Carnegie Mellon University
Thesis Proposal Examination

Thesis Proposal Examination

The Thesis Proposal Examination is designed to evaluate a candidate’s ability to plan, conduct and communicate independent research in both oral and written form.  The quality of the proposal document is an important part of the evaluation.  

The thesis proposal document should include the following elements: 

  • Title page
  • Table of Contents
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Background (optional)
  • Research Plan
  • Schedule
  • References
  • Appendices (optional)

Each year the department holds a thesis proposal preparation guidance session.  Students who have completed the Comprehensive Examination are encouraged to attend.

Time Frame

The Thesis Proposal Examination is typically taken between twelve and twenty-four months following the successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination and more than nine months prior to the final PhD Dissertation Defense. The candidate must submit a written thesis proposal to the Doctoral Committee a minimum of two weeks prior to the oral examination date. 

In some circumstances, student advisors may recommend a different timeline for this examination, and students should discuss this possibility with their individual advisor. It is the responsibility of the advisor to communicate any modifications of the examination schedule to the Director of Graduate Programs. 

Prior to the Examination

The Committee Signature Sheet must be completed prior to the Thesis Proposal Exam by the student and presented by the student to the Committee Chair at the exam.  This sheet will be signed by the Doctoral Committee at the completion of the exam and returned to the Director of Graduate Programs by the Committee Chair.

Grading and Evaluation

The grading and evaluation of the Thesis Proposal Examination will not be announced until a review has been conducted by the entire faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Possible examination outcomes are as follows:

  • Unconditional pass: the student performed satisfactorily in the Thesis Proposal Examination.
  • Conditional pass: the student needs to satisfy a set of conditions before s/he can be considered as being deemed to have passed the Thesis Proposal Exam. The committee should be specific on the timeframe for completion of the conditions. A conditional pass requires another review by the committee. 
  • Fail: the student did not perform satisfactorily in the exam. When a student fails, there is no option for that student to retake the exam.

After Completion

The Proposal Exam outcome will be communicated to the student after the CEE faculty has reviewed the committee recommendation and made a final decision. 

A student is deemed to have passed the Qualifying Examination upon successful completion of both the Comprehensive and Proposal exams. The student is entered into All But Dissertation (ABD) in residence status and must complete all requirements for the PhD degree within a maximum of six years from passage of the Qualifying Examination.