Department of Psychology

Dissertation Guidelines

  1. Dissertation Proposal: This is an extremely important step. The dissertation proposal is similar to a contract between the committee and the student. If the student conducts the research described in the proposal, then the research will be viewed as suitable for the dissertation. Therefore, issues raised in the defense of the dissertation will focus on whether the research was conducted as planned in the proposal, the analysis of the data, and the conclusions that the student makes from the obtained results. The dissertation proposal defense must be documented on a Departmental Proposal Defense form signed by your entire committee at the conclusion of the successful proposal meeting. Get the form from the Graduate Coordinator (Thane Bryant) prior to the meeting or get it online here and return the signed form to him after the meeting.

  2. IRB Protocol Approval application for dissertation research.

  3. As you near completion of your dissertation, you need to become very familiar with the Graduate School's (GS) deadlines* for the term you intend to graduate. You will need to coordinate the efforts of several people in order to complete the series of interrelated steps in a timely manner.

  4. Conduct research and write dissertation. Format must follow the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Guide on the Graduate School's web page.

  5. Application to Graduate (AKA "Graduation Check") - complete and electronically submit to the Graduate School your Application to Graduate BEFORE you submit your Dissertation First Submission Approval Form (step 8 below) and no later than the last day of the semester BEFORE the semester you intend to graduate (see Calendar for dates). If you do not graduate during the semester for which you ordered a graduation check, the graduation check will carry over from one term to the next. If you are requesting the graduation check earlier than one semester prior to the semester in which you intend to graduate (e.g., clinical students request the graduation check prior to going on internship, which is at least a year prior to graduation), that is fine, but make sure to indicate the future semester in which you likely will graduate. For example, if in April 2015 you are applying for a graduation check and you intend to graduation in August 2016 (after completing your internship) make sure that when you apply for the graduation check you select Summer 2016 as the proposed semester of graduation. If you mistakenly selected Summer 2015 in this situation, you would be charged a $40 "Graduation Fee" each semester from Summer 2015 until you actually graduated in Summer 2016.

  6. You must be registered for the term in which you defend your dissertation AND the term in which you graduate (if different from the term you intend to defend). If you do not register by the first day of classes you may not make it onto the graduation list (see Calendar for registration dates) The only exception to this is that students who have completed all requirements for the degree, including successful dissertation defense and submitting the final electronic dissertation to the Graduate School with the "Electronic Thesis/Dissertation Final Approval Form", and who have secured a certificate of completion from the Graduate School by the end of the semester preceding the semester in which they intend to graduate do not have to be registered during the semester in which they graduate. If you think this applies to you, contact Sarah Beckum in the Graduate School (, (334) 844-4700) during the semester before the semester in which you intend to graduate to make sure this is the case.

  7. Give a copy of your dissertation draft to your committee members four weeks prior to the Dissertation First Draft Approval Form deadline (see Calendar* for dates). This is a suggested deadline. In practice, the timing of your committee's receipt of the draft in relation to the date of submission of the draft to the Graduate School (#8 below) is a detail you will need to work out with your major professor and committee.

  8. After your committee has reviewed a first draft and worked with you to resolve problems, submit the draft of the dissertation (pdf) to the Graduate School via e-mail to; deliver the draft to the outside reader in the outside reader's preferred form (paper or electronic); and submit the paper Dissertation First Submission Approval Form to the Graduate School. (see Calendar* for GS deadline). The First Submission Approval Form must be signed by your entire committee. If you know who you would like to use as University Reader (aka "Outside Reader"), your major professor should indicate the nominee on the First Submission Approval form. Once the form is completed and signed, give it to Thane Bryant - he will make a file copy and deliver the original to the Graduate School. When the Graduate School gets your pdf draft and First Submission Approval form they will e-mail the University Reader an electronic Dissertation Evaluation Form on which to report his/her review of the dissertation. When the Graduate School receives the Dissertation Evaluation Form back from the University Reader (allow two to three weeks for the University Reader's review unless the University Reader has agreed to a specific earlier report date) the Graduate School will do a format check and will e-mail to you a link to GS Form X "Application for Final Oral Examination," which is used to officially schedule the defense.

  9. Revise Dissertation into final form incorporating feedback from outside reader and GS.

  10. Schedule Dissertation Defense (Final Oral Examination) You must use GS Form X - Application for Final Oral Examination (which the Graduate School e-mailed to you following their receipt of the University Reader's Dissertation Evaluation Form) to officially schedule the dissertation defense. It must be submitted at least one week prior to the scheduled exam date (see Calendar* for term deadlines). When scheduling the exam, remember that all of your committee members plus the University Reader must attend the exam. Any member who cannot be physically present at the defense must attend by a means that enables him/her to participate in the meeting in real time (e.g., Skype, teleconference, etc.).The required information regarding the committee members, the University Reader, and the date, location and time of the defense must be filled in on the Form X and the form must be printed out and signed by the Major Professor. It should be given immediately to Thane Bryant. He will get the Department Chair's signature, make a file copy and deliver the original to the Graduate School. Remember, this must reach the Graduate School 5 working days before the scheduled defense date.

  11. Hold the defense. When the GS formally schedules the exam, they will e-mail to both the student and the major professor a Form Z (pdf) for reporting the outcome of the defense. Make sure to print out this form and bring it to the defense. Note: the GS will not provide this crucial form until the exam has been officially scheduled as described above. You should also bring to the defense the paper Electronic Thesis/Dissertation Final Approval Form (ETD form) for your committee to sign. Note that there are two sections of the ETD form that must be signed: the "Publication Options" section must be signed by you and by your Major Professor, and the "Review and Acceptance" section must be signed by all 4 committee members, including the Major Professor. The Outside Reader (aka "University Reader") does not have to sign the ETD form. Finally, also bring to the defense a copy of the Department of Psychology's Dissertation Assessment form for each of your (typically 4) committee members. You do not need to bring one for the Outside Reader.

  12. Documenting the dissertation defense: At the conclusion of your dissertation defense, make sure that the entire committee (including Outside Reader) signs the Form Z Report on the Final Examination and, if they are willing, the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation Final Approval Form. Give the signed form Z to Thane (in person or in his mailbox) immediately. He will make a file copy and deliver the original to the Graduate School. Also collect a completed Department of Psychology Dissertation Assessment form from each of your committee members at the conclusion of the meeting and give those to Thane. They will remain in your departmental file for use by the program directors in the annual assessments of the doctoral programs. If you are striving to meet a Graduate School deadline for the Form Z and ETD Final Approval Form and Thane is out of the office and unavailable to deliver the forms by that deadline, then scan the forms and e-mail them to, being sure to cc Thane and your Major Professor on that e-mail. Put the original signed form in Thane's mailbox. As an alternative to the scan and e-mail route, you could instead make a file copy of the original and put the copy in Thane's departmental mailbox with a note on it indicating when you delivered the original to the GS. Take the original to the GS yourself immediately.

  13. Make suggested changes and corrections to the dissertation.

  14. Submit the final electronic dissertation and the paper "Electronic Thesis/Dissertation Final Approval Form" to the Graduate School by the Graduate School's deadline. Directions for uploading the final draft to the Graduate School are spelled out at the very end of the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Guide (section entitled "Submission Process"). If you have questions about the process, consult with Sarah Beckum at the Graduate School (844-4700;  Submit the paper "Electronic Thesis/Dissertation Final Approval Form" (after it is signed by all parties) by giving it to Thane Bryant. He will make a file copy and deliver the original to the Graduate School. You must also log on to, complete and submit the "Survey of Earned Doctorates" at this time.  (see Calendar* for term deadlines)

*The deadlines in the Dissertation Calendar are for students who intend to GRADUATE with the PhD at the end of the semester. If you do not intend to GRADUATE that semester, but do intend to complete all degree requirements by the end of the semester (e.g., in order to avoid having to register and pay tuition for the following semester) you need to complete all the steps on the Calendar by the last day of the semester in which you defend AND you must apply to the Graduate School for a "Letter of Completion" by the last day of the semester in which you defend. 

Last Updated: February 15, 2018