Dissertation Guidelines

Dissertation Credits
After completing coursework, and preferably while still in funding, the student enrolls in dissertation credits. Typically, students take 9 credits of dissertation credit each semester during their third or fourth years of funding. The minimum number of dissertation credits required by the Department is 12. Students are not required to be in residence to enroll in dissertation credits, but once out of funding they must pay the associated tuition and fees.

Dissertation Committee
After the comprehensive exams have been completed, the student should form a Dissertation Committee made up of three members of the graduate faculty. The faculty members serving on the Dissertation Committee may or may not include those who served on the Comprehensive Exam Committee. At least two members of the Dissertation Committee shall be from the Department of Communication (which includes the advisor). The third member must be an “outside” member from another department at the University or from the Five Colleges. (In some circumstances, based on internal review and approval from the Graduate School, a reader from outside the Five College consortium may be asked to serve on dissertation committees.) It shall be the responsibility of the Dissertation Committee to approve the dissertation research proposal (or prospectus), to supervise its execution, and to execute its formal evaluation (or oral examination). Once the committee has been formed the student should submit the names to the Graduate Program Director, who recommends the committee for approval to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Dissertation Prospectus
After the comprehensive exams have been completed, and with the guidance of the Dissertation Committee, the student begins writing the dissertation prospectus. The prospectus may vary in length, 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, a working bibliography, and a tentative schedule for the dissertation work. 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.

The Dissertation Prospectus signature page is signed by each member of the Dissertation Committee and the Chair to indicate approval of the topic and its plan of execution. The student has the responsibility to see that the signed prospectus is delivered to the Dean of the Graduate School to be placed in the student’s file. Important note: Per Departmental rules, the signed prospectus must be received by the Graduate School at least seven months prior to the final oral examination of the dissertation.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination
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 their Dissertation Committee, the Chair of the Dissertation Committee must inform the Graduate School via the Graduate Secretary of the date of the oral examination, the time, the building in which it will take place and the room number (or if it will be held online through synchronous video). The memorandum must reach the Graduate School one month in advance of the oral examination. This final examination will be announced in the online University publication Inside UMass.

This 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.
Submitting the Dissertation
The dissertation submission must be prepared according to the specifications in “Guidelines for Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations” which are available online at the Graduate School’s website. Students are required to submit the dissertation electronically. The students should check with the Graduate School for the most current submission guidelines.

Graduate School Requirements
The Graduate School requirements for the Ph.D. degree are outlined 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.