the scheduled date. You must inform the Music Graduate Office once you have scheduled this date. Students are advised to use the last evening recital slot, or others that are unlikely to cause timing problems. Your entire Research Committee must be present, in person, at the public presentation. There are no exceptions.

A lecture recital should consist of at least 30 minutes of lecture and 30 minutes of performance, and may be followed by questions from the research committee and others.

The Submission Stage

Step 7: Submit final copy

After the public presentation is passed and you have completed any required revisions and had them approved as directed by the research committee, prepare the final copy and submit it as outlined below:

This must be done by the last day of classes for the semester (or of the summer term) in order to graduate in a given semester.