Dissertation Guidelines

Rules for PhD Proposal Defenses

  1. Ph.D. proposals must be defended within the first two years of candidacy. It is strongly recommended that the proposal be defended within the first year of candidacy. Students who do not have a defended proposal by the end of their first year of candidacy will receive reminders from the Unit II Director. The two-year deadline is a firm one, and failure to comply will result in the termination of doctoral studies and the dismissal of the former Ph.D. candidate with an M.Phil degree.
  1. A Ph.D. dissertation proposal is a document of 25-30 pages approximately, in 11-point font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, outlining the research questions, positioning the expected research in the existing literature, indicating expected results, outlining the structure of the dissertation, and indicating the time frame for carrying out the research tasks.
  1. The Ph.D. dissertation proposal defense brings together physically the candidate and all members of his/her dissertation committee to discuss the proposed dissertation. It is a detailed discussion of the research questions and the envisioned work.  The end result of the defense is a common understanding of what needs to be done, the approximate timing, and any contingencies.
  1. No more than one of the dissertation committee members can participate in the defense electronically.
  1. The Ph.D. dissertation proposal defense is open to faculty of the Economics Department and to students invited by the candidate defending the proposal.
  1. The announcement of the Ph.D. dissertation proposal defense is made at least two weeks in advance to all members of the Economics Department faculty and to doctoral students in the Department.  The announcement lists information about the candidate, the title and abstract of the dissertation proposal, the names and affiliations of the dissertation committee, and the time and location of the defense.  It also appends the full document of the proposal.
  1. A specific form (Dissertation Committee Proposal Sign-Off) is signed at the end of the defense by all member of the dissertation committee.  This form is then deposited with the Unit II Director.


Rules for PhD Dissertations    

  1. At least one essay of a multi-essay PhD dissertation should be solely authored by the degree candidate.
  1. It is recommended that the "job market paper" not be coauthored


Rules for Dissertation Defenses

The Department of Economics will follow the procedures for Ph.D. examinations laid out by the Columbian  College of Arts and Sciences (see below). In addition, the Department requires that:

  1. No more than two members of the examining committee at a dissertation defense can participate electronically.
  1. Dissertation defenses should normally be held in the fall or spring semesters.


CCAS Dissertation Committee Procedures

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Graduate Committee
Procedures for Ph.D. Examinations
December 6, 2011

This document lays out requirements and best practices for Ph.D. examinations in Columbian College. Bold text indicates Columbian College requirements.

1. Construction of examination committee

Examination committees must be composed of at least six members, allocated in the following manner.
a. The dissertation committee—A director and two readers who have advised the student during the dissertation research process. It is permissible for the director to be drawn from outside of the academic unit in which the student is enrolled. If the director is from outside of the academic unit, then the committee must also have a co-director from inside the unit.
b. Two examiners—Examiners cannot have had a direct role in the dissertation research process. One examiner must be from within the academic unit, with the other examiner coming from outside of the academic unit.
c. The chair of the examination—The examination is chaired by a member of the academic unit in which the student is enrolled. The chair cannot be drawn from the dissertation committee or examiners. It is recommended that the director of graduate studies, if not an examiner or on the dissertation committee, serve as chair. The chair takes no part in the examination itself, except, if asked, to pose an introductory question to elicit an opening summary from the student.
d. Your current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be an examiner.

2. Pre-examination preparation

The members of the examination committee should be chosen by the dissertation director, in consultation with the student. If there is a difference of opinion, then the director of graduate studies should get involved in the selection process.
The version of the dissertation that is to be defended must be circulated to all examination committee members at least one month prior to the examination. Ph.D examinations should be announced in the academic unit at the time the dissertation is circulated to examination committee members, one month prior to the examination.

3. Examination procedures

a. The chair of the examination assembles members of the examination committee. While the student and any observers are outside of the room, the chair discusses examination procedures with committee members. Issues that are discussed should include the number of rounds of questioning, the order of questioning, and the time allocated for questioning. Typical practices include two rounds of questioning, the outside examiner questioning the student first, and each committee member questioning the student for 10-15 minutes per round. The dissertation director does not participate in the questioning.
b. Opening the examination—The student, dissertation director, and examination chair all stand at head of table for the following introduction.

Chair: This is a final examination for the degree of doctor of philosophy. I call on the director of the candidate’s research to present the candidate.  Director: It is my pleasure to present [student name], who has completed all of the
requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy. [Student name] and her/his dissertation are before the committee for examination.

c. The student, director, and chair are seated, and the examination begins. Typically, the student provides a brief (10 minute) summary of the research question, methodology, and main findings. This presentation can be omitted if the student has already presented the dissertation in the academic unit.
d. When the questioning is completed, the student and any observers leave the room. The dissertation director is called upon to make a case for the merits of the dissertation and the student’s performance at the examination.
e. Each examiner and dissertation committee member offers an evaluation of the dissertation and examination.
f. The examination committee must decide (1) whether the student has passed or failed the examination and (2) if the student has passed, what revisions to the dissertation, if any, are required? The decision to pass the dissertation and defense is reached by a majority vote.
g. In the event that revisions are required, the examination committee must decide which members wish to see and approve the revised dissertation, as well as the deadline by which revisions must be submitted. Ordinarily, only the dissertation director reviews the revisions, but other committee members can be involved if they wish. Regardless, the director should be given clear instructions to convey to the student regarding the nature and timing of expected revisions.
h. Once these matters have been decided, the student and any observers are invited back into the room. The student stands with the chair of the examination at the head of table.  If the student has passed, all members of the examination committee should be standing when the student re-enters the room. The chair announces the results of the examination.
i. The dissertation director or chair of the examination reports the results of the examination to the director of graduate studies, who then completes the requisite paperwork and submits this paperwork to Columbian College.
Please also see the Graduate Student Handbook for further clarification.  In particular, Columbian College rules specify that the candidate's current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be an examiner.