Ph.D. dissertation

Writing and defending the dissertation is the final requirement of the Ph.D. The Pd.D. requires the completion of 90 credit hours of graduate courses, including no more than 30 credit hours of dissertation work (X800) and no more than 9 credit hours of individualized study (X600).

Dissertation proposal

Toward the end of the third year or during the early part of the fourth year, each student is expected to present to the relevant faculty committee a comprehensive written dissertation proposal, with extensive bibliography and literature survey. (Check the Bulletin for information about the composition of this committee).

The student will defend the dissertation proposal at an oral examination before the same committee. The dissertation proposal defense will be broadly construed to include the relevance of the proposal to other salient issues in the field. Per University rules, the proposal defense must take place no less than six months before final defense of the dissertation.


At the time a student embarks upon the dissertation, the student and the advisor will draw up a dissertation committee which can be called upon for advice and which will ultimately read and approve the dissertation. The committee must be comprised of at least three HPSC members and at least one member from outside the department. One member of the committee will be designated chair, and they will be primarily responsible for the supervision of the research. A student should feel free, however, to call upon other members of the committee for advice and suggestions.

Oral defense of the dissertation

The University requires an oral defense of the dissertation. This defense can be scheduled no less than 6 months after the formation of the research committee. The Graduate School must approve the date of defense. When the time for the oral defense approaches, the student will present a copy of the dissertation to each member of the dissertation committee. These copies should include a table of contents, endnotes or footnotes, and bibliography. These copies must be sent to each committee member no less than four weeks in advance of the defense.

Submitting the approved dissertation

Upon the committee’s approval of the dissertation, the final version, incorporating any suggestions made by the committee at the time of the defense, must be submitted to the University Graduate School, either electronically or in print. In either case, follow the instructions from the Graduate School. You must also deliver two bound copies to the department, one for the reading room, and one for the dissertation advisor.

View the instructions

Seven year limit

The University requires that the dissertation must be defended within seven years of the student’s successful completion of the qualifying examinations. Only under special circumstances will an extension be granted by the Graduate School. This is ample time for most students. A student who does take longer than seven years is required to take qualifying exams again in order to revalidate candidacy; this procedure may be done only once. For further details, the student is advised to consult the section “General Requirements for Advanced Degrees” in the I.U. Bulletin—University Graduate School, checking both the most recent version and the version that was in effect when they entered the program. Consult with the director of graduate studies if there is a discrepancy between the two versions.

Timeline for completion

In the process of being placed on the Ph.D. track, defending the third-year paper, advancing to candidacy, setting up a research committee and dissertation committee, and finally defending the dissertation, there is a set sequence of forms and deadlines to be filled out by the student and the department. It is crucial that the student follow the projected timetable for degree completion and stay in close contact with their advisor to be sure that the appropriate forms are submitted by the specified deadlines.