Proposal Presentation Guidelines

The doctoral dissertation proposal is a formal presentation of the research the student plans to undertake as the basis for the Ph.D. dissertation. The dissertation proposal must be prepared in written form under the guidance of the student’s prospective dissertation advisor, and presented for approval by the student’s perspective dissertation committee. A dissertation proposal will be considered to have been approved when signed by all committee members after the proposal defense and submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for inclusion in the student’s file. The student’s research should not be complete at this time, and the proposal should not be treated as preparation for a final PhD defense. 

Proposal Format

  • Proposals need to be submitted at least a week before the proposal presentation to the committee members
  • Proposal format should follow the dissertation format of the Graduate School and it is preferable to have the material presented in single space with 12 point font
  • It is left open to the committee members to accept an electronic copy of the proposal
  • The proposal presentation should not be public, but the committee can extend invitations to outside parties of their choosing.
  • The proposal presentation should last between 20 and 30 minutes and the total time of the proposal presentation meeting should be between 1 and 1.5 hours.
  • The recommended format for the presentation is as follows:
    • Motivation
    • Literature survey
    • Problem statement
    • Proposed research
    • Roadmap and timeline for completion of dissertation
    • How to make your work more broadly useful: plans for publishing, data sharing, and software sharing

In addition to the University requirements for composition of a dissertation committee, the Department of Mechanical Engineering requires that all dissertation committees for mechanical engineering doctoral students contain five regular (tenure or tenure-track) faculty members. Research faculty and outside scientists are permitted to sit on dissertation committees only in addition to the five regular faculty members.

Students are required to present their proposal within one year of passing the qualifying exam. Below are the procedures for preparing a proposal presentation.

1. Students must formalize their committee via the Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Form. Keep the following information in mind when forming your committee:

  • The Committee must consist of a minimum of five members, at least three of whom must be Full Members of the University of Maryland College Park Graduate Faculty who are on tenured or tenure-track appointments. Each Dissertation Examining Committee will have a chair, who must be a Full Member of Graduate Faculty, or, by special permission, has been appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School
  • Each Dissertation Examining Committee must also have appointed to it a representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dean’s Representative should have some background or interest related to the student’s research; be from a department other than the students’; must have a tenure home that is different from the Chair of the Committee; and must be a tenured Member of the Graduate Faculty. Each member of the Committee must be a member of the Graduate Faculty of UMCP. Upon nomination by the Director of Graduate Studies and approval by the Dean of the Graduate School, individuals serve in addition to the three required Regular Members.
  • To nominate a Special or Associate Member to serve, submit the nominee’s curriculum vitae to the Graduate Office. Graduate Faculty who terminate employment at UMCP (and who do not have emeritus status) retain their status as members of the Graduate Faculty for twelve months, and during that time may serve as members and chairs of Dissertation Examining Committees, but not as the Dean’s Representative. If granted Special Member Status, however, they may serve as co-chairs. Professors Emeriti and Emeritae may serve on the Dissertation Examining Committees if they have retained their membership in the Graduate Faculty.

NOTE: It is highly recommended that you bring a printed copy of the cover sheet of your proposal to the presentation so that your committee members can sign off on your presentation in person instead of having to collect all the signature digitally later on.

2. Once you have successfully presented your proposal and are ready to advance to candidacy , you will need to provide the graduate office with the following:

  • A pdf copy of your Proposal Paper sent to
  • A copy of your approved Plan of Study sent to A Plan of Study should have been completed before your 1st semester, If not, please complete it immediately.
  • A copy of the signature page of your dissertation proposal that includes the signatures of all your committee members.
  • A completed Application for Admission to Candidacy Form (with your advisor’s signature) sent to We will obtain the Director of Graduate Studies signature for you and then submit the form on your behalf.

5. Once the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form is approved, you will be registered for 6 credits of 899 in your advisor’s designated section by Office of the Registrar each semester until you graduate. You cannot register for 899 credits yourself.

6. If you are eligible for a M.S. without thesis (M.S. on the way), you will need to apply for an M.S. degree clearance. Keep in mind that you CANNOT receive two degrees in the same semester, so you need will need to reapply for your PhD degree clearance for a later semester. Additionally, you will need complete the M.S. approved program form and have your advisor sign it; we will obtain the Director of Graduate Studies signature for you and then submit the form on your behalf.