RPC Prospectus and Dissertation Guidelines
Information on composing the RPC Dissertation Prospectus and applying other dissertation guidelines.
Detailed university requirements for the Ph.D. dissertation appear in several online university documents:
These online documents are the basis for the following review of university requirements.
Time limits and other restrictions
Students need to pass the preliminary oral examination at least six months prior to the dissertation defense (final oral examination). The dissertation defense is the final Ph.D. examination required by the university.
According to the Graduate College, a doctoral dissertation must
In addition to general university expectations, there are a number of departmental expectations for students enrolled in the English Department doctoral programs. These expectations involve the dissertation prospectus, POS procedures, the structure and emphasis of the dissertation itself, and the oral defense of the dissertation.
Before starting on the dissertation, students submit for POS committee approval a prospectus, complete with a cover "sign-off sheet." A prospectus typically will
Discussions with the POS committee may result in a variation of the above commonly held expectations.
Attached to the final prospectus is a cover sheet, which each POS committee member has signed to indicate that he/she has read the prospectus and agrees that the student is ready to proceed with research. The prospectus is regarded as a starting point; that is, the project as represented by the prospectus may, and probably will, change during the course of the student's research and writing.
Students are responsible for reaching an understanding with POS committee members concerning their respective roles. In discussing member roles, students will find it useful to review such issues as
When selecting an option for the dissertation, students and the POS committee will need to reach a consensus regarding both the dissertation's emphasis and structure.
Although dissertations in the humanities are quite varied, many RPC dissertations fall into one of the following four categories: historical, theoretical, empirical (experimental or descriptive), and hybrid. A dissertation dealing with a problem in pedagogy, for example, might be either historical, theoretical, empirical, or some combination of the three in its emphasis.
Given the expectations of the Graduate College, there are two typical arrangement options for structuring a dissertation: specified chapter option or articles within a framework. In working with their POS committees, students may develop variations on these options or discover additional options for structuring their work.
Specified chapter option
Dissertations as described in Graduate College materials commonly have five chapters; however, the number of chapters in the dissertation can vary depending on the topic and nature of research. The chapter option might feature the traditional dissertation or a monograph. Monographs usually assume outside audiences.
For example, one version of a traditional dissertation is often organized this way:
Another example of a specified chapter dissertation would be a monograph. It might have the following organization:
Karen Burke LeFevre's Invention as a Social Act is an example of a dissertation in monograph form. Her work, which explores a concept theoretically, is organized this way:
There are also other alternatives available within the chapter option. For example, dissertations can include an extended narrative that incorporates all of the conventional components of other kinds of dissertations; that is, they include a statement of purpose, a review of pertinent literature, a presentation of methodology and results, a critical interpretation of findings, and a statement of significance(s). The narrative, whether embedded within the conventional dissertation components or acting as a frame for these components, must represent situations and ideas that would lose their essential character and meaning if presented outside a story framework.
It is difficult to argue that a narrative should govern a dissertation's structure. Whereas narratives can readily be used as examples, writers have a more challenging task if they want to use narrative to shape their arguments. Nevertheless, the extended narrative option provides students with an opportunity for employing this strategy where appropriate.
Articles within a framework option
University regulations allow students, in agreement with the POS committee, to include in the dissertation individual papers submitted or to be submitted to scholarly refereed journals.
Dissertation manuscripts that follow this option must adhere to structural and documentation standards outlined in the under "Journal Paper Format." A dissertation written in this option must include
Whatever the dissertation structure, students will be asked to prepare an abstract of the dissertation. Abstracts of doctoral dissertations nationwide are available in the library. Actual dissertations may be available through interlibrary loan, depending on the policies of the lender. Even when a particular dissertation can be obtained, you may need to wait two to three weeks for delivery.