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Proposal Review and Defense

Proposal Review and Defense

A dissertation proposal must adequately describe a viable research project. TEAL faculty generally agree that students should prepare strong drafts of the first three chapters (Introduction to the Problem, Review of Literature, and Methodology) with sufficient detail for committee members to ascertain the level of the student’s understanding and the merit of the proposed research. Students should discuss proposal length and content with their major advisor. While IRB approval cannot be sought until after the proposal defense, chairs often expect the proposal appendix to include any essential information that the IRB will request. Once a proposal has the tentative approval of the chair, students should send copies to all committee members for review and work with the committee to set a proposal defense date. To allow adequate review time, the proposal defense meeting date should occur no sooner than two weeks from the date the proposal is received by all committee members. In general, follow formatting guidelines in the School of Graduate Studies Publication Guide, adjusting to reflect the differences between a dissertation proposal and the final drafts of a dissertation.

Forms to bring to the proposal defense:

After Proposal Approval

If the committee approves a proposal, committee members will sign the proposal cover sheet. Students should keep this signed candidacy form as it still needs to get an IRB approval number before it is complete. Students must apply to the IRB ( for approval to conduct the planned research. The final copy of the proposal (including any requested revisions) with a signed cover sheet must be submitted with other required forms and materials (letters of consent, interview protocols, copies of instruments) to the IRB at USU. The IRB process can take several weeks to complete, which should figure into the dissertation timeline. Once an authorization number from the IRB is received students should work with the TEAL GPC (Lori Hyde) to submit the Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree form to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. This form indicates that any changes in coursework have been approved, that the Comprehensive Exam has been passed, and that the dissertation proposal has been approved, allowing the dissertation research to begin.

Beginning Dissertation Research

A proposal is an agreement between a student and the doctoral supervisory committee. Procedures outlined in the proposal constitute the minimum acceptable for the dissertation; students may add areas of inquiry as the research develops. Please note that all changes should be discussed with the chair and all major changes must be approved by committee members. Before writing the dissertation, students should review the format guidelines in the most recent edition of the Publication Guide for Graduate Students (located in the section named Dissertation Format and Style Guide) at Utah State University, and the Copyright Policy.

Students should work closely with the chair to prepare various drafts of the dissertation. Before to the defense, the dissertation must meet APA style requirements (unless the committee members have pre-approved the use if a different format guide). When the Chair agrees that the dissertation is in final form and ready for defense, it can be distributed to all committee members. The dissertation, in final form, must be given to all committee members no less than four weeks before the final oral defense. After allowing time for committee members to read the dissertation, students should work with the TEAL GPC to obtain committee members' signatures on the Appointment for Examination form (available on the Graduate School website under Forms.) It is very important that this form is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies no less than 15 working days before the defense.

In planning a defense date, be aware that the School of Graduate Studies publishes doctoral deadlines each year for winter and spring commencement exercises. These dates are posted under Completion and Commencement Deadlines on their website.

Degree Residency Requirements

When the Appointment for Examination form is submitted, students should also submit the Degree Residency Requirements form. This form lists and describes the activities completed that meet USU's School of Graduate Studies Residency Requirements for PhD and EdD students.

Dissertation Defense

Students must have been in continuous enrollment (graduate advisement credits or dissertation credits during all fall and spring academic terms) and enrolled for at least 1 credit the semester that they schedule the dissertation defense. The dissertation, in final form, must be given to all committee members no less than four weeks before the final oral defense. Visitors are invited to the dissertation defense via posted announcements. Students should be prepared to defend the dissertation as written and submitted to the committee. The committee may suggest editorial changes; however, if the oral examination indicates weaknesses that require major revisions, the defense must be rescheduled. A range of options is available to committees: clear pass, pass with editorial changes, rewrite for chair or committee approval, re-examination, or failure. For a defense to be considered satisfactory, all five committee members must concur. A report of the results of the exam is filed with other materials at the conclusion of the defense.

Attendance of Visitors at Doctoral Defense

After the Defense

Students should work with the committee chair and/or designated committee members to make any minor changes, corrections, or edits in the approved dissertation.  If students are not experts in following APA formatting, they should consider using professional services as needed during the final stages of writing to ensure that the dissertation conforms to all USU Graduate School and APA formatting expectations. There is a fee for such professional services and the fee is typically based on how much time the formatting takes. TEAL faculty or the TEAL GPC can provide contact information for available professional readers who can provide this formatting check. Students should discuss the need for a professional review with the Chair and allow time for it before the final submission. The Thesis/Dissertation Format and Style form must accompany the final dissertation.

After the final formatting review is finished, the chair should send the dissertation and signed Thesis/Dissertation Format and Style form electronically to the School of Graduate Studies for a final review and the Graduate Dean’s Signature. With the final signatures, the dissertation is sent digitally to the Merrill-Cazier Library for processing. Although the USU Library no longer accepts bound copies of theses and dissertations, unless the document is embargoed, the Library does still offer a binding service if the student wants bound copies to provide to an advisor, department, or for personal use. The Library’s price for binding is currently $20 per copy.  To avoid delays in graduation, students should carefully follow the various steps for printing, binding, and electronic publishing outlined by the School of Graduate Studies.