Doctor of Philosophy


The dissertation is the last of step of the doctoral program and launches your career of scholarship and inquiry. While the bulk of the work on the dissertation is completed during candidacy, it is important to begin thinking of research issues and questions that might shape your dissertation early in your program of study. This way you can focus course work, independent study and professional reading in those areas throughout your program.

Concept Paper

Shortly after the qualifying examinations, you should present a concept paper to your committee. This paper, 2-5 pages in length, presents an overview of the research problem you choose, its context and a way to study it. After the doctoral committee approves, you will submit a full proposal to the committee members.

Dissertation Proposal

The purpose of your proposal is to identify the research problem and questions, to survey and evaluate literature relevant to the theory and research surrounding your topic, and to describe, in detail, a plan for conducting your study. Once approved by your committee in a public meeting, also called a "defense,” this proposal becomes a contract between the candidate and the committee. Thus, it must be carefully developed and adequately detailed.

Writing the Dissertation

After the proposal is approved, you will work closely with your major professor to assure that the study is completed as planned and approved by the committee. You must be continuously enrolled in dissertation credit hours during the time you are working on the dissertation.

Final Oral Examination

The final "defense" of the dissertation is held in an open forum. At this time, the committee questions the candidate about theoretical foundations, other researches, and the methods and findings related to the dissertation. Following the committee's questioning, other faculty who are present may ask questions as well.