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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 (Laurie Staring), Secretary
musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu (Janis Cooper Parker), 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. There are different guidelines for the Dissertation in Composition, Doctoral Piano Essay, and PhD/DME Dissertation topic proposals.

The final project is similar to a dissertation, though it is smaller in scope. Students must propose a topic for their final project in which they outline their research, final written product, and public presentation format 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.

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 of 30-50 pages; a critical edition of a composition with a substantial prose introduction and critical materials (the prose section should be 30-50 pages); 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 prose essay should be at least 20 pages).

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; or a 60-minute lecture recital with at least 30 minutes of lecture and questions from the research committee and others.

Only some combinations of written format and public presentation format are possible. These are outlined on the topic proposal form. 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 topic proposal 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 topic proposal form is a Word document with boxes that the student is expected to fill out as directed.

The research committee ordinarily consists of three faculty members from the major field and one from outside the major field. Membership on the research committee can differ from membership on the advisory committee (which is responsible for qualifying exams and recitals), except that for performance majors, the student’s major field studio teacher serves as chair of 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. Any of the four members of the committee may 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. Some faculty with the rank of Professor of Practice, Lecturer, or Senior Lecturer are also eligible to serve on research committees. Please check with the music graduate office to verify the eligibility of these faculty. Visiting faculty are not eligible to serve on doctoral committees.

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

If your research involves work with human subjects (including surveys or interviews) your research protocol must be approved by the University's Institutional Review Board before you submit your topic proposal. Information on IRB approval process can be found here and in the topic proposal form.

If your research does not involve human subjects, you may skip this step.

Step 4: Topic Submission and Approval 

When the proposed research director approves the topic proposal, the research director submits the completed proposal to the doctoral clerk in the Music Graduate Office as an email attachment (

The Music Graduate Office will circulate the proposal to the other prospective members of the 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 formally 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 and Research Committee Changes

It is common for the details of the doctoral final project to shift a little once research begins. Below are some scenarios and how they should be handled:

  • Minor changes from what was proposed: If the topic is essentially unchanged, but you want to make adjustments to your method, to the scope of the topic (for example, adding to, subtracting from, or making a change to the list of pieces you were going to write about), an amended proposal is generally not required.
  • Major changes from what was proposed: Changes other than the kind described above generally require a new topic proposal. If you have questions, send an email to the doctoral clerk ( for guidance. If the new topic proposal proposes a different research committee membership, you will be asked to inform committee members whose service is no longer requested.
  • Change of document format or public presentation format: If the basic topic is not changed, but you want to change the format of the written component or the public presentation (or both), approval is required. So long as there are no substantial changes to the topic itself (see above), you simply need to write to each committee member and ask if they would approve a change of format. Forward these approvals to the doctoral clerk (, who will obtain final approval from the director of graduate studies. The proposed written component/publication presentation format must be one of the combinations described in the topic proposal form.
  • Committee member no longer available: Faculty who are no longer teaching at IU because of employment elsewhere or retirement are eligible to remain on research committees if the student wishes, provided they are able and willing to carry out their responsibilities. If a committee member is no longer able to serve, the student should find a current faculty member willing to step into that role and send their name to the doctoral clerk ( for approval by the director of graduate studies.
  • Committee member on sabbatical: Faculty members on sabbatical leave are not required to participate on doctoral committees while on leave, though some elect to in some cases. We do everything possible to ensure that document is not delayed because a committee member is on leave, which may involve a replacement or substitution. It is best to consult with the music graduate office in such situations to determine the best approach.
  • Committee change for other reasons: Rarely, it seems desirable to replace a member of a committee for other reasons or to change who fills the role of research director. In such situations, you should consult with the director of graduate studies.