Music Theory

T650, the Dissertation Prospectus, and the Dissertation Topic Proposal

The information below is specifically for PhD students in the music theory department. Information about other requirements for the PhD is available here. The Music Graduate Office offers additional information about dissertation topic proposals.

T650 and the Dissertation Prospectus

PhD students must enroll in T650 Dissertation Topic Workshop (1 credit), typically during the last semester of coursework. T650 is part of the major-field coursework and must therefore be completed before the major-field written exam may be scheduled.

Successful completion of T650 is dependent upon completion of a short dissertation prospectus and its approval by the proposed research director and two other IU music theory faculty who have agreed to serve on the research committee. Students in T650 are strongly encouraged to complete the prospectus by the twelfth week of the semester in order to give these faculty members sufficient time to read and comment on the prospectus.

Dissertation topics may develop from a number of areas, including research done in doctoral seminars and independent research. As ideas for the topic are developed, you should discuss these with one or more faculty members (in addition to the faculty member in charge of T650) who will provide feedback and help sharpen the focus of your work.

You should ask one faculty member to serve as research director for your dissertation and chair of your research committee. This is the person you will work with most closely during the proposal, research, and writing stages. In addition to the director, the research committee normally includes two other faculty from the theory department and one from an appropriate outside department (often, but not necessarily, musicology). The outside member does not need to be in place at the time of T650 and the prospectus approval, but should be identified as soon as is practicable.

The prospectus should include the proposed title, the names of the research director and the proposed committee members, approximately three to five pages of text including a proposed table of contents or chapter-by-chapter outline for the dissertation, and a bibliography.

The Dissertation Topic Proposal

The full dissertation topic proposal is developed in consultation with the research director. The proposal may be submitted either before or after qualifying exams are completed; the department encourages students to develop the proposal as early as possible.

The proposal must be approved by the three departmental members of the proposed research committee. Following this approval, the proposal is circulated to the entire department faculty for a two-week comment period. Faculty comments are sent to the research director, who communicates them to the student and determines if any further changes are required. After ascertaining that any required changes have been made, the research director notifies the Music Graduate Office that the topic proposal has been approved. At this point the student officially submits the proposal to the Graduate Office, along with a separate one- to two-page summary (required by the University Graduate School).

Proposal format

There is no particular required format for proposals, but all of the following information should be included:

  • Name, degree
  • Name of the research director and all members of the proposed research committee, including the member outside the music theory department
  • Title of the proposed dissertation
  • Short abstract of the proposed dissertation
  • General discussion of the problem: Why is this an important topic? (suggested length 1–2 pages)
  • Review of the literature, sufficient to demonstrate that you are familiar with prior research, that the topic is sufficiently original, and how your proposed research will fit into the body of prior work (suggested length 2–4 pages)
  • Outline of the proposed dissertation (usually a chapter-by-chapter breakdown)
  • Discussion of the methodology to be used, possibly with brief examples as appropriate
  • Possible conclusions
  • Bibliography

Students are encouraged to be concise, and to limit proposals to about 10–15 pages, excluding the bibliography and any musical examples or other illustrations. Complete analyses or extensive details are not required, but you should include enough to show that you have seriously considered methodological questions and have formulated an approach to the problem.