Department of Art History and Art

Department of Art History and Art Dissertation Prospectus


Guidelines For Preparing a Dissertation Prospectus

A dissertation should make an original contribution to the field of art history. Advanced scholarship and analytic thinking is required. The text should be more than a compendium or synthesis of the ideas of others. You should have a demonstrable thesis, articulate it at the outset, and then work through its implications toward a conclusion not reached by previous writers. You should be able to identify and analyze the state of existing research on your topic and significantly advance knowledge beyond that state. The directions you plan to take in order to achieve new perspectives should be articulated in the prospectus, in which a preliminary plan for achieving your goals should be mapped out with as much precision as possible.

The length of the prospectus should be 8-15 pages including footnotes and bibliography. Footnotes should be carefully prepared according to the Art Bulletin style guide, copies of which may be obtained in the department office. Footnotes and bibliography for both the prospectus and dissertation are to include relevant foreign-language literature related to your topic.

The first three to five pages of your prospectus should be devoted to a general introduction to your topic and its importance, a description of the methodological approaches you will be using, review of the primary and secondary sources you will consult to develop your premises, and an assessment of the contribution of your thesis to current art historical discourse.

Following this preliminary section, you should include an ordered chapter-by-chapter narrative outline of the topics you plan to investigate to reach your conclusions. The first chapter should include a review of the relevant historiography, pointing out the contributions of previous scholars, and areas which remain open to question or additional research. Your chapters should build upon each other, allowing you to devise an argument that moves toward a defensible conclusion. It is not necessary to know in advance exactly what all your conclusions will be; however, you must clearly describe in more than a cursory or preliminary fashion the problems you plan to solve and the distinctive approach(es) you propose to take to your topic in order to justify your efforts.

The final section of your prospectus should comprise a thorough research plan. Describe what kinds of sources you have already consulted, what additional sources you have identified as critical to your efforts in the future, and how long you estimate it will take to complete a thorough review of the secondary literature, as well as investigation of archival and other primary resources. Doctoral level scholarship requires examination and synthetic understanding of materials not thoroughly analyzed in existing historiographic sources. This may involve travel to consult books, letters, diaries and other records unavailable locally, personal interviews with artists and others, close viewing of works of art in situ or in private and public collections outside of Cleveland , and/or focus on interdisciplinary problems and connections.

Relevant illustrations identified with captions should be appended to your proposal.