A doctoral dissertation must be developed following these guidelines:

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee will be composed of:

  1. Dissertation Advisor
  2. Two Committee members (minimum of 2)
  3. Oral Exam Chair, who comes in for the final dissertation oral examination.

At a minimum, the dissertation defense committee consists of four faculty members, including the Oral Exam Chair and the student’s Dissertation Advisor. The Oral Exam Chair must be a tenured or tenure track faculty member at Syracuse University from outside of the student’s program of enrollment.

The Oral Exam Chair will preside over the oral defense and ensure that the regulations and declared policies of the Graduate School and academic unit are followed. The remaining two committee members (in addition to the advisor) must be tenured, or tenure track faculty members employed by SU with relevant expertise and typically from the student’s program and/or affiliated program faculty.

At the request of the student and with concurrence of the student’s Dissertation Advisor, the Oral Examination Committee can include more than the required minimum number of committee members. In addition, a doctoral program may elect to require additional Oral Examination Committee members above the minimum for all dissertation defenses.

If additional committee members beyond the required four members are desired and/or required by the program, additions can include: SU non-tenure track faculty member with a Ph.D. or comparable doctorate (e.g., teaching assistant professor) and/or an individual who is external to SU, assuming the individual has appropriate subject matter expertise.

The dissertation advisor must be an SU tenured or tenure-track faculty member from the student’s program of enrollment. The student’s faculty advisor typically serves as the student’s Dissertation Advisor, though exceptions are possible if well justified and with program approval, but at least one member of the committee must have faculty status in the candidate’s program area.

Three committee members (Dissertation Advisor, two additional committee members) participate in the proposal approval process and the Oral Defense Chair joins the committee before the final dissertation oral defense. In the event that a change in committee composition takes place after the proposal defense, a notice (using a Petition to Faculty form) should be sent by the faculty advisor to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Dissertation Proposal

Once your committee is in place, candidates must develop a dissertation proposal that is discussed with and approved by the three members of your committee (Dissertation Advisor, two additional committee members) through a dissertation proposal defense meeting. The student should submit a signed cover sheet of the dissertation proposal to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

What constitutes acceptable doctoral research is a question that can be addressed only with respect to specific fields of inquiry and with the guidance of scholars in those fields. Your Dissertation Committee has the ultimate responsibility for approving the design and execution of the study, as well as the dissertation itself.

Dissertation Styles

The conventional format of dissertations submitted to the faculty in education at SU follows the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Manuscript form detailed in the Chicago Manual of Style also is approved for use by School of Education students.

A summary of frequent style problems has been published by Turabian in A Manual for Writers of Dissertations (available at the SU Main Bookstore). Whatever the format, all dissertations are expected to observe the conventions of standard (edited) English.

You may refer to the Graduate School website Preparing Your Thesis/Dissertation for more guidance on dissertation styles.

Request for Examination

Once the committee agrees that the dissertation is ready for final examination, the candidate will work with the dissertation advisor to communicate the details of the upcoming oral examination, including date, time, location, and format to the Graduate School via submission of the request for examination form: shorturl.at/mrJOX .

This request for examination form will be signed by the dissertation advisor and the Department Chair (the Faculty Director of Graduate Studies after June 30, 2023), and then submitted to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will not proceed with notification of the defense until it is received. This process must be completed at least three weeks before the scheduled defense.

The dissertation and the oral defense of your dissertation are evaluated by the members of your committee. The defense of the dissertation is successful if the majority of the committee approves the research and examination performance. The Oral Exam Chair notifies the Dean of the Graduate School of the results of the defense. It is common for candidates to have required revisions. The committee will determine at the time of the defense whether revisions are to be reviewed and approved by the advisor only, or by the full committee. 


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