School of Public Health

Short Dissertation Proposal Requirements

Formatting Notes:
  • Use Arial 11-point font, minimum 0.5 inch margins
  • Maximum 3 single-spaced pages for Sections II - VI
  • Maximum 0.5 single-spaced page for Section VII
  • Maximum 0.5 single-spaced page for Sections VIII-IX
  • Maximum 0.5 page for essential figures or tables.
Content Structure:
  1. Title Page: Project title, student's name, chair of committee, committee members, and date. If your committee is not yet formally constituted, indicate potential committee members you are considering, including a Chair, who must have been selected.
  2. Specific Aims: List the project's immediate goals in terms of hypotheses to be tested or research questions to be answered. If desired, the overall purpose of this line of investigation may be mentioned, in order to indicate the long-term importance of the specific information being sought through this study. This section must not exceed 1/2 page in length and often can be shorter.
  3. Background and Significance: Describe the scientific context for the study, briefly summarizing previous related research. This should NOT be an extensive literature review. Keep references to a minimum by citing only those that are most relevant. This section should focus on the gaps in knowledge that the proposed project will help to fill. It should not exceed 1/2 page in length.
  4. Methods: The format of this section may be tailored to meet the needs of the specific study being proposed. However, the following sub-headings usually apply, and their use is encouraged. This should be the longest section of the proposal.
  1. Study design: Define a) the study design, b) the primary exposures to be evaluated (or interventions to be implemented), c) how the primary exposures would be assessed and quantified (if applicable), d) outcomes to be assessed and their definition, and e) the key covariates and their definition.
  2. Study setting: Describe the location, organizational context, clinical site(s), or other setting in which the research would take place.
  3. Study subjects: Indicate the source(s) of study subjects, criteria for eligibility, and the anticipated number to be studied.
  4. Data collection: Describe the sources of key data items. When applicable, the sequence of data collection activities for a typical subject should be given. A diagram can be helpful when data will come from several sources or when multiple observations over time are to be obtained. If there are plans to monitor and assure data quality (such as duplicate data for some or all subjects, cross-checks of one data source against another), describe them briefly.
  5. Data analysis: Describe how the data will be organized to address each of the specific aims and/or hypotheses mentioned in Section A. Specify the statistical techniques to be used. Dummy tables or figures may be helpful.
  6. Study Power: Summarize the results of statistical power or sample-size calculations.
  1. Limitations: Briefly describe the most important limitations that are beyond your control (e.g., that have already been decided upon or implemented) that may affect the ability to test adequately the primary hypotheses, or that may influence your interpretation of the study results.
  2. Timeline: Provide an approximate timeline for completion of the project. Indicate the current status of the project, to include plans for: 1) funding; and 2) general exam.
  3. References: Provide citations to key literature references used in the proposal.
  4. Data Collection Requirement: Describe how the requirement of original data collection will be met by this project. (see the PhD Handbook for details of acceptable data collection.)
  5. Student's Role: Describe your role in the project (e.g., idea, funding, design, data collection, data management, analysis).
Submission Procedure:

Short proposal reviews will happen once each month

  1. Submit your short proposal as a Microsoft Word document to the Graduate Program Director (currently Nick Smith: by the first of the month in which you would like it to be reviewed.
  2. You will receive comments and suggested edits within 7-10 days.
  3. Within one week of receiving feedback from Nick Smith, make revisions as you see fit and upload a pdf of your edited proposal, listing your full committee and signed by you and your Chair, to the Catalyst dropbox.
  4. Your proposal will then be made available for faculty review for a 10-14 day period. (If your edits and submission are delayed more than a week, your proposal might be moved to the next month’s review period.)
  5. Following the review period, feedback, if any, will be provided to you and your committee chair.
  6. Please note: Once your committee and the Graduate Program Director have approved your short proposal and you have uploaded a signed version to this dropbox, then you may consider this requirement to be fulfilled (your proposal is considered to be “approved” by the Epi department at this time.) The faculty review process is simply an opportunity for faculty to see which projects our students are working on and possibly provide helpful comments. There is no need for students to slow activities on their dissertations during the faculty review process.