Carnegie Mellon University

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 this evaluation.

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

Prior to the Examination

The Committee Signature Form 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.

The thesis proposal document should include the following elements:

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

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, your advisor(s) may recommend a different timeline for this examination. It is the responsibility of the advisor to communicate any modifications of the examination schedule to the Director of Graduate Programs.

The Doctoral (PhD) Committee

Each PhD candidate in the department will be directed and advised by a Doctoral Committee. The Committee will be responsible for:

Advising the student on appropriate course work
Assisting with thesis development
Evaluating the final thesis product

The composition of the committee should be mutually agreed upon by the student and their advisor. It is important to note that the Comprehensive Examination committee members are not necessarily the same as members of the student’s Doctoral Committee.

One member of the Doctoral Committee serves as Chair and typically this individual will serve as the candidate’s principal thesis advisor. The Doctoral Committee must consist of at least four members, including:

A minimum of two full-time faculty from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, one of whom must be tenured faculty
A third faculty member from either the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering or another department at Carnegie Mellon University
A fourth member from another department at Carnegie Mellon University, another university, or a governmental or industrial research group as appropriate