The University of Texas at Arlington

PhD Proposal Defense

Your advisory committee is selected by the chairman of the Committee on Graduate Studies. You may suggest up to two faculty members as potential members of your committee. While your research advisor is always a member of the committee, he/she does not actively participate in this exam and cannot be the chairman of the committee.

The purpose of the Comprehensive Exam is to provide evidence that you have the potential to pursue and successfully complete the degree program by writing and orally defending a research proposal that will become the basis for your PhD dissertation. This requirement must be attempted before the end of the fourth long semester after admission to the graduate program. The Fall and Spring terms are considered long semesters. The procedure to accomplish this is as follows:

  1. One month before you present your proposal you must fill out and have each member of your committee sign the "Request for the Comprehensive Examination" form (available from the office).
  2. You must write a five-page proposal directly related to your area of research. This proposal has strict length and format limitations. It should be typed on 8½ x 11 paper. All text must be in 12-point font, double-spaced throughout with one-inch margins. Tables, figures and references must be appended after the text and may not exceed an additional five pages. The total length of the proposal cannot exceed 10 pages. However, it is worth noting that the best proposals are not necessarily the longest: many excellent proposals in the past have been only 6-7 pages long. Preliminary research results should be included, if available. The proposal should demonstrate technical competence in the field chosen commensurate with your educational level. The current "ACS Style Guide" published by the American Chemical Society should serve as a style guide for the written proposal.
    Your proposal should address the following areas:
    Background What previous research has been done related to your proposal?
    Motivation Why is the area important? What new information will your work yield?
    Research plan How will you carry out your proposed research? A fair amount of detail is required here, including what you will do if your "best idea" does not work and how you will analyze your results.
    Appendix (if appropriate). Experimental details in a style appropriate for publication.
  3. You must distribute your proposal to your committee two weeks before you defend.
  4. You must take your exam before the end of classes of the semester you are defending.
  5. If you choose to have an electronic presentation (e.g. PowerPoint) you must have back-up transparencies on hand to use in the question-answer session.

At the oral exam, you will be evaluated in four basic areas: (a) technical content of the written proposal; (b) quality of the written proposal (grammar, style, etc.); (c) oral presentation, including ability to answer questions related to the proposed research; and (d) a special emphasis will be placed on your general technical knowledge of chemistry. The oral examination will be public, except for a final question-and-answer session that will involve only the student and the committee. The results of the exam are reported to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies via the Comprehensive Examination Report (form H, Appendix, Graduate Student Handbook). File this form no matter what the outcome of the proposal defense.

If you do not pass this exam, you will be allowed one and only one opportunity to retake it. This second exam must be within three months of the first one except under special circumstances as defined by your committee; however, your committee may require you to take it earlier.

A general note on proposal defenses—you are strongly encouraged to defend as early as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find a time acceptable to the committee. Failure to take the Comprehensive Exam in the designated semester results in an automatic failure. A second failure results in dismissal from the program.

Related Information

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The University of Texas at Arlington · Arlington, Texas 76019-0065 USA

Phone: 817-272-3171 | Fax: 817-272-3808

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