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Formatting Guide

The  PhD Dissertation Formatting Guide  (updated Spring 2023) is the source of all formatting requirements and guidelines for PhD Dissertations. Make sure to follow the guide when writing your dissertation.

Double check your formatting with the  PhD Dissertation Formatting Checklist  before submission.

LaTeX Template

The University provides a standard LaTeX template that complies with all formatting requirements.    

University of Pennsylvania PhD Dissertation Template in LaTeX

Word Templates

The University provides a standard Word template that complies with all formatting requirements.    

Dissertation Template in Word  (updated Spring 2023)

Example PDF of Proper Formatting

Overleaf LaTeX PDF

Note: You may need to activate your UPenn Overleaf account to view this PDF.  Penn Overleaf account page. 

Additional information is available in our  Formatting FAQs . 

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What is a thesis?

What is a dissertation, getting started, staying on track.

A thesis is a long-term project that you work on over the course of a semester or a year. Theses have a very wide variety of styles and content, so we encourage you to look at prior examples and work closely with faculty to develop yours. 

Before you begin, make sure that you are familiar with the dissertation genre—what it is for and what it looks like.

Generally speaking, a dissertation’s purpose is to prove that you have the expertise necessary to fulfill your doctoral-degree requirements by showing depth of knowledge and independent thinking.

The form of a dissertation may vary by discipline. Be sure to follow the specific guidelines of your department.

  • PhD This site directs candidates to the GSAS website about dissertations , with links to checklists,  planning, formatting, acknowledgments, submission, and publishing options. There is also a link to guidelines for the prospectus . Consult with your committee chair about specific requirements and standards for your dissertation.
  • DDES This document covers planning, patent filing, submission guidelines, publishing options, formatting guidelines, sample pages, citation guidelines, and a list of common errors to avoid. There is also a link to guidelines for the prospectus .
  • Scholarly Pursuits (GSAS) This searchable booklet from Harvard GSAS is a comprehensive guide to writing dissertations, dissertation-fellowship applications, academic journal articles, and academic job documents.

Finding an original topic can be a daunting and overwhelming task. These key concepts can help you focus and save time.

Finding a topic for your thesis or dissertation should start with a research question that excites or at least interests you. A rigorous, engaging, and original project will require continuous curiosity about your topic, about your own thoughts on the topic, and about what other scholars have said on your topic. Avoid getting boxed in by thinking you know what you want to say from the beginning; let your research and your writing evolve as you explore and fine-tune your focus through constant questioning and exploration.

Get a sense of the broader picture before you narrow your focus and attempt to frame an argument. Read, skim, and otherwise familiarize yourself with what other scholars have done in areas related to your proposed topic. Briefly explore topics tangentially related to yours to broaden your perspective and increase your chance of finding a unique angle to pursue.

Critical Reading

Critical reading is the opposite of passive reading. Instead of merely reading for information to absorb, critical reading also involves careful, sustained thinking about what you are reading. This process may include analyzing the author’s motives and assumptions, asking what might be left out of the discussion, considering what you agree with or disagree with in the author’s statements and why you agree or disagree, and exploring connections or contradictions between scholarly arguments. Here is a resource to help hone your critical-reading skills:



Your thesis or dissertation will incorporate some ideas from other scholars whose work you researched. By reading critically and following your curiosity, you will develop your own ideas and claims, and these contributions are the core of your project. You will also acknowledge the work of scholars who came before you, and you must accurately and fairly attribute this work and define your place within the larger discussion. Make sure that you know how to quote, summarize, paraphrase ,  integrate , and cite secondary sources to avoid plagiarism and to show the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

A thesis is a long-term, large project that involves both research and writing; it is easy to lose focus, motivation, and momentum. Here are suggestions for achieving the result you want in the time you have.

The dissertation is probably the largest project you have undertaken, and a lot of the work is self-directed. The project can feel daunting or even overwhelming unless you break it down into manageable pieces and create a timeline for completing each smaller task. Be realistic but also challenge yourself, and be forgiving of yourself if you miss a self-imposed deadline here and there.

Your program will also have specific deadlines for different requirements, including establishing a committee, submitting a prospectus, completing the dissertation, defending the dissertation, and submitting your work. Consult your department’s website for these dates and incorporate them into the timeline for your work.


Sometimes self-imposed deadlines do not feel urgent unless there is accountability to someone beyond yourself. To increase your motivation to complete tasks on schedule, set dates with your committee chair to submit pre-determined pieces of a chapter. You can also arrange with a fellow doctoral student to check on each other’s progress. Research and writing can be lonely, so it is also nice to share that journey with someone and support each other through the process.

Common Pitfalls

The most common challenges for students writing a dissertation are writer’s block, information-overload, and the compulsion to keep researching forever.

There are many strategies for avoiding writer’s block, such as freewriting, outlining, taking a walk, starting in the middle, and creating an ideal work environment for your particular learning style. Pay attention to what helps you and try different things until you find what works.

Efficient researching techniques are essential to avoiding information-overload. Here are a couple of resources about strategies for finding sources and quickly obtaining essential information from them.



Finally, remember that there is always more to learn and your dissertation cannot incorporate everything. Follow your curiosity but also set limits on the scope of your work. It helps to create a folder entitled “future projects” for topics and sources that interest you but that do not fit neatly into the dissertation. Also remember that future scholars will build off of your work, so leave something for them to do.

Browsing through theses and dissertations of the past can help to get a sense of your options and gain inspiration but be careful to use current guidelines and refer to your committee instead of relying on these examples for form or formatting.

DASH Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard.

HOLLIS Harvard Library’s catalog provides access to ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global .

MIT Architecture has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

Rhode Island School of Design has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

University of South Florida has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

Harvard GSD has a list of projects, including theses and professors’ research.

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  • Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process . It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to your field.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

In the final product, you can also provide a chapter outline for your readers. This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organizational structure of your thesis or dissertation. This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline.

Table of contents

How to outline your thesis or dissertation, dissertation and thesis outline templates, chapter outline example, sample sentences for your chapter outline, sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis and dissertation outlines.

While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion.

  • Working Title
  • “Elevator pitch” of your work (often written last).
  • Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement , and hypotheses . Situate your research within an existing paradigm or conceptual or theoretical framework .
  • Subdivide as you see fit into main topics and sub-topics.
  • Describe your research methods (e.g., your scope , population , and data collection ).
  • Present your research findings and share about your data analysis methods.
  • Answer the research question in a concise way.
  • Interpret your findings, discuss potential limitations of your own research and speculate about future implications or related opportunities.

For a more detailed overview of chapters and other elements, be sure to check out our article on the structure of a dissertation or download our template .

To help you get started, we’ve created a full thesis or dissertation template in Word or Google Docs format. It’s easy adapt it to your own requirements.

 Download Word template    Download Google Docs template

Chapter outline example American English

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing the same words or sentence constructions, which can make your work monotonous and repetitive for your readers. Consider utilizing some of the alternative constructions presented below.

Example 1: Passive construction

The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise.

Example 2: IS-AV construction

You can also present your information using the “IS-AV” (inanimate subject with an active verb ) construction.

A chapter is an inanimate object, so it is not capable of taking an action itself (e.g., presenting or discussing). However, the meaning of the sentence is still easily understandable, so the IS-AV construction can be a good way to add variety to your text.

Example 3: The “I” construction

Another option is to use the “I” construction, which is often recommended by style manuals (e.g., APA Style and Chicago style ). However, depending on your field of study, this construction is not always considered professional or academic. Ask your supervisor if you’re not sure.

Example 4: Mix-and-match

To truly make the most of these options, consider mixing and matching the passive voice , IS-AV construction , and “I” construction .This can help the flow of your argument and improve the readability of your text.

As you draft the chapter outline, you may also find yourself frequently repeating the same words, such as “discuss,” “present,” “prove,” or “show.” Consider branching out to add richness and nuance to your writing. Here are some examples of synonyms you can use.

Address Describe Imply Refute
Argue Determine Indicate Report
Claim Emphasize Mention Reveal
Clarify Examine Point out Speculate
Compare Explain Posit Summarize
Concern Formulate Present Target
Counter Focus on Propose Treat
Define Give Provide insight into Underpin
Demonstrate Highlight Recommend Use

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

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  • A Guide to Writing a PhD Thesis

Written by Ben Taylor

A PhD thesis is a work of original research all students are requiured to submit in order to succesfully complete their PhD. The thesis details the research that you carried out during the course of your doctoral degree and highlights the outcomes and conclusions reached.

The PhD thesis is the most important part of a doctoral research degree: the culmination of three or four years of full-time work towards producing an original contribution to your academic field.

Your PhD dissertation can therefore seem like quite a daunting possibility, with a hefty word count, the pressure of writing something new and, of course, the prospect of defending it at a viva once you’ve finished.

This page will give you an introduction to what you need to know about the doctoral thesis, with advice on structure, feedback, submission and more.

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Beginning your PhD thesis

The first stage of your PhD thesis will usually be the literature review . We’ve already written a detailed guide to what the PhD literature review involves , but here’s what you need to know about this stage of your PhD:

  • The literature review is a chance for you to display your knowledge and understanding of what’s already been written about your research area – this could consist of papers, articles, books, data and more
  • Rather than simply summarising what other scholars have said about your subject, you should aim to assess and analyse their arguments
  • The literature review is usually the first task of your PhD – and typically forms the first part or chapter of your dissertation

After finishing your literature review, you’ll move onto the bulk of your doctoral thesis. Of course, you’ll eventually return to the lit review to make sure it’s up-to-date and contains any additional material you may have come across during the course of your research.

PhD thesis research

What sets your PhD thesis apart from previous university work you’ve done is the fact that it should represent an original contribution to academic knowledge . The form that this original contribution takes will largely depend on your discipline.

  • Arts and Humanities dissertations usually involve investigating different texts, sources and theoretical frameworks
  • Social Sciences are more likely to focus on qualitive or quantitative surveys and case studies
  • STEM subjects involve designing, recording and analysing experiments, using their data to prove or disprove a set theory

Depending on the nature of your research, you may ‘write up’ your findings as you go, or leave it until the dedicated ‘writing-up’ period, usually in the third year of your PhD. Whatever your approach, it’s vital to keep detailed notes of your sources and methods – it’ll make your life a lot easier when it comes to using references in your dissertation further down the line.

PhD thesis vs dissertation

It’s common to use the terms ‘thesis’ and ‘dissertation’ interchangeably, but strictly speaking there is a difference in meaning between them:

  • Your thesis is your argument. It’s the conclusions you’ve arrived at through surveying existing scholarship in your literature review and combining this with the results of your own original research.
  • Your dissertation is the written statement of your thesis. This is where you lay out your findings in a way that systematically demonstrates and proves your conclusion.

Put simply, you submit a dissertation, but it’s the thesis it attempts to prove that will form the basis of your PhD.

What this also means is that the writing up of your dissertation generally follows the formulation of your doctoral thesis (it’s fairly difficult to write up a PhD before you know what you want to say!).

However, it’s normal for universities and academics to use either (or both) terms when describing PhD research – indeed, we use both ‘thesis’ and ‘dissertation’ across our website.

Can I use my Masters research in my PhD thesis?

If you’re studying an MPhil, it’s normal to ‘ upgrade ’ it into a PhD. Find mroe information on our guide.

PhD thesis structure

Having completed your initial literature review and conducted your original research, you’ll move onto the next phase of your doctoral dissertation, beginning to sketch out a plan that your thesis will follow.

The exact structure and make-up of your doctoral thesis will vary between fields, but this is the general template that many dissertations follow:

  • Introduction – This sets out the key objectives of your project, why the work is significant and what its original contribution to knowledge is. At this point you may also summarise the remaining chapters, offering an abstract of the argument you will go on to develop.
  • Literature review – The introduction will generally lead into a write-up of your literature review. Here you’ll outline the scholarly context for your project. You’ll acknowledge where existing research has shaped your PhD, but emphasise the unique nature of your work.
  • Chapters – After you’ve finished introducing your research, you’ll begin the bulk of the dissertation. This will summarise your results and begin explaining the argument you have based on them. Some PhDs will also include specific chapters on methodology and / or a recreation of the data you have developed. Others will develop your argument over a series of stages, drawing on sources and results as relevant.
  • Conclusion – The dissertation will end with a final chapter that pulls together the different elements of your argument and the evidence you have provided for it. You’ll restate the significance of your project (and its all-important original contribution to knowledge). You may also take the opportunity to acknowledge the potential for further work or opportunities to apply your findings outside academia.
  • Bibliography and appendices – At the end of your thesis, you’ll need to include a full list of the books, articles and data you’ve referenced in a bibliography. You may also need to provide additional information in the form of an appendix.

How long is a PhD thesis?

The length of a PhD thesis varies from subject to subject, but all are far longer than those for undergraduate or Masters degrees. Your university will usually set an upper limit – typically between 70,000 and 100,000 words, with most dissertations coming in at around 80,000 words.

Generally speaking, STEM-based theses will be a little shorter than those in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Different universities (and departments) will have different policies regarding what counts towards the PhD thesis word count, so make sure you’re aware what is expected of you. Check with your supervisor whether references, the bibliography or appendices are included in the word count for your dissertation.

How many chapters should a PhD thesis have?

There’s no hard and fast rule for the numbers of chapters in a PhD thesis, but most will have four or five chapters (in addition to the introduction and conclusion). This is the sort of thing you’ll discuss with your supervisor when planning out your research.

Writing up your PhD thesis

Once you’ve conducted your research and settled upon your thesis, there’s only one thing left to do: get it down on paper. Appropriately enough, this final part of a PhD is often referred to as the ‘ writing up period ’.

This is when you produce the final dissertation, which will be submitted as the basis for your viva voce exam. The nature of this task can vary from PhD to PhD.

In some cases you may already have a large amount of chapter drafts and other material. ‘Writing up’ therefore becomes a process of re-drafting and assembling this work into a final dissertation. This approach is common in Arts and Humanities subjects where PhD students tend to work through stages of a project, writing as they go.

Alternatively, you may have spent most of your PhD collecting and analysing data. If so, you’ll now ‘write up’ your findings and conclusions in order to produce your final dissertation. This approach is more common in STEM subjects, where experiment design and data collection are much more resource intensive.

Whatever process you adopt, you’ll now produce a persuasive and coherent statement of your argument, ready to submit for examination.

PhD thesis feedback

Your supervisor will usually give you feedback on each chapter draft, and then feedback on the overall completed dissertation draft before you submit it for examination. When the thesis is a work-in-progress, their comments will be a chance for them to make sure your research is going in the right direction and for you to ask their advice on anything you’re concerned about. This feedback will normally be given in the form of a supervisory meeting.

Although your PhD supervisor will be happy to give you advice on your work, you shouldn’t expect them to be an editor – it’s not their responsibility to correct grammatical or spelling mistakes, and you should make sure any drafts you submit to them are as error-free as possible. Similarly, they won’t be willing to edit your work down to fit a particular word count.

Finishing your PhD thesis

When you’ve finished the final draft of your doctoral thesis and it’s been approved by your supervisor, you’ll submit it for examination. This is when it’s sent to the examiners who will conduct your viva.

Submitting your thesis involves printing enough copies for your examiners and the university’s repository. Don’t leave this until the last minute – printing multiple copies of a 300-page document is a substantial undertaking and you should always allow enough time to account for any possible glitches or issues with the printing process.

Your viva will usually take place within three months of submitting your thesis. You can find out more in our dedicated guide to the PhD viva . After your viva, your examiners will give you a report that confirms whether or not you need to make any changes to your thesis, with several different potential outcomes:

  • Pass – You’ve received your doctoral qualification!
  • Minor corrections – These are usually fairly small edits, tweaks and improvements to your thesis, which you’ll be given three months to implement
  • Major corrections – For these substantial changes, you may have to rewrite part of your dissertation or complete extra research, with a six-month deadline

Most PhD students will need to fix some corrections with their thesis (hopefully not major ones). It’s very rare for a dissertation to be failed.

Once you’ve made any necessary changes to your thesis, you’ll submit it one last time (usually electronically).

If you have plans to publish all or part of your work, you may want to request an embargo so that it won’t be visible to the public for a certain time. 12 months is a fairly standard time period for this, although you may want to ask for a longer embargo if you know that you want to turn your thesis into a book or monograph.

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

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How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you would like advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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Thesis / dissertation formatting manual (2024).

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UCI Libraries maintains the following  templates to assist in formatting your graduate manuscript. If you are formatting your manuscript in Microsoft Word, feel free to download and use the template. If you would like to see what your manuscript should look like, PDFs have been provided. If you are formatting your manuscript using LaTex, UCI maintains a template on OverLeaf.

  • Annotated Template (Dissertation) 2024 PDF of a template with annotations of what to look out for
  • Word: Thesis Template 2024 Editable template of the Master's thesis formatting.
  • PDF Thesis Template 2024
  • Word: Dissertation Template 2024 Editable template of the PhD Dissertation formatting.
  • PDF: Dissertation Template 2024
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A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Ph.D. Dissertation

An Independent Research Project for Ph.D. Candidates

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A dissertation, also known as a doctoral thesis , is the final required part of completing a student's doctoral study. Undertaken after a student completes coursework and passes a comprehensive examination , the dissertation is the final hurdle in completing a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree. The dissertation is expected to make a new and creative contribution to a field of study and to demonstrate the student's expertise. In social science and science programs, the dissertation usually requires conducting empirical research.

Elements of a Strong Dissertation

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a strong medical dissertation relies heavily on the creation of a specific hypothesis that can be either disproven or supported by data collected by independent student research. Further, it must also contain several key elements starting with an introduction to the problem statement, conceptual framework and research question as well as references to literature on already published on the topic. 

A dissertation must also be relevant (and proven to be such) as well as capable of being researched independently by the student. Though the required length of these dissertations varies by school, the governing body overseeing the practice of medicine in the United States standardizes this same protocol. Also included in the dissertation is the methodology for research and data collection as well as instrumentation and quality control. A stated section on population and sample size for the study is imperative to defending the thesis once it comes time to do so.

Like most scientific publications, the thesis must also contain a section of published results and an analysis of what this entails for the scientific or medical community. The discussion and conclusion sections let the review committee know that the student understands the full implications of his or her work as well as its real-world application to their field of study (and soon, professional work). 

Approval Process

Although students are expected to conduct the bulk of their research and pen the entire dissertation on their own, most graduate medical programs provide an advisory and review committee to the student upon starting their studies. Through a series of weekly reviews over their course of schooling, the student and his or her advisor hone in on the hypothesis of the dissertation before they submit it to the review committee to begin work on writing the thesis. 

From there, the student can take as long or as short of a time as they need to complete their dissertation, often resulting in students who have finished their entire courseload achieving ABD status ("all but dissertation"), just shy of receiving their full Ph.D. In this interim period, the student — with the occasional guidance of his or her advisor —  is expected to research, test and write a dissertation that can be defended in a public forum. 

Once the review committee accepts the finalized draft of the thesis, the doctoral candidate will then get the chance to publicly defend his or her statements. If they pass this test, the dissertation is submitted electronically to the school's academic journal or archive and the candidate's full doctoral degree is issued once the final paperwork has been submitted.

  • A Doctor of Philosophy or Doctorate
  • Understanding the Definition of a Doctoral Candidate
  • What Comes After a Master's Degree?
  • How to Decide Between a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology
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Form and Style Review Home Page

Capstone Form and Style

Programs: phd dissertation, phd dissertation resources.

  • PhD Premise Template

The qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods PhD dissertation templates contain subheadings that align with the required content in the PhD Dissertation Checklists for these methodologies. The generic PhD dissertation template is not methodology-specific and lacks many of these subheadings.

  • PhD Dissertation Template (Qualitative)
  • PhD Dissertation Template (Quantitative)
  • PhD Dissertation Template (Mixed Methods)
  • PhD Dissertation Template (Generic)

Beginning June 1, 2020, all prospectus starts should use the new PhD Prospectus Form found on the  Doctoral Prospectus Form  page.

For more information on the prospectus for your program, check the resources for PhD programs on the Office of Research and Doctoral Services'  Doctoral Capstone and Project Resources page .

PhD Management Dissertation Templates

  • PhD Management Annotated Dissertation Template (Qualitative)
  • PhD Management Annotated Dissertation Template (Quantitative)
  • Instructions for Using the PhD Management Annotated Dissertation Templates

To prepare for the form and style review, use the following checklist, which is the same checklist we use when we review capstone manuscripts and the checklist we return to the student and committee along with their completed review.

  • Form and Style Review Checklist

Doctoral Capstone Template Guidance

To accompany the doctoral capstone template document, here is some information to note when first beginning to use the template.

  • The document may contain various front matter elements (i.e., two title pages, the abstract, a Dedication page, and an Acknowledgements page), a Table of Contents (TOC), Lists of Tables and Figures, the document body text, a References list, and Appendices.
  • Students should ensure that the text in brackets [ ] on the two title pages is changed to reflect their own information and then remove the brackets. This includes the title, name, degrees earned, degree program, and date of anticipated completion.
  • Begin using the template by copying and pasting the text from a working document into the appropriate headings of the template and references to the reference list.

How to tag headings (so that headings show up in the TOC):

  • Most headings are already placed into the document. Headings students add (i.e., primarily for the literature review and results chapters and sections) should be added by creating a new heading and tagging it so that it appears in the TOC when updated.
  • Add a heading by first ensuring that the pilcrow [ ¶ ] is turned on—this allows the writer to see hidden formatting in the document that should not be deleted (e.g., page breaks and section breaks).
  • Add the heading by placing the cursor where the heading should be inserted and creating a hard return.
  • Then type the text for the heading and highlight it with the cursor, ensuring that you do NOT highlight the pilcrow.
  • Once the text is highlighted, choose the appropriate APA Style heading from the Styles box on the Home tab. This is called tagging a heading. HINT: The Styles tab may need to be expanded by clicking on the small box with the arrow at the bottom of the Styles section. 

How to update the TOC (to bring in new headings and update page numbers):

  • Once new headings have been added or text created or inserted such that the page numbers have shifted, the TOC should be updated.
  • Update the TOC by clicking on it with the cursor so that the section becomes grey.
  • Then, right click (or control click on a Mac) and choose “Update field.”
  • Depending on whether headings or just text has been added, choose “Update entire table” or “Update page numbers only.”

Template and Formatting Resources:

  • Form and Style Document Formatting Expectations , including information on APA, margins, pagination, etc.
  • SMRTguide on Fixing Errors in the TOC
  • Academic Skills Center (ASC) Capstone Template Formatting Videos
  • For questions regarding layout formatting in the doctoral capstone, contact [email protected]  

About the PhD Dissertation

Students start the dissertation by documenting their initial investigation into a research topic, which is used to make decisions about the capstone and is provided to prospective faculty members of the supervisory committee. In all PhD programs, this document is called the Premise, which is followed by a Prospectus The Prospectus is a second document used to confirm the topic for the proposal and the structure of the dissertation committee.

Guides for completing these documents can be found on the Office of Research and Doctoral Services website . The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition style should be used for both the Premise and the Prospectus, as well as for the proposal and final study.

The Dissertation Guidebook , available at the Office of Research and Doctoral Services's website, is a complete resource for information on form and style, steps in the dissertation process, and procedures. We also offer a series of capstone webinars on a variety of capstone-related topics.

For questions about writing the proposal, dissertation, thesis, or doctoral study, contact [email protected] .

Confused about assumptions, limitations, and delimitations? See Jen's blog post .

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Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

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Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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Dissertation & Thesis Examples 📖

Real-world examples and samples from leading universities

Need some inspiration for your study? You’ve come to the right place. Here we showcase a collection of dissertation and thesis   examples to help you get started. All of these are real-world studies from actual degrees (typically PhD and Master’s-level).

PS – If you’re looking for examples of specific dissertation chapters (e.g., literature review or methodology), you can also check out our collection of free templates .

Discipline-Specific Examples

  • Business & management
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Stage-Specific Examples

  • Proposal/pitch
  • Literature review
  • Methodology

Examples: Business & Management

Below you’ll find a sample of business and management-related dissertations and theses covering a range of topics.

Title: Interaction Among Supply Chains: Consumers, Firms and Policymakers Author: Yuanchen Li Year: 2020

This PhD thesis examines the dynamics of supply chain relationships across three levels: the interactions between firms and consumers, suppliers and buyers, and firms and governments. The research aims to provide insights into the complexities of supply chain dynamics and their implications for various stakeholders.

Title: Essays in Firm-Level Patenting Activities and Financial Outcomes Author: Michael J Woeppel Year: 2020

This doctoral dissertation explores financial dynamics in two key areas: investment valuation and the performance of small innovative firms. The first chapter introduces a new metric, PI q, which incorporates the replacement cost of patent capital into the traditional Tobin’s q calculation. The second chapter examines small innovative firms, finding that they achieve higher returns for up to five years compared to non-innovators.

Title: Analysis of Design Artifacts in Platform-Based Markets Author: Vandith Pamuru Subramanya Rama Year: 2020

This dissertation investigates design issues within digital platform-based markets through three essays. The first essay explores the economic impact of augmented-reality games like Pokémon Go on local businesses, specifically restaurants. The second essay delves into the sponsored search ad-market, examining the effects of market frictions on bidding behaviors in auctions. The third essay examines user-generated content platforms, focusing on how the loss of elite status affects user contributions.

Title: Gaming the IRS’s Third-Party Reporting System: Evidence From Pari-Mutuel Wagering Author: Victor Charles Ferguson Year: 2020

This dissertation investigates if taxpayers deliberately avoid IRS third-party reporting mechanisms, focusing on an IRS amendment in 2017 that changed how gambling winnings are reported. Specifically, it looks at the impact on thoroughbred racing wagers in the US, using Canadian tracks as a control.

Title: Essays on Product Innovation and Failures Author: Moonsik Shin Year: 2020

This dissertation delves into how strategic decisions made by firms can lead to innovation failures, a relatively underexplored area compared to studies on successful innovations. The research is structured into three essays. The first explores how inter-organisational relationships, specifically investments from venture capitalists, can influence innovation failures due to pressures such as time constraints imposed on portfolio companies. The second essay examines the role of acquisitions in innovation failures, suggesting that challenges like adverse selection and integration issues post-acquisition can significantly hinder a firm’s innovation outcomes. The third essay looks at how incremental product development can lead to failures if new products are too dependent on existing technologies, which may themselves be flawed.

Need a helping hand?

phd dissertation document

Examples: Psychology Dissertations

Title: Development and Validation of the Instrumental Support Inventory for Spouses Author: Ryan P. Egan Year: 2020

This research develops and validates the Instrumental Support Inventory for Spouses (ISI-s), a new tool to measure the practical support received from a romantic partner. The study involved two phases: initially, 372 married individuals helped refine the 39-item inventory across five categories through exploratory factor analysis, assessing reliability and validity. The second phase tested the inventory with 298 parents and their partners, using a longitudinal design, confirming its reliability and validity further.

Title: Dysfunctional Individuation, Spiritual Struggle and Identity in Emerging Adults: A Developmental Approach Author: Katheryn J. Klukow Kelley Year: 2020

This study investigates why emerging adults are participating less in organised religion, yet showing increased spirituality, attributing this shift to the process of religious identity development. The research involved a longitudinal survey of 788 students at a religious university, using structural equation models to analyse data collected at four points over an academic year.

Title: Depression Dynamics across a Decade: Density in Daily Depressive Affect and Yearly Depressive Symptoms Author: Raquael J. Joiner Year: 2020

This thesis investigates depression through a dynamic systems perspective, which views changes in depressive symptoms as part of an interconnected network of emotions and states, rather than isolated events. The research focuses on how the density of depressive affect—essentially the compactness and intensity of depressive symptoms—varies within individuals over a decade. By examining data at five different timepoints, the study aims to understand how these symptoms cluster daily and how this clustering influences transitions into or out of depressive states year by year.

Title: Maternal and Adolescent ADHD, Aggression, and Dysfunctional Discipline: Mediating Roles of Maternal Emotion Dysregulation and Stress Author: Natalie M. Ehret Year: 2020

This dissertation explores the challenges that parents face when both they and their children exhibit symptoms of ADHD, as well as oppositional defiant and aggressive behaviours. It investigates how these symptoms in mothers and adolescents may influence parenting discipline, focusing specifically on the roles of maternal emotion dysregulation and stress in shaping disciplinary practices. The study employs a process-oriented approach to better understand these complex dynamics.

Title: Linguistic Markers of Maternal Focus within Emotional Conversations: The Role of Depressive Symptoms and Maltreatment Author: Brigid Behrens Year: 2020

This study explores the relationship between maternal well-being and the language used during parent-child conversations about past emotional events. It specifically examines the use of first-person singular (“I”) and first-person plural (“we”) pronouns during a reminiscing task, to determine how maternal language might reflect cognitive biases. The research includes 229 mother-child dyads, both maltreating and non-maltreating, who are part of a larger clinical trial focused on Reminiscing and Emotion Training.

Examples of education-related dissertations and theses

Examples: Education Theses

Title: Functions and Purposes of Outdoor Education in Singaporean Education and Society: An Instrumental Case Study Author: Susanna Ho Year: 2011

This research aims to explore the roles outdoor education can play in Singapore, by conducting a case study of one school’s programme. Employing interviews, participant observations, and document analysis with tools like NVivo software, the study uses a grounded theory framework to interpret findings. It also incorporates Gert Biesta’s educational functions to assess outdoor education within Singapore’s specific context.

Title: The Impact of Internationalisation of Higher Education on Nursing Education in an Australian University: A Case Study Author: Elizabeth Alexandra Lavender Year: 2014

This study examines the impact of the rapid internationalisation of higher education on the School of Nursing and Midwifery at La Trobe University, Australia. It explores how global trends and policies, particularly the shift from ‘Aid to Trade’, have influenced educational practices within the school. The research uses a case study approach, incorporating document analysis and interviews with 15 university staff experienced in international education.

Title: Diabetes Education from the Podiatrist Perspective Author: Julia Yungken Year: 2020

This thesis investigates how diabetes education is delivered by podiatrists to patients, and the retention of this education over time. Through a series of four articles, the research first conducts a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine current educational practices. It then follows a study with three podiatrists and 24 patients over six months to observe educational retention. Additionally, a survey among Australian podiatrists assesses various educational methods and experiences. The study utilises diverse methodologies including observational studies, cognitive assessments, and surveys to understand and enhance the educational practices in diabetes care provided by podiatrists.

Title: Empowering Saudi Arabian Primary Teachers Through Participatory Action Research to Improve Their Professional Knowledge and Practices Regarding Gifted Learners Author: Faisal Yahya Alamiri Year: 2013
Title: Developing a National Assessment Model to Inform Educational Policy in Bhutan Author: Gembo Tshering Year: 2012

Examples of healthcare-related dissertations and theses

Examples: Healthcare-Related Dissertations

Title: Impact of the Increased Use of Telehealth on Health Care Management and Administration: The Case of New Care Management Practices Author: Immacula Pierre Year: 2024

This qualitative study explored the perceptions of healthcare managers on telehealth’s role and its influence on healthcare practices during the pandemic, focusing on aspects like provision and quality control. Through video-conferenced semi-structured interviews with 10 healthcare managers across various U.S. settings, the research aimed to understand the benefits, challenges, and the future role of telehealth.

Title: Healthcare Facilities Management Leadership Style Compared to Traditional Healthcare Business and Clinical Leaders Author: Joshua Ashlock Year: 2020

This dissertation explores leadership style differences between two groups within healthcare: traditional business and clinical leaders (represented by members of the American College of Healthcare Executives, ACHE) and healthcare facilities management leaders (represented by members of the American Society of Healthcare Engineers, ASHE). The research focuses on comparing transformational, transactional, and passive-avoidant leadership traits between these groups.

Title: Leadership Support as an Influence on Frontline Healthcare Employee Retention in the Washington Metropolitan Area (DMV) Author: Tamika Fair Year: 2023

This qualitative case study addresses the significant issue of high turnover rates among frontline healthcare employees in the DMV area, examining how the lack of support from healthcare leadership contributes to this problem. Through semi-structured interviews with 11 primary healthcare administrators in the DMV region, the research investigates how leaders engage with frontline workers and assesses their preparedness to tackle high staff turnover.

Title: Electronic Patient Portals: Promotion of Access by Healthcare Workers Increases Patient Engagement Author: Dena Todd Year: 2022

This integrative literature review examines strategies for promoting electronic patient portal (EPP) access in healthcare settings, a requirement highlighted by the Health Information for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2010. The review underscores the importance of EPP systems in providing patients with access to their personal health information, including medications, lab results, diagnostics, and appointments. It discusses the potential risks for healthcare organisations that fail to offer such access, notably the loss of federal funding.

Title: Understanding Workplace Conditions Contributing to Physician Burnout Prevalence in Maryland State Author: Fatima Adefunke Queen Year: 2023

This dissertation utilises a qualitative multiple-case study to examine the workplace conditions that contribute to physician burnout in Maryland, particularly among primary care providers who show burnout rates of up to 50%. The study involved interviews with 21 physicians, including Medical Doctors (M.D.s), Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNPs), and Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Using Shanafelt’s well-being framework, the research aimed to understand the factors leading to burnout and its subsequent impact on physician attrition.

Examples of political science-related dissertations and theses

Examples: Political Science Theses

Title: The Influence of Peer Relationships on Political Socialisation Among College Students Author: Zachary Thomas Isaacs Year: 2021

This thesis investigates the role of peer relationships in the political socialisation of college students. This is an area not extensively covered by existing research, which primarily focuses on parental influence and often excludes the post-18 age group. A survey was conducted among college students aged 18 to 24, to explore how they communicate with their peers regarding politics and the effects of these interactions on their political socialisation.

Title: The Impact of Political Culture on Political Reactions: A Case Study of EU Sanctions on Russia Author: Kenzie Robin De Keyser Year: 2020

This dissertation examines the complex political impacts of European Union (EU) sanctions on Russia, taking into account the nuanced interplay between Russia’s political culture and the economic interdependencies between the EU and Russia. The research utilises the Cross-Cultural Competency (3Cs) Theorem to analyse key elements of Russian political culture—Russian Orthodox Christianity, geography, autocracy, and economic development— which are crucial in shaping the country’s political responses and governmental structure.

Title: Biased Representation: How Compulsory Voting and Campaign Finance Interact to Influence Government Responsiveness Author: Sarah Steinberg Year: 2016

This thesis investigates the interaction between compulsory voting and campaign finance, focusing on how they influence government responsiveness. It argues that the significant financial influence in political campaigns can lead to an elite bias, where government policies favour wealthier interests. The study uses statistical analysis and case studies from two countries to explore whether compulsory voting, which typically results in nearly universal voter turnout, can mitigate this bias.

Example: Dissertation Proposal

Example: literature review chapter, example: methodology chapter.

phd dissertation document

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Dissertations and Theses

The dissertation is the hallmark of the research expertise demonstrated by a doctoral student. It is a scholarly contribution to knowledge in the student’s area of specialization. By researching and writing a dissertation, the student is expected to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and the capability to function as an independent scholar. 

A thesis is a hallmark of some master’s programs. It is a piece of original research, generally less comprehensive than a dissertation, and is meant to show the student’s knowledge of an area of specialization.  

Document Preparation

PhD and master’s students are responsible for meeting all requirements for preparing theses and dissertations. They are expected to confer with their advisors about disciplinary and program expectations and to follow Graduate School procedure requirements.

The Graduate School’s format review is in place to help the document submission process go smoothly for the student. Format reviews for PhD dissertations and master’s theses can be done remotely or in-person. The format review is required at or before the two-week notice of the final defense. 

Access and Distribution

Ohio State has agreements with two organizations— OhioLINK   and   ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing —that store and provide access to Ohio State theses and dissertations.  


Graduate degree examinations are a major milestone in all graduate students’ pursuit of their graduate degree. Much hinges on the successful completion of these examinations, including the ability to continue in a graduate program. 

The rules and processes set by the Graduate School ensure the integrity of these examinations for graduate students, the graduate faculty, and for Ohio State. 

Final Semester

During your final semester as a graduate student there are many activities that lead up to commencement and receiving your degree. Complete the final semester checklist and learn more about commencement activities.

Graduation Calendar

Select your expected graduation term below to see specific dates concerning when to apply for graduation, complete your examinations and reports, submit approved thesis and dissertation, commencement, and the end-of semester deadline.

Applications to Graduate Due 1  : January 26, 2024

Examinations and Reports completed by 2  : April 12, 2024

Approved thesis and dissertation submitted and accepted by 3  : April 19, 2024

Commencement 4  : May 5, 2024

End of Semester Deadline 5  : May 6, 2024

Applications to Graduate Due 1  : May 24, 2024

Examinations and Reports completed by 2  : July 12, 2024

Approved thesis and dissertation submitted and accepted by 3  : July 19, 2024

Commencement 4  : August 4, 2024

End of Semester Deadline 5  : August 19, 2024

Applications to Graduate Due 1  : September 6, 2024

Examinations and Reports completed by 2  : November 22, 2024

Approved thesis and dissertation submitted and accepted by 3  : November 27, 2024

Commencement 4  : December 15, 2024

End of Semester Deadline 5  : January 3, 2025

Applications to Graduate Due 1  : January 24, 2025

Examinations and Reports completed by 2  : April 11, 2025

Approved thesis and dissertation submitted and accepted by 3  : April 18, 2025

Commencement 4  : May 4, 2025

End of Semester Deadline 5  : May 5, 2025

1  Applications to graduate include current semester or End-of-Semester deadline. Applications must be received by close of business.

2 Format reviews may occur electronically or in person at the Graduate School during announced business hours.  Both options require submitting a digital version of the dissertation or DMA document draft in a PDF format to  [email protected] .  

3  Approved documents must be submitted via OhioLINK and accepted by the Graduate School by the close of business before the Report on Final Document will be processed.

4  Students not attending commencement must complete the commencement section on the Application to Graduate to indicate how their diploma should be disbursed.

5  A degree applicant who does not meet published graduation deadlines but who does complete all degree requirements by the last business day prior to the first day of classes for the following semester or summer term will graduate the following semester or summer term without registering or paying fees

Still Have Questions?

Dissertations & Theses 614-292-6031 [email protected]

Doctoral Exams, Master's Examination, Graduation Requirements 614-292-6031 [email protected]

Graduate Student Success Center

Thesis and dissertation template.

The Graduate College offers a thesis/dissertation template that contains all required content and formatting. You can either write your document from within the template or apply the template’s formatting to your previously created work.

Need help working in the template? Schedule an appointment today.

Before You Begin

The first time you download the template, save the template file to your computer before you begin work on your document. This is important if you are composing your thesis/dissertation within the template or if you are copying and pasting your content into the template. You may need the original template file in the future.

Please note: We offer the Google Doc template for initial drafts of your thesis/dissertation to share easily with your committee chair. We do not accept Google Documents as the final document of your thesis/dissertation. Google Docs does not have the functionality we require for our final theses/dissertations. Please use the Google Doc template while keeping in mind that you will need to convert your document to Microsoft Word later.

Download Thesis and Dissertation Template (Word Doc) Download Thesis and Dissertation Template (LATEX) Download Thesis and Dissertation Template (Google Doc)

Word Template Last Updated: February 2021

Word Document Template Information

Download instructions.

  • Download the Boise State Template from the orange callout ribbon above.
  • Show the downloaded file in the Downloads folder.
  • Right click and select Open
  • Enable Content
  • Click File > Save As and name the file, for instance, Boise_State_Template.dotm (note the extension is “.dotm”) and  Save as type:  Word Macro-Enabled Template (*.dotm) .  It is recommended locating this file on your desktop – it may come in handy if you need to reattach the template to your document in the future (see below).
  • Close this file.

Working Within the Template

To work within the template, styles are applied throughout the document. These styles can be found by clicking the arrow in the lower right hand corner of the Styles section in the Home tab. To apply a style, simply highlight the text that you wish to format and click the appropriate name from the styles list.

When entering your own work into the template, be sure to apply the following styles to the appropriate parts of your document. Failure to do so will mean that your Table of Contents, List of Figures, and List of Tables will be incorrect.

  • Format a Heading 1 in all caps, and centered
  • Format a Heading 2 in title-caps, bold, and centered
  • Format a Heading 3 in title-caps, underlined, and aligned left
  • Format a Heading 4 in title-caps, underlined, and indented once
  • Format a Heading 5 in title-caps, underlined and indented twice
  • Figure Captions are bolded and centered in the template. They may also be justified.
  • Table Captions are bolded and aligned left in the template. They may also be justified.
  • Appendix Heading 2
  • Appendix Heading 3

Formatting Landscape Pages

When setting pages of your document to landscape orientation to accommodate large figures or tables, you must reformat their page numbers so that they will still be visible after binding.

  • Open the landscape page’s header by double-clicking within the header.
  • Deselect Link to Previous, located in the Navigation section of the Design tab. Repeat this step for the page following the landscape page.
  • Delete the landscape page’s current page number.
  • Click Insert → Page Number (in the Header & Footer section)→Page Margins.
  • Select Landscape Page Numbers.

Note: If your other pages’ pagination disappears after inserting landscape page numbers, you likely did not turn off Link to Previous. Undo your changes to the page numbers and restart the instructions.

Replacing Table of Contents, List of Figures, and List of Tables

After your writing and editing is complete, you will need to replace the Table of Contents, List of Figures, and List of Tables.

  • Right click the existing TOC, LOF, or LOT.
  • Click Update Field.
  • Select Update entire table and click Ok.

Note: All other lists (such as a List of Abbreviations or List of Graphs) are not updated automatically. Instead, the template includes examples of manually-created lists that can be altered to fit your needs.

Attaching the Template to a Preexisting Document. If your document is at or near completion, it may be easier for you to attach the template to your existing file than to paste your document into a new template.

Formatting Styles and Applying Styles

Before attaching the Thesis/Dissertation template to your document, you must first apply the following styles to the appropriate sections of your work. It does not matter how these styles look – when you first apply them they will not look right – only that the names of the styles match those in the following list exactly. After you have applied all the styles and attach the template the document will be formatted correctly.

These styles can be found by clicking the arrow in the lower right hand corner of the Styles section in the Home tab. Leave this menu open while you work through the document. To apply a style, simply highlight the text that you wish to format and click the appropriate name from the styles list.

Attaching Styles

  • Access the Styles menu by clicking the lower-right corner of the Styles box on the Home tab in Windows. Keep this menu open on the side of your screen and apply the styles to your document as you work.
  • Highlight the text you wish to format (it is often only necessary to “click in” the section you wish to format)
  • Click the appropriate style from the Styles menu

Note: If the style you are looking for is not included in the list you may need to create the style (see next).

Creating Styles

Some required styles will not be listed in the premade styles, thus you will need to create them yourself.

  • Highlight the text that you wish to format
  • Right click the text and select Styles → Save Selection as a New Quick Style.
  • Enter the appropriate style name and click OK.

Note: Remember, it does not matter how these styles look at this time, only that the style names match the names listed in the table above.

Attaching the Template

After applying styles to your document, you can attach the template, which will fix most of your document’s formatting issues.

  • Download the Boise State Thesis and Dissertation Template and save it to your computer. See instructions above under “Before you Begin.”
  • Open the Word document containing your thesis/dissertation, click file, click options, click add-ins, and select templates from the Manage drop down menu at the bottom of the page. Click go.
  • In the Document Template section, click Attach.
  • Navigate to the folder in which you saved the template and select it.
  • Important: Check the box labeled “Automatically update document styles.”

Adjusting Margins

  • Click Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  • In the Home ribbon, click layout, click margins and select the mirror margin option that contains inside margin 1.5″, top and bottom margins 1.”

Setting Page Numbers

Be careful that you set section breaks between front matter and body text and also between portrait and landscape-oriented pages (see Manually Formatting Your Document for instructions on setting page breaks). Each has a different way of formatting their pagination.

Front Matter

  •  Set a continuous section break immediately before the Heading 1 on the first page that follows your approval pages.
  • Set a continuous section break immediately before the title of Chapter 1.
  • Open the footer on the first page following your approval page by clicking the Footer button in the Header & Footer section of the Insert tab and selecting Edit Footer.
  • Deselect Link to Previous, located in the Navigation section of the Design tab. This step is only necessary for the first numbered page in the front matter.
  • Insert page numbers. Front matter page numbers should be in lowercase Roman numerals and should be centered at the bottom of each page.
  • Double-click inside the footer of the first page in Chapter 1.
  • Deselect Link to Previous, located in the Navigation section of the Design tab. This step is only necessary for the first page in the body text.
  • Delete the page numbers from the footer.
  • Open the header on the same page by double-clicking inside the header.
  • Deselect Link to Previous, located in the Navigation section of the Design tab.
  • Insert alpha-numeric page numbers, starting with 1, into the upper right-hand corner of the pages.

Landscape Pages

  • Repeat step 3 on the page following the landscape page.
  • Click Insert → Page Number (in the Header & Footer section) → Page Margins.

Inserting Table of Contents and Lists of Figures or Tables

Finally, after your document’s content is complete, you will need to create the Table of Contents, List of Figures, and List of Tables.

  • In the Home ribbon, select References , then select Table of Contents and choose the first option.
  • To build your list of tables or figures do the following: on the Home ribbon, select references, select Insert List of Table of Figures, on the options drop down select either table captions or figure captions depending on which you are creating. You will then have to manually insert the heading.

Note: The template does not include macros for automatically generating other lists such as a List of Abbreviations or List of Graphs. However, it does include example lists that can be copied, pasted, and altered to meet your needs.

Helpful Tips

  • Access the Styles menu by clicking the lower-right corner of the styles box on the Home tab in Windows. Keep this menu open on the side of your screen, or on a second screen, and apply the styles to your document as you work. To make the document styles behave, use the styles in the template. For example, for all Heading 1s, use the Heading 1 style, which will automatically insert a break and a 2 inch margin, etc. As long as the styles are used, the document should behave appropriately, and the table of contents will include the headings once updated. To modify the Table of Contents, click once to highlight the table in gray, right-click and select “Update Entire Field.”
  • Show formatting marks as you work in your document.  Click on the File tab, then Options, Display, and click on the box “Show all formatting marks” and OK.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

1. introduction, 2.1 ph.d. advising, 2.2 grad review, 2.3 pre-candidacy requirements.

  • 2.4 Preliminary Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

2.5 Candidacy and Dissertation Defense

2.6 graduation requirements for ph.d. students.

  • 3. Travel Grants for Ph.D. Students

4. Internships

This document is tailored for graduate students in the Computer Science Department, providing essential details on degree requirements and other important aspects of graduate study. Graduate education in the department is managed by the Associate Chair, who is also the Graduate Program Director, along with the Assistant Director and Graduate Coordinator, collectively referred to as the “Graduate Office.” 

phd dissertation document

For information regarding campus-wide graduate study requirements, policies, and deadlines, please refer to the resources provided by the UMCP Graduate School and in the Graduate Catalog. Specific information about registration and coursework requirements for our programs can be found here .

2. Ph.D. Degree Requirements

In the Ph.D. program, every student is either assigned a faculty advisor or has mutually agreed upon an advisory relationship with a faculty member upon entering the program. The initial advisor assignment is typically based on the student's stated research interests at the time of admission. However, it's recognized that research interests may evolve, or changes in faculty capacity or interests may occur, necessitating a change in advisors. Generally, the faculty member with whom you are actively conducting your Ph.D. research should serve as your advisor. You should ideally identify your advisor by the end of your first year, but no later than the end of your second year. 

You are expected to meet with your initially assigned advisor at least once during the first semester. Following this initial meeting, you should plan for more frequent consultations to discuss your academic and research progress. 

In cases where you accept a research assistantship with a professor who is not your current advisor, that professor may become your new advisor. It's important to officially notify the Computer Science Graduate Office whenever there is a change in your advisor.

Before the commencement of any advising relationship, both you and the supervising faculty member are expected to meet to review and confirm the expectations for this relationship. This includes a summary of the nature of the required duties. To facilitate these discussions, a Statement of Mutual Expectations template can be found on the Graduate School's Forms webpage .

Every April, the Grad Review Committee reviews the progress of graduate students in the program. The findings from this review are then discussed in a faculty meeting. 

Key Focus Areas:

  • Coursework Performance: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all courses taken at the University. Low grades are closely monitored.
  • Qualifying Coursework Completion: Completion of qualifying coursework is expected by the end of the fifth semester. Concerns arise for students who have not met this requirement within this timeframe.
  • Advancement to Candidacy: Advancement to candidacy is generally expected by the third or fourth year, with the latest acceptable timeline being the end of the fourth year. Any delays in achieving this milestone necessitate a departmental petition (refer to section 2.4 ). Failing to advance to candidacy by the fifth year requires a petition to the graduate school and is considered a significant concern.
  • Dissertation Defense Timeline: Defense of the dissertation is expected within two years of advancing to candidacy. A delay beyond the third year is a red flag.The Graduate School requires 12 credits of 899 doctoral dissertation research credits. In most cases, this requirement is satisfied by two semesters (fall/spring) of post-candidacy registration, in which the candidate is automatically registered for six credits of Doctoral Dissertation Research (899) per semester.
  • Petitions for Extensions: Petitions for extended time to advance to candidacy or for delayed dissertation defense must be strongly supported by the advisor. The student must provide a detailed explanation for the delay.

Students identified as not making satisfactory progress will receive direct communication from their advisor and the Graduate Office.

Students who encounter specific challenges or delays have the option to request an extension from the Graduate School. These requests should include a detailed timeline and plan of action. Support from the student’s advisor is needed before submitting your form to the Graduate Office via the submission form.

The Computer Science graduate program is structured as a two-stage program, with an expected total duration of five to six years which is a smaller duration than the time limitations set by the Graduate School's policies . In the initial "pre-candidacy" stage, students develop foundational knowledge in Computer Science ("breadth") and specialized knowledge in their research subarea ("depth"), under the mentorship of a graduate faculty advisor.

Minimum Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy in the Computer Science graduate program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete at least six MS/Ph.D. Qualifying Courses at the 600–800 level
  • Achieve a minimum of four A's (includes A- and A+) and two B's (includes B-) or above in Qualifying Courses to demonstrate mastery
  • Ensure that the Qualifying Courses cover at least four different areas. Courses that are eligible for two areas will have only one count towards degree requirements. Whichever area the student has not yet taken as part of a breadth requirement will be used by default.

In addition, students must:

  • Enroll in the Ph.D. seminar course “How to Conduct Great Research” (CMSC800) 
  • Complete two additional “Elective” graduate courses (600-800 level), which can be outside the department and do not necessarily need to be qualifying courses, but must be completed with a grade of B- or higher

Qualifying Course Designation is provided by the graduate office. For a course to be considered as qualifying, its grading must be primarily based (at least 75%) on a combination of homework, programming assignments, research projects, and exams. Among these, written exams must constitute at least 30% of the overall grade. 

* Professional master's courses do not count towards the qualifying or elective course requirements for a Ph.D. degree.

Students with previous graduate-level preparation can waive up to three courses. However, the mastery requirement of achieving 4 A’s in qualifying courses cannot be waived.

For detailed information on coursework requirements, waivers, and a list of available courses, students should refer to the program's webpage . 

2.4 Preliminary Examination and Advancing to Candidacy

The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination, required after completing coursework and before the end of the fourth year of your admission to the program, assesses your readiness for dissertation research. You and your advisor decide when you are ready to take this step. It's expected that there will be at least a one-year gap between your proposal defense and the final dissertation defense. 

The proposal defense is an oral examination to review your preparation to conduct your proposed dissertation research and your plan of research. These are described in a proposal document. Your mastery over both fundamental concepts and the research literature in three areas related to your research are also examined. This is done via a “reading list” with about 10 publications (fundamental texts or research papers) in each of these areas. The reading list must be formatted according to the bibliographic standards in your field.

The goal of the examination is for the committee to discover whether or not you understand the subject matter sufficiently well to carry out the proposed research. The proposal document must be deemed satisfactory by your advisor before release to the rest of the committee. At a minimum, it should describe your proposed research, survey relevant literature, and propose a timeline for your research. The examination covers both the proposal document and the reading list.

Composition of the Preliminary Examination Committee

The preliminary examination committee must include a minimum of two faculty members whose primary appointment is within the Computer Science department.

  • Your dissertation advisor, serving as the committee chair
  • A departmental representative from outside your research area and may be suggested by your advisor. This representative must be a tenure-track faculty member in Computer Science, within a different field committee than the committee chair (Refer to Field Committee membership details here )
  • At least one additional graduate faculty member, chosen by you and your advisor. This person could be outside the department or could be a co-advisor
  • The committee must include at least 50% CS TTK faculty representation (Refer to the FAQ page for a detailed explanation)

Inclusion of External Committee Members

For inclusion of external committee members (those not affiliated with UMD or not part of the graduate faculty), submit a request at least six weeks prior to the exam date. Your request must include a concise justification, a list of existing committee members, and a CV of the proposed external committee member. To submit this request, please complete this Google form.  External members or non-CS faculty are permitted, as long as these CS representation percentages are upheld.

Candidacy Advancement Documents

  • Oral Exam Scheduling Form
  • Action of Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee (to be sent to your committee directly prior to your examination)
  • Application for Admission to Candidacy

At least two weeks before the day you intend to take the exam, submit the oral exam scheduling form and share your proposal and reading list with each examination committee member. After this, a draft announcement will be prepared and sent to you and your advisor for review before it is circulated to the department. Once your proposal is received, our office will send the Action of Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee to your committee members. Note that your preliminary exam cannot be conducted without a submitted written proposal.

Written Proposal Document and Reading List Requirements

Your dissertation proposal document must describe your proposed dissertation research and outline the steps necessary for its completion. The proposal, which requires your advisor’s approval, should include:

  • A description of the work completed so far
  • A plan for your proposed research
  • A survey of relevant literature 
  • A proposed timeline for completing your research, along with a discussion of potential risks or assumptions
  • Reading lists that encompass basic and applied knowledge in three areas related to the proposal, with approximately 10 references each
  • Ensure all references in your proposal adhere to the formatting and style guidelines outlined in the University of Maryland Thesis and Dissertation Style Guide
  • While not mandatory, it is highly recommended that your proposal follows the Dissertation style guide. Templates are available here

Conduct of the Preliminary Examination

At least one week before the exam, the department distributes a notice of the examination, inviting all members of the department to attend as non-voting participants. The examination committee chair may invite additional non-voting participants. Unless otherwise specified in this section or exempted with approval from the Graduate Office, the protocol for attending the examination and provisions for remote participation adhere to the Graduate School's policy .

Examination Structure

The oral examination typically spans two hours and encompasses the following segments:

  • Your presentation of the dissertation proposal (about 30-45 minutes)
  • Questions and discussion of the proposal in an open forum
  • Questions and discussion of the proposal in a closed setting with the committee
  • An examination based on the reading list

During this examination, you will be expected to demonstrate a level of competence that is necessary to complete the research plan.

Subsequent to the examination, candidates will be asked to step out while the committee deliberates. The committee's determination may be a pass, fail, or a deferred decision. Your committee chair reports the outcome to the department via Adobe Sign. Should the committee defer its decision, the dissertation advisor will detail the intended measures to resolve the decision to the department. 

The committee member designated as the department representative is responsible for ensuring adherence to these procedural guidelines.

Upon passing the preliminary examination, you may proceed to "advance to candidacy." Please submit the Application for Admission to Candidacy, signed by your advisor, through the CS Graduate Form Submissions . For effective advancement from the first day of the following month, submit this form to the Graduate Office before the 24th of the current month. Following the approval from the Registrar's office, you will also be promoted to Stipend Level III.

If you are unable to propose before the end of the 4th year, please request an extension through the CS Graduate Form Submissions , providing justifications for the extension. This request must include a letter from your advisor supporting the extension and describing the circumstances that have prevented you from proposing. Additionally, the extension request must outline a plan for when you plan to propose and complete your research. 

Conducting Research as a Candidate

Upon passing the Ph.D. Preliminary Exam and advancing to candidacy, candidates will be registered by the Graduate School for CMSC 899: Doctoral Dissertation Research for six credits each fall and spring semester until the degree is awarded. Waivers of Registration may be granted only under the University's policy for Leave of Absence for Graduate Students for Childbearing, Adoption, Illness, or Dependent Care (see Graduate School’s Registration Policies ).

Candidates are expected to contribute original research to the field of computer science, articulating their findings in a dissertation. Guidance on dissertation structure is provided by the advisor, adhering to the format prescribed by the UMCP Graduate School .

*Tuition for CMSC899 is a flat rate of $1,350.00 (in-state) or $2,626.00 (out-of-state) for 6 credits. But if any 898 or below graduate level courses are taken simultaneously, those credits will be charged at the standard Graduate level Tuition and Fees scale ($828.00 per credit for residents and $1,805.00 for non-residents). For detailed information, refer to this link .

Composition of the Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must consist of a minimum of five members, including your advisor. All members must hold appointments as regular, adjunct, or special members of the UMCP Graduate Faculty. Essential composition requirements are:

  • A minimum of three Full Members from the Graduate Faculty
  • A minimum of two Full Members from the CS faculty (excluding affiliates)
  • One Dean's Representative who is a tenured member of the Graduate Faculty must have a tenure home different from the student’s program and that of the chair and any co-chair(s)

Note: Regardless of the affiliation of the dissertation committee's chair, the Dean's Representative cannot be from the CS department. All Regular professors (tenure-track and above) in the Computer Science Department are Full Members of the Graduate Faculty ( Graduate Faculty Categories can be found here).

Scholars from other institutions or those appointed as research faculty on this campus may be requested as committee members. Your request must include a concise justification, a list of existing committee members, and a CV of the proposed external committee member. To submit this request, please complete this Google form. Requests should be submitted at least six weeks in advance of the exam. For further information about nominating faculty for dissertation committees and due dates for the nomination form, see the Graduate Faculty Policy.

Approval of the Dissertation Committee

For the formation of the dissertation committee, submit a signed Nomination of Dissertation Committee form to the Graduate Office by the deadline stated for that semester. This action is generally required by the third week of the semester of anticipated degree completion. Any subsequent changes in the committee composition necessitate filing a revised nomination form. Once approved, committee appointments remain valid even if the approval occurs in a different semester from the defense.

Dissertation Defense Protocol

Scheduling the defense.

After your dissertation has been finalized to the satisfaction of your advisor, you are to arrange your dissertation defense. This entails submitting an oral examination scheduling form to the Computer Science Graduate Office at least two weeks prior to your intended defense date. Additionally, distribute a copy of your dissertation to every member of your dissertation committee with at least two weeks advance notice. Upon finalizing the defense details, send a Google Calendar invitation to both your committee members and the Graduate Coordinator.


The department will issue an announcement of the defense examination to all graduate faculty members by sending an invitation to dept [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu . This invitation encourages graduate faculty to attend as non-voting participants. Additionally, the chair of the examination committee has the discretion to invite further non-voting attendees. The announcement will also be posted on talks.cs.umd.edu.

Conducting the Defense

The defense is an oral examination capped at two hours, structured as follows:

  • Public Presentation: The candidate presents the main aspects of their research, typically not exceeding 45 minutes. The audience may ask questions, but the Chair of the Dissertation Examining Committee has discretion over the relevance of questions and the time allocated for responses.
  • Formal Examination: Conducted by the Dissertation Examination Committee, this session is open to members of the Graduate Faculty and graduate students from the candidate’s program. Only the Dissertation Examining Committee may pose questions during this part. Departments may restrict attendance to only the Dissertation Examining Committee and Graduate Faculty members.
  • Final Discussion and Voting: After the formal examination, only the Dissertation Examining Committee members are permitted to attend the final discussion and vote to reach a decision on the acceptability of the defense.

For further information about procedures for oral disserataion examination, see the  Doctor of Philosophy Degree Policies.

Remote Defense

Current Graduate School policy allows for a committee member to request permission to participate in a dissertation defense remotely. Only in exceptional cases would remote participation be permitted for the student, a committee chair, and/or the Dean’s Representative. The procedure for remote participation in a PhD defense is managed by the Graduate School. To ensure timely processing, requests should be submitted at least 10 business days prior to the defense date. Further details are available on the Graduate School's website . To submit a request, the committee chair should use this link .

Post-Defense Requirements

To fulfill your degree requirements, you must:

  • Pass the oral defense
  • Implement all modifications to the dissertation as required by your committee
  • Submit the revised dissertation electronically to the Graduate School.

Be mindful that the Graduate Office will provide you with a reminder and the necessary deadline for the electronic submission of your dissertation. For detailed information regarding the dissertation defense process, refer to the UMCP Graduate Catalog .

Ph.D. candidates intending to graduate should follow this checklist for Ph.D. Students to ensure all steps and requirements are met.

Pre-Graduation Steps

During the semester you plan to graduate, ensure to complete and submit the following by the Graduate School's specified deadlines :

  • Application for Graduation : File this application through Testudo by the early semester deadline.
  • Dissertation Committee Nomination Form : This form must be submitted to the Computer Science Graduate Office using the CS Graduate Form Submissions portal

Post-Defense Documentation

After successfully defending your dissertation, promptly attend to the following:

  • All members of the committee (except the Chair of the committee) will be sent a notification 3 business days prior to the defense date indicated on the Nomination form.
  • The Chair will receive the REC form after all the members of the committee have signed off on the form.
  • Dissertation Filing: Submit your dissertation to the Graduate School, adhering to the guidelines provided here

Dissertation Embargo Option

If you wish to place an embargo on the publication of your dissertation:

  • Thesis and Dissertation Embargo Request: If desired, students have the option to place an embargo of up to two years on electronic access to their document via ProQuest's Digital Dissertations and DRUM without the need for approval from the Graduate School. You may submit a Dissertation Embargo Request via CS Graduate Form Submissions if you’d like to place an embargo that’s more than 2 years

Note that all forms are subject to strict deadlines. To avoid any delays in your graduation process, submit all documentation as per the schedules provided by the Graduate School.

Post-Dissertation Submission 

Upon the completion of your dissertation submission, ensure to follow these critical steps:

  • Surveys: Complete the Graduate School Surveys as well as the departmental survey
  • CMNS Commencement Registration: Make sure to register for the CMNS Commencement (Mid-Semester, Fall & Spring). For more information on commencement, refer to the CMNS website . 

3. Travel Grants for PhD Students

The Computer Science Department offers travel grants for Ph.D. students with expenses related to attending conferences at which their papers have been accepted. The allocation of these grants is competitive, and the Graduate Director is responsible for making the award decisions. Students may apply anytime by submitting their applications to the Graduate Office.

The grant amounts are capped at $500 for domestic and $1000 for international travel. The conference attended should be reputable, and the student's request should be supported by their advisor. Please note that during their time in the degree program, students may only receive up to $1000 in grant funding, and this is contingent on the availability of departmental funds.

To submit your application, please fill out this form , detailing your request, and upload a combined PDF. This PDF should include a copy of your accepted paper and a statement of support from your faculty advisor (this can be in the form of an email).

Additionally, students are also encouraged to apply for funds for conference registration fees and matching travel funds through the Graduate School’s travel grants.

To process applications for these Graduate School grants, the required forms must be signed by the CS Business Office. Forms for these grants should be forwarded to reimbursements [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu for review and signature by the CS Business Office.

Graduate students may undertake paid internships during the summer months. International students should check with International Education Services (IES) for the procedures to be followed.

  • Career Advice
  • Advancing in the Faculty

Supporting Dissertation Writers Through the Silent Struggle

While we want Ph.D. students to be independent, our practices can signal that we’re not available to support them when they need it, writes Ramon B. Goings.

By  Ramon B. Goings

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Consider the following discussion. A student tells me, “I have so much going on right now. I’m trying to write this dissertation, take care of my mom and raise my kids. I’m giving to everyone else and have nothing left to write.”

“Thanks for sharing,” I respond. “Have you reached out to your adviser to discuss what is happening and see what resources you might be able to access?”

“My adviser said they will meet with me when I have a document ready for them to review. They are too busy,” the student says. “I’ve just been struggling in silence and don’t know what to do.”

This conversation highlights the reality for many doctoral students—they may experience hardships in silence. The doctoral journey is an interesting experience during which students are provided structure through coursework and then, once they enter the dissertation phase, that structure is removed. They usually are in a position where they have to manage everything themselves.

As faculty members, we try to provide the space of intellectual curiosity for our students and allow them to explore their dissertation topics. However, while we want students to be independent, our practices can signal that we are not available to support them when they need it. What are some strategies that we should consider implementing to support our students who too often struggle in silence? Below are three that I have implemented in my chairing process.

Create an environment where students can share. Students want to meet our expectations and standards. Yet in efforts to not burden us, some students may choose not to reach out to us when they are experiencing challenges. In some instances, they also do not come to us due to the fear—and, at times, the reality—that they will face adverse consequence for doing so. While that can occur during the coursework phase, it is even more common when students are writing their dissertations, because they believe they must be independent scholars and figure everything out on their own.

To combat those situations, we as dissertation chairs must first create an environment where students can feel comfortable to share what they are going through. One simple way to foster that type of relationship is to first ensure that you make time to meet regularly with your advisees. While that may seem to be an obvious practice, I often hear from doctoral students, like the one in the opening vignette of this article, that they find it challenging just to get on their chair’s calendar. That can unintentionally signal to them that we as faculty members are not available. As a faculty member, I know we have many demands on our time. To support my students, I have dedicated times each week when students can meet with me as needed. Making the time consistent on my calendar allows me to ensure other activities do not get in the way of meeting with students. To be more efficient, I created a special Calendly meeting link that has time slots open for students to schedule.

Programs should also have regular faculty meetings to discuss student academic progress, along with any well-being challenges such as mental health and/or life challenges. Sometimes a student is more comfortable talking with a faculty member who is not on their dissertation committee, and having such conversations can provide a space for all faculty members to learn what is going on and potentially troubleshoot before a student’s difficulties gets worse.

Choose your words with care. As dissertation chairs, our words hold significant power with our advisees. Those words become even more important when our students are experiencing personal and/or professional challenges. To illustrate this point, I offer you one word that, when used, can be a trigger for students: concern.

Students have told me that if we use the word “concern” when talking with them, it signals something is drastically wrong with what they are doing. So if I am relaying information—especially feedback—to students, I ask myself the following before I speak:

  • Is what I need to share truly a concern? For example, some students receive a concern comment when minor or moderate editorial changes—grammar, syntax, formatting and the like—are needed. While those must be fixed, they don’t usually rise to the level of concern that impacts the integrity of the study, a misalignment between the research questions and methodology.
  • Can I express my thoughts in a more detailed way rather than just expressing concern? In the example above, if I thought the student’s editorial work needed updates, I would explain that to them and provide examples on how the student can make the changes that I am requesting.

I am certainly aware that interpretation is important, but while students can take feedback from us on their work, I have learned to be reflective about what I say. It can influence their self-confidence, a key component for completing the dissertation process.

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Understand your role is not a problem solver but solution facilitator. When I talk with other faculty members, some are quick to declare they are scientists, not therapists, so supporting their students’ distinct life challenges isn’t in their job description. I also agree that it’s not our role as faculty members to solve students’ problems for them. But we can provide a listening ear and, most of all, connect students to the various resources that can support them in their decision making.

For instance, a chair I know was advising a doctoral student who was communicative when writing their proposal and moved through the process fairly quickly. Then, after the student collected their data, the chair noticed that the student slowed down their progress and that when they met the student exhibited some uncharacteristic behaviors. Fortunately, the two had established a positive rapport, so the faculty member was able to learn that the student was unexpectedly taking on caregiving responsibilities for a sibling while experiencing some housing instability. In that case, the faculty member was able to connect the student with a campus resource for caregivers and, through it, the student was able to find housing support.

I know many faculty members are already engaging in the practices that I’ve suggested, but I continue to encounter doctoral students at the dissertation phase who are suffering in silence.

I invite you to share with me in conversations on X any other successful strategies you’ve implemented to support your doctoral students. My mission is to bring to light some of these ideas so we can make our graduate programs spaces where our students can flourish.

Ramon B. Goings ( @ramongoings ) is an associate professor in the language, literacy and culture doctoral program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and founder of Done Dissertation .

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  1. 30 Phd Dissertation Proposal Sample

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  1. What Is a Dissertation?

    Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD. Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant. After passing ...

  2. PDF Guidelines for The PhD Dissertation

    Every PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is required to successfully complete and submit a dissertation to qualify for degree conferral. This document provides information on how to submit your dissertation, requirements for dissertation formatting, and your dissertation publishing and distribution options.

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    Generally speaking, a dissertation's purpose is to prove that you have the expertise necessary to fulfill your doctoral-degree requirements by showing depth of knowledge and independent thinking. Form. The form of a dissertation may vary by discipline. Be sure to follow the specific guidelines of your department.

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    Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George.Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process.It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to ...

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    Stage 3: Dissertation 10 8. Complete proposed dissertation work 10 9. Prepare final dissertation document 11 10. Prepare for graduation 12 11. Dissertation defense and committee approval 12 12. Submit final dissertation to the Office of Academic Affairs and Student Services 13 13. Work with the SPH Library to publish final dissertation to ...

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    Formatting the Dissertation and Preparing for Final Defense. Prepared by the Office of the University Dean of Graduate Studies 259-260 Wallis Hall 585.275.9093 March 2022. Note: This manual reflects required formatting for the PhD Dissertation. Other graduate programs requiring theses or final written projects (EdD, DMA, DNP, some master's ...

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    The Graduate School's format review is in place to help the document submission process go smoothly for the student. Format reviews for PhD dissertations and master's theses can be done remotely or in-person. The format review is required at or before the two-week notice of the final defense. Dissertation and Thesis Submission.

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  24. Ph.D. Degree Requirements

    Contents1. Introduction2. Ph.D. Degree Requirements2.1 Ph.D. Advising2.2 Grad Review2.3 Pre-candidacy Requirements2.4 Preliminary Examination and Advancement to Candidacy2.5 Candidacy and Dissertation Defense2.6 Graduation Requirements for Ph.D. Students3. Travel Grants for Ph.D. Students4. Internships1. IntroductionThis document is tailored for graduate students in the Computer Science ...

  25. Supporting Dissertation Writers Through the Silent Struggle

    This conversation highlights the reality for many doctoral students—they may experience hardships in silence. The doctoral journey is an interesting experience during which students are provided structure through coursework and then, once they enter the dissertation phase, that structure is removed.

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