QERM: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Degree Programs

Doctoral Dissertation

The student must select a doctoral dissertation research topic and develop it in consultation with his or her supervisory committee chair.

Dissertation Proposal

A student is expected to submit a dissertation proposal to their supervisory committee before the end of the 5th quarter of doctoral studies and before beginning substantive research. The dissertation proposal provides evidence to the supervisory committee of the student’s readiness to carry out the research, and also clarifies the expectations of both parties (the student and committee) as to the final content of the dissertation.

The objective of a dissertation proposal is to ensure a definite plan for the work to be done. Once approved by the supervisory committee, it becomes an informal contract between the student and the committee. In addition, a proposal serves as:

  • a basis for discussions between student and committee regarding experimental design, data analysis, and focus of the coursework; and
  • a clear statement of the amount of effort anticipated to produce an acceptable thesis.

While the dissertation proposal serves as an agreement between student and committee, both parties also must recognize that flexibility is needed to include later changes as experiments may fail and new opportunities may arise.

Dissertation Proposal Format

A typical dissertation proposal format is as follows

  • Introduction: General background, importance of the subject area; for a dissertation proposal especially, there should be a substantial literature review.
  • Objective(s): A concise statement of the purpose(s) or objective(s) of the project; this should flow logically from the introduction and be short and specific.
  • Methods: General plan, specific methods, sampling or experimental design, duration, and projected procedure for data analysis; these methods should be appropriate for directly addressing the purpose(s) or objective(s).
  • Interpretation: How will the results be interpreted? There should be explicitly stated inferences that would be drawn from all outcomes; outcomes that cannot be interpreted imply imprecise objectives or inappropriate methods.
  • Significance: Why is this investigation justified? What is the scientific or practical contribution? For a dissertation proposal especially, the case eventually must be made that the results will be a significant contribution to knowledge, regardless of the experimental or observational outcomes.

The length of the written proposal should be the minimum needed to adequately address these topics. For a dissertation proposal, 10-15 pages including references would be appropriate. The intent is to write the proposal early in the degree program. If written too late, it will begin to resemble the dissertation in size and scope, and its primary purpose will be lost.

General Examination - Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree

Upon completion of 60 credits, a Request for General Examination form may be submitted to the Graduate School. This form, signed by all members of a supervisory committee, requests approval for a student to take a General Examination for admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree. This means that, in the opinion of a supervisory committee, a student's background of study and preparation is sufficient to justify the undertaking of a General Examination. A request is approved by The Dean of the only after prescribed requirements have been met. A request must be received at least three weeks prior to a proposed examination date.

Written and other examinations prior to a General Examination are the responsibility of the graduate programs and do not need Graduate School approval. At least four members of a supervisory committee (including the Chair, Graduate School Representative, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be present at a General Examination. Registration and completion of credit as a graduate student is required the quarter and examination is taken and candidacy is conferred.If a student's performance is judged by a supervisory committee to be satisfactory, a signed warrant certifying successful completion of a General Examination is filed in the Graduate School by the last day of the quarter (last day of exam week).

If a General Examination is unsatisfactory, a supervisory committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit up to a maximum of two additional reexaminations, after a further period of study. Any members of a supervisory committee who do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School.Thereafter, a student is identified and designated as a candidate for the appropriate doctoral degree and is awarded a candidate certificate. After achieving candidate status, a student ordinarily devotes his or her time primarily to the completion of research, writing of the dissertation, and preparation for the Final Examination.
A candidate certificate and the doctoral degree may not be awarded the same quarter.

Scheduling the Doctoral General Examination (Admission to Candidacy)

  • Contact the QERM Graduate Program Assistant regarding your eligibility to schedule a General Examination.

  • Complete a Request for General Examination form and obtain signaturs from all supervisory committee members (including GSR)E-mail and/or faxed signatures attached to the request form, are accepted.

  • Submit the request form to the Graduate School at least 3 weeks prior to the examination.

  • The Graduate School will determine if you have met the minimum requirements and, if approved, a warrant will be sent to the QERM Graduate Program Assistant one week prior to the examination.

Format of the Doctoral General Examination

The General Examination is administered by the student’s supervisory committee. This exam is usually taken before the end of the third year. Permission from the QERM Graduate Program Coordinator is required to extend the time limit beyond the end of the fourth year.

The format of the General Examination is the responsibility of the chair and members of the student’s supervisory committee. Typically, this examination has both a written and oral component.

The written exam may concentrates on the student’s primary area of study and attempts to assess the student’s depth, breadth and integration of knowledge in the fields of biometry, ecological modeling and/or resource management and preparation to do research. The written exam may be composed of questions submitted by members of the student’s supervisory committee. The exam may take an extended period of time, i.e., a week, so that there will be sufficient time for the student to respond to the exam questions raised. The committee may deem it appropriate to focus the General Examination on a student’s research proposal.

The oral examination in part focuses on the student’s area of dissertation research but also attempts to assess the student’s breadth of knowledge and ability to conduct research and communicate effectively in a scientific peer environment. Part of the oral examination may constitute a defense of the proposed research plan.

The purpose of the General Examination should be to test the ability of the student to articulate well-organized and meaningful responses to more-or-less unexpected questions in a spontaneous manner. Good performance in the General Examination is more than knowing the correct answers; it involves poise, organization, and clarity of response. Faculty and students are encouraged to conduct practice orals in advance of the actual examination.

Doctoral Candidate Certificate

A candidate certificate gives formal recognition to a successful completion of a very significant step towards a doctoral degree. Students who have passed a General Examination and have completed all requirements for a doctoral degree, except a Final Examination and Graduate School acceptance of a dissertation, are awarded a candidate certificate. Candidacy is conferred on the last day of a quarter and the Graduation and Academic Records office issues certificates approximately 4 months after this date.

Appointment and Responsibilities of a Doctoral Reading Committee

After the General Examination, the Graduate Program Coordinator uses MyGradProgram to inform the Dean of The Graduate School of at least three members of the supervisory committee who will serve on the reading committee.  At least one of the members of the reading committee must hold an endorsement to chair doctoral committees. The reading committee is appointed to read and approve the dissertation. It is the responsibility of a reading committee to (a) ensure that the dissertation is a significant contribution to knowledge and is an acceptable piece of scholarly writing; (b) determine the appropriateness of a candidate's dissertation as a basis for issuing a warrant for a Final Examination; (c) approve a candidate's dissertation and; (d) sign two original Signature Pages that are placed within a dissertation after all revisions are completed.

Final Examination -- Dissertation Defense

A Final Examination may be scheduled if: (a) a student passed a General Examination in a previous quarter; (b) a reading committee is officially established with the Graduate School and; (c) a reading committee has read an entire draft of a dissertation and voting members of a supervisory committee agree that a candidate is prepared to take a Final Examination. 

A Request for Final Examination form (signed by all members of a supervisory committee, including a Graduate School Representative) is presented to the Graduate School three weeks prior to a Final Examination date and, if a candidate has met all other requirements, the Graduate School issues a warrant authorizing a Final Examination.  At least four members of a supervisory committee (including the Chair, Graduate School Representative, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be present at an examination.

If a Final Examination is satisfactory, the supervisory committee members who participate at the examination sign the warrant and return it to the Graduate School by the last day of the quarter (last day of finals week).  Any members of a supervisory committee who participate at an examination but do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School. If an examination is unsatisfactory, a supervisory committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit a second examination after a period of additional study.

Scheduling the Final Examination

  • Contact your department regarding your eligibility to schedule a Final Examination.
  • Ensure that the Reading Committee has read an entire draft of your dissertation.
  • Complete a Request for Final Examination form.
  • Acquire all supervisory committee members (including GSR) signatures.  E-mail and/or faxed signatures, if attached to the request form, are accepted.
  • Submit the request form to the Graduate School at least 3 weeks prior to the examination.
  • The Graduate School will determine if you have met the minimum requirements and, if approved, a warrant will be sent to your department's Graduate Program Assistant/Advisor one week prior to the examination.

Submission of the Doctoral Dissertation

Final preparation of the dissertation should occur after successful completion of the Final Examination. The Graduate School allows students a maximum of 60 days from the date of the Final Examination in which to submit the dissertation. If the student does not submit his or her dissertation in the same quarter in which it was defended he or she must register for at least 2 credits during that following quarter when the degree is conferred or apply for the Graduate Degree Late Fee option. The dissertation must still be submitted within 60 days from the date of the Final Examination.

Review the Graduate School's the Policy and Style Manual for Theses and Dissertations manual for complete information on formatting.

*Note: Students who plan to graduate during Spring Quarter and participate in commencement must submit their dissertation to the Graduate School approximately two weeks before the end of that quarter.

Graduate Degree Late Fee Option

The Graduate Degree Late Fee is an option in lieu of registration for a given quarter for eligible students who did not submit the dissertation that was successfully defended  by the end of the previous quarter, i.e. only formatting the dissertation to Graduate School requirements remains to be completed .

PLEASE NOTE: This option may have an effect on the grace period for student loans becoming due; students should check with their lenders before deciding not to register. Also, International students must consult an advisor in the International Services Office to determine eligibility for this policy.

Submitting a Dissertation

Carefully review the Graduate School's the Policy and Style Manual for Theses and Dissertations manual for complete information on formatting and submitting the dissertation.

Publication of the Doctoral Dissertation

Part of the obligation of research is publication of the results and, in the case of doctoral research, this means microfilm publication of the dissertation and/or abstract. This is a Graduate School requirement in addition to any previous or planned publication of any or all of a dissertation, and provides worldwide distribution of the work.  A candidate signs a publication agreement when a dissertation is presented to the Graduate School. Publication in microfilm does not preclude other forms of publication.
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