F3.9 Faculty and Student Interaction During the Dissertation Process
Updated: May 11th, 2012
Selection of Dissertation Committee members. Both faculty and students alike should be aware of the requirements governing selection of the Dissertation Committee members. For a full explanation of the regulations, please refer to “Faculty Committees for Higher Degrees” in the section “Policies Affecting Both Master’s and Doctoral Students.”
Choosing the Dissertation Chair. A student’s choice of a Dissertation Chair is significant in terms of completing the doctorate. Dissertation Chairs also play an important role by assisting their students in finding satisfying and appropriate career positions. If possible, students should apprise themselves of the history of a potential chair’s working relationships with former students. Head Graduate Advisers should make sure that students are aware that they may change their Dissertation Chair. The Graduate Division will not approve the appointment of a professor as Chair of the Dissertation Committee for a student who also works for the professor in an outside company. The alternative could be to appoint a co-chair.
Selecting a dissertation topic and developing a proposal. The Dissertation Chair should discuss at length with the student the implications of the selected topic in terms of the development of the field and the topic’s significance. After the student chooses a topic, the Dissertation Chair and other members of the Dissertation Committee (and proposal committee, if applicable) should evaluate the dissertation proposal and clearly communicate their evaluation to the student.
Research involving human or animal subjects. Students should be aware that if the research activities involve human or animal subjects, that they must obtain permission from the Committee on the Protection of Human Subjects or the Animal Care and Use Committee. For more information, see Section F.4.
Writing the dissertation. After the proposal is approved, the Dissertation Chair should meet regularly with the student, possibly once a month, to check on his or her progress. These meetings provide a regular opportunity to discuss any difficulties the student might encounter while writing the dissertation. Students doing field research should write a short progress report every two months.
For the annual evaluation of all doctoral students advanced to candidacy, see Section F3.5.
Faculty career advising. Before the student completes the dissertation, the Dissertation Chair should meet with the student to discuss the student’s career. The chair should point out tactical advantages, such as giving a paper at a professional meeting or publishing articles, if that is customary for the field. The Dissertation Chair should also encourage and help the student acquire teaching experience in the course of writing the dissertation, if the student is planning for a teaching career. The Dissertation Chair should be prepared to write letters of recommendation for the student and to do so promptly. The chair should also be prepared to contact colleagues on behalf of the student and to make phone calls and write additional letters for particular positions.
Submitting sections of the dissertation for faculty review. It is very helpful for the student and the Dissertation Chair to agree in advance on how written material is to be submitted for review. Usually, both the student and faculty assume that the student is making good progress if the student meets mutually determined deadlines. If a student does not meet these deadlines, or if the quality of the work is unsatisfactory, it is the responsibility of the Dissertation Chair (possibly with another member of the Dissertation Committee) to discuss this with the student when these problems arise. Under no circumstances should a student be permitted to complete a dissertation that the Dissertation Chair finds mediocre and that consequently prevents the chair from writing a strong letter of support. Regular review of the student’s work, beginning with the proposal and ending with the final evaluation of the dissertation, can prevent this from happening. Faculty should make clear to the student what needs to be done to correct the problem, and both the dissertation adviser and the student should agree on a plan to make the necessary changes.
When the student submits sections of the dissertation for review, the Dissertation Chair should return the sections and commentary in a timely manner. If the entire manuscript of the dissertation is submitted to a reader, it should be returned within one month. During the semester in which the student plans to file the dissertation, the student should submit the dissertation to the Dissertation Committee at least two months before the Graduate Division filing deadline.
Disagreement regarding acceptability of a student’s dissertation or thesis. (See “Policies Affecting Both Master’s and Doctoral Students.”)
Responsibility of faculty signing dissertations. It is Graduate Council policy that the signature of a faculty member on a dissertation signature approval page or abstract is binding and cannot be withdrawn once it has been given. The faculty member should not sign a dissertation or abstract until he or she is convinced that the student’s work has been completed to the faculty member’s satisfaction.