The culmination of the Ph.D. program is the writing of the dissertation, which is required of all doctoral students. The dissertation must be an original contribution to knowledge and of high scholarly merit. The candidate’s research must reveal critical ability and powers of imagination and synthesis. The dissertation is written under the supervision of a research director and a research committee, as described below. Although work published by the student may be incorporated into the dissertation, a collection of unrelated published papers, alone, is not acceptable. There must be a logical connection between all components of the dissertation, and these must be integrated in a rational and coherent fashion. It is the responsibility of the student’s research committee to determine the kind and amount of published materials which may be included in a dissertation.
To initiate research for the dissertation, the student chooses a professor who will agree to direct the dissertation. The department shall then recommend to the dean for approval a research committee composed of the chosen director (who will also normally serve as chairperson of the committee), two or more additional faculty members from the major department, and a representative of each minor. The committee should be selected from the members of the graduate faculty who are best qualified to assist the student in conducting the research for the dissertation. In the event that the dissertation research does not involve the area(s) of the minor(s) whether outside or inside the department the major department may request, with the consent of the minor-field representative(s), the substitution of a representative or of representatives from some other field(s) more appropriate to the topic of the dissertation. The committee has the responsibility of supervising the research, reading the dissertation, and conducting the final examination.
All chairpersons of research committees and directors of research must be members of the graduate faculty with the endorsement to direct doctoral dissertations. If, however, special expertise in an area is held by a member of the graduate faculty who does not have the endorsement, the departmental chairperson may request that the dean approve such an individual as research committee chairperson or director of the dissertation research.
All members of a research committee must be members of the graduate faculty. At least half of the members of the committee must be members of the graduate faculty with the endorsement to direct doctoral dissertations; others may be regular members.
After consultation with and approval by the dissertation director and research committee, the student will submit to the University Graduate School a one- or two-page prospectus of the dissertation research. If the proposed research involves human subjects, animals, biohazards, or radiation, approval from the appropriate university committee must also be obtained. The membership of the research committee and the dissertation prospectus must be approved by the University Graduate School at least six months before the defense of the dissertation. Some programs may have deadlines which are earlier than those of the University Graduate School; therefore, students should consult with their program office.
Defense of the Dissertation
When the dissertation has been completed, the student should submit an unbound copy to each member of the research committee as the initial step in scheduling the defense of the dissertation. All members of the research committee should read the dissertation in its entirety before attending the defense. At this stage both the student and the faculty members must extend certain courtesies to each other. It is the responsibility of the student to give faculty members sufficient time to read the dissertation without making unreasonable requests of them based upon University Graduate School time limitations, immediate job possibilities, contract renewal, or some other reason. Similarly, a faculty member should not keep a student’s work for inordinate periods of time because of the press of other duties. Once a faculty member assumes membership on a research committee, it becomes another part of his or her teaching assignment, comparable to conducting regularly scheduled classes.
After the committee members have read the dissertation, there should be direct communication (either in writing or orally) between the research committee chairperson and the other committee members about its readiness for defense. Readiness for defense, however, is not tantamount to acceptance of the dissertation; it means that the committee is ready to make a decision. The decision to hold a doctoral defense, moreover, is not entirely up to the research committee. If a student insists upon the right to a defense before the committee believes the dissertation is ready, that student does have the right to due process (i.e., to an oral defense) but exercises it at some risk.
If the decision to proceed with the defense of the dissertation is made against the judgment of one or more members of the committee, or if one or more members of the committee disapprove of parts of or all of the dissertation, the committee member(s) should not resign from the committee in order to avoid frustration or collegial confrontation. The University Graduate School urges that such committee members, after ample communication with both the student and the chairperson, remain on the committee and thus prevent the nomination of a committee that might eventually accept what could be unsatisfactory work. Such a committee member could agree that a dissertation is ready for defense but should not be passed (or should not be passed without substantial modification). There will, of course, be situations in which the membership of research committees should or must be changed (e.g., turnover of faculty), but changes because of modifications in the dissertation topic or some equally plausible reason should be made early in the writing of the dissertation.
Thirty days prior to the scheduled defense of the dissertation, the candidate must submit to the University Graduate School a one-page announcement of the final examination. (Some programs may have requirements which are earlier than those of the University Graduate School; therefore, students should consult with their program office.) This announcement must follow a format available in the University Graduate School’s Preparing Theses and Dissertations. The announcement contains, among other things, a summary of the dissertation (not less than 150 words) which is informative and contains a brief statement of the principal results and conclusions. The announcement must bear the signature of the research committee chairperson. If the candidate has published any scholarly articles relevant to the topic of the dissertation, bibliographical references should be included in the summary. A copy of such announcements will be sent to any member of the graduate faculty upon request.
Once the final examination has been scheduled, the announced time and place of the defense must not be changed without the approval of the dean. Any member of the graduate faculty who wishes to attend the final examination is encouraged to do so; it is requested, however, that the faculty member notify the chairperson of the research committee in advance so that space can be arranged. With the approval of the research committee and the consent of the candidate, other graduate students may attend the defense of the dissertation; normally such students will act as observers, not as participants.
At the end of the oral examination, the research committee must vote on the outcome of the examination. Four options are available to the committee: (1) pass, (2) conditional pass, (3) deferred decision, and (4) failure. If the decision to pass is unanimous, the dissertation is approved once it is received by the University Graduate School along with an acceptance page signed by the members of the research committee. If the decision is not unanimous, majority and minority reports should be submitted to the dean who, within 10 working days, will investigate and consult with the research committee. Upon completion of the dean’s investigation and consultation, another meeting of the research committee will be held, and if a majority votes to pass, the dissertation is approved when it is received by the University Graduate School with an acceptance page signed by a majority of the members of the research committee.
The student must have received acceptance of his or her dissertation and must submit a copy to the University Graduate School within seven years after passing the qualifying examination. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the termination of candidacy and of the student’s enrollment in the degree program. Any student whose candidacy lapses will be required to apply to the University Graduate School for reinstatement before further work toward the degree may be done formally. To be reinstated to candidacy in the University Graduate School, the student must: (1) obtain the permission of the departmental chairperson; (2) fulfill the departmental requirements in effect at the time of the application for reinstatement; (3) pass the current Ph.D. qualifying examination or its equivalent (A department must define in advance specifically what is meant if an "equivalent" examination is to be used, and that definition must be approved by the dean.); and (4) request reinstatement to candidacy from the dean. Such reinstatement, if granted, will be valid for a period of three years, during which time the candidate must enroll each semester for a minimum of one credit.
Submission of the Dissertation
Following acceptance by the research committee, the dissertation is submitted to the University Graduate School. For complete guideline information, see the University Graduate School’s online Preparing Theses and Dissertations (a printable version is also available online)—www.indiana.edu/~grdschl/preparing-theses-and-dissertations.php.
Each dissertation must include a title page bearing the statement: “Submitted to the faculty of the University Graduate School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of ___________, Indiana University.” (Note: Students majoring in programs will use "Program of;" students majoring in departments outside of the College of Arts and Sciences will use "School of.") The date of this page should be the month and year when all requirements have been satisfied; this is not necessarily the month in which you defend. Following the title page is the acceptance page with the statement: “Accepted by the faculty of the University Graduate School, Indiana University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy.” The acceptance page must be signed by members of the research committee. See the online guide for the complete order for the front matter.
The candidate must also submit an abstract of no more than 350 words for the dissertation that has been approved and signed by the research committee. The abstract will appear in Dissertation Abstracts International published by University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan. If the original abstract is not in English and an English translation has been made, submit both the English and non-English language abstracts.
Any creative work, such as a dissertation, is automatically copyrighted; however, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office provides (various/certain) legal benefits. The cost for registering a work through ProQuest is currently $55. Contact the University Graduate School for details.
Many Indiana University departments now allow electronic submission of the dissertation. Contact the department for more information.
Traditional Unbound Paper Submission: Once approved and finalized, one unbound copy of the dissertation, in a box suitable for mailing, and one or two bound copies must be filed with the University Graduate School. One of the bound copies is sent to the library and one bound copy is sent to the department, depending on departmental policy. The unbound copy of the dissertation will be microfilmed and will be available for purchase from PQIL (ProQuest Information and Learning Company) by all those who request it. The required fee for publishing the abstract and for microfilming the dissertation is currently $65 (for 2013-2014). This fee is waived if the student submits electronically.
Electronic Submission: Once approved and finalized, the dissertation should be submitted electronically in the form of a .pdf file to ProQuest. The dissertation will be transferred to the library and several dissertation databases by ProQuest. A microfilm version will also be made available for purchase from PQIL (ProQuest Information and Learning Company) by all those who request it. Effective September 27, 2010, there is no longer a fee to publish the abstract and microfilm the dissertation.