Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 2 of 3)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:31 PM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 2 of 3)

~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD
   Author/Founder (IPSA)

Beforestarting the next phase of your doctoral journey, make sure you share your good news with your friends, family, and of course your PhD Sisters, celebrate passing the comprehensive exam, and reflect on your accomplishments thus far. Reflection is a useful skill that aids learners as they continue to move forward in their program. Depending on your school, your next steps may include writing a prospectus, completing a scientific merit review (SMR) form, an institutional review board (IRB) application, or a combination of all of the above. Most schools require completion and school approval of the prospectus or SMR prior to submitting the proposal, chapters one through three of the dissertation, for IRB.

Prospectus. A dissertation prospectus describes your area of research and provides an overview of the study. As always, you should follow your schools guidelines for specific items to cover in your prospectus but here are a few suggestions:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Literature review
  • Statement of primary sources
  • Methodology
  • Research plan
  • Chapter outline
  • Bibliography

 A prospectus can range from 7-10 pages or as vast as 25-30 pages not including the bibliography. The length will depend on the amount of information covered in the literature review and the methodology. While waiting on feedback on your prospectus you can gather articles that will assist with developing the literature review and recently published dissertations from your school with a similar topic.

Scientific Merit Review (SMR). The SMR form assists in making sure your proposal meets specific criteria and has merit for the IRB evaluation. The reviewers examine the following elements for demonstration of scientific merit, the research problem, purpose, significance, research questions, research design, approach, methodology, and rational for the design. As scientific merit centers on the proposal for the SMR process, you should factor in this element throughout the entire study. If you are a member of the Sisterhood (, review the qualitative and quantitative samples of the SMR form.

While waiting on SMR approval you can work on creating correspondence forms necessary for the study such as the consent form, opt in/opt out, permission slips, structured interview guide, flyer to recruit participants, email notification, consent form, participant checklist, or demographics form. You will also want to arrange the forms as appendices and save the appendices as PDF files into a folder labeled “IRB materials” for later inclusion with your IRB packet. Take a deep breath and Celebrate!



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