Dissertation Guidelines


Doctoral Degree Timeline:


The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 66 credits beyond the Bachelor's degree. Many students complete credits in excess of this minimum. Computation of the required 66 credits begins with the completion of the Bachelor's degree (not the M.A.) and is exclusive of dissertation credits. No more than six credits of 500-level courses, and no more than six Ph.D. tutorial credits, may be counted toward the degree. Courses taken at other institutions (e.g., during an M.A. program) will be credited toward the minimum requirements of the Ph.D. on a course-by-course basis at the discretion of the GPD and the student's Plan of Study Committee (up to 30 credits).  See the Graduate Handbook for more detailed information.

1.  After the comprehensive exams have been completed (ideally before or during the fifth semester of the program) the student should form a Dissertation Committee made up of three members of the graduate faculty (two from the Department of Communication and one from outside the department) and begin writing the dissertation prospectus. The student should begin registering for dissertation credits as soon as coursework has been completed.

2.  During the fifth or six semester of the Ph.D. program the Dissertation prospectus draft should be submitted to the Dissertation Advisor for approval to send to the committee. Upon receipt and after reading, the committee should indicate the prospectus draft is ready for oral defense. The student should then schedule a date for oral defense of the prospectus.

3.  After the prospectus has been defended, in the Fall semester of the Ph.D program the student should begin writing the dissertation. Ideally, the dissertation is completed by the end of the fourth year. Most students complete their dissertations between their fourth and sixth years of enrollment in the Ph.D. program.  Note: at least eight months must elapse between the defense of the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation defense.


Dissertation Prospectus

After the comprehensive exams have been completed, the student should form a Dissertation Committee made up of three members of the graduate faculty, and with the guidance of the committee begin writing the dissertation prospectus. The prospectus may be anywhere from 40-150 pages depending on the methods, topic and approach to study. The prospectus usually includes research questions, the theoretical framework guiding the inquiry, a comprehensive review of literature of the area being studied, a statement of the significance of the project, a description of the research procedures to be used in the study, a tentative table of contents, and a working bibliography. It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Dissertation Committee to arrange an oral defense of the document with other members of the committee and the candidate for the purpose of discussing the research project before approving the dissertation prospectus. The Dissertation Committee will have direct charge of all matters pertaining to the dissertation.

For more details please see the Graduate Handbook.


Defending the Dissertation

All members of the Dissertation Committee must approve the dissertation as “ready for defense” before the final oral examination is scheduled. This examination shall be scheduled when all of the Dissertation Committee members agree that the dissertation is sufficiently complete to stand defense; passing the defense and/or recommending the degree are not implied simply by scheduling the examination.

When a date is agreed upon by the candidate and all members of the Dissertation Committee, the Chair of the Dissertation Committee must inform the Graduate School via the Graduate Administrative Assistant of the date of the oral examination, the time, the building in which it will take place, and the room number. The memorandum must reach the Graduate School one month in advance of the oral examination.

The final examination (the traditional "dissertation defense") should be at least partly oral. It may be completely oral, but written parts are not precluded, at the discretion of the Dissertation Committee.  The final defense will pertain primarily, but not necessarily be limited, to the candidate's dissertation. The examination will be conducted by the candidate's Dissertation Committee (all members of which must be present, including the "outside" member). Attendance at the final oral examination is open to all members of the candidate's major department and any member of the Graduate Faculty. To pass, the candidate must receive the unanimous vote of the Dissertation Committee; other faculty members present shall not vote. Two negative votes shall constitute failure of the examination. A single negative vote will result in the degree being held in abeyance pending review and action by the Graduate Studies Committee. The Committee may ask for revisions after the defense and, therefore, pass the student provisionally, pending appropriate corrections.

Following the final oral examination, the Chair of the Dissertation Committee submits a memorandum to the Graduate Program Director indicating the results of the examination. The Graduate Program Director then communicates the results to the Graduate School.


Filing the Dissertation: Graduate School Requirements

The Graduate School's Ph.D. degree requirements are outlined here and in the Graduate School Handbook. Upon completion of the degree requirements, the student must secure from the Graduate School a "Degree Application/Eligibility Form."  This form must be completed by the Ph.D. candidate and signed by both the Graduate Program Director and the Department Chair. The student must complete all other forms required by the Graduate School and pay fees as specified by the Graduate School.