PhD Dissertation Research

Each PhD program in the College of Education requires that you conduct and complete independent dissertation research that will make original contributions to the scholarly and/or professional knowledge of the field.  This research may employ different methodologies and proceed from different paradigms of inquiry.  The College of Education collaborates with the Graduate College to ensure that all doctoral research is of high intellectual rigor and quality and meets the highest ethical and professional standards of the field.  That process involves a number of procedural guidelines that are outlined on the Graduate College's website and/or as part of the Thesis Manual.  This section provides information about dissertation research that applies to all Ph.D.programs; note that requirements for the EdD Doctoral Capstone Inquiry Project are described separately in section IV.-B. below.

Making Changes Along the Way

As a doctoral candidate, you will work with your dissertation chair and other members of your dissertation committee as you conduct your research. However, you should also become more independent as your research progresses.  If you wish to make any changes to the research protocols that were approved by the IRB you should make sure to file an amendment form and get approval before those changes are put into effect.  It is imperative that you follow the IRB guidelines as you complete your research, including continuing education updates, annual renewals if approved protocols span multiple years, and closing out your research protocol once your research is complete.  Please see guidelines for the Human Subjects Protection Program and these responsibilities as researchers.

Registration Guidelines for Doctoral Candidates

Continuous Registration

During the time in which you are working on your dissertation, you must maintain continuous registration in the University.  After having completed coursework and the preliminary examination process, if you have accumulated the number of dissertation credit hours required by your program you may petition the Graduate College to register for 0 (zero) credit hours.  Being able to register for 0 hours represents a substantial reduction in tuition and fee costs, but programs are beginning to place restrictions on how many of these hours you can acquire as you complete your degree.  Petitions are available in the College of Education Office of Student Services (3145 ETMSW).

If permission is granted, you may continue to register for 0 hours if you continue to make satisfactory progress and are within the time limits for completion of the degree.  Note that even if you are eligible and successfully petition the Graduate College to register for 0 hours, you still must register for 0 hours each semester until you have successfully defended the dissertation (although you do not need to register for 0 credits for the summer session unless the defense will be held during the summer).

The Graduate College makes an exception to the above registration requirement if the defense will occur during the late registration period for a term; in those cases, a doctoral defense will be allowed without student registration in that term.  This is assuming that you were registered the previous term, or the previous spring term in the instance of a fall defense (which should be the case since, as stated above, continuous registration is required).  The late registration period is the official first ten days of any fall or spring semester and the first five days of the summer term.  If you defend after the 10th day (5th in summer) you must be registered.

If you hold a fellowship, assistantship and/or tuition waiver, and do not resign from it, then registration is mandatory for the number of hours required to hold the award or assistantship.  If you hold a student visa, you probably do not have to register if you leave the country by the 10th day (5th in summer), although this should be verified with Office of International Services.

This (late period registration defense) exception does not affect the registration requirement to take the Preliminary Examination, or the general requirement of continuous registration from Preliminary Examination to defense.  Failure to register continuously may result in being administratively dropped from your program.

Registration When Graduating

When you are preparing to defend your dissertation, a series of additional registration steps are important to follow.  First, at the beginning of the semester, you must complete an Intent to Graduate form by the deadline posted for the semester.  Second, you should ensure that your Committee Recommendation form paperwork, including the curriculum vitae of any members who are not already members of UIC’s Graduate College, has been completed and turned into Office of Student Services.  Without exception, this paperwork is to be completed no later than three weeks prior to a final defense.  Given that all Dissertation Committee members should have at least three weeks to read your dissertation, it is also a good idea to schedule the defense and distribute the full dissertation to committee members at the same time.  If, for some reason, members of a doctoral committee decide that you are not ready to defend your dissertation, the paperwork generated by the Graduate College for the final defense will be placed in your file in the Office of Student Services until the defense is scheduled.

The dates for submitting a final thesis to the Graduate College in order to finish in the semester when the thesis is defended are posted on the Graduate College website.  If you are scheduled to defend your thesis during late registration (the first ten days of the semester, the first five days of the summer term), the Graduate College will allow you to avoid registering for a new semester’s worth of doctoral credits.  This is assuming that you were registered for the term prior to your defense.  More information on these conditional activities can be found on the Graduate College website.  Similarly, if you hold an international student visa, you may not have to register if you leave the country by the 10th day of term (5th in summer).  Because such rules may vary by country, you should verify this with Office of International Services.

Forming the PhD Dissertation Committee

Given that you are required to complete a dissertation to earn your PhD, and that this dissertation is directed and ultimately must be accepted by a committee of 5 faculty members, the process of establishing your dissertation committee is important.  It is common for a student to establish one committee of 5 faculty members who serve both as members of their Preliminary Examination Committee (see specific program requirements for those regulations) and their Doctoral Dissertation Committee.  It is also common for the Chair of each committee to be the same person.  Nevertheless, for a wide range of reasons, you may need to form a new committee after becoming a doctoral candidate, replace individual members on a committee, or otherwise adjust this process.  You may also need to replace some members of your Preliminary Examination Committee with other faculty members because they bring expertise more germane to the dissertation research or to address the fact that members of the Preliminary Examination Committee moved, took on other responsibilities, or retired from serving on doctoral committees.

Specifically, once you have passed the varied steps of your preliminary examination, your dissertation proposal has been approved by your Preliminary Examination Committee, and you have obtained any necessary approvals from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), you are ready to begin your dissertation research.  Working with the Doctoral Dissertation Committee Chair as part of the preliminary examination process, you will have started the formation of a dissertation committee.  It is important to form your dissertation committee early in the dissertation process, obtaining an agreement to serve from each member and using all members of the committee as a resource throughout the research process.  To make this committee formal, you must submit a Committee Recommendation Form no later than three weeks before your dissertation defense date.  The completed, signed Committee Recommendation Form should be submitted to the College of Education Office of Student Services (3145 ETMSW).  Upon approval from the Graduate College, the dissertation committee is officially constituted as the Doctoral Dissertation Defense Committee.

Guidelines for the Composition of the PhD Dissertation Committee

To pass the Graduate College review, your dissertation committee must have at least five members, including one member from outside your program.  Unlike the Preliminary Examination Committee, the dissertation committee must include a member from outside the Program.  If you have not selected an outside member for your Preliminary Examination Committee, you must add one to your Doctoral Dissertation Committee.  Programs also have requirements; you should meet those as well. (See program descriptions in section III).

The Chair of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee must be a full member of the Graduate College and at least two committee members must be tenured faculty at UIC.  The committee must also have a member who works outside the department in which the Ph.D. program is housed or outside the University.  To include someone from outside the University, that person’s membership must be approved by the Graduate College.  Approval from the Graduate College must also be obtained if you wish to include individuals from UIC who are not members of the UIC Graduate College.  To include someone who is not a member of the UIC Graduate College, the approval process is initiated by submitting the outside person’s full curriculum vitae to the College of Education’s Office of Student Services when the Committee Recommendation Form is submitted.  All members of a Doctoral Dissertation Committee, like the Preliminary Examination Committee, must hold terminal degrees in their field of expertise.  Obviously, before submitting the Committee Recommendation Form, you must be sure that each faculty member has agreed to serve on the committee and that the Dissertation Committee Chair supports all these decisions.

The PhD Dissertation Defense

When you and your Chair believe that your dissertation is ready for a defense, you and members of the Dissertation Defense Committee will schedule a date, time, and place for the hearing.  In scheduling this hearing, you should give the members of the Dissertation Defense Committee at least three weeks to read and review the completed dissertation.  If you have not already done so, the Dissertation Defense Committee is formally constituted by submitting the Committee Recommendation Form and the curriculum vitae of any members who are not members of the Graduate College to the Office of Student Services.  This step must be completed at least three weeks before the defense.

When you distribute a completed dissertation to your committee members, you must also submit a copy to the department’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).  Along with this version of the dissertation, the DGS will need the approved IRB protocol, any approved amendments, and a blank copy of consent and assent forms used for your research.  The main purpose of the DGS review is to make sure that any assurances that were made to research participants about anonymity and confidentiality are honored in the final write-up.  The DGS will notify the Dissertation Defense Committee Chair if there are issues that need to be addressed, and will inform the Office of Student Services once this review has been satisfactory.

A copy of the dissertation abstract with information about the time and place of the dissertation defense should also be submitted to the Office of Student Services as soon as a final dissertation defense is scheduled. Because the dissertation defense is a public hearing and is open to any member of the University’s academic community who wishes to attend, the abstract will be duplicated and posted to announce this exam.  It should be remembered that this event is an examination in which you will be required to defend the quality of your thesis and your readiness to formally enter into the profession.

Your dissertation will not pass the final defense if more than one committee member fails to approve the dissertation.  You should be aware that dissertation committees often require additional work on the dissertation before the committee gives its final approval.  When scheduling the defense, it is important to remember that along with completing and obtaining approval for any changes, there are a number of other steps required by the Graduate College before submitting the final dissertation.

When It’s All Over but the Shouting…

Once you have successfully defended your dissertation and completed any revisions or additional work required by the committee, the Graduate College requires that you complete a number of steps.  These steps must be completed by the “Last Day for Graduate College Approval of Thesis Format,” established by the Graduate College each semester.  This date is listed in the Graduate Catalog, is circulated widely around the College each term, and is posted online.  If you miss this deadline, your graduation will be delayed until the next semester.  In preparing your dissertation for submission to the Graduate College, you must follow the format rules outlined in the University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate College Thesis Manual. 

In order to graduate, you must submit a Pending Degree List form electronically via the my.UIC Web Portal.  The Pending Degree List form may only be submitted from the start of registration in your graduation semester until the Friday of the third week of fall and spring semesters or the second week of the summer semester.  After that date the Pending Degree List will be unavailable.  See list of deadlines online.  Filing this form triggers an assessment by the Office of Student Services to ensure that you have completed all degree requirements satisfactorily and that you are indeed eligible to graduate.

Although you will want to check with the Graduate College Web site for any changes, the current checklist for steps needed to graduate is as follows.

Checklist for Completion of Graduation - Doctoral Candidates

_____ Apply for graduation for term during the term registration period, through the third week (second week in summer) of the term.  The Intent to Graduate is online, or through the my.UIC Web Portal, or Student Self-Service.

_____ Finalize any issues with formation of my Defense Committee with department

_____ Verify with department that my preference for my name and thesis title are correctly typed on the Committee Recommendation Form

_____ Verify with department that they submit the Committee Recommendation Form to the Graduate College a minimum three weeks before proposed defense date

_____ Write an abstract of the dissertation – do not include within body of dissertation

_____ After successful defense, verify that the Examination Report and the Certificates of Approval are endorsed by the Chairperson, Department Head, and members of the committee

_____ Obtain fully endorsed Certificates of Approval from department (Examination Report should be sent to the Graduate College by your program within forty-eight hours of defense)

_____ Submit final defended dissertation to thesis advisor or departmental designee for format approval, making any corrections as they may indicate

_____Obtain endorsed Departmental/Program Format Approval Form after format cleared by program

_____ Place the Certificates of Approval as the top page of each dissertation

_____ Make three additional copies of the title page, totaling five, counting the two in dissertation

_____ Place the two copies of completed, final dissertation (with Certificates of Approval) into individual manila envelopes

_____ Pay the $65 (for traditional) or $160 (for open access) publishing fee, subject to change, at the cashier in the Marshfield Building and photocopy receipt for inclusion with submitted dissertation to the Graduate College

_____ Pick up Dissertation Publishing Agreement and Survey of Earned Doctorates from Graduate College.

_____ Complete Dissertation Publishing Agreement (mandatory) and Survey of Earned Doctorates (mandatory, but may write “refused” next to a specific question you do not wish to answer)

_____ Obtain certified check or money-order for copyright (optional) and/or for ordering bound copies of dissertation (optional – see Dissertation Publishing Agreement)

_____ Bring two copies of dissertation (with Certificates of Approval) in manila envelopes to the Graduate College, by the submission deadline.  Also, bring the three extra title pages, separate abstract, the Departmental/Program Format Approval Form, the photocopy of the microfilm fee receipt, Dissertation Publishing Agreement with any certified check(s) or money-order(s) for copyright and/or for ordering bound copies of dissertation, and the Survey of Earned Doctorates. All of these miscellaneous pages should be placed in a third manila envelope.

_____ Upon submission of above material to the Graduate College, complete three Thesis/Dissertation Student Information Labels and affix to the front of the three manila envelopes (or pick up earlier and affix)

_____ If contacted for corrections to the dissertation, bring them to the Graduate College by deadline given by reviewer

_____ A few weeks after the term ends and grades are posted a congratulatory letter will be received, assuming all requirements are completed, or notification of a problem