Dissertation Guidelines

Doctoral students in the Department of Economics are required to complete a third-year research paper proposal, a dissertation proposal and a dissertation and defense. Find the resources and step-by-step instructions you need to make the dissertation process as smooth as possible.

Additionally, consult the CCAS Doctoral Student Handbook and the GW Electronic Theses and Dissertation Submission website for guidance on formatting and submitting the final document.
 


 


Third-Year Research Paper Proposal Defense

  • The third-year research paper proposal must be submitted within the first three years in the program. Students who have not submitted the proposal by this time, or who submit an unsatisfactory proposal, will be placed on probation for one semester, and failure to comply with the requirement subsequently will result in the termination of doctoral studies.
  • The proposal document should be 12–20 pages in 11-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. 
  • The paper should state the research questions, position the expected research in the existing literature, indicate expected results, outline the structure of the research paper and indicate the time frame for carrying out the research tasks. In this sense it is similar to a dissertation proposal, but smaller, since it relates to only one paper, not a full dissertation plan. It should have the clear potential to become a polished piece of research — the underlying question should have import, as determined by the faculty member advising and evaluating the paper.
  • Students will work with at least one advisor to develop the project. The advisor(s) will assess the project when it is ready, in conjunction with at least one other reader — a faculty member who is not an advisor. It is important for the reader to obtain the draft before the deadline so there is enough time to incorporate feedback and ensure a satisfactory proposal that passes the requirement by the deadline.
  • The paper proposal will not necessarily turn into the dissertation, and the advisor(s) consulted on the proposal will not necessarily be on the student’s dissertation committee. However, students are strongly encouraged to complete the paper described by the proposal. A satisfactory proposal has the potential to become a chapter of the student’s future dissertation, or a standalone paper.

 


Dissertation Proposal Defense

  • PhD proposals must be defended within the first two years of candidacy. It is strongly recommended that the proposal be defended within the first year. 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 PhD candidate from the program.
  • The dissertation proposal document should be 25–30 pages, in 11-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. It should state the research questions, position the expected research in the existing literature, indicate expected results, outline the structure of the dissertation and indicate the time frame for carrying out the research tasks.
  • The PhD dissertation proposal defense brings together the candidate and all members of the dissertation committee to discuss the proposed dissertation in person. 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.
  • No more than one of the dissertation committee members can participate in the defense electronically.
  • The PhD dissertation proposal defense is open to faculty of the Economics Department and students invited by the candidate defending the proposal.
  • The announcement of the PhD dissertation proposal defense is made at least two weeks in advance to all members of the Economics Department faculty and 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.
  • If the defense is approved, all members of the dissertation committee will sign a form at the end of the defense. The form is then submitted to the Unit II director.

 


Dissertation and Defense

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

The Department of Economics will follow the procedures for PhD examinations laid out by the Columbian College, as explained in the Doctoral Student Handbook. In addition, the department requires that:

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

 


Dissertation Committee

In addition to the CCAS dissertation committee requirements outlined in the Doctoral Student Handbook, the Department of Economics specifies certain requirements for the committee procedure.

  • Dissertation committee: A director and two readers who have advised the student during the dissertation research process. The director may 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The student’s current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be an examiner.

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. PhD 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

  • 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.
  • Opening the examination: The student, dissertation director and examination chair all stand at the head of the 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/their] dissertation are before the committee for examination.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Each examiner and dissertation committee member offers an evaluation of the dissertation and examination.
  • 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.
  • 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 oversees 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.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 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 it paperwork to Columbian College.

Please also see the Doctoral 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.

 


Dissertation Submission

Consult the GW Electronic Theses and Dissertation Submission website for guidance on formatting and submitting the final document.