Doctor of Philosophy Program Guide: Dissertation

After successfully completing the General Examination, the student reconstitutes the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee, changing the Exam Committee to a Dissertation Reading Committee, writes a Dissertation Prospectus and Dissertation, completes a Final Examination (dissertation defense) and submits the Dissertation to the Graduate School.

The dissertation is the defining feature of doctoral education.  This research project may take many forms, including (but not limited to) a scholarly edition of a literary work, a digital research archive, a suite of essays on a common theme, a scholarly bibliography of a major work or critical movement, a lengthy translation, a monograph-length critical study, or a public humanities project. Any dissertation project must demonstrate command of the scholarly field in which it is situated.  It must entail theoretical and critical reflection.  And (most importantly) it must be mutually agreed upon by the candidate and the director, and subsequently by all other faculty committee members. It will be held to the most rigorous intellectual and scholarly standards.

Reading Committee

After successful completion of the General Examination, the student reconstitutes the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee, changing the Exam Committee to a Dissertation Committee. This committee may, but need not, include members from the previous Ph.D. Supervisory Committee. The Dissertation Committee consists of three or more readers, including a Dissertation Director and two or more additional readers.

The Dissertation Director and at least one other reader must be graduate faculty from the Department of English. In the unusual case of there being dissertation co-directors, one may be non-English Department graduate faculty.

For details regarding the UW Graduate School’s policies on doctoral supervisory committees, see the UW Graduate School website: Memo 13: Supervisory Committee for Graduate Students and Doctoral Supervisory Committee Roles and Responsibilities.

Dissertation Prospectus

By the end of the quarter following completion of the General Examination, the student must complete a dissertation prospectus outlining a plan for the writing of the dissertation. This prospectus should document the thesis, indicate the problems to be investigated, lay out the intellectual conversations, identify sources and methods to be used, and provide a summary of chapters and a bibliography. Sample prospectuses are on file in the English Graduate Advising Office.

Once the dissertation director has approved the prospectus, the student submits copies to the Reading Committee. Members may then suggest or require changes. After all concerns have been addressed, the Reading Committee as a whole is responsible for approving the prospectus, which may be done at a meeting or over email. The student obtains signatures on the Prospectus Approval form (or email approval) and submits a copy of the approved prospectus to the English Graduate Advising Office.

Dissertation Research and Writing

After gaining the Reading Committee's approval of the Dissertation Prospectus, the student writes a dissertation under the direction of the Dissertation Director. The Dissertation Director is the student's principal adviser, but the student may consult other members of the Committee.

A Dissertation can take one or more years to complete. Registration for Dissertation credit (English 800) requires the signature of the Dissertation Director, necessitating a meeting with the Dissertation Director at least one time each quarter.

When the completed Dissertation has been approved by the Dissertation Director, the student submits copies of the Dissertation to the English Graduate Advising Office for formal submission to the Reading Committee and requests the scheduling of a Dissertation Defense.