After successful completion of the A.C.E. examinations, a dissertation research prospectus is to be submitted for provisional approval by each of the three faculty members working with the student. This prospectus is longer and more detailed than the proposals submitted to granting agencies to obtain research funds. The student will discuss the proposed research before a committee of at least three faculty members. The committee will assess the feasibility and merit of the proposed research and make suggestions for improvement where necessary.
The dissertation prospectus must be completed and accepted in advance of dissertation research. In the event that a student undertakes research other than that for which candidacy is granted, she or he must rewrite and resubmit a new dissertation proposal and it must be approved by the student's committee. Failure to do so can be grounds for denial of the Ph.D. degree by the Provost of the University.
The form, length and style of the dissertation prospectus is worked out between the student and his or her committee members. A final draft must be submitted to the committee members at least a week in advance of the meeting in which it will be discussed.
See: Forms: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/gsas/pdf-files/master_phil_app.pdf