Doctoral Dissertation Outline (DDO) Guide

Presented by Dr. Julian Hills, November 4, 2011.

1Definition, purpose:  The DDO (in some schools the “Prospectus”) is a semi-contractual document that (a) delineates a subject area; (b) articulates a clear method;  (c) situates the subject matter and method in one or more context(s); and (d) suggests one or more ways in which the project will result in a contribution to knowledge or understanding.  In general: use good prose; avoid typos; address educated non-specialist.  Committee / Board: Take advantage of the dept.’s faculty strengths / range.  Co-directors?  An external reader?  Note Board + ABD meeting after DDO approval.

2.  THEO-specific readings in the MUGS’s language in “Outline / Proposal . . .”:

         B.  Title:  Avoid anything lengthy, “cute,” or plain boring.  If using title + subtitle, try not to use the same words in both parts.  Best: possible book title.

         C.  “Statement of the Problem”: “Problem” can be a notorious scholarly question; but more often it is a network of interrelated questions, texts, or traditions, e.g., second-century Christology; late 19th-cent. ecclesiology.  Or it may be a context in which a certain author has gone almost unnoticed.  Why worth pursing?

D.  “Present Status of the Problem”:  Here the absolute necessity is careful classification of past and present opinions, often as a condensed history of scholarship.  This is not the place for a lightly annotated “literature dump.”  The Grad. Comm. wants to see clear lines of thought — discussion that is going somewhere.

F.  “Statement of Procedure or Methodology”:  Where do you situate your work?  What will you do, and why?  What hunch or hypothesis will you test, if any?  Perhaps most importantly, what steps or tasks do you already see as constituting the heart of each chapter?  How is your work sustained methodologically?

G.  “Tentative Outline . . .”:  Please avoid great detail or multiple layers of indented subheadings.  (“Tentative”: the major work lies ahead of you.)  Note also that despite the MUGS’s instructions somewhere, in the Humanities “Introduction” and “Chapter 1” are not the same thing.  Chapter 1 is “new work,” so to speak.  Likewise, the final “chapter” is not the “Conclusion,” which follows.

H.  “Bibliography”:  Bibliographies presented with the DDO are often clumsily produced: foreign names/words misspelled; inconsistent / incomplete citation; lack of titles in French, German, other research languages, etc.  No excuse for this.

3.  What is really CHARACTERISTIC of your project?  Where is the challenge?  Is the center of gravity fresh subject matter, fresh method, or fresh context?  Imagine a grid thus:             subject matter                method                                      context

very familiar                   w                                           x                                                     y

familiar                            z                                            w                                                    x

unfamiliar                        y                                            z                                                     w

completely new                x                                            y                                                     z

4.  “Level of difficulty”:  Attempt a realistic assessment, and present it modestly.  This will usually be done indirectly: the entire DDO will reflect your informed judgment as to the difficulty / weight / significance of your proposed project.

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