A dissertation is required of every candidate for a doctoral degree. The dissertation must demonstrate a mastery of the techniques of research, a thorough understanding of the subject matter and background, and a high degree of skill in organizing and presenting the materials. The dissertation should embody a significant contribution to the already existing literature in the chosen field in economics. The work on the dissertation should constantly be under the supervision of the dissertation committee.
The Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee consists of a minimum of three faculty members from the Department of Economics, with one of which is the chair of the student's committee. The Ph.D. candidate may include additional members on the committee (from inside or outside the department) after receiving the approval from their dissertation committee chair. The Ph.D. candidate may also chose to have a co-chair for their dissertation.
The Dissertation Proposal Defense
After the student has chosen a topic and made an outline of the work they will do in order to complete the dissertation, the dissertation chairperson should suggest a proposal defense date. This is a departmental requirement intended to assure that the student's proposed course of research will be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the members of the dissertation committee. It is also an opportunity for the committee members to make suggestions before the student has invested too much time on their dissertation. Students enrolled in ECO 8000 are expected to present a dissertation proposal during the first semester of this enrollment. The proposal defense is primarily for the student's benefit and as such it is important to hold the defense while the dissertation is still in the planning stage.
Although dissertation committees may vary in terms of communication channels, it is generally expected that students will be working closely with their dissertation advisors at the beginning while periodically updating other committee members with their progress. Students are strongly encouraged to update their committee members twice every semester (as a minimum)—once at the beginning of every semester and once at the end. Such practice ensures that a dissertation stays on track and improves the likelihood of meeting the student's completion target date.
The Final Dissertation Defense
After the student has completed the dissertation, the Graduate School requires that there be a Final Oral Examination. This defense is a public defense, meaning that any interested party can attend and ask questions. The Graduate School will also send a representative to ensure that the proper procedures are being followed.
After the final defense, the chair of the dissertation committee will send the Graduate School a notice that the student has successfully defended the dissertation, and this will allow the student to graduate. Please note that in order to graduate in a given semester, a student must defend approximately six weeks before the graduation date. The Graduate School has a calendar of various deadlines that must be met that semester, and they will send this to the student at the beginning of the semester that the student has indicated that they intend to graduate.
Below are the exact policies and guidelines as they appear in the Graduate School's catalogue pertaining to scheduling the Final Oral Examination.
Scheduling and Announcement
The final oral examination is required of all candidates for doctoral degrees. Scheduling must be:
- at least four months after the student has been admitted to candidacy, and
- at a suitable time after the dissertation (not necessarily the final version) has been read by the advisory committee.
The examination is a formal public affair and as such, the examination:
- must be held during weekday business hours, not during academic break periods,
- must begin no later than 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon, and
- must be held in a university room so it can be attended by faculty and students.
For the examination, the student is required to:
- submit the signed Notification Form and the Defense Abstract no later than three weeks before the of the examination, and
- provide a copy of the dissertation to the dean's representative at least a week before the defense.
Graduate Dean's Representative
The Graduate Dean's Representative:
- must be a member of the Graduate Faculty appointed by the Graduate School,
- observes and reports on the conduct of the final examination,
- has access to the dissertation and may participate in questioning the candidate, and
- is chosen from an area related to the student's program.
Conduct of the Examination
- The chairperson of the advisory committee convenes the examination and introduces the candidate, his/her background, and indicates the general format of the proceedings to follow, (departmental procedures may vary).
- The candidate gives an overview of his/her study for the benefit of those who have not read the dissertation (15 to 30 minutes).
- The candidate (guided by the chairperson) is questioned by members of the committee, the representative, and other audience members.
- A copy of the dissertation (not necessarily in final form) must be available for reference during the examination.
- Sufficient opportunity is given for discussion then the non-doctoral committee members are excused
- The committee and the representative ask further, more detailed, questions about both the dissertation and its research procedures.
- The candidate is then dismissed from the room while the committee comes to a decision concerning the results of the examination.
- The chairperson informs the candidate of the outcome and forwards a short report of the examination to the Dissertation Supervisor for the record.
All members of the dissertation committee must approve and sign the document before it is submitted to the Graduate School for the approval of the Graduate Dean.
The Dissertation Supervisor and the Dean's representative should be notified as soon as possible if a doctoral examination must be postponed.
If a majority of the members of a student's examining committee vote to pass the student's examination, but there is a dissenting vote:
- The members may all agree on appropriate changes in the final form of the dissertation that resolve the objections of the dissenting member.
- The dissenting member may accept the majority vote as a committee decision and agree to sign the dissertation.
- A member voting against approval, and refusing to sign the dissertation as a matter of principle, may resign from the committee, in which case another member may be appointed as a replacement (if needed to make the minimum of three), and the dissertation may be approved. The chairperson must notify the Graduate Dean by letter of the replacement member, who must be approved by the Dean.
- The dissenting member may refuse to sign the dissertation and not be willing to resign. In such a case, the matter should be referred to the Graduate School.
It is stressed that occasions when committee members vote against approval rarely occur when all of the committee members work closely with the student throughout the preparation of his or her dissertation.