Dissertation proposal and chapter writing guidelines / British and North American Literature and Culture Study Programme

GUIDELINES FOR THE PREPARATION AND SUPERVISION
OF A Ph.D. DISSERTATION

A successfully defended dissertation proposal (ideally, prepared in the second semester of the second year) and fully developed sample chapters (ideally, prepared in the second semester of the third year and the first semester of the fourth year) are Program requirements for the “abszolutórium”—in this order; i.e., no dissertation chapter can be submitted without a previously approved proposal. Candidates should note that the Faculty Doctoral Council is absolutely prohibitive to grace periods beyond the eighth semester where there are undefended dissertation proposals and chapters. When in doubt, students should opt in time for suspending their active status in the program; i.e., they should seek postponement of one or more semesters—leave of absence from the doctoral program if you wish—if they are still in the position to, rather than risk annulling three years of doctoral coursework by leaving the Ph.D. program without an “abszolutórium” as a result of unmet proposal/chapter deadlines or/and aborted defenses. The last chance for students seeking such a leave to think it over (in consultation with their supervisor) and present their case to the Director of American Ph.D. Studies and then to the Faculty Doctoral Council (KDT) are the first two weeks of the student’s eighth semester.


I. The Proposal or Prospectus
A proposal is a descriptive dissertation prospectus. The purpose is to clarify the dissertation project and to provide direction for research and writing.
The student must determine whether the materials for the dissertation, or a substantial part of them, are available in the department and the university libraries, or elsewhere in the country. S/he must indicate if there will be a need to travel abroad to obtain or gain access to the relevant materials. The students must present a plan for gaining access in advance and include it as part of the proposal.
The “Proposal” is submitted in 5 copies to the Director of the British and North American Literature and Culture Study Programme bearing a date and the signatures of both the candidate and the supervisor. No proposal may be submitted without the supervisor’s signature indicating his or her approval. (For the same reason, electronic submissions will not be accepted.) Submission deadlines are not negotiable. The Director will convene the Ph.D. Program Committee consisting of all American and British Studies Ph.D. Faculty and relevant outside supervisors to review the “Proposal.” Absentee faculty are requested to make their detailed review of the proposal available to the Director in writing by the meeting/discussion deadline. Supervisors (outsiders included) are expected to attend. The Committee’s closed meeting is immediately followed by a discussion of the proposal where the candidate will have the opportunity to respond to the comments. Other students are invited to read each other’s proposals, be present and join the discussion—an enriching professional experience for all if done in all seriousness and with professional responsibility and integrity on all sides. The Committee reviews submissions two times each year: the deadlines for submission are late January and June (exact deadline: here). Deadlines for the Committee meeting and public discussion vary from year to year. The Committee may approve the proposal, request revisions, or reject it. The decision is announced after the discussion. In the case of requested revisions (that remain after the candidate’s responses) or rejection, the Committee will present its reasons to the candidate and the supervisor. No proposal may be submitted more than twice.


The “Proposal” should include:

  1. The working title of the dissertation. This may be subject to revision or more exact specification, but even at this stage it should describe the project as accurately as possible.
  2. A definition of the subject, agreed upon by both the candidate and the supervisor. This should include a statement of the problem of the dissertation and an account of what its investigation will involve in the way of problems, the ground to be covered, the specific issue or “thesis” of the investigation.
  3. A justification or demonstration of the need for this study. In other words, an answer to the question of exactly what the significance of the particular study at this time is?
  4. A brief account of the existing state of scholarship on the subject. It would help the student position his or her work in relation to existing scholarship and further explain or justify the undertaking of the project (see “3” above) in terms of its potential contribution to literary/cultural, etc. studies. The candidate must take a position and support that position, not merely describe a body of literature. This is the way to convince the Committee that the investigation is both significant (“3” above) and original.
  5. There should also be a concise one-paragraph indication of the method or methods to be employed (old-spelling edition, close reading, genre study, psychological criticism, deconstructive analysis, and so forth) and material covered.
  6. A tentative list of the divisions, phases, or chapters into which the dissertation will fall, so far as the student can see them at this early stage of work. This list should include a chapter by chapter outline with an indication of the projected length and number of months required to write each one. Add a one-paragraph assessment of feasibility.
  7. A selective bibliography done according to the MLA format. The bibliography should reflect the scholarship in the field pertinent to the topic. It should list:
  8. a. The primary sources on which the dissertation will be based. These will include the most authoritative editions including letters, autobiographies, journals, and criticism, as well as poetry, drama, fiction, and essays; first and similarly important editions of such primary sources; other important editions to be used or consulted; whether such sources are or are not available in Hungary.
    b. The chief secondary sources including the general, critical, scholarly, and biographical works, books, and articles on the specific dissertation area and whether or not these are available in Hungary.
  9. The text of the proposal should be very carefully edited (with all grammatical and mechanical errors weeded out) and should normally be not more than 6-8 pages (double-spaced), plus bibliography. Suggested maximum over-all length: 15 double-spaced pages, bibliography included.

II. Writing the sample chapter

  1. Start planning the sample chapter right at the start of the term, as the topic and nature of the sample chapter are crucial factors of success. Please discuss the topic of the sample chapter with your supervisor as soon as possible, and have the topic endorsed by your supervisor well before you actually begin the writing process.
  2. The expected length of the sample chapter is between 4,200 and 4,500 words (without the Works Cited section).
  3. The sample chapter is expected to fit the general conceptual framework, goals, structure, etc. laid out in your proposal, and agreed on at your proposal defense. Please make sure your readers can relate the chapter to the issues discussed at the proposal defense.
  4. Please note that the sample chapter is not a second dissertation proposal or an overview of the proposed dissertation. It is important that the sample chapter should be a fair reflection (indeed, a sample) of the priorities and analytical strategies of the proposed dissertation. Therefore, it is essential that the sample chapter should be argumentative and analytical rather than descriptive. Thus, when deciding on the topic of the sample chapter, avoid choosing sections like the general review of secondary literature, the current state of research and the like (that is, sections that are likely to find their final place in the Introduction of the finished dissertation). Ideally, the sample chapter will demonstrate your analytical skills, making a sustained argument and referring to existing scholarship.
  5. The sample chapter has to be introduced by a short text (about half a page) that explains its position, context and function in the general argument of the dissertation. Please note that this preamble is not part of the 4,200–4,500 words. If you have made significant changes in the general structure, conceptual framework, goals, etc. of your dissertation since the proposal defence, here is the place to let your readers know.
  6. The sample chapter is not necessarily a real dissertation chapter. It is very likely, for example, that your actual dissertation chapter will exceed the word count allowed for the sample chapter, and therefore you have to cut and edit a longer text to meet the format. In this case, please plan carefully what you include and what you cut out, so as to hand in a coherent piece. In the preamble (see above) please indicate what other parts the final chapter is likely to contain, so that your readers see the bigger picture as well.
  7. The sample chapter must have a clear statement of theme (preferably in the form of a thesis paragraph), and all further claims must be related to this central topic or question. The text must be organised coherently so that the main points, the direction and shape of the argument are clear for the reader. The chapter must conclude with a clearly articulated conclusion, which follows logically from the argument. The language of the chapter is expected to conform to the international standards of academic scholarship.
  8. The sample chapter will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:
  • the quality and articulateness of the thesis
  • the clarity of the argument and of the positions taken by the essay
  • the quality of the analysis
  • the use and integration of secondary sources into the analysis
  • the degree of familiarity with the secondary literature

 

To download the guidelines please follow the link.

 

Updated: 2022.01.27.


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