Graduate Handbook - Dissertation

The dissertation is an in-depth, lengthy study that demonstrates a student's knowledge of a specific area in the field of his or her concentration. It should be original research that contributes to the field. Two hundred pages is considered a reasonable minimum length for a doctoral dissertation. For Creative Writing students, the dissertation is a major work of imaginative writing.

The Dissertation Proposal

For students writing scholarly dissertations, the dissertation proposal should describe or explain: the subject students intend to write about; the argument they are proposing; the current state of scholarship and criticism relevant to their project; the scope of their project; the methodology; the anticipated results or conclusions, and the significance of their work. Proposals for scholarly dissertations typically begin with a section addressing many of the areas listed above, such as the project's general organization, significance, position within related fields and current scholarship, main argument, and tentative conclusions. The proposal should also present a chapter-by-chapter outline of the material to be covered and a description of the methodology to be used to discuss or treat the material. Students must prepare a list of works cited in the proposal, following MLA guidelines.

For students writing creative dissertations, the dissertation proposal should describe or explain: the style of their project (genre, structure, significant features, e.g.) both the creative and critical/theoretical influences or concerns that have shaped the project; their artistic intentions for the project; and the place they see their project occupying in contemporary literary, aesthetic or cultural discourse. Some students choose to include and discuss passages from their work to address these broad areas. Students must include a list of works cited, following MLA guidelines, if applicable.

Dissertation proposals must be 7-12 pages in length, including the bibliography. All proposals must be double spaced with one inch margins and use standard 12 point type.Dissertation proposals should be submitted for approval by the GPC within one semester of achieving dissertator status.

Students may sign a form, kept on file in the English Graduate Studies Office, that permits other students free or limited access to their dissertation proposals. Students may check with the Graduate Program Manager to learn whose proposals are available for them to see.

Students in Plan C

  1. The student can choose to write a dissertation proposal and follow all of the steps required of this process.

    or:

  2. The student can choose to complete a Dissertation Intention Form (Word, pdf 34kb), which must be approved by the student's Committee, the Coordinator for Creative Writing, and by the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. After the creative body of the dissertation is completed, this option commits the student to writing a critical introduction in prose (3000-9000 words) which demonstrates the correlation between the candidate's academic and creative interests. The critical introduction would follow MLA guidelines for documentation and might discuss, for example: contexts for understanding the artistic body of the dissertation; relation to ongoing literary trends, cultural, and/or historical issues; and articulation of literary/artistic influences. As with the entire dissertation, the critical introduction must meet the Committee's standards for quality.

The Dissertation Committee

The chair of the doctoral committee is the student's advisor/major professor; the chair works closely with the student in preparing the dissertation proposal. The doctoral committee consists of the advisor and at least two other current UWM graduate faculty members.

All members of the student's Dissertation committee must be approved for such duty by the Department of English and the Graduate School. For approval of the Dissertation Committee, the student will complete the Declaration of Committee form available on the Graduate Student Handbook's online Forms Checklist and Links page. The Associate Chair will inform the student if a Committee member is not authorized to be on student Dissertation committees.

All Committee members must also be approved by the Graduate School to be on student committees. Inclusion of committee members' names on a properly filed 'Application for Doctoral Defense and Graduation' constitutes a request for approval by the Graduate School.

The student must also consult with the Doctoral Program Specialist at the Graduate School to ensure that proposed committee members are approved to serve on Dissertation Committees.

Requests for the participation of non-UWM graduate faculty members (including retired or former UWM graduate faculty members) on a doctoral dissertation or defense committee must be approved by the Graduate School. Students must consult the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies if they want to make such a request. The Graduate School requires a curriculum vita for external committee members who are not former UWM faculty. The Graduate School must also approve requests for dissertation co-directors, where one director does not currently have UWM graduate faculty status. The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies makes these requests on the student's behalf.

In extremely rare cases, an untenured faculty member with graduate faculty status may be permitted to direct a dissertation. A student wishing to make such a request must petition the GPC for an exception to existing policy; GPC approval is required, and all decisions are on a case-by-case basis only. Graduate School approval is also necessary. Consult the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies for further information.

The Approval Process

When the student's committee is ready to approve the Dissertation Proposal, the student obtains a Dissertation Proposal Cover Sheet from the Forms Checklist and Links page and signs it. The student's committee members will also sign the Cover Sheet indicating their approval. The student delivers to the Graduate Program Manager the original Cover Sheet, attached to the original Proposal, and 1 additional copy of the entire package. At the same time, the student will complete section I of the Graduate School's Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Hearing Form (available on the Forms Checklist and Links page) deliver the form to the Graduate Program Manager, and email a digital copy by the same deadline.

The Dissertation Proposal will be placed on the agenda for consideration at the next GPC meeting. Should the GPC approve the Proposal, the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies will sign the Cover Sheet. The student's advisor and at least two members of the GPC present at the meeting will sign the Hearing Form. The Hearing Form is then returned to the Graduate School.

The GPC can reject proposals and return them for further work. If it does so, the GPC must explain to the student and the student's advisor why it rejected the proposal and what revisions are required.

Format

Students should obtain a copy of the Graduate School's Master's Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Format Requirements, as they must follow Graduate School format requirements for the dissertation. When there is a conflict with MLA guidelines, students should follow the Graduate School format. Formatting information is also available on the Graduate School web page.

Students must also make an appointment with the Doctoral Student Specialist at the Graduate School to ensure that their dissertations conform to the Graduate School formatting requirements. Students should schedule an appointment a few weeks before the defense so that there is time to make any needed corrections.