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3rd Year Project Guidelines

Note: These are guidelines for the depth section of the Advancement to Candidacy Requirement.


This requirement is met by satisfactorily completing a talk to the entire department on their thesis topic by the end of the third year or fourth year.  Students enroll in Cogs 205 during winter and spring quarters of the third year.  Alternatively, a student who chooses to complete their talk in their fourth year can enroll in COGS 205 in winter of their third year (with their cohort) and COGS 205 in spring of their fourth year (with the follow year's cohort).

Note that all students must have an advisor in the department. A co-advisor may be from another department, but the primary advisor must reside in the Cognitive Science Department and be aware and responsible for the student's progress. This responsibility rests with both the primary advisor and the student.  Students are also encouraged to assemble their dissertation committee in their third year.

The Presentation

The talk is open to the entire department. It should be no more than 30 minutes, with 10 minutes for discussion. Talks will be scheduled during finals week of spring quarter, usually on a Tuesday.

The Proposal

The proposal should identify an area of research, provide a critical review of the state of the field, with respect to that area, and develop one (or more) questions to be answered in the dissertation research. The significance of these questions should be well-motivated and the specific aims of the research should be clearly identified. The proposal should also describe the specific methods/analyses that will be used to answer these questions and how they will do so with as much detail as possible, though a detailed design is not a prerequisite for satisfactory performance at this stage (though it will be for the proposal at time of the qualifying exam.)

A final written proposal is submitted to the committee at least 2 weeks prior to an oral defense of the proposal.

It is possible to advance to candidacy by passing the proposal before the third-year or fourth-year talk to the department is completed. However, the student must still take 205, and give the year-end presentation.

Time Limits

  1. Students enroll in COGS 205 in Winter AND Spring quarters of the 3rd year.  Or, enroll in COGS 205 in Winter quarter of 3rd year AND Spring quarter of 4th year.
  2. A preliminary draft of the thesis proposal must be submitted to the student’s advisor by the end of the 3rd year or 4th year.
  3. The department talk must be given by the end of the 3rd year or 4th year. Presentations are typically scheduled during Finals week of the Spring quarter. The draft proposal must be turned in to the student’s advisor no later than noon Friday of the 10th week of Spring quarter.

The entire process must be completed by the end of Spring quarter. No exceptions.


  • Evaluations of the presentations will be incorporated into the annual spring evaluation.
  • Failure to complete the entire requirement is grounds for placing the student on probation.

Reminder: International students for whom the department is paying non-resident supplemental tuition are required to advance to candidacy prior to the beginning of the Fall quarter of their 4th year. They will thus also need to form their dissertation committee and complete the final draft of the proposal prior to this time.