Student Handbook: Dissertation Proposal and Defense

Definition of a Dissertation Proposal (Dissertation Home)

The dissertation proposal defense is allowed no sooner than after completion of the qualifying exam and may be conducted concurrently with the last elective.  Upon successful completion of the dissertation proposal defense, the student is admitted to candidacy.  University policy requires that a student who has been admitted to candidacy must be continuously enrolled in at least one semester hour of dissertation coursework each fall and spring until the dissertation is completed, defended, and accepted.

A dissertation proposal should identify the research issue/question, include a thorough literature review, provide a detailed research design, and identify a suggested timeline for completion of the work. The traditional dissertation generally has five chapters.  These are:

  1. Introduction and importance of research
  2. Literature review
  3. Methods
  4. Findings
  5. Conclusions

If there are plans for the use of an alternative to the traditional dissertation format (three article format) then this should be included in the proposal.

Policies Regarding the Dissertation Proposal

  1. Students should prepare their dissertation proposal in response to the direction provided by their dissertation chair and Dissertation Committee.
  2. The student’s dissertation adviser must obtain approval from all members of the student’s Dissertation Committee prior to scheduling the student’s dissertation proposal defense.
  3. A copy of the dissertation proposal must be provided to the Director of the DPA Program two weeks prior to the dissertation proposal defense.
  4. The dissertation proposal defense is conducted. The dissertation proposal defense is open to the public.  All members of the Dissertation Committee must be physically present, or, in extenuating circumstances, electronically present at the dissertation proposal defense.  The student must be physically present.
  5. Following the dissertation proposal defense, the Dissertation Committee should meet with the student to discuss what revisions to the proposal, if any, should be undertaken.  If there are revisions requested, the student should make the revisions and resubmit the proposal to the Dissertation Committee.
  6. When the dissertation proposal is viewed as acceptable by the committee, the following are then sent to the DPA program director:
    1. The dissertation proposal approval form.  (A copy will be placed in the student’s file and another copy will be sent to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Graduate Education and Research.)
    2. A copy of the suggested timeline developed as part of the dissertation proposal.
    3. If necessary, the dissertation chair should prepare a memo that describes any other understandings or agreements that were made in regard to the student’s dissertation proposal.

An Institutional Review Board application should be submitted after successful defense of the dissertation proposal. A copy of the IRB proposal should be forwarded to the DPA program director within one month of successful dissertation proposal defense.

See more about preparation and defense of the dissertation after successful proposal defense.