The dissertation is meant to be a capstone experience for the doctoral program in which candidates plan, conduct, and defend original research that contributes significantly to the body of knowledge in their chosen field. Although completed with consultation from thesis adviser and doctoral committee members, the dissertation is intended to enable the candidate to demonstrate her or his abilities to complete sophisticated research independently and to describe and interpret that work in a book-length scholarly manuscript. The dissertation has three phases: prospectus, research, and oral defense.

Although candidates should be involved in research throughout their doctoral programs, formal doctoral committee approval of a dissertation prospectus must precede any serious pursuit of dissertation research. A dissertation prospectus should include: (a) a clear statement of the problem or question to be considered, (b) a detailed rationale for the study, (c) a thorough description of the theoretical and research context of the study within related literature, and (d) the proposed means by which data will be gathered and analyzed. A full doctoral committee meeting is the typical way in which candidates seek approval for their dissertation prospectus. Both the candidate’s and doctoral committee’s interests are served by this meeting, because approval of the prospectus establishes the conditions for the successful completion of the study and the doctoral program. The candidate and all members of the doctoral committee demonstrate their approval of the prospectus by signing the C I Dissertation Prospectus Form (see Appendix D) and filing it with the C I Graduate Office.

All candidates who will engage in research involving human subjects must obtain approval for their procedures from the Institutional Review Board through the Office of Research Protections prior to starting their study. Information about approval of a study by the Office of Research Protections can be found at the Office of Research Protections website.

The research phase of the dissertation is directed by the guidelines of the prospectus, the thesis adviser monitoring, and the judgment of the candidate. The candidate prepares the written document and should consider the Graduate School's Thesis Guide for format and other requirements. This dissertation draft likely will be revised after the Final Oral Examination. 

Upon completion of the dissertation draft to the satisfaction of the thesis adviser, the candidate begins a series of steps toward the Final Oral Examination:

  1. Confirms a time and date for the Final Oral Examination with members of the doctoral committee. This date must be at least 90 days after the recorded date of the comprehensive examination and allow committee members at least two weeks to read and evaluate the dissertation draft.

  2. Informs the C I Graduate Office of this agreed-upon time and date for the Final Oral Examination and confirms the membership and structure of the doctoral committee at least three weeks prior to the Final Oral Examination date. The C I Graduate Office forwards these plans to the Graduate School, which officially recognizes the members of the doctoral committee, calls the meeting, and prepares the evaluation documents required for the examination. The Graduate School requires at least three weeks prior notice in order to sanction a candidate’s Final Oral Examination.

  3. Submits a copy of the dissertation and Doctoral Approval page to the Graduate School for format review.

  4. Distributes the dissertation draft to all members of the committee.

During the Final Oral Examination, the candidate presents a brief overview of his or her study and addresses questions from doctoral committee members. The Final Oral Examination typically is two hours in length and follows procedures agreed upon by committee members prior to the meeting. The candidate’s presentation is public, and the remainder of the examination is public or private as agreed upon by the committee members and candidate. Committee members may ask questions about any part of the research and/or the  dissertation draft or any other topics bearing on the candidate’s qualifications to receive a doctoral degree.

Immediately after the examination, doctoral committee members evaluate the candidate’s oral and written performances. This is a two-step process. First, if at least two thirds of the committee members agree that the candidate has performed acceptably, then they sign the Graduate School Final Oral Examination Form and the adviser files it in the C I Graduate Office. If less than two thirds of the committee find the oral and written performance acceptable, the form is marked accordingly and filed. In the case of failure, the doctoral committee sets conditions for the candidate to meet before a second Final Oral Examination can be scheduled. Under either circumstance, the committee member from outside the C I Department must evaluate the dissertation separately and file the appropriate form to the Graduate School.

Second, members of the doctoral committee judge adequacy of the written dissertation as a separate decision. Often the committee will make suggestions concerning how the final form of the dissertation might be improved, and they will require revisions to the dissertation even having given a passing evaluation for the examination. The thesis adviser must inform the candidate about the scope and depth of the committee’s recommendations for change within a week of the Final Oral Examination. After the candidate has revised the dissertation to accommodate the committee’s suggestions, each member of the doctoral committee signs the Doctoral Approval page to demonstrate their final acceptance of the dissertation.

With those signatures, the candidate obtains the signature of the C I Director of Graduate Studies and the C I Graduate Office submits the signature page to the Graduate School. The candidate then submits the completed final dissertation to the Graduate School Thesis Office according to the guidelines in the Thesis/Dissertation Guide. Doctoral dissertations are submitted electronically; the Graduate School’s Thesis Guide describes the format and other requirements for the finished manuscript.

Ph.D. Manual
Expectations of the Curriculum & Instruction Doctoral Program
Roles of an Adviser ○ Admission to Candidacy ○ The Doctoral CommitteePlan of StudyComprehensive ExaminationDissertationProcedures Concerning Graduation