Dissertation Guidelines

By the time of completion of the Comprehensive Exams, students should have formulated a dissertation topic and selected a dissertation Director, as well as two additional readers. The dissertation will need to be comparative.  Ordinarily, the student submits a Title, Scope and Procedure (TSP) form for approval; this form requires the signatures of the dissertation Director, two additional readers as well as the program Director.  The TSP form outlines the preliminary dissertation title, a brief abstract and methodology and will be submitted to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  The TSP must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School at least six months before the month in which the degree is expected to be conferred OR before beginning the fifth year of full-time enrollment in the Graduate School, whichever is earlier.

The student should work with the thesis Director to establish an effective and efficient calendar for submission of work, allowing time for revisions. Once the Director has approved a chapter, the student should submit it to the other two readers.  Students are expected to respect the suggestions for revision from all three of their readers for each chapter as they go along. This process ensures that the dissertation is sound from their different perspectives before the student submits the completed dissertation to the larger committee for the "defense."

The student is responsible for completing punctually all of the necessary forms for the Graduate School and for formatting the dissertation in accordance with its guidelines.  The dissertation Director is responsible for assisting the Graduate School in assembling the full five member committee for the defense and for arranging a defense date.  The committee must include at least four tenured or tenure-track Washington University faculty; one of these four may be Emeritus faculty.  The fifth member may be a faculty member from a different university.  Three of the five committee members must come from the student’s degree program; at least one of the five must not.  Please note that all committees must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School or Arts and Sciences.  The administrative assistant can help in securing a time and location for the defense.

Once the dissertation Director has approved the content and the style of the entire dissertation, the student should distribute hard copies of the full document to all members of the defense committee, including external readers, in preparation for the oral defense. Students should allow a minimum of three weeks for committee members to read the thesis.  While certain critiques and suggestions from the larger committee during the defense are to be expected, indeed encouraged, the dissertation Director, by signaling his/her approval for the student's submission of the dissertation to the defense committee, is indicating that he/she, along with the other two committee members, stands by the work and is prepared to support its content and form at the defense.

*The Graduate School provides a Dissertation and Thesis Template as well as a comprehensive Doctoral Dissertation Guide for all Ph.D. candidates.