Dissertation Defense Information
The dissertation represents the culmination of the student's degree program and should be a serious contribution to scholarship.
Within three months of passing the comprehensive examination, the student must be prepared to schedule the Dissertation Prospectus Review.
As soon as possible, after the Comprehensive Examination, the candidate should choose a dissertation director, as well as the two CAT readers of the dissertation. (The reader outside CAT may be chosen nearer to the defense date, at the discretion of the dissertation director.) The director of the dissertation must be a member of the CAT core faculty. Affiliates may co-direct dissertations with a core faculty member. In consultation with the dissertation director and the readers, the candidate drafts a dissertation prospectus
The dissertation prospectus, which must be appropriate to comparative literature, should be between 2,000 and 3,500 words, not counting footnotes or bibliography, and should include the following:
- Title of the dissertation;
- Description of the topic and its appropriateness for comparative literature in focus and method;
- The rationale behind the choice of topic, and the anticipated contribution of the proposed research to knowledge;
- A discussion of the argument your dissertation will advance;
- Current state of research on the topic and a basic bibliography;
- Method of work, including the general approach (e.g., historical, generic, thematic, structural) and an outline of chapters.
When the director and readers have approved the prospectus, the student and the director will schedule a Dissertation Prospectus Review to be attended by the student, the director, and all other members of the dissertation committee. Faculty and/or graduate students may be invited to the review at the discretion of the student. The review should be no less than one hour in length. The director, the readers, and others in attendance will discuss the prospectus with the student in order to insure that the student is ready to proceed in the project. When the director and the readers agree that the student is ready, they will sign off on the prospectus and submit it to the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate then proceeds to the dissertation.
Guidelines for Dissertation Prospectus Review
- The student will circulate her or his prospectus to all members of the committee three weeks prior to the review.
- The student will begin the review with a summary of the project in less than five minutes. She or he should clearly communicate the core thesis of the prospective dissertation.
- The members of the committee will then ask questions and make suggestions.
- The student should take notes during the meeting and make sure that she or he understands what the committee is suggesting.
- At the end of the meeting, the student will be asked to leave the room so that the members of the committee can discuss whether or not they are ready to sign off on the prospectus. If the members of the committee are satisfied that the student is prepared to begin writing the dissertation, they will sign off on the document and send it to the DGS.
- In some cases the committee may decide not to sign and request a revised prospectus. If the members of the committee are satisfied with the revised prospectus, there is no need for a second dissertation prospectus review. In some cases, however, the committee may decide that a second review is necessary.
Although there are no strict regulations on length, dissertations will normally be between 200 and 400 pages, not including bibliography and other supplemental material. The dissertation committee may, in special cases and with justification, allow a student to submit a shorter or longer dissertation.
When the dissertation has been completed in accordance with guidelines published in Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, legible copies of the complete dissertation must be given to all committee members at least one month in advance of the scheduled defense.
All dissertation defenses shall take place on campus and require the full attendance of the dissertation examining committee. Any exceptions from this practice will require approval from the Dean of the Graduate School. Campus Audio/Visual Services can be employed in the event that either a committee member or the defending student cannot be on the premises due to extenuating circumstances. While the examining committee may wish to hold the committee examination of the defense in private, the public presentation of the defense will be open to the university community and should be advertised campus-wide three weeks prior to the scheduled date. A minimum of three weeks prior to the dissertation defense, the dissertation abstract, approved by the student’s advisor and director of graduate studies, must be submitted to the Graduate School with details of the time and location for the defense. The Doctoral Defense Announcement form is available on the Graduate School Web site. The Graduate School will be responsible for advertising the defense to the university community.
The dissertation examining committee will set up the ground rules for the defense, which usually involves the student giving a short précis of the research problem, the research method, and the results. This is followed by questions from the Committee and, if the committee so desires, from the audience.
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