Graduate School of Education

Dissertation

The dissertation establishes students as independent scholars in their areas of expertise.

Dissertation Committee

Upon admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree, candidates should form their dissertation committees consisting of three faculty members who will be available to support them through the stages of designing and conducting the research, analyzing the data and writing the dissertation. The first member selected should be the dissertation advisor. In consultation with the dissertation advisor, the candidates choose two other committee members. The dissertation advisor must be a GSE faculty member and the other members of the committee may be as well. Additional members can also be from other departments on campus or from other doctoral-granting universities. In addition to the advisor and committee members, the dissertation committee will include an outside examiner.

Dissertation Formats

In consultation with the dissertation chair and committee, candidates will determine the dissertation format that best aligns with their research and career goals.

The traditional format includes a minimum of five chapters: Chapter 1 introduces the dissertation study, conceptual framework and problem statement; Chapter 2 is a review of the literature; Chapter 3 describes the research methods; Chapter 4 presents the results or findings of the study (qualitative dissertations may include additional chapters); and Chapter 5 discusses the results (or findings) in the context of the conceptual framework and literature reviewed.

The three-paper format includes sharply focused and thematically linked manuscripts targeted to peer-reviewed journals. Representing the doctoral candidate’s original scholarship and sole authorship, article types might include: a critical review of the literature, a study based on data collected by the student, a practitioner-focused piece, a secondary data analysis or a meta-analysis. Alternatively, all three papers might be empirical with their own brief review of the literature. Although the papers should be publishable, they do not need to be accepted for publication prior to the dissertation defense. All three papers must be sole authored.

Dissertation Prospectus

According to the Binghamton University Graduate School Manual, the purpose of a prospectus is “to identify the topic and type of inquiry to be undertaken in the dissertation and to formalize the approval of the project by the dissertation committee. The doctoral candidate should work closely with the dissertation advisor and committee on the fulfillment of this requirement.

The Graduate School of Education requires the prospectus contain the following:

  • Title (reflecting the nature of the research)
  • Abstract
  • Research question(s) or focus of research
  • Rationale for the research
  • Literature review
  • Methodology for the study (including IRB approval if needed)
  • References for the prospectus

Doctoral candidates electing to complete the three-paper dissertation option must submit a prospectus organized and detailed by the following headings: (a) summary of the prospectus and aims of the research (1-3 pages); (b) detailed review of the literature highlighting current knowledge, critiquing and synthesizing previous research, and identifying gaps the dissertation will address (five-10 pages); (c) if applicable, any pilot work the doctoral candidate has done in support of the dissertation; and (d) a separate and detailed outline for each of the three papers (five pages each or 15 pages total).

We recommended candidates submit the prospectus within six months of being admitted to candidacy. In order for the prospectus to receive formal consideration by the candidate’s dissertation committee, it should be submitted between September 1 and April 15.

Dissertation Prospectus Meeting

The dissertation prospectus meeting begins with a brief (i.e., 15-20 minutes) presentation of the aims and scope of the proposed project. After the presentation, the committee will ask specific questions of the candidate about the project and make recommendations for strengthening the proposed research. At the conclusion of the meeting, it is customary for the dissertation advisor to request that everyone except the dissertation committee leave the room, so that the members may reach a decision about how to move forward. After the meeting, the dissertation advisor and the doctoral candidate meet to discuss any required revisions.

Dissertation Defense

When the doctoral candidate has completed writing the dissertation and revisions satisfy the dissertation advisor, the final oral defense of the dissertation can be scheduled. The dissertation advisor is expected to ensure that the dissertation is near final form before allowing the meeting to be scheduled. Committee members must unanimously approve the dissertation before the defense can be scheduled. With unanimous approval, a request to add an outside examiner will be initiated by the Program Coordinators. The request should be submitted no later than one month before the defense.

After the student and the advisor have been notified of the appointment of an outside examiner, the student, in conjunction with the advisor, schedules the final oral examination. The examination will be two hours in length and will begin with a 15-30 minute presentation of the research by the candidate. The student should submit the dissertation to the committee well in advance of the final oral defense. A minimum of two weeks is required. 

The final oral examination is open to any person wishing to attend. Members of the examination committee must be given sufficient time to question the candidate. The final defense is a public examination, however, and the primary advisor is responsible for ensuring that the examination is open and impartial, including that it provides reasonable opportunities for outside observers to participate. At the conclusion of the examination, it is customary for the dissertation advisor to request that everyone except the dissertation committee leave the room, so that the members may reach a decision. This procedure should not be invoked at any other time during the examination and should not preclude any questions from either committee members or outside observers.

The student is required to respond to questions (examiners and audience) concerning the dissertation and to defend its validity.

To pass, the student must receive the unanimous approval of the dissertation examining committee approved by the Graduate School. All members of the examining committee who accept the dissertation in partial fulfillment of requirements for the doctorate shall so attest by their signatures on the "Recommendation for Award of Doctoral Degree" form. If the outside examiner does not signify approval, he or she should give the reason for dissent by submitting a separate memorandum to the Dean of the Graduate School within three business days of the examination.

If at the final examination the examiners generally approve of the dissertation but require significant changes and are not yet prepared to sign the "Recommendation for Award of Doctoral Degree" form, the primary advisor will coordinate with other members of the committee to compile all required changes and will inform the student of the scope and substance of those changes. The committee will establish how the changes will be reviewed and approved.

Following the oral exam and approval of the dissertation, the Program Coordinators submit to the Graduate School the signed "Recommendation for Award of Doctoral Degree" form, indicating that the student has now fulfilled all academic requirements for the doctoral degree and has successfully defended the dissertation. Members of the dissertation examining committee sign the "Recommendation for Award of Doctoral Degree" form.

The dean of the Graduate School may void any dissertation defense that is not carried out in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Graduate School. In addition, upon recommendation of the dean's appointed outside examiner, the dean may declare a dissertation defense null and void.

Remote Participation in Dissertation Defenses via Videoconferencing and Other Devices

Normally, all dissertation defenses take place on campus and require the full attendance of the dissertation committee including the outside examiner. However, at the discretion of the school, and with the unanimous consent of all members of the dissertation committee and the student, committee members or the outside examiner may participate in the defense via real-time videoconferencing. In special cases (undue hardship), the student may also request to have the oral presentation of their dissertation via video-conferencing. Similarly, if in exceptional circumstances one member of the dissertation committee cannot be present (either physically or virtually), he or she may submit questions and comments in writing. Such arrangements must be approved in advance by the Program Coordinators and must have the unanimous consent of all other members of the dissertation committee and the student. In all instances, the primary advisor and the outside examiner must be physically or virtually present to observe the process.

Any of the above situations must be endorsed by the Program Coordinators and/or chair of the Dissertation Committee and will require pre-approval of the Graduate School. All videoconferencing and other virtual media arrangements must meet the Graduate School's expectations.

Final Copy of Dissertation

Dissertations must be submitted to the Graduate School electronically. Students are responsible for submitting their final dissertation to the Graduate School and to meet the specific guidelines for submission.

Last Updated: 3/1/17