Laboratory Based Dissertation Outline

Guidelines for Preparation of the Dissertation Proposal

Guidelines for Preparation of the Doctoral Dissertation Proposal

Students must provide a written dissertation proposal to members of their dissertation committee at least one full week before the committee’s first meeting. It should be typewritten, and provided as hard copy or in an electronic format (e.g., pdf) and will usually be 10-15 single-spaced pages. There is no upper limit on length, however (see outline below). It is a working document and provides background and an outline and rationale for the research to be performed. As the work proceeds, the directions and methods may change, but the proposal provides a starting point.

The form of the proposal is:

  1. Statement of the problem and its significance. The hypothesis(es) to be tested and specific aims should be clearly stated.
  2. Literature review, background and significance. Critical review of previous work on the research topic and of the relevant methods. This review is updated later and incorporated into the introduction to the student’s dissertation.

The background and significance section of the proposal is a statement of the basis for the research proposed. It serves to focus the objectives of the research for both the student and the committee and to educate the committee members in areas in which they may not be fully informed. At the time of the proposal, the student should have a reasonably comprehensive knowledge of the background literature on the research proposed and be able to summarize it critically in a written and oral presentation. The written sections will form the basis for the general introduction and rationale in the dissertation.

  1. Preliminary studies performed by the student and others in the adviser’s laboratory on the problem to be studied or on related questions.
  2. Proposed studies. This section includes outlines of experiments planned, description of methods and an outline of timing of experiments.
  3. Discussion of expected outcome of experiments, potential problems and alternative plans if results of experiments are not as expected.

Guidelines for Prepration of the Doctoral Dissertation in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

The form of the dissertation is:

  • I and II as in the Proposal above.
  • III. The body of the dissertation written in the form of one or more papers, each paper constituting a chapter.
  • IV. A final section of conclusions from the research and discussion of future prospects. This section, along with the general introduction and rationale, will tie the chapters together.

Dissertation Research and Presentation

Dissertation Research and Presentation
The student, in consultation with her or his major adviser, prepares a final research proposal to be submitted to the dissertation committee as soon as possible after the student passes the qualifying examination and at least one year before the expected date of the defense and submission of the dissertation. The dissertation committee is composed of 5 members appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies with the advice of the student and major adviser. The committee should have experience and interest in the area of research chosen and will usually include one member from outside the department; at least 3 of the 5 members must be members of the Pathology faculty. After discussing the choice of committee members with the Director of Graduate Studies, the student should confirm the members’ agreement to serve and notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of:

  • The members of the committee
  • The committee chair (a pathology faculty member other than the major adviser)
  • The date set for presentation of the dissertation proposal to the committee. Usually the committee chair will be a person whose work and expertise are close to the area of the student’s research and who will be the second reader of the dissertation. At the defense (see below) the committee will be chaired by another member because a reader cannot chair the defense.

Students must provide a written dissertation proposal to members of their dissertation committee at least one full week before the committee’s first meeting. It should be typewritten, and provided as hard copy or in an electronic format (e.g., pdf) and will usually be 10-15 single-spaced pages. There is no upper limit on length, however (see outline below). It is a working document and provides background and an outline and rationale for the research to be performed. As the work proceeds, the directions and methods may change, but the proposal provides a starting point. At the meeting the committee meets first without the student to discuss any questions or problems with the proposal. Then the student speaks about the background and planned experiments for about 30 minutes. The balance of the meeting is devoted to a discussion of the research plans and the overall rationale for the project. The committee then meets again without the student, decides upon recommendations and presents them verbally to the student. The chair then summarizes the results of the meeting in writing to the student with copies to the committee members.
After the research proposal is accepted, the student presents progress reports to the committee at 6-month intervals; at least 2 progress reports are required before the student is advised that the dissertation may be written. The committee’s functions in guiding, advising and approving the doctoral research cannot be performed adequately without at least one year of participation. Written progress reports should be submitted to the committee members at least 1 week before the meetings. After each meeting, the committee chair sends a letter to the student summarizing the committee members’ comments on the student’s progress.
The letter should:

  • State clearly all criticisms and suggestions for alteration of the research plan originally proposed
  • State the approximate date set for the next progress report
  • Be sent to all members of the committee and to the Director of Graduate Studies. A close-to-final draft of the research results, approved by the adviser, should be submitted to committee members at least 1 week before the final meeting.

If it is satisfactory, the final dissertation is prepared, submitted to the committee at least 2 weeks before the defense and defended in a final meeting with the committee. The final defense seminar must be scheduled and advertised to the entire faculty at least 2 weeks before it is presented.

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