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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991
Notes from Professional Skills Committee Meeting on the Prospectus and 3-Area Exam
February 4, 2008

Speakers: Brian Bremen, Ann Cvetkovich, John Rumrich, Dale Smith, Tim Turner

Three-Area Hours:
--Consider beginning to take 3-Area hours in the second semester of your 3rd year
--Work with 2 faculty members during your 3-Area hours if you can, to get different perspectives and practice negotiating within a committee
--Begin your 3-Area hours by looking over the work you’ve already done—your MA thesis, seminar papers, conference papers, etc.—to determine what might form part of your dissertation project.
--Organize your 3-Area hours into small “chunks” of goals you can accomplish throughout the semester—a certain number of annotated bibliography entries or response papers every couple of weeks, for example.
--Set reachable goals for your 3-Area hours, but work steadily toward actually writing the prospectus during your 4th year.
--In the future, the English Department may adopt the field exam model as a precursor to the prospectus defense. You may want to begin your preparation for the prospectus in the same way you might prepare for a field exam, by getting your committee members to recommend 15-20 works they each think are essential in your field.


The Prospectus:
--The prospectus should accomplish 3 goals:
•    Identify and outline a realistic, significant project
•    Describe how the project will participate in the critical conversation in your field
•    Demonstrate one aspect of how you will do the project (perform a sample close reading, apply your methodology to one text, etc.)
-- Think about your prospectus as a rough draft of the intro of your dissertation and as a source for materials you can use to apply for the Continuing Fellowship and other fellowships.
-- For models, prospectus writers should look at others’ dissertations and at first books—pick a project that is realistic for a person early in her or his career to do
--One idea for the structure of the prospectus:
•    Statement of the problem
•    Description of the project’s relevance to the field
•    Outline of the theory/method the project will employ
•    Chapter summaries
-- Chapter summaries will be part of the prospectus, but are the least important part as chapter content is likely to change
--Remember your professional motives—think about how your prospectus can be used as part of your job materials and how your dissertation project will place you in the job market.

Three-Area Exam:
-- In addition to having your prospective supervisor(s) on the exam committee, look for another knowledgeable faculty member who brings a really different perspective to your project and who can catch issues you or your supervisor(s) may not immediately see.
--Try to take the exam at the beginning or end of the semester, to keep up your momentum.
--The 3-Area exam, rather than just giving you a chance to answer questions, also allows you to get a better sense of what your questions are as you move to the dissertation process
--Look at the exam as an opportunity to consolidate your dissertation inquiry—plan to leave with a narrower project than you outlined in your prospectus
--Use the 3-Area exam as a tool rather than seeing it as a hoop to jump through
--Remember that the 3-Area exam is one of the few times in your career when your advisors’ attention is focused completely on your work
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