Dissertation Research

The first step in the dissertation research is the writing of a proposal. Students take a proposal-writing course in the fall semester of their third year, which will prepare them to work on research funding proposals (IRB approvals required).

In the course of the comprehensive exam, students should present their dissertation research proposals and obtain approval for the work from the committee. The chairperson of the student’s comprehensive exam committee is usually the major adviser to the student thereafter, and typically serves as the chair of the student’s dissertation committee.

During the period of their fieldwork, graduate students usually apply for non-resident status. They are responsible for conforming to the university’s non-residency requirements. This status cannot be assumed, and must be requested each year. Details may be obtained from the departmental office.

Because the department does not have separate funds for supporting fieldwork, students are encouraged to apply for fieldwork grants to funding organizations such as the Wenner-Gren Foundation, SSRC, and NSF. There are a number of national fellowships to support the final year of writing of the PhD dissertation. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for these fellowships. Please refer to the Funding page.

During the writing-up phase, the department encourages a writing workshop in which drafts of chapters may be presented. Graduate students are responsible for running this, but may invite any member of the faculty to attend. Every student is required to present one seminar based on his or her thesis before the dissertation defense is scheduled.

Defense of Completed Dissertation

This takes the form of a Graduate Board Examination, required by the university for the PhD. This oral exam covers the contents of the dissertation; examiners consist of two faculty members within the department and three from related outside departments.

The committee chair is responsible for communicating to the academic program coordinator the possible examiners for this committee. Each student may opt to have the exam closed to all but the examiners or open to other department faculty and graduate students. The university sets aside special times each fall and spring for the defense of dissertations.

Students should distribute the dissertation draft six weeks before the specified time, and the final draft at least two weeks before the date of the exam.

The faculty requests that students anticipate these deadlines generously, so that advisers have adequate time to provide feedback on a completed final draft and to propose changes, if necessary, before copying for distribution.

Upon successful completion of the dissertation defense, the student should submit one final copy of the dissertation to the department, and one to the library binding office. The requirements for degree are not complete until the dissertation is turned into the library binding office.