Prospectus Seminar

Course Description: 

The objective of this seminar is to help preparing PhD dissertation proposals and think through related issues of career choice, research strategy, planning, and methodology. The course is structured around the research interests of probationary doctoral students, who present their prospectus plans in class, work together in identifying key issues in developing viable research plans, and revise their prospectus plans to reflect any feedback and insight gained in this process. The in-class discussions are to focus on the choice and formulation of the research question and the methodology; their justification in terms of relevance, timeliness, and tractability; implications in terms of workload, schedule and resources required, as well as the side-benefits offered; the translation of the research question into a manageable research agenda via hypotheses or other means; the identification of appropriate research methods; concept formation and measurement; the use of productivity enhancing tools; and last but not least presentation and publication strategy.


Learning Outcomes: 
  • Ability to conceive, elaborate and defend a research plan; think through its implications for career planning, work schedule and possible side projects
  • Reason analytically, applying abstract models to complex empirical situations and engage with different intellectual traditions, subfields, research designs and methodologies in the social sciences
  • Ability to design, implement and write up a high quality original academic or applied research in a rigorous and consistent manner, and of sufficient quality to merit publication in peer-reviewed journals
  • Ability for effective oral presentation of scholarly thoughts, developing listening and discussion skills with initiative and autonomy in various professional contexts
  • Ability to harmonize the research plan with the empirical findings, to foresee the difficulties of empirical research, to integrate unexpected results

This course is meant to help developing your dissertation prospectus, and the prospectus will be separately graded anyway. Therefore your coursework in this seminar will be merely assessed with a pass/fail grade. To earn a pass grade you need to prepare and deliver your own presentation thoughtfully and within the given time constraints; circulate a 500-word outline 24 hours before your presentation using the Dropbox folder created for this class; and help your peers with active participation at their presentations. Active participation means reading your peers’ outlines beforehand as a preparation for the seminars, and making comments on them and their presentation as appropriate; i.e. personally contributing to the creation of a stimulating, engaging, focused, supportive, and yet challenging learning environment for all participants in the class.


If you miss the deadline for circulating your outline, you will have to make up for that by providing a 300-word written feedback on some other outlines in advance of their in-class presentation at a rate of one extra feedback for every three hours of missing the deadline (i.e. written feedback on eight outlines by your peers if you completely failed to circulate yours before the class). There may be more than 12 class meetings in the series and you are of course welcome and encouraged to attend all of them. But for the purposes of earning your course credits, your mandatory quota is to be presenter once and an active contributor to the discussion about your peers’ presentations at another ten times.

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