Each department requiring a dissertation shall clearly describe its policies to the students, their advisors, committee chairs, committee members, and the Office of Graduate Studies in formal written statements. 

In addition, each department and its respective college or school, through the student’s major advisor or chairperson and committee members, shall be responsible for the content and quality of the student’s work and final project. Approval of the substance of the project or dissertation shall rest solely with the advisor or chairperson and committee members. 

The Office of Graduate Studies shall be responsible for approving proper format and style of the final product. The academic unit shares preliminary responsibility for document preparation by the student through its published guidelines and through faculty advising. 

Doctoral Dissertation Credit and Continuous Enrollment 

A doctoral dissertation requires a minimum of nine (9) credit hours. The maximum number of hours may vary depending on the specific unit requirements as approved through the university’s curriculum review process. All work for the dissertation must be completed within six (6) years after the applicant has been admitted to candidacy, and within the 10-year limit for completion of degree requirements. Only those credit hours in dissertation, stipulated in the student’s approved program of study, will count toward meeting the program requirements for the degree.

Following a student’s first enrollment in dissertation, the student must maintain continuous enrollment until all dissertation requirements are completed satisfactorily and approved by the appropriate bodies. Continuous enrollment is defined as enrollment in all fall and spring semesters from the initial enrollment to the semester in which the student graduates. If the student will graduate in summer the student must be enrolled in that session.

Access to Library Services. For students not enrolled in summer, pre-enrollment in the subsequent fall semester is necessary for access to library resources during the summer semester.

Dissertation Process

Each doctoral program at the University of the Incarnate Word in which the dissertation is required for partial degree fulfillment shall adhere to the dissertation process as described below, but each program may establish, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, variations on these guidelines.

Candidacy. In those programs where candidacy is a required step, the student applies for candidacy. Candidacy is conferred upon students who have met all of the established required elements of the degree program and the student is then permitted to begin the dissertation process.

Committee. Each program offering a doctoral program shall approve and publish its policies concerning doctoral committees, including a) the qualifications for membership in doctoral committees, b) the procedures used to select who should serve on these committees, and c) the specific functions and responsibilities of the members of these committees. The chairperson of each student’s doctoral committee shall indicate in writing the specific responsibilities of the individual members of that committee.

A doctoral committee shall be appointed for each student undertaking a dissertation as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. The purpose of the committee is twofold: (a) to provide the range of expertise necessary to advise a student in the conduct of the dissertation and (b) to ensure that evaluation of the dissertation represents a consensus of professionals in the student’s chosen discipline.

The director of the doctoral program shall recommend appointment of the dissertation committee to the Director of Graduate Studies. The director shall approve the appointment of members of the dissertation committee and notify the dissertation committee chairperson of the appointments.

The student’s advisor shall serve as chairperson of the committee. At least one (1) member of the committee must be from the program offering the degree. The appointment of a doctoral committee is a four-stage process requiring, first, a mutual agreement between the student and committee chairperson on committee composition; second, a mutual agreement between the student and the prospective committee members; third, a formal appointment by the program; and fourth, approval of the appointment by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Each doctoral committee shall consist of at least three (3) members or associate members of the Graduate Faculty of the University of the Incarnate Word; the committee chairperson must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty; UIW faculty emeriti and part-time UIW faculty are eligible to serve on doctoral committees. See Appendix 20 of the Faculty Handbook for the description of the Graduate Faculty Appointment Procedure.

The committee is charged with supervising and evaluating the dissertation, a task that includes, but is not limited to, the following responsibilities: (a) advise the student on selection and/or development of a topic;(b) review and approve a proposal for the dissertation; (c) provide consultation regarding progress on the dissertation; (d) evaluate the final document; and (e) evaluate the public defense of the dissertation.

In addition to the previously described responsibilities that are generic to all doctoral committee members, the chairperson of the committee assumes the following additional responsibilities: (a) in those programs where this responsibility is not discharged through other processes, advise the student regarding selection of doctoral committee members; (b) routinely monitor student progress on the project or dissertation; (c) call committee meetings at least once each calendar year; (d) evaluate the readiness of the dissertation proposal for committee review and action; and (e) inform the student of the need to adhere to University of the Incarnate Word policies, procedures, and document formatting instructions.

Suggested Composition of the Doctoral Committee
Chairperson. Full time UIW Graduate Faculty member teaching in the doctoral program in the student’s discipline from list of faculty identified so to serve.
Member #2. Full time UIW Graduate Faculty member teaching in the doctoral program in the student’s discipline from list of faculty identified so to serve.
Member #3. UIW Graduate Faculty member teaching in any discipline appropriate to the research topic from list of faculty identified so to serve.
Member #4. Scholar from UIW Graduate Faculty with active research agenda appropriate to the student’s area of interest, or approved scholar from outside the campus who possesses appropriate credentials for relevancy to research topic.
All members of the doctoral committee must approve the student’s dissertation and all must be in attendance for and approve its public defense. The dissertation must be in a form acceptable to the program and adhere to UIW’s publication standards before the student may be awarded the doctoral degree.

Proposal. The candidate shall develop a dissertation proposal in accord with program guidelines.

Proposal Approval. The candidate shall compose, revise as necessary, and receive written approval of the proposal from the dissertation committee chairperson and from all members of the dissertation committee.

Research Compliance. Appropriate research compliance approval must be obtained before the research is conducted. The candidate shall obtain written Human Subjects Institutional Review Board approval if the research involves human subjects, written Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee approval if animals are involved, or written Biosafety Committee approval, or written approval from the Radiation or Environmental Health and Safety Officer if appropriate. (All dissertations must include a copy of the requisite approvals in the appendices.)

Deviations from Dissertation Proposal During Conduct of Research. If, during the conduct of the dissertation research, major deviations from the proposal occur or appear to be imminent, the candidate shall receive approval from the dissertation committee and the appropriate research compliance body (if research has already been approved, modifications to compliance application apply) before continuing the research study. The candidate shall submit dissertation draft(s) to the dissertation committee chairperson for review, revision, and approval prior to distribution to the entire committee.

Data Analysis. Data analysis should be completed at least two semesters before graduation.

Dissertation Defense Process

Committee Approval for Public Defense. When the dissertation committee has approved the candidate’s correctly formatted and edited dissertation, the candidate shall obtain the signature of each committee member to confirm that each member has read the dissertation and finds it acceptable for presentation at the public defense.

Public Defense and Registering for Graduation. The public dissertation defense can be held at any time during a semester in which the candidate is enrolled. When the candidate has confirmed a defense date, they should contact the Office of the Registrar to register to graduate. (See Applying for Graduation.) The dates of the commencement ceremony and degree conferral will depend on when the defense is successfully completed, the dissertation document is submitted for format review, and when the student has received clearance approval from the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

Scheduling and Publicizing the Defense. The doctoral candidate and the candidate’s advisor are responsible for scheduling the public defense with all members of the doctoral committee, notifying the academic unit office and the Office of Graduate Studies, and reserving the room. A block of two hours should be reserved, and defenses scheduled in the same academic unit should not conflict in time. Structured Abstract. The candidate shall prepare a structured abstract and complete the form required to schedule the public defense. The abstract and the form must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies at least 10 working days (two weeks) prior to the public defense.

Expectations for Public Defense. The candidate shall prepare for the public defense according to the program’s published expectations for the defense: (a) all committee members must be present; (b) the chairperson of the committee shall introduce the candidate and outline the structure and agenda for the public defense; (c) the candidate shall present the dissertation content; (d) the candidate shall respond to questions from the dissertation committee; and (e) if time permits, the candidate shall respond to questions from others who attend the defense.

Acceptability. The committee may then determine the acceptability of the dissertation and the public defense if such a determination has not been made beforehand.
Committee Decision. The dissertation committee must unanimously approve the dissertation and the public defense. Abstentions shall be considered negative votes. If there is no consensus, the dissertation committee may (a) require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation without an additional public defense, (b) require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation and require a second public defense, or (c) reject the dissertation and require another research proposal to be submitted.

Resolution of Differences Within Committee Over Dissertation Approval. In cases where committee members differ over the approval of a dissertation document and/or its public defense, it shall be the responsibility of the committee to undertake every reasonable effort to resolve these differences and come to a unanimous decision.
In case a student wishes to appeal a negative decision by dissertation committee, the student shall first take the appeal to this same committee, which shall hear the appeal and render a decision.
In cases of a negative, but non-unanimous, committee decision, and the student wishes to appeal, a review committee shall be established consisting of the Director of Graduate Studies, the appropriate academic dean, and the chairperson or director of the academic unit.
The review committee shall seek to resolve the controversy without rendering a decision on the dissertation. The review committee’s handling of such a case is limited to procedural actions, such as reconstituting the committee if the case merits it.

University Requirements After Defense

Document Preparation for Format Review. Students may not offer a dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies for review until it has been approved by the committee or supervisor, as indicated by signatures of all committee members or supervisor on the official approval forms.

Deadlines for Format Review. All dissertations must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for format review by the established deadline for the student’s desired graduation date:

  • October 1 for anticipated December degree conferral.
  • March 1 for anticipated May degree conferral.
  • July 1 for anticipated August degree conferral.

Students should expect format review to take no less than three weeks.

Failure to meet these deadlines may result in delayed degree conferral.

Enrollment in GRAD 7010. Students who have completed all program requirements and a successful public defense but have not completed document formatting requirements and/or other dissertation clearance requirements must enroll in GRAD 7010 (a zero-credit course) during the graduating semester. Enrollment in this course during completion of the format review process allows continued access to university resources and satisfies the continuous enrollment requirement.

Dissertation Clearance. A clearance form is required for dissertations. Clearance requirements include:

  • Dissertation approved for formatting and publication.
  • Approved dissertation submitted to The Athenaeum.
  • Approved dissertation submitted to ProQuest.
  • Closure of IRB protocols.
  • Completion of Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Completed clearance forms confirming the completion of all program and university requirements are submitted by the Office of Graduate Studies and must be received by the Registrar’s Office by these dates:

  • November 1 for anticipated December degree conferral.
  • April 1 for anticipated May degree conferral.
  • August 1 for anticipated August degree conferral.

Failure to meet these deadlines may result in delayed degree conferral.

Deposit of Student Work. Dissertations submitted to the university are deposited in The Athenaeum, the University of the Incarnate Word institutional repository of scholarly work, maintained by the Mabee Library. The submission of the dissertation to the university in partial fulfillment of degree requirements grants the university the one-time, non-exclusive right to publish the dissertation in The Athenaeum. Dissertation writers, in addition, must deposit a copy of their work into ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

University and student rights regarding dissertation submission and publication are outlined below.

University Rights. The University of the Incarnate Word retains non-exclusive distribution, reproduction, and archival rights to dissertations submitted to the Faculty of the University of the Incarnate Word in partial fulfillment of requirements for a post-baccalaureate degree. Such rights entitle the University of the Incarnate Word to reproduce, archive, and distribute dissertations, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, as it sees fit. Distribution is subject to a release date stipulated by the student and approved by the university. 

Student Rights and Responsibilities. As the owner of the dissertation copyright, students have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works based on, publicly perform and display their work, and to authorize others to exercise some or all of those rights. As a condition of graduation, each student’s dissertation must be published electronically. As part of the publishing process, students have several options regarding when others may access their document. These options include:

No embargo—Immediate availability. After degree conferral, the full text of the dissertation will be immediately and freely available and searchable online via The Athenaeum. The full dissertation will also be available via ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Embargo—Restrict online publication for a designated period.  Embargoes may be selected for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years. Students may place an embargo on electronic access to their full dissertation through The Athenaeum and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global if there is legitimate reason to do so. Patents or future publication, for example, might be jeopardized by providing unrestricted access. Should a student elect to restrict online publication of his or her work, the document metadata—including names of student and advisors, and dissertation title and abstract—will be available via The Athenaeum and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global; however, the full document will be unavailable for viewing or download until the selected embargo period has ended.

Indefinite embargo—Restrict online publication indefinitely. Students may place an indefinite embargo on access to their full document. In this case, the document metadata—including names of student and advisors, and dissertation title and abstract—will be available via The Athenaeum and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, but the full document will be unavailable indefinitely. Indefinite embargoes require the written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. The indefinite embargo restriction can be lifted at the request of the author at a later date.

Related Links

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Research Compliance

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