Dissertation & Thesis Proposals

We believe that we should not require students to do things that do not have direct training benefits and that any training benefits inherently trade-off against the time, effort, and stress associated with an activity. Therefore, we use a proposal approach with direct training for real-life activities/interactions that is intended to minimize stress and wasted effort.

The standard dissertation proposal in the lab is to write a 5 page grant proposal in the style of an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship. Good examples of this type of proposal can be found on https://ogrants.org. The goal of this short format proposal is to give you the opportunity to gain experience with grant writing skills, which typically involve clearly communicating nascent research ideas and feasibility in a clearly proscribed professional format that you may see in the future.

We also recognize that given the diverse career interests of folks in the labs that in some cases there may be different approaches to the proposal aspect of the PhD that are optimal given your interests. If you would like to discuss an alternative approach please let your advisor know.


Some time during years 2-4 of the PhD program, typically during year 3. This is far enough into your program for you to have thought thoroughly about your research and make a plan to base the proposal on.

Steps for the Proposal

  1. At least 2 months before your qualifying exam discuss your plan for your proposal with your advisory.
  2. Draft your proposal.
  3. At least 1 month before your qualifying exam given your draft proposal to your advisor for feedback.
  4. At least 2 weeks before your qualifying exam send your proposal to your entire committee.

Proposals written by weecology students