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Dissertation Guide

Information for doctoral students preparing for, writing, or submitting their dissertations

Dissertation Timeline

Dissertation Timeline

Admission to Doctoral Candidacy

Admission to candidacy is not automatic. The student becomes a candidate only with the approval of the doctoral program coordinator. Doctoral candidacy is a prerequisite for EP 8070 Dissertation Block 1: Review of Literature. Students who have successfully completed the required coursework with a minimum grade point average of 3.0, passed the comprehensive examination, and have the approval of the doctoral program coordinator will be admitted to candidacy for the EdD degree. After admission to doctoral candidacy, the candidate must maintain continuous enrollment until the degree is conferred. The College of Graduate Studies monitors this enrollment. Students must register for a dissertation block or for dissertation continuation until the degree is conferred. Failure to register during each academic term either for a course or continuation will result in termination of the candidacy.

Dissertation Committee Establishment and Structure

After the candidate has selected a topic area, reviewed the list of eligible PSU faculty members, and sought out an appropriate faculty member to chair the dissertation committee, he or she will notify the doctoral program coordinator who will officially appoint that faculty member as chair. Then, in consultation with the Dissertation Committee chair, the candidate will select two or three additional committee members from the PSU faculty or, in some instances, from other institutions. The primary criterion for selection is the suitability of the committee members for providing advice to the candidate. The doctoral program coordinator will make the official appointments of committee members and inform the candidate. The Dissertation Committee will consist of two members and the committee chair. The chair and at least one committee member must be from the PSU graduate faculty. A third committee member may be external to the doctoral program teaching faculty. The doctoral program coordinator may appoint an additional member to the committee

Registration for Dissertation Courses and Continuation Fees

All candidates are required to maintain enrollment throughout the dissertation process by registering for at least one course or continuation per term. This requirement begins with the first term after the registration for EP 8070 Dissertation Block I: The Review of Literature and applies to every term thereafter until all degree program requirements are completed.

Preparing the Doctoral Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal is the formal presentation of the planned dissertation research and methods. It is prepared and defended during EP 8080 Dissertation Block II: Methodology and Proposal Defense. This dissertation block follows Block I: The Review of Literature. Candidates who do not complete Block I within the term of registration must register for continuation until this first block (Chapter Two) is approved. After completing Block I, candidates may register for Block II, which comprises chapters one through three of the dissertation. While students often begin thinking about various elements of their dissertation during their doctoral core courses, proposed research for the dissertation shall not begin prior to the approval of the proposal by the Doctoral Dissertation Committee

Process for Approval of the Dissertation Proposal

Once the proposal has been completed and approved by the dissertation committee chair, the candidate is to submit the dissertation proposal to the IRB for review. See the IRB Web site for complete information about the IRB process ( Once IRB approval has been obtained, the chair will forward the proposal to the other members of the committee. After the chair has received feedback from all of the committee members, the chair will notify the candidate whether or not the Dissertation Proposal defense should be scheduled. With the chair’s approval to proceed, the candidate will defend the written dissertation proposal before the committee. This defense will be at PSU typically, but when appropriate the defense can be scheduled through a conference call.

After reading the written proposal and listening to the candidate’s oral defense, each committee member will determine if the proposed dissertation will:

  • produce knowledge, insight, and methods in the candidate’s field of specialization by identifying a problem and addressing it.
  • make a significant contribution to the understanding of the problem that it examines by providing an ethical, reliable, and valid study of the problem.
  • provide a research approach that has been approved by the Institutional Review Board. The IRB approval must be included in the dissertation proposal.
  • demonstrate the candidate’s ability and willingness to carry out sound independent research.

After the defense, the committee will recommend one of the following:

  • Approval of the proposal including the signing of the proposal approval form. The form is then passed on to the doctoral program coordinator and the candidate will be able to register for EP 8090 Dissertation Block III.
  • Minor revisions to the proposal with revisions to be approved by the chair prior to the signing of the proposal approval form by the committee.
  • Major revisions to the proposal with revisions to be approved by the full committee prior to the signing of the proposal approval form by the committee.
  • Major revisions with a repeat of the oral defense of the proposal before the full committee.
  • Rejection of the proposal.

Candidates will not be allowed to register for EP 8090 until a final grade has been submitted for EP 8080. Candidates who do not complete EP8080 within the term of registration must register for continuation until the dissertation proposal is approved. The Dissertation Committee chair submits the grade for each dissertation block as it is completed and approved.

Process for Approval of the Dissertation

EP 8080 Dissertation Block II: Methodology and Proposal Defense includes the writing and approval of chapters one and three and the approval of the dissertation proposal by the IRB. After the successful proposal defense, the candidate is eligible to collect and analyze data. During EP 8090 Dissertation Block III: Data Gathering and Analysis, Conclusions, and Dissertation Defense, the candidate writes chapters four and five and completes the dissertation process. If the candidate does not complete the third dissertation block in its respective term, he or she must register for a course or continuation until he or she completes the dissertation process. Once the candidate has completed the dissertation, and with the agreement of the Dissertation Committee chair, the final defense is scheduled. This is a public meeting in which the candidate presents their dissertation and answers questions from the Dissertation Committee. Immediately after the dissertation defense, the committee, without the candidate present, will determine whether or not the candidate has successfully defended the dissertation and earned the degree of Doctor of Education. The Dissertation Committee may require that revisions are made before the dissertation can be published; it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that the final dissertation submitted for publication is free of errors.

Student Responsibility

Student Responsibility

You will be guided and advised by your dissertation chair and committee, and the staff at the College of Graduate Studies, while you work on your dissertation. However, the ultimate responsibility for the document, its contents and format, rests with you.

You are responsible for the following:

  1. Obtaining the necessary information to prepare the document;
  2. Meeting the deadlines associated with its preparation;
  3. Ensuring that your document conforms to all requirements in this Dissertation Guide;
  4. Referring to specific departmental or program guidelines.

Working with the Dissertation Committee

Communication between the candidate and the Dissertation Committee is of the utmost importance. Because the responsibility of the committee is to provide candidates with appropriate and timely feedback, all communication should be open, honest, and respectful. It is expected that the candidate will initiate communication with the committee chair on a regular basis and with committee members as needed. Various drafts of the dissertation are submitted to the chair throughout the dissertation process. The chair submits drafts to the committee members when it is deemed appropriate. Committee members’ recommendations shall be delivered to the candidate through the chair, and the chair will negotiate with committee members when there is a difference of opinion among them.

While students often begin thinking about various elements of their dissertation during their doctoral core courses, proposed research for the dissertation shall not begin prior to the approval of the proposal by the Doctoral Dissertation Committee. The dissertation proposal must have received clearance from the respective authorities (i.e., PSU’s Internal Review Board, PSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, or PSU’s Chemical Hygiene Officer) PRIOR TO initiating the research project and submitting it to Lamson or the dissertation will not be accepted.

Copyright Permission

Copyright Permission

You should assume that any material from other sources that you use in your dissertation is copyrighted. You must obtain written permission from the copyright owner to use it. To obtain written permission, send the copyright owner a concise letter specifying your intended use and allow ample time for a response. If you get no response or if you are denied permission, you must not use the copyrighted material in your dissertation. A student should send out copyright permission requests at least four months before the need to include the material in the dissertation; permissions should be secured before the proposal defense. The most common need for this is related to using instruments that have been designed and/or developed by others but it applies to any copyrighted material.

You must submit a copy (keep the originals in a safe place) of all letters granting the use of copyrighted material to the Lamson Library at Plymouth State University.

In the US, if you have created an original document, it is automatically copyrighted for the period of your lifetime plus fifty years. Formal notice or registration is not necessary; nevertheless, you should include a copyright page in your document to alert readers that you are the copyright owner and that you acknowledge your legal rights. You may wish to register your copyright, though this step is optional. Registration establishes public record of your document, its copyright and your name and address. Students who choose to register the copyright personally should contact: Registration of Copyright, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20540.


The ownership of the completed dissertation rests solely with the candidate. All costs related to the binding and to the printing of the dissertation are the responsibility of the candidate. You are to provide 2 print copies and 1 electronic copy to Lamson Library.

Academic Integrity and Ethics in Research

Academic Integrity and Ethics in Research

See the Doctoral Program Handbook and the Academic Catalog for information related to academic integrity and consult the Institutional Review Board for information related to ethics in research and protecting human participants. Every researcher must present the certificate of completion of the IRB training course with their application to the IRB.