Completing the Degree

Program of Study

Before admission to candidacy, the student’s proposed program of study is under the direction of the Graduate Program Committee in the major program area through an appropriate program advisor, if designated, and the Graduate Advisor of Record. Upon admission to candidacy and the formation of the student’s dissertation committee, the program of study comes under the purview of the Dissertation Committee, which reviews the proposed program of study and recommends to the Graduate Program Committee any additional course requirements. The final program of study, as approved by the Graduate Program Committee, is then recommended to the academic College and the Graduate School for approval. Approval of the final program of study by the Graduate School is a degree requirement. All completed coursework included in the final program of study must have been taken within the preceding eight years. No course for which a grade of less than “C” was earned can be applied to the doctoral degree.

Qualifying Examination

All students seeking a doctoral degree must pass a qualifying examination. This examination consists of questions to test the candidate’s knowledge and command of the major field. An examination covering support work is not a University-wide requirement, but it may be required at the discretion of the Graduate Program Committee or the Dissertation Committee.

Registration during Examination Semester(s)

Students must be registered during any semester or term in which they are taking required examinations.

Dissertation Committee

Upon admission to candidacy and in consultation with the Graduate Advisor of Record, the student selects their supervising professor with that professor’s consent. Upon recommendation of the Graduate Program Committee and the academic College, the Graduate School appoints the Dissertation Committee. The committee must consist of at least four members, including the supervising professor, who consults with other members of the committee as work proceeds. A majority of the dissertation committee must consist of graduate faculty or adjoint faculty in the student's program. For interdisciplinary committees, the chair of the committee may be a graduate faculty member from another department and/or the committee may consist of graduate faculty members from outside the student’s program (including graduate faculty from master’s-only programs), upon approval of the Associate Dean of the College and Dean of the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Committee advises the student on the research and writing of the dissertation, conducts the final oral examination, and approves the dissertation. The chair of the Dissertation Committee ordinarily serves as the supervisor of research. Other members of the committee should be consulted as appropriate. Occasionally, a research professor or researcher who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty may be recommended by the Graduate Program Committee to serve as the supervisor for a specific dissertation because his or her expertise would be valuable to the student. When the research supervisor is not a member of the Graduate Faculty in the student’s area of study, a member of the Graduate Program Committee will be appointed as co-chair of the Dissertation Committee. The chair of the Dissertation Committee must be a member of the Graduate Faculty for that graduate program. Changes to the Dissertation Committee require documentation to be signed by the Department Chair, the Associate Dean of the College, and the Dean of the Graduate School and must be received by the Graduate School.

In addition to recommending the student’s final program of study to the Graduate Program Committee and supervising the research and writing of the dissertation, the Dissertation Committee certifies to the academic College and the Graduate School that all degree requirements have been fulfilled.

Time Limit for Completing Doctoral Degree

Doctoral students have a time to degree completion of eight years comprised of six years from admission to candidacy and two years for dissertation. If the student takes an approved leave of absence, the time limit for reaching candidacy or completing the degree will be extended by the number of terms the student is on approved leave of absence. All completed work that is included in a doctoral student’s degree program must have been taken within the previous eight years (exclusive of a maximum of three years of military service). The Graduate Program Committee will review the progress of students who have not completed the degree at the end of two years from admission to candidacy; the committee will review the status of the student’s program yearly thereafter. At those times, the committee may recommend additional coursework, further examinations, or termination of candidacy. In addition, the program is subject to review by the Dean of the Graduate School.

Doctoral Dissertation

A dissertation is required of every candidate and must be an original contribution to scholarship, based on independent investigation in the major area. It must be approved by the Dissertation Committee. Registration for the dissertation must be for a period of more than one semester. During each semester or term that a student receives advice and/or assistance from a faculty member or supervision by the Dissertation Committee or uses University resources, they are required to enroll in the appropriate dissertation course.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

A satisfactory final oral examination is required for the approval of a dissertation. After the Dissertation Committee makes a decision, which must be unanimous, to accept a dissertation for examination, the supervising professor notifies the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance of the date of the final oral examination.

The examination covers the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation, and other parts of the student’s program as determined by the committee. All members of the Dissertation Committee must be satisfied that the student has:

  1. Completed the work assigned by the committee
  2. Passed all examinations required by the program’s Graduate Program Committee, including the final oral examination
  3. Completed a dissertation that is an independent investigation in the major field, and that itself constitutes a contribution to knowledge
  4. Submitted an abstract for publication in Dissertation Abstracts International that meets with the approval of the committee

Once this is complete, the Dissertation Committee members sign the approval sheets for the doctoral dissertation and make an official recommendation to the academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School that the doctoral degree be awarded. Approval must be unanimous.

A student must be enrolled for dissertation hours during the semester the student plans to defend the dissertation.

Submission and Publication of Dissertation

When the student has successfully defended the dissertation, he or she is required to make arrangements for its publication with the Graduate School. Students are required to adhere to the detailed requirements of dissertation formatting guidelines and deadlines for submission of the dissertation. For information on formatting and deadlines, visit the Graduate School website. Dissertations received after the posted deadline will not be accepted. Students must electronically submit their complete dissertation to ProQuest/UMI for both publishing and purchasing bound copies.

The format of the dissertation must follow University regulations or it will not be accepted. The final submission must adhere to the most current dissertation formatting guidelines at time of submission. Formatting requirements are posted on the Graduate School website. With written recommendation from the dissertation supervisor, the student may request that the Graduate School embargo the dissertation for one or more years in order to protect the patent or other rights. 

Registration of copyright at the author’s expense may be arranged, if desired and appropriate, through ProQuest/UMI when uploading the final submission. 

Acceptance of the dissertation requires final approval from the Dean of the Graduate School.

Approval of the Degree

Upon approval by the Dissertation Committee of the dissertation and its defense, the Graduate Program Committee certifies to the academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School that the student has completed all degree requirements, has passed all required examinations, and is entitled to the award of the doctoral degree.