Doctoral Dissertation Phase Policy and Procedures


Department of Special Education

Ph.D. Program: Doctoral Dissertation Phase
Policy and Procedures

Final Effective Fall 2004

Policy

The dissertation phase of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Special Education is designed to assess the student's ability to design, implement, and sustain an independent line of scholarly research. This is accomplished through a cumulative process in which the student develops and defends three components of the doctoral dissertation:

  1. The Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy. According to the University of Utah Graduate School Policies a student must successfully complete a qualifying examination for Admission to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. It is assumed that once students advance to candidacy they have developed the necessary knowledge base and tool skills to complete their dissertation research. In the Department of Special Education, the qualifying examination is comprised of the development and oral defense of chapter one of the dissertation (problem statement, review of literature, and research questions). This phase is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate (a) their knowledge of the theoretical and research foundations underlying their area of study and (b) the ability to synthesize this information to establish meaningful and relevant research questions.
  2. The Doctoral Dissertation Proposal. The second phase of the doctoral dissertation is the development and oral defense of the doctoral dissertation proposal. This document should include chapter one (problem statement, review of literature, and research questions approved in phase 1) and chapter two (research methods) of the student's proposed dissertation. This phase is designed to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate (a) knowledge of research methods and data analysis procedures, and (b) the ability to design research studies that minimize threats to internal and external validity.
  3. The Doctoral Dissertation. The final phase of the dissertation process is the development and oral defense of the doctoral dissertation. The doctoral dissertation includes: chapter one (problem statement, review of literature, and research questions approved in phase 1), chapter two (research methods approved in phase 2), chapter three (results), and chapter four (discussion). This phase is designed to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to (a) correctly analyze and interpret their research data, (b) summarize the results of their research and draw appropriate conclusions, (c) discuss the linkages between their findings and previous research, and (d) discuss the implications of their findings for future research and educational practice.

Procedures and Timelines

Establish Ph.D. supervisory committee. Prior to initiating the dissertation process each student must establish a Ph.D. supervisory committee. The five-member committee includes (a) four faculty members from the Department of Special Education of which a minimum of three must be tenure-track faculty, and (b) one University of Utah faculty member outside of the Department of Special Education. All committee members must hold a doctoral degree or an equivalent advanced degree in their area of expertise. It is strongly recommended that the faculty member from outside the Department of Special Education have knowledge and expertise in the student's primary area of study.

Recommended timelines. Full-time students may successfully complete the Ph.D. degree requirements within six semesters of study. In order to complete the degree within this period, the student must follow the recommended timelines:

Spring semester - Year 1. Ph.D. supervisory committee approves of the general dissertation topic.

Fall semester - Year 2. Complete Phase 1 of the dissertation process: The Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy.

Spring semester - Year 2. Complete Phase 2 of the dissertation process: The Doctoral Dissertation Proposal.

Spring semester - Year 3. Complete Phase 3 of the dissertation process: The Doctoral Dissertation.

Evaluation procedures. The Ph.D. supervisory committee is responsible for assessing a student's competence in each phase of the dissertation process. The supervisory committee must conduct an evaluation of the products developed (qualifying exam, dissertation proposal, and the doctoral dissertation). This evaluation includes the student's oral defense of each product.

In evaluating the products and oral defense, the committee shall make a recommendation of either pass or fail. A recommendation of "pass" indicates that the student has demonstrated (a) the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary to proceed to the next phase in the dissertation process (or be recommended for the Ph.D. Degree in the case of the doctoral dissertation) and (b) the ability to communicate this knowledge in writing and orally. A recommendation of "fail" indicates that the student has not demonstrated adequate depth and breadth of knowledge and/or has not adequately demonstrated the ability to communicate his or her knowledge in writing or orally. A recommendation of "fail" by a committee member must be accompanied by a specific list of changes that must be made to the document and/or the student's oral defense of the document in order to pass the phase of the process.

Students may proceed to the next step in the dissertation if they receive a recommendation of "pass" from a majority of the Ph.D. supervisory committee members. Students who receive a recommendation of "fail" from the majority of the members will have one opportunity to make the recommended changes to the document and/or oral presentation. The chair of the supervisory committee will provide the student a written statement outlining the expectations of the committee and the timeline for completing the required changes. The evaluation of the student's revisions to the document and/or oral presentation will follow the procedures described above. Students will be allowed to proceed to the next phase of the dissertation process if the revisions to the document and/or oral defense receive a recommendation of "pass" by the majority of the committee members. A student will be terminated from the Ph.D. program if the revisions receive a recommendation of "fail" from the majority of the Ph.D. supervisory committee members.