stands as the final requirement for the Ph.D. degree. It represents an original and substantive contribution to its field and grows out of sustained thought, research, consultation, and writing, typically taking 18-24 months to complete.
SELECTING A DISSERTATION TOPIC
Students are encouraged to begin thinking about their dissertations as early as possible.
- Use Early Coursework: Students may plan coursework and paper topics to explore possible dissertation topics
- Solicit Advice: Students may consult with faculty members, who are willing to brainstorm with students about how to frame a dissertation topic as a research question so that it results in a thesis contributing to on-going scholarly conversations.
- Complete ENGL 8830
- Complete DQE
WRITING THE DISSERTATION
When writing the dissertation, students follow the steps below so as to finish their dissertations in a timely fashion and in accordance with the Graduate School's Dissertation Directives.
- Select Director: Students select directors who are knowledgeable in students' chosen fields and who are people with whom students can have a comfortable and productive working relationship. Directors read early drafts of dissertation chapters, determine when chapters are ready to be given to other committee members, and conduct 2-hour oral dissertation defenses, including overseeing completion of required paperwork.
- Select Committee Members: Students, in consultation with directors, set up dissertation committees consisting of the director and two faculty readers. Readers provide feedback on later drafts of dissertation chapters, consult with directors on a dissertation's readiness for defense, and participate in a 2-hour oral dissertation defense.
- Submit Dissertation Outline: The dissertation outline should be written in English 8830 and approved in the DQE. The dissertation outline, which frequently undergoes revision in response to suggestions from the DQE and dissertation committees, should be submitted to the Graduate School no later than a couple months after the DQE has been passed. Although dissertations often diverge from particulars in the dissertation outline, the outline enables students to begin with clear arguments and methods that can serve as a reference for all subsequent efforts on the dissertation.
- Consult regularly with Director: Successful and timely completion of the dissertation within 18-24 months depends on students' sustained work, including remaining in close consultation with directors. At least one formal communication per month is recommended, and more frequent meetings, phone calls, and email exchanges are helpful. In these communications, directors and students discuss students' reading, writing, and general progress. Directors may suggest or require certain avenues of inquiry, set deadlines, and read initial drafts of dissertation chapters. These initial drafts represent students' best current efforts; as such, they are crafted pieces of writing with complete citations, not hastily-composed or casual rough drafts. Directors read the initial drafts in a timely fashion and return them to students with suggestions for revision.
- Consult Committee Members: Directors may seek advice from two readers about initial drafts or wait until initial drafts have been revised. Although readers typically communicate formal responses to students through directors, students should feel free to call on the expertise of the readers at any time.
- Schedule the Dissertation Defense: Once directors and committee members approve dissertations, public defenses may be scheduled. Advisers should submit the English Department Dissertation Checklist to the English Director of Graduate Studies. At least four weeks before the defense, students prepare a Dissertation Defense Program for the Graduate School, together with a Graduate School Dissertation Checklist and an Announcement for Public Defense of the Dissertation. Members of the dissertation committee must sign the Announcement, indicating that they have approved a final version of the dissertation and agree on the defense date.
DEFENDING THE DISSERTATION
Students defend their dissertations in a two-hour oral exam.
- Prepare for the Dissertation Defense: Students plan to undertake their defenses no later than a month prior to graduation. Students are responsible for presenting each member of the committee with a clean copy of the final version in ample time to insure its reading before the scheduled date of the defense.
- Pass the Dissertation Defense: Students defend their dissertations by answering questions posed by committee members about the dissertations' claims, methods, and potential for publication. At the conclusion of defenses, committee members vote on whether to accept the dissertations. To pass, a dissertation must receive a vote of 3-0 or 2-1. Committees may pass a dissertation as is or require minor revisions before students submit final drafts to the Graduate School. The committee will fill out a Dissertation Assessment Sheet, to be handed in to the departmental director of graduate studies, and a Graduate School Dissertation Checklist for submitting the final draft, available from the Graduate School. Directors fill out the Dissertation Approval Form.
IV. FACULTY AND STUDENT RESPONSIBILITIES
- Although faculty directors and readers offer advice and encouragement, students ultimately write their own dissertations. Consequently, the primary responsibility for completing the dissertation rests with students; as such, the dissertation process trains students in the research habits needed for successful academic careers.
- Even though students have six years beyond the M.A. to complete their coursework, DQE, and dissertations, the department does all it can to insure that students complete their work even faster.
- The goal of directors and readers has always been to facilitate students' work in ways that produce the best possible dissertations. Our department's record of degree completion and its academic placement attest to the success of faculty and students in achieving this goal.
V. COMPLETE LIST of GRADUATE SCHOOL FORMS