The Dissertation

The dissertation constitutes the most significant part of the doctoral program. It is expected to be a distinct contribution to historical knowledge and interpretation. The dissertation is typically the basis for one or more peer-reviewed academic publications, including journal articles and a scholarly monograph. All doctoral students will devote significant time and thought to the selection of a dissertation topic, research, and writing. Most students will spend several months away from the University conducting field research. In some instances, field research may last a year or longer. Writing the dissertation normally takes at least an additional year.

All dissertation research, including oral history research, must be conducted in accordance with University rules as well as professional and legal standards. In some instances, dissertators might be required to submit the dissertation prospectus or other materials to the Institutional Review Board of the University of Maryland or another institution. Oral history does not enjoy a blanket exclusion from IRB review. It is, therefore, essential that all research projects involving oral history and other forms of research that fall under human subjects research protocols be cleared by the IRB.

Once a full draft of the dissertation has received preliminary approval of the candidate's advisor, the doctoral candidate will defend the dissertation in an open oral examination, normally lasting not longer than two hours. The defense must include a public presentation by the doctoral candidate on the main aspects of the dissertation research and analysis as well as a formal examination of the candidate by the Dissertation Examination Committee, consisting of five members of the Graduate Faculty and chaired by the candidate's advisor.

The Dissertation Examination Committee will normally include three Graduate Faculty members from the comprehensive examination and prospective committees, another member of the Graduate Faculty, and a tenured Full Member of the Graduate Faculty from outside the Department, acting in the capacity of the Dean's Representative. University rules allow for faculty from outside the University as well as Adjunct and Special members of the Graduate Faculty to sit on Dissertation Examination Committees, subject to approval of the Dean of the Graduate School.

The Committee will determine whether the dissertation is satisfactory at the time of defense or if revisions must be undertaken before the dissertation will be accepted. Attendance at the final discussion and vote shall be limited to the members of the Dissertation Examining Committee. The dissertation cannot be submitted to the Graduate School until four of the five members of the Dissertation Examining Committee have agreed that the dissertation is satisfactory.

Announcements of the date, time, and location of the oral defense, as well as the candidate's name and the dissertation title, shall be disseminated five working days in advance to all faculty and graduate students in the Department. Graduate School rules stipulate that "mass-distribution methods, such as e-mail, a faculty/student newsletter, or individual announcements are acceptable. Merely posting a paper notice on a corridor bulletin board will not constitute a sufficient announcement."

Additional rules governing the composition and duties of the Dissertation Examination Committee as well as the submission of the approved dissertation can be found in the online Graduate School Catalog.