Dissertation

Doctorate in School Psychology > Dissertation

Doctoral trainees must complete a dissertation in order to satisfy graduation requirements for a doctorate degree. If completing a master's degree before the doctorate, trainees must successfully defend their master's thesis (i.e., thesis committee signed the Outcome of Defense form) before trainees can begin working on a dissertation. Trainees must complete the doctorate degree requirements, including the dissertation, within eight years beginning with the first semester of enrollment. Trainees are responsible for reviewing and complying with the department's Dissertation Procedures, which are explained below. Trainees should also review the Dissertation section in the Graduate Catalog and the Graduate School's Student Support (Dissertation Assistance) website for additional information about continuous enrollment, graduation deadlines, etc.

A dissertation is an original and independent study that is expected to make a substantive contribution to the research literature in the area of study. The scope of an empirical dissertation is significantly broader, more complex, and innovative than research conducted for a master's thesis. Doctoral trainees should critically evaluate relevant literature and develop a compelling research design, implement an appropriate research protocol, collect and analyze data, and present their findings in a dissertation. Trainees can acquire new data or re-examine and re-interpret extant data sets (e.g., for meta-analytic purposes). Simple replication studies may not be sufficient, and applied research projects should be theory driven.

A dissertation should be written in the professional style of a research journal article, except for the rare dissertation that is non-empirical in nature. The dissertation chapter titles are usually identified as: Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. Doctoral trainees are required to comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition, 2010) and the University's dissertation requirements, which are available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Dissertation Assistance) website .

The Graduate School's dissertation policies covers the administrative aspects and appearance of a dissertation. The APA's Publication Manual governs the professional format and style of a dissertation. There are subtle differences between the Graduate School's dissertation policies and the department's Dissertation Procedures. Trainees are expected to comply with the department's Dissertation Procedures to successfully complete their dissertations. Trainees must also follow the standards of the APA's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct when conducting research.

Important Deadlines

Trainees are encouraged to review the Dates and Deadlines on the Graduate School's Student Support (Graduation and Commencement) website for specific deadlines related dissertation procedures including the last day for: submitting a Proposal Approval Form, submitting a Right to Defend request, and for a dissertation defense. If these deadlines are not met, graduation will be postponed until the following semester.

By the third year of the program, doctoral trainees should be prepared to form a dissertation committee. Trainees should review the Faculty Research Interests website as a source for potential research topics. Trainees should talk to faculty members who are knowledgeable or who are willing to become familiar in the area in which trainees would like to complete their dissertation research. Trainees need to solicit at least four faculty members to serve on their dissertation committee chair and on the dissertation committee.

Trainees should solicit one faculty member to serve as the dissertation committee chair. Graduate School dissertation policies require the committee chair be a full member of the Graduate Faculty. An associate member of the Graduate Faculty may serve as a committee co-chair, along with a full member of the Graduate Faculty.

When a faculty member agrees to serve as a committee chair (or two faculty members as co-chairs), trainees must complete the DEPARTMENT APPROVAL OF DISSERTATION COMMITTEE CHAIR form. The Committee Chair form also includes an override request for PSY 599 Doctoral Research. The Committee Chair form should be signed by the trainee, committee chair, and the program graduate coordinator. The signed Committee Chair form should be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office. Trainees cannot register for PSY 599 until the signed Committee Chair form has been received by the Graduate Programs Office and the override request has been processed. Trainees will be notified, by the Graduate Programs Office, when they can register for PSY 499.

In consultation with their dissertation committee chair, trainees should solicit at least three faculty members (or two faculty members if there are co-chairs) for the committee. One faculty member must be from outside the Department of Psychology. After the faculty members agree to serve on the committee, trainees must complete the DEPARTMENT APPROVAL OF DISSERTATION COMMITTEE form. Graduate School dissertation policies requires the majority of the dissertation committee (i.e., chair and two members) to be full members of the Graduate Faculty. The Committee form should be signed by the trainee, committee chair (or co-chairs), and the faculty members. The signed Dissertation Committee form must be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office for approval by the department chair.

If a committee member is unable to complete his or her service or is willing to yield his or her position on the committee, trainees should consult with their dissertation committee chair about soliciting a new faculty member for the committee. Trainees must complete the CHANGE OF DISSERTATION COMMITTEE and/or TOPIC form. The Change form should be signed by the trainee, committee chair(s), current committee members, and new dissertation committee member. The signed Change form must be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office for approval by the department chair. Trainees will be notified if the faculty member has been approved as the new dissertation committee member. If the dissertation has been proposed and approved by the dissertation committee, trainees must also complete the Graduate School's COMMITTEE CHANGE FORM, which is available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Forms) website .

Doctoral trainees must write a proposal that will be evaluated by their dissertation committee. Trainees should discuss the contents of the proposal with their committee chair. The committee chair determines how much guidance will be provided to trainees in the development of the hypothesis, research project, and proposal. There should be a clear understanding between trainees and their committee chair of what is expected from each party.

The proposal should provide a brief synopsis of the importance of the dissertation topic and hypothesis, and discuss the details of the research project. A dissertation usually involves data collection; however, other data-based approaches are acceptable (e.g., meta-analyses, archival data sets, etc.). The proposal should address the use of human participants or animals in the research, if applicable. The proposal should also identify any ethical issues with the use of human participants or animals. Trainees should be diligent in the completeness of their dissertation topic and research project. The committee chair should approve a draft of the proposal before it is submitted to the dissertation committee.

Trainees should also review the information on the department's Tools and Links for Researchers website in preparation for their dissertation research. Before conducting any research involving human participants, the trainee's research project must be approved by Illinois State's Institutional Review Board (IRB) . The proposal must include, in its method section, a detailed explanation of how the ethical issues will be addressed (e.g., possible risks to human participants, how such risks will be minimized, confidentiality procedures, informed consent, debriefing procedures, etc.). Trainees must also comply with the department's Ethical Guidelines and Procedures for Research Using Human Participants . If trainees anticipate using human participants from external sources (outside the University), the proposal must include a statement of the ethical procedures of the external source, and how the research project will conform to those requirements. The department recommends students obtain a signed agreement or memorandum of understanding, from the external source, that identifies the specific data trainees permission to collect and use for their research project.

Before conducting any research involving the use of animals, the trainee's research project must be approved by Illinois State's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) . The proposal must include, in its method section, a detailed explanation of how the ethical requirements for the care and use of animals will comply with the IACUC procedures.

Doctoral trainees must propose their dissertation in a public forum. Before presenting a proposal, trainees must determine if the proposal contains any copyrighted material. Trainees should review and complete page 2 of the Graduate School's PROPOSAL APPVOAL FORM, which is available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Forms) website . If any box under section (5) Copyright Checklist is checked for copyrighted material, trainees must consult with the Copyright Officer (currently Sarah Dick ) and obtain the Copyright Officer's signature on the Proposal Approval Form.

The proposal must be presented at a time that is mutually agreeable to the trainee and dissertation committee. The proposal must be presented between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, while classes are in session (i.e., excluding University holidays, final exams week, or semester breaks). When an acceptable time has been determined, trainees should contact the Graduate Programs Office to reserve a room. The Graduate Programs Office will notify trainees when a room has been reserved.

When the proposal date has been determined, trainees must complete the information on page 3 of the Proposal Approval Form. The dissertation committee members should be identified on the Proposal Approval Form, along with their department/school and Graduate Faculty status. Trainees should contact the Graduate Programs Office at psygrad@ilstu.edu to determine the Graduate Faculty status of the dissertation committee members. If the dissertation committee does not satisfy the Graduate School's dissertation committee policies (described on page 1 of the Proposal Approval Form), the exception section on page 3, under section (6) Graduate Committee Information, must be completed. A brief rationale must be provided for the exception. If a committee member is not an Illinois State faculty member, trainees must also provide the committee member's Curriculum Vitae, with the Proposal Approval Form, to satisfy the exception requirement.

At least one week before the scheduled proposal date, trainees must submit, by 12:00 p.m. (Noon), the Proposal Approval Form and a printed copy of their proposal to the Graduate Programs Office. Trainees must also provide a copy of the proposal to the dissertation committee members; the copy may be printed or sent electronically, depending on the preferences of the committee members. The Graduate Programs Office will announce the scheduled proposal on the department's graduate student and faculty email listserv. The dissertation proposal will be posted on the University Events website and on the bulletin board across from the department's office.

The department encourages psychology graduate students to attend dissertation proposals in order to observe the process. The proposal is also open to the University academic community. Trainees should consult with their dissertation committee chair if trainees want to invite non-academic parties (i.e., family and friends) to their proposal. Individuals observing the proposal may ask the trainee questions and provide comments about the presentation. However, participation by such individuals should not monopolize the presentation. Since the proposal is a formal evaluation of the trainee, the dissertation committee chair has the discretion of whether or not to recognize individuals for questions or comments during the presentation. The department prohibits any refreshments at the dissertation proposal.

At the proposal, trainees should discuss their dissertation and any relevant literature, and explain their research project. When the presentation has ended and there are no more questions, everyone should leave the room except for the dissertation committee and any other psychology faculty members. The committee will discuss the proposal. Psychology faculty who have an opinion about the proposal are encouraged to present their remarks for consideration by the dissertation committee. The decision to approve or withhold approval of the dissertation proposal is the responsibility of the dissertation committee. The committee must reach a consensus about the status of the proposal. When a consensus is reached, the trainee will be asked to return to the room and will be informed of the committee's decision.

If the proposal is approved, the dissertation committee and trainee should sign the Proposal Approval Form. If the committee determines that some changes are required, the dissertation committee should discuss the changes with the trainee. The committee chair should give the trainee a written list of the required changes. Trainees are responsible for incorporating the changes in the dissertation and must provide the dissertation committee with an updated proposal. When the dissertation committee is satisfied with the revised dissertation proposal, the dissertation committee and trainee should sign the Proposal Approval Form. The trainee must submit the signed Proposal Approval Form to the Graduate Programs Office, for approval by the department chair.

The Graduate School must also approve the Proposal Approval Form. The Graduate Programs Office will submit the signed Proposal Approval Form to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will send students the approved Proposal Approval Form by email. The approved Proposal Approval Form should be retained by the trainee; the information on the Proposal Approval Form will be required by the Graduate School when the student is ready to defend the dissertation.

If the dissertation committee does not approve the proposal, trainees have two options: Trainees may choose, with the agreement of their committee, to rewrite the proposal. The dissertation committee and trainee should discuss the problems with the current proposal. The second proposal must address and correct the identified problems. Trainees must schedule a second proposal presentation. This option requires trainees retain the same dissertation committee. Trainees may chose to develop a new dissertation topic. If this option is selected, trainees may retain their dissertation committee, if the committee members agree, or solicit other faculty members for a new committee. The department's dissertation procedures must be repeated, including the forms for a new committee, if applicable, and another proposal presentation.

Establishing a ProQuest Account

The University uses a national electronic database, ProQuest, for submission of all dissertations. The department recommends trainees create a ProQuest account after their proposal has been accepted. Trainees can access the ProQuest website on the Graduate School's Student Support Dissertation Assistance (Plan Your Defense) website . The approved proposal should be uploaded to ProQuest. If the ProQuest account is not created after the dissertation proposal is approved, it must be created before trainees submit the Right to Defend form to the Graduate School.

Continuous Enrollment in PSY 599

Trainees should review Continuous Registration requirements in the Dissertation section of the Graduate Catalog . After the proposal is approved and all degree coursework has been completed, trainees must enroll for at least one credit of PSY 599 every fall and spring semester until the dissertation is successfully defended. Registration for PSY 599 in the summer is required only when a trainee expects to defend the dissertation and complete the degree by the end of the summer semester. Trainees should contact the Graduate Programs Office at psygrad@ilstu.edu to request an override for PSY 599.

Conducting Dissertation Research

After the proposal is approved, trainees should begin conducting their dissertation research. While it is appropriate to consult with faculty members, students are expected to conceptually understand the statistics and analysis of the data that is presented in the dissertation. Any significant changes in the research project, after the proposal has been approved, may require additional IRB or IACUC review and approval, if applicable. Trainees should consult with their dissertation committee chair before making any changes to their approved proposal or research project.

Doctoral trainees must defend their dissertation in a public forum. Before scheduling a defense, trainees must have a current dissertation uploaded to ProQuest. Although the dissertation does not have to be fully formatted, it should contain all of the required dissertation chapters. The dissertation must comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and the Graduate School's dissertation policies, which are available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Dissertation Assistance) website . Trainees must complete and submit the RIGHT TO DEFEND FORM, which is available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Forms) website . The completed Defense Form should be submitted to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will review the dissertation in ProQuest. If the dissertation is acceptable, the Graduate School will notify trainees by email that they may schedule their dissertation defense. If the Graduate Programs Office is not copied on this email, trainees must forward the Graduate School's email to the Graduate Programs Office. The Right to Defend email must be on file in the Graduate Programs Office before trainees can schedule their dissertation defense.

The dissertation must be defended at a time that is mutually agreeable to the trainee and dissertation committee. Trainees must schedule the defense at least three weeks in advance of the acceptable defense date and time. The dissertation must be defended between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, while classes are in session (i.e., excluding University holidays, final exams week, or semester breaks). When an acceptable time has been determined, trainees should contact the Graduate Programs Office to reserve a room. The Graduate Programs Office will notify the trainee when a room has been reserved for the defense.

At least three weeks before the scheduled defense, trainees must submit to the Graduate Programs Office, by 12:00 p.m. (Noon), a printed copy of the dissertation. Trainees must also provide a copy of the dissertation to their dissertation committee; the copy may be printed or sent electronically, depending on the preferences of the committee members. The Graduate Programs Office will announce the scheduled defense to the department's graduate students and faculty members. The defense will also be posted on the University Events website and on the bulletin board across from the department's office. Trainees must also complete the Graduate School's OUTCOME OF DEFENSE FORM, which is available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Forms) website . Trainees should take the Outcome of Defense Form to their dissertation defense.

The department encourages psychology graduate students to attend a dissertation defense in order to observe the process. The defense is also open to the University academic community. Students should consult with their dissertation chair if students would like to invite non-academic parties (i.e., family and friends) to their defense. Individuals observing a defense may ask the student questions and provide comments about the presentation. However, participation by such individuals should not monopolize the presentation. Since the defense is a formal evaluation of the trainee, the committee chair has the discretion of whether or not to recognize individuals for questions or comments during the presentation. The department prohibits any refreshments at the dissertation defense.

At the defense, trainees should discuss the importance of the dissertation topic, their research and the methods employed, analysis of the data, and their conclusion. When the defense has ended and there are no more questions, everyone should leave the room except for the dissertation committee and any other psychology faculty members. The committee will discuss the quality of the dissertation and defense, taking into account the consistency between the dissertation proposal and defense, and the incorporation of required changes identified at the dissertation proposal, if applicable. Psychology faculty who have an opinion about the dissertation are encouraged to present their remarks for consideration by the dissertation committee. The decision to approve or withhold approval of the dissertation defense is the responsibility of the committee. The committee must reach a consensus about the status of the defense. When a consensus has been reached, the trainee will be asked to return to the room and will be informed of the committee's decision.

The dissertation committee can reach one of three decisions about the dissertation: approved, a provisional approval with required changes, or not approved. If the committee approves the dissertation, the committee members should sign the Outcome of Defense Form. If the decision is a provisional approval, the committee should discuss the changes required in the dissertation with the trainee. The committee chair should provide the trainee with a written list of the required changes. Trainees are responsible for incorporating the changes before the dissertation committee will approve the dissertation. After the changes have been made and the dissertation is approved, the dissertation committee should sign the Outcome of Defense Form. Trainees must submit a copy of the signed Outcome of Defense Form to the Graduate Programs Office. If the dissertation is not approved, the trainee should discuss any viable options with the dissertation committee.

Trainees must upload the approved dissertation to ProQuest. Trainees must also complete the FINAL DEPOSIT CHECKLIST, which is available on the Graduate School's Student Support (Forms) website . Trainees must submit the signed Outcome of Defense Form and the Final Deposit Checklist, and any copyright permissions, if applicable, to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will examine the dissertation in ProQuest to determine if the dissertation complies with the University's dissertation policies. If the Graduate School notifies trainees of required changes, those changes must be made and the revised dissertation must be uploaded to ProQuest before the University will accept the dissertation as meeting degree requirements for graduation. If the required changes are not completed before the dissertation final deposit filing deadline, graduation will be postponed until the following semester.

Publication of Data

If the dissertation is published or if a paper is presented at a professional convention, authorship should follow the provisions of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. An agreement between trainees and their dissertation committee should govern whether committee members are identified as co-authors.