After successful completion of the oral and written comprehensive exams, the Ph.D. candidate is ready to begin work on a doctoral dissertation. The first step is to form a committee composed of at least three readers including the dissertation advisor. (Five committee members are appointed for the final oral defense examination committee. The final exam committee is composed of the three dissertation members and two other graduate faculty, at least one of these must be from outside the department. Except for the Ph.D. advisor, these committee members may be different from those on the comprehensive exam committee.)
In consultation with the Ph.D. advisor, the student selects a dissertation topic and prepares a proposal to the graduate faculty of the Department for approval. In exceptional cases, the faculty will consider dissertation proposals prior to the comprehensive examination, especially when such action will allow a student to apply for outside grants in a timely fashion. The dissertation proposal should be distributed to the faculty at least two weeks prior to the faculty meeting where approval will be requested. (A four-page maximum length is suggested for this outline.)
Chapters should be approved by the dissertation advisor before they are given to the other members, and at least one other reader should be involved early in the editing process. A copy of the complete dissertation, as approved by the advisor, should be sent to the other members of the committee at least six weeks before a defense is scheduled. The five committee members must agree that the dissertation is satisfactory before the defense can be scheduled.
The final oral defense examination of the dissertation is the culmination of the Ph.D. program. Approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee will generally be followed promptly by the final oral examination. After the successful completion of the examination, two unsigned, unbound copies of the dissertation will be submitted to the Graduate School, with assurance that all degree requirements have been met.
The oral defense generally begins with a brief talk, with slides by the candidate, which is open to the public, after which there shall be an oral examination (generally two hours or less). The final oral examination committee will assign a grade of "honors," "satisfactory," or "unsatisfactory" for the candidate's performance and dissertation. If a grade of "unsatisfactory" is reported, the candidate may be allowed to repeat the examination upon the recommendation of the department.
The dissertation must be approved by the Graduate School as well as by the department. Instructions regarding the proper form of the dissertation may be obtained from the Graduate School. Any substantial deviation from the norm must be approved in advance by the Graduate School to avoid last minute disappointments over unacceptable variations. It is strongly recommended that the student review the entire dissertation with the Graduate School for preliminary approval before final photocopying.
Photographs are encouraged (but not required in all cases) for the dissertation. If color photographs are used, both copies turned in to the Graduate School must contain originals. If black and white photographs are used, the Graduate School copy must contain original photographs and the second copy may contain photocopies of those photographs. With the dissertation director's approval, photocopies or scanned/digital images rather than original photographs may be used in some cases, but this should be cleared with the Graduate School in advance. Illustrations must always be clear enough that all readers can use them to judge the text.
All texts translated from a foreign language must be accompanied by the original language source. These may be placed in the text, in footnotes, or in an appendix. In the case of Asian languages, photocopies of the original texts may be used.