Requirements For the Ph.D.
Graduate Coursework: 48 total credits (16 total classes)
Foreign Language Requirement
In addition to the minimum requirements of the Graduate School, WGSS PhD students are required to complete 48 credits of graduate coursework . At Stony Brook, this is the equivalent of 16 classes. You must take four core classes (12 credits) and twelve elective classes (36 credits).
All students seeking the PhD must take the required courses listed above when they are offered.
During your first year, you are encouraged to take WST 601 in the Fall and WST 600 and WST 698 in the Spring. In addition to providing you with a strong foundation for the rest of your coursework, this approach also creates in-class opportunities for you to build community with your cohort.
In the Fall of your third year, you should enroll in WST 680. This research design course is designed to provide you with support as you write the prospectus for your dissertation and start applying for grants and fellowships.
These courses cannot be replaced by Independent Study or Directed Reading credits, except in the most unusual circumstances and by petition to the Graduate Program Director. This petition 6 would need to be signed by the instructor overseeing the Independent Study or Directed Reading and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.
In some cases, students may be permitted to apply transfer credits to cover these Core Course requirements. The Graduate Studies Committee must approve requests to accept comparable courses taken previously.
You are also required to take twelve elective graduate courses. Three of those courses must be 600-level WGSS courses. You have a great deal of flexibility in terms of the remaining nine elective courses.
WGSS 600-level Electives
WST 610. During most semesters, the WGSS department offers at least one section of WST 610: Advanced Topics in WGSS. Different instructors teach the course each year, so every iteration covers a new topic. We strongly encourage students to fulfill their WGSS Electives requirement by taking WST 610 several times.
WST 600 or 601. Alternatively, you may wish to fulfill one of your 600-level WGSS Elective requirements by taking WST 600 or 601 again. Each year, a different instructor teaches the Feminist Interdisciplinary Histories and Methods and Feminist Theories seminars, which means the content varies greatly by year. As such, WST 600 and 601 can serve as valuable electives for students.
WGSS-Approved 600-level Electives. In some cases, students can count a 600-level gender- or sexuality-themed class offered by another department toward their WGSS elective requirement. Students should contact the Graduate Program Director before enrolling in the course to seek approval. The Graduate Studies Committee will review any requests to substitute non-WST classes for the WGSS 600-level elective requirement. Additional Electives To fulfill the remaining Additional Electives requirement, you must take nine other 500- or 600- level graduate courses. You are welcome to take these classes in any department at Stony Brook or through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium. If you completed graduate coursework before enrolling in the PhD program, you may be able to apply transfer credits to fulfill these elective requirements. Any courses you take toward a Graduate Certificate will automatically count toward the Additional Electives requirement. This includes Independent Studies or Directed Readings completed in another department for a Graduate Certificate.
- Take classes with instructors you think you might want to work with more formally. Seminars are a great way to get to know potential mentors and to begin establishing a mentoring relationship.
- Think about how you will position yourself as a WGSS scholar: which inter/disciplines will you be in conversation with? Take courses in the relevant departments and with faculty with expertise in these areas.
- Enroll in courses that will provide you with training in the methodologies you plan to use in your doctoral research. Look for courses that will provide you with a foundation in the histories and theories you will need to know to execute your project. The topics don’t need to align perfectly with your research interests; it’s more about the broader frameworks you’ll be exploring.
- Use writing assignments for your seminars as an opportunity to start writing toward your imagined dissertation project or to develop conference papers, journal articles, or grant proposals.
- Embrace seminars as opportunities to practice your reading, writing, analytic thinking, critical debate, public speaking, and peer-review skills.
- Start building a network of supportive colleagues. Connect with your cohort and with other WGSS PhD, MA, and certificate students. Get to know potential collaborators and writing partners from across the university.
Students who hold an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies or a master’s degree from a related discipline can request their transcripts be evaluated by the Graduate Program Director in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee. You may be able to apply up to 18 credits of previous graduate coursework toward your PhD at Stony Brook University. In most cases, those credits will count toward the Additional Electives requirement, but there may be some instances where transfer credits can be applied to cover Core Course or WGSS 600-level Elective requirements.
Inter-University Doctoral Consortium
The Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC) offers eligible Stony Brook PhD students in the arts and sciences the opportunity to take graduate courses not offered at their home institution at distinguished universities throughout the greater New York area (including Columbia, CUNY, Fordham, New School, NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, and Teacher’s College of Columbia).
To be eligible, WGSS PhD students must have completed one academic year of full-time study at Stony Brook and be in good academic standing. WGSS MA students are ineligible. You cannot take more that 3 IUDC courses per academic year and cannot take more than 2 IUDC courses in a single semester.
For WGSS PhD students, IUDC courses would count toward your Additional Electives requirement. Only in the most unusual circumstances would students be permitted to petition the Graduate Studies Committee to count IUDC courses toward Core Courses requirement or WGSS 600-level Elective requirement.
You are strongly encouraged to discuss your IUDC plans with the Graduate Program Director and/or your Primary Advisor as soon as possible. We want to make sure that you’re staying on track with your coursework requirements, but we may also have suggestions for navigating the bureaucratic procedures. The Graduate Program Coordinator will also be a valuable resource on this front.
The registration process requires signatures from the WGSS Department (Department Chair, Graduate Program Director, or your Primary Advisor), the Stony Brook IUDC Coordinator, the instructor of the IUDC course you’re planning to take, and the Host School’s Dean or IUDC Coordinator. As such, planning ahead is crucial. For more information on IUDC and the registration process, please visit the Graduate School’s Inter-University Doctoral Consortium website.
Teaching is a vital component of graduate education. This is especially true within the field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. As such, our graduate program emphasizes the importance of becoming familiar with feminist pedagogical approaches and gaining formal WGSS teaching experience.
All PhD students are required to take WST 698: Practicing WGSS/Teaching Practicum and to acquire a one-semester minimum of formal teaching experience (even if they are unsupported or on a fellowship not requiring teaching duties). We firmly believe that one of the best ways of learning to teach is by doing – by gaining experience in instructional design, classroom management, and assessment techniques.
Students who are assigned online Teaching Assistantships are required to complete the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)’s two-part Online Teaching Certificate course. This course is free, completed online, and offered multiple times throughout the calendar year (summers included).
Teaching Assistantships are the primary means through which WGSS PhD students access funding at Stony Brook, so we are very aware of the dual role you will occupy within the university as both a student and a worker. The WGSS Department looks for ways to ensure your employment experience complements your educational experience. We aim to provide students with strategic opportunities to develop their Teaching Portfolios and meaningful classroom experiences that will advance their research agendas. See below for more information on Teaching and Funding.
Foreign Language Requirement
PhD students are expected to have a good command of at least one language other than English. The language of instruction for WGSS courses is English, so all graduate students must demonstrate full command of written and spoken English.
Students for whom English is a second language are exempt from any additional foreign language requirement, unless they are planning to undertake research that requires proficiency in a language other than English or their native language.
Students must fulfill your Foreign Language requirement before you take your Comprehensive Exam. You are encouraged to discuss your plans for fulfilling the Foreign Language requirement with the Graduate Program Director during your first year, as we recommend completing this requirement by the end of your second year.
You can fulfill the Foreign Language requirement in one of three ways:
1) Earning a grade of B or better in a graduate-level translation or language acquisition course taught at Stony Brook. Credits for a graduate translation course do not count toward the Graduate Coursework requirements. You may also request permission to have a translation course taken at another institution count toward the requirement. You will need to give a copy of the course syllabus and your transcript (showing a grade of B or better for the class) to the Graduate Program Director, who will review your request in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee.
2) Passing an examination consisting of two parts, each one hour long, to be taken with a dictionary: 1) read a short critical, scholarly, or theoretical article, summarize it in English, and then discuss with the proctor of the exam; 2) translate a short scholarly article or passage of medium difficulty. Whenever possible, this exam should be given by WGSS Core or Associated Faculty.
3) Passing an hour-long oral examination. Students intending to do interviewing or field research in this foreign language are strongly encouraged to choose this option. Again, whenever possible, this exam should be given by WGSS Core or Associated Faculty.
One of the most significant milestones in the WGSS PhD program is the Comprehensive Exam. The Comprehensive Exam is designed for you to show that you have the historical, theoretical, and methodological foundations needed to undertake doctoral research. The exam process is intricately connected to your dissertation project and serves as a launching pad for the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation itself.
While you must demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge (i.e. your familiarity with interdisciplinary methods; feminist, queer, and trans theories; and the scholarly debates and trends in the fields most relevant to your research), you are also required to prove the depth of your knowledge when it comes to your specific area of research (i.e. your expertise on the topic your dissertation will explore).
Upon passing the Comprehensive Exams, you will “advance to candidacy.” That is, you will become a PhD candidate. You will want to update your CV to reflect this change, as this status matters. PhD candidates are “ABD”: they have completed all the requirements for a PhD but the dissertation. Many grants and fellowship list “advancement to candidacy” as an eligibility requirement. Similarly, adjunct teaching positions often require that an applicant be a PhD candidate or hold a Master’s degree.
PhD students will normally take their comprehensive examination no more than one year after completing their coursework. To stay on track with your degree progress, students should advance to candidacy before the end of their third year. If you have not taken your exams by the end of the third year, this will be discussed during your Annual Review and may result in your advisor and/or the Graduate Studies Committee developing a plan of action to get you back on track. See below for more information on Satisfactory Progress in the program.
The Comprehensive Exam consists of two parts (a written component and an oral component) and is based on a three-part Reading List developed by the student in consultation with their Exam Committee.
The Written Component consists of three 8-hour days spread across one week. Each of the three days is dedicated to one part of the Reading List. On each of the days, your Exam Chair will send you the question(s) prepared by the member of your Exam Committee in charge of the list scheduled for that day. You have the whole day to answer the required questions and submit them to the Exam Committee. See below for more information.
The Oral Component usually takes place one or two weeks after the Written Component and often lasts approximately 1.5 hours. This component occurs as an in-person meeting between you and your Exam Committee. Your committee members will ask you to clarify and/or elaborate on what you submitted for the Written Component. See below for more information.
Students are responsible for scheduling their Comprehensive Exam. At least three months before you plan to take your exam, send your Exam Committee a “Doodle Poll” (or similar survey) to determine their availability. The Graduate Program Coordinator can help you secure a room on campus with any necessary A/V equipment (in case a committee member will be participating remotely).
Exam Preparation To-Do List:
- Discuss plans with Primary Advisor
- Assemble Exam Committee
- Compile Reading List
- Study! Strategically use Directed & Self-Directed Readings.
- Schedule the Written & Oral Components (at least 3 months in advance)
- Submit Exam Committee’s approval of Reading List (at least 1 month before exam)
It is never too early to start thinking about your Comprehensive Exam. At the very least, you should start discussing the exam with your Primary Advisor during your second year. Your advisor will provide crucial guidance as you begin compiling your Reading List and assembling your Exam Committee.
Your Exam Committee will consist of your Primary Advisor and at least one other WGSS faculty members (either Core Faculty or Associated Faculty). It is common for the third person to also be WGSS faculty, but there may be cases where students petition to have an “external” member on their Exam Committee (a non-WGSS Stony Brook professor or someone from another university). At least two of your three members of the committee must be physically 12 present for the Oral Component of the Comprehensive Exam. Keep this in mind as you assemble your committee and schedule the dates of your exam.
Each of your committee members will be responsible for overseeing one of the three parts of your Reading List. As such, your committee members should play a role in the development of your list. This means that the process of compiling your Reading List and assembling your Exam Committee takes place simultaneously. Your Primary Advisor will help you strategize about how to organize your list, which professors could oversee the different parts, and when to reach out to them about serving on your Exam Committee.
Many students find it useful to complete Directed Readings (WST 690) with some or all of their Exam Committee members as they prepare for the exam. Because you are required to meet regularly with the person overseeing your Directed Reading, WST 690 provides you with the opportunity to discuss the materials on your reading list with your mentors while also developing working relationships with them. Once you have completed your coursework requirements, you can also enroll in Self-Directed Readings (WST 696) while preparing for the exams. In most cases, you would enroll in WST 696 credits with your Primary Advisor. It is up to you two to decide how to incorporate Self-Directed Readings into your exam prep process and what satisfactory completion would entail.
You will need to ask one of your committee members to serve as your Exam Chair. This is strictly an administrative position. During the Written Component, the Exam Chair will be responsible for collecting the questions from your other committee members and then sending them to you on the designated days. During the Oral Component, the Exam Chair will serve as “emcee” of the event – facilitating the discussion, keeping track of the time, and overseeing the committee’s decision-making process about whether you have passed the exam.
In most cases, your Exam Committee will become your Dissertation Committee. You should also keep this in mind as you’re assembling your committee. While there are certainly instances where it makes sense to adjust your committee after passing your Comprehensive Exam, students often find it helpful if there is a continuity in mentorship across the exam process and into the writing of the dissertation.
Note: The person who serves as your Exam Chair cannot also serve as your Dissertation Advisor. Since your Primary Advisor and your Dissertation Advisor (often the same person, but not always) have a vested interest in you passing your exams, you are required to have a different person serve as Exam Chair and oversee the proceedings. Keep this in mind as you plan for your Comprehensive Exam and begin assembling your Dissertation Committee. See below for more information on the composition of Dissertation Committees.
Students will work with their Primary Advisor to determine the precise format of their reading list. While there is a basic structure that all reading lists must follow, you have a great deal of flexibility here. 13 The purpose of the Reading List is for you to demonstrate your breadth and depth of knowledge and to show that you are fully prepared to undertake your proposed dissertation research. Since every dissertation project is different (especially in an interdisciplinary program like WGSS), we know that every Reading List will be unique. That said, you are strongly encouraged to ask your Primary Advisor or the Graduate Program Director for sample reading lists. You can also reach out to other WGSS PhD students who have already passed their exams to see if they will share their lists and their experiences.
The Reading List must be divided into three parts that correspond, in whatever way you and your Primary advisor see fit, with these three themes:
1) Feminist theories/interdisciplinary methods. This portion of your list should lay the theoretical and/or methodological foundation for your dissertation research.
2) One of the PhD program’s four areas of specialization: 1) globalization & transnational social movements; 2) media analysis and/or the politics of representation; 3) bodies, disability, and the politics of health; or 4) critical analyses of sexuality. This portion of your list often situates your dissertation project within broader field/s of study. You can be quite creative in how you engage with the program’s areas of specialization.
3) Special topic area. This portion of the list deals most directly with the topic of your dissertation.
Generally speaking, your Reading List will narrow in focus and scope across the three parts – starting with your theoretical/methodological foundations, moving into an exploration of the fields your project plans to engage, and ending with a deeper dive into your specific area of expertise.
One month before your scheduled Comprehensive Exam date (the first day of the Written Component), you must submit proof to the Graduate Program Director that your Reading List has been approved by your Exam Committee. This can be done over email. For instance, you can send a copy of your Reading List to your Exam Committee and the Graduate Program Director and ask your committee members to “reply all” with their approval of the list. The Graduate Program Director will add your Reading List to your WGSS file.
The Written Component of the exam will take place over the course of a single week and will consist of three 8-hour days. (For instance, you could do your exam on Mon, Wed, and Fri, taking Tues and Thurs to rest and recover.)
Each of the three days is dedicated to one part of the Reading List. Your Exam Chair will send you the question(s) you need to answer that day, and you will have eight hours to compose and submit your response (which, in most cases, amounts to approximately ten double-spaced pages of writing).
While all Comprehensive Exams must follow this general format, you and your Primary Advisor have lots of room to adapt the process to your needs and preferences. For instance, you can decide what time you will start your exams, which days of the week you take them, the order in which you will do the three parts, how many questions you will answer each day, and whether your committee members will give you a choice of which questions to answer.
The Oral Component is often scheduled during the two weeks following the Written Component. This component brings you together with your entire exam committee for an in-person meeting that usually lasts 1.5 hours.
Your Exam Chair will facilitate the Oral Component and keep time during the meeting. In most cases, you will spend approximately 20 to 30 minutes on each part of your Reading List (i.e. each day of the Written Component). The committee member who wrote the questions begins and leads their section, but the other committee members can chime in as they see fit.
During the Oral Component, you will be asked to expand on what you’ve written, clarify portions for your committee, and, sometimes, respond to exam questions you didn’t answer in writing. In many cases, the Oral Component is a generative conversation where you can further demonstrate your mastery of your Reading List and explain how these historical, theoretical, and methodological frameworks will inform your dissertation project. It is also common to reserve time at the end of the meeting to discuss the next steps you’ll take toward writing your prospectus and advancing your doctoral research.
At the end of the Oral Component, after each of your committee members have asked you about their respective questions, you will be asked to step out of the room while your Exam Committee discusses your overall performance in the Written and Oral Components.
Your committee will determine whether you satisfactorily demonstrated your breadth of knowledge in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (i.e. familiarity with interdisciplinary methods, feminist, queer, and/or trans theories, and the scholarly debates and conversations taking place in the fields most relevant to your research) and indicated your deepening knowledge of your proposed dissertation project.
The Comprehensive Exam may be passed or failed. If a student fails their Comprehensive Exam, they can retake the Written and Oral Components once more, six weeks after the initial exam was scheduled. If a student were to fail the Comprehensive Exam a second time, they will face likely dismissal from the program, and next steps would have to be discussed with the Graduate School.
Clarification: Comprehensive Exam & the WGSS MA Degree
Passing the Comprehensive Exam does not mean that you have earned an MA in WGSS. The Comprehensive Exam is a central requirement for the PhD; it cannot also be used to fulfill the requirements for the MA (which is an entirely different degree). This policy is officially in effect as of Fall 2020 and applies to any PhD student starting the program this semester or at any point after.
If a PhD candidate (i.e. a student who passed their Comprehensive Exam) withdraws from the program before completing their dissertation, they will have the option of substituting their Comprehensive Exam for the thesis required for the MA degree. As such, they would be able to leave Stony Brook with an MA in WGSS.
If a PhD student (i.e. a student who has not taken their Comprehensive Exam) wants to leave the program, they can petition the Graduate Studies Committee for permission to switch into the MA program. If approved, they will work with the Graduate Program Director and their Primary Advisor to determine whether they will complete the degree requirements by writing an MA thesis or by substituting a PhD Comprehensive Exam.
Dissertation Research Credits
After completing your coursework, taking your comprehensive exam, and advancing to candidacy, you will still need to register for 9 credits to maintain full-time status at the university. Generally speaking, students meet this requirement by enrolling in WST 699 (Dissertation Research on Campus), WST 700 (Dissertation Research off Campus), or WST 701 (Dissertation Research off Campus – International).
You should consult your Dissertation Advisor and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator to determine which designator makes sense for you. In most cases, you will register for 9 credits of dissertation research with your Dissertation Advisor.
Note: You can only register for WST 699, 700, or 701 AFTER you’ve advanced to candidacy, but it is okay if you are still working on the prospectus and have not officially begun dissertating yet. Dissertation Committee Within three months of passing the Comprehensive Exam, you must be prepared to schedule your Prospectus Review with your Dissertation Committee. This must be scheduled at a date no later than one year after completion of coursework. Shortly after passing your exam, you should discuss your timeline with your Dissertation Advisor and start finding out your Dissertation Committee’s availability for the Prospectus Review
Within three months of passing the Comprehensive Exam, you must be prepared to schedule your Prospectus Review with your Dissertation Committee. This must be scheduled at a date no later than one year after completion of coursework. Shortly after passing your exam, you should discuss your timeline with your Dissertation Advisor and start finding out your Dissertation Committee’s availability for the Prospectus Review.
In many cases, your Primary Advisor will become your Dissertation Advisor. That said, there may be instances where students choose to switch advisors as they shift into the dissertation process. You can always seek guidance from the Graduate Program Director or the Department Chair as you are making decisions about your Dissertation Advisor.
In consultation with your Dissertation Advisor, you will discuss the composition of your Dissertation Committee. In many cases, your Exam Committee will become your Dissertation Committee. That said, there may be situations where students may want to make changes to their committee or invite additional mentors to their project.
Your Dissertation Committee must consist of at least four professors: your Dissertation Advisor; one “internal” committee member; one “external” committee member; and a fourth person who can be “internal” or “external.” WGSS Core Faculty are always considered “internal,” and WGSS Associated Faculty can be considered “internal.” The “external” committee member is often a professor from an entirely different institution who has expertise in your specific area of research, but, in some cases, this role might be filled by a Stony Brook professor who is not WGSS Core Faculty.
Note: Your Dissertation Advisor must be WGSS Core Faculty. In some cases, the Graduate Program Director will consider petitions from students to request a WGSS Associated Faculty member serve as their Dissertation Advisor. There may also be instances where students elect to have someone from outside WGSS serve as a Dissertation Co-Advisor, but that person cannot also count as the “external” committee member. You would still need to find another “external” person.
While you are required to have at least one “external” committee member at your Dissertation Defense who will sign off on your complete dissertation, it is up to you and your Dissertation Advisor to determine when to bring the external member(s) on to your project. In some cases, external members join the committee at a very early stage and participate in the Prospectus Review and the research and writing process. In other cases, external members join the committee at a very late stage and only see a complete draft of the dissertation.
Once you’ve established your Dissertation Committee, you will need to consult with your Dissertation Advisor as you complete your Prospectus. In some cases, the other members of your Dissertation Committee will play a role in overseeing the development of your prospectus. You should be in regular conversation with each of your committee members to clarify their expectations and to establish a clear process for gaining their approval on your Prospectus.
The Prospectus is your dissertation project proposal. You will likely have a draft of your prospectus done before you even take your Comprehensive Exam, as you will have crafted a version during WST 680. As such, after you pass your exam, you will not be starting from scratch; instead, you’ll just be working to finalize the document and prepare for your Prospectus Review.
The Prospectus must propose a project appropriate for the field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Not counting footnotes or bibliography, your prospectus should be between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Generally speaking, the Prospectus consists of the following components
▪ Project Overview: a brief description of your topic, your research questions, and the argument you will advance in the dissertation
▪ Research Methods: explain the methods you will employ; describe the data you will collect or the archive you will assemble; address plans for securing Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, if relevant
▪ Scholarly Contributions: discuss the current state of research on your topic; provide rationale for undertaking your project; explain the interventions you hope to make to the field of WGSS or your related fields
▪ Chapter Outline: an outline of how you will present your findings and develop your argument, with brief descriptions of the introduction, chapters, and conclusion
Every dissertation project is different (especially in an interdisciplinary program like WGSS), so every Prospectus will be unique. Your Dissertation Advisor (and the rest of your Dissertation Committee) will offer guidance as you figure out the best approach for your project. That said, you are strongly encouraged to ask your Dissertation Advisor or the Graduate Program Director for sample prospectuses. You can also reach out to other WGSS PhD students who are already dissertating to see if they will share their prospectuses and any other advice.
Once your Dissertation Adviser (and, depending on what you’ve arranged, your other committee members) have approved the prospectus, you will need to finalize the date for your Prospectus Review (which is sometimes referred to as your “Prospectus Defense”). The purpose of the Prospectus Review is to give you the opportunity to discuss your proposed project in detail with your Dissertation Committee and to demonstrate that you are ready to proceed with your research.
One of your Dissertation Committee members (not your Dissertation Adviser, but someone who is WGSS Core or Associated Faculty) must serve as Review Chair during the meeting. Like the Exam Chair, this is a strictly administrative role. The chair will facilitate the Prospectus Review and, if necessary, keep time during the event. You and your Dissertation Adviser should discuss who to choose.
Students are responsible for scheduling their Prospectus Review. Strategize with your Dissertation Advisor about the best time to send your Dissertation Committee a “Doodle Poll” (or similar survey) to determine their availability. At the very least, you should schedule your review one month in advance. The Graduate Program Coordinator can help you secure a room 18 with any necessary A/V equipment, in case a committee member is participating remotely or if you are planning to use visual aids during the review.
The Prospectus Review must last at least one hour and often lasts no more than 1.5 hours. You and your entire Dissertation Committee must attend, but you can also invite other faculty or graduate students if you’d like. Three weeks prior to your Prospectus Review, you should send your prospectus to all of your committee members.
You and your Dissertation Advisor should discuss the precise format, but, generally speaking, the Prospectus Review proceeds as follows:
▪ Brief summary of the project. You will begin the review by briefly summarizing your project and clearly communicating the core thesis of your proposed dissertation.
▪ Questions from committee members. Each member of your committee has an opportunity to ask questions about your project and, if desired, to offer suggestions. In most cases, the most “outside” committee member goes first (i.e. the person who has had the least engagement in your project). Your Dissertation Advisor will be the last person to ask questions.
▪ Questions for committee members. You will have the chance to ask your committee questions.
▪ General Discussion. If you have invited other faculty and students to attend the review, you may invite comments, questions, and feedback from the audience.
▪ Deliberation. The Review Chair will ask you to leave the room while your Dissertation Committee discusses whether they approve your prospectus.
If your Dissertation Committee determines that your prospectus is satisfactory and that you are prepared to begin the research and writing process, they will approve the document. Your Review Chair or your Dissertation Advisor will inform the Graduate Program Director of your success, and you will submit your prospectus for inclusion in your WGSS file.
In some cases, your Dissertation Committee may decide not to approve your prospectus and will request revisions before signing off. It is up to you and your committee to determine a timeline for revisions, but you are required to gain approval of your prospectus within one year of completing your graduate coursework. After completing your revisions, if your committee is satisfied with the updated prospectus, there is no need for a second Prospectus Review. Your Dissertation Advisor can inform the Graduate Program Director of your committee’s approval, and you can submit your prospectus for inclusion in your WGSS file.
Reminder! The Prospectus Review is the one time when your entire Dissertation Committee is in the same room until you have finished your project and are getting ready to graduate. They are all focused on YOU and your work. This is super exciting. Take advantage of that time.
The dissertation represents the culmination of your doctoral study and must be an original contribution to the scholarship in your field(s) of expertise. Although there are no strict regulations on length, dissertations are usually between 200 and 400 pages (not including the bibliography or other supplemental material). Your Dissertation Committee may, in special cases and with justification, allow students to submit a shorter and longer dissertation.
Once your prospectus is approved, you should talk to your Dissertation Advisor and your other committee members about their expectations for their involvement in the research and writing process. You should be meeting regularly with your Dissertation Adviser, but it is up to you two to decide what constitutes “regularly.” While it is common for your other committee members to play different and perhaps less active roles in your dissertating process, you should stay in contact with your entire committee to fully benefit from their specializations and to ensure that they are satisfied with the way your research and writing are developing.
Some committee members will want to read each chapter as you finish them; others will prefer to wait and read a full draft of the entire dissertation. Some committee members will be willing to read partial or in-process drafts of chapters; others will prefer to receive more polished drafts. We strongly recommend using the WGSS Memorandum of Agreement (which you can request from the Graduate Program Director or the Graduate Program Coordinator) to create a record of what you and your committee members have decided. This can be a great way of holding both you and your mentors accountable to a certain process.
As you are nearing completion of your dissertation, you should strategize with your Dissertation Advisor to figure out your timeline for defending, revising, and submitting your dissertation. You should be in touch with your committee members to find out their availability and to discuss how much time they will need to read your completed dissertation.
When your Dissertation Adviser is satisfied with your dissertation draft and you have formatted it in accordance with the Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations (available on the Graduate School’s website), you should send legible copies of the complete dissertation to your entire Dissertation Committee. Unless you have made different arrangements, you should make sure everyone has the full draft of your dissertation in hand at least one month in advance of your scheduled defense.
The Graduate School requires doctoral students to complete a formal oral defense of their dissertation. All dissertation defenses must take place on campus and require full attendance of your Dissertation Committee. Any exceptions to this rule require approval from the Dean of the Graduate School.
Dissertation Defenses must be announced at least three weeks in advance and are open to all interested members of the university community. While you and your committee may decide to hold the examination portion of your defense (where they ask you questions about your research) as a committee-only event, the presentation you give on your dissertation must be a public event. The Graduate School will advertise your defense campus-wide.
At least three weeks prior to your defense, you must complete the Doctoral Defense Announcement form (available on the Graduate School’s website). This form must include an abstract of your dissertation and details on the time and location of your defense. You must get this form approved by your Dissertation Advisor and the Graduate Program Director, and then the Graduate Program Coordinator will oversee its submission to the Graduate School.
Students are responsible for scheduling their own Dissertation Defenses. Send your Dissertation Committee a “Doodle Poll” (or similar survey) to determine their availability. The Graduate Program Coordinator can help you secure a room on campus with any necessary A/V equipment (in case a committee member will be participating remotely).
One of your Dissertation Committee members (not your Dissertation Adviser, but someone who is WGSS Core or Associated Faculty) must serve as Defense Chair during the meeting. Like the Exam and Review Chairs, this is an administrative role. The chair will facilitate your Dissertation Defense and, if necessary, keep time during the event. You and your Dissertation Adviser should discuss who to choose.
You and your Dissertation Advisor can discuss the details of your defense, but defenses are typically structured like this:
▪ Opening Statement. You give a 15- to 20-minute opening statement providing an overview of your project, your methodology, your overarching argument, etc.
▪ Questions from Committee. Each member of your committee is given approximately 20 minutes to comment on and ask questions about your project. In most cases, the most “outside” committee members go first (i.e. the person who had the least engagement in your project). Your Dissertation Advisor will be the last committee member to ask questions.
▪ Public Discussion. Faculty, students, and other community members in attendance will have an opportunity to comment, ask questions, or provide feedback on your project.
▪ Deliberation. You (and the audience in attendance) will be asked to leave the room while the committee confers.
▪ Decision. You will be invited back into the room, and the Defense Chair will announce the committee’s decision.
▪ Cover Sheet. If your committee has determined that you successfully defended your dissertation, they will sign your Dissertation Cover Sheet. (Be sure to bring a copy with you!)
In many cases, a Dissertation Committee will sign the cover sheet with the understanding that the student will make minor revisions before submitting the final version of their dissertation to the 21 Graduate School. It is up to you and your Dissertation Adviser to determine whether a final review of the revisions will take place. You have three months following a successful defense to submit the final version of your dissertation.
As you near the completion of your degree, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the Graduate School’s policies and deadlines related to submitting your dissertation and applying for graduation. These policies are, in most cases, non-negotiable, and these deadlines are often inflexible. You should let the Graduate Program Director know that you are preparing to finish your PhD, and you should be in touch with the Graduate Program Coordinator with any questions or concerns as you proceed.
The Graduate School has detailed information on Dissertation and Thesis Submissions on their website, including a handout on Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. The format is very detailed and complex, and the requirements are quite stringent. You should consult these guidelines before circulating your dissertation to your committee members before your defense, but you absolutely must make sure your final dissertation meets these standards before submitting it to the Graduate School.
Important Note! While the dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School electronically, a hard copy of the completed signature page must be delivered to the Graduate School. The signature page must have original ink signatures for all committee members and should be submitted to the Graduate School as soon as possible after the Dissertation Committee approves your dissertation. This will require you mailing the form to “external” members from other institutions and having them mail it back to you. Be sure to account for this time-consuming process. The Graduate School must receive the signature page by the dissertation deadline PRIOR to the submission of the dissertation.