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4.11 - The Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is the final and most important component of the series of academic experiences, which culminates in the awarding of the doctoral degree. Three major functions are fulfilled by the dissertation experience: (1) it is a work of original research/scholarship that makes a contribution to existing knowledge; (2) it demonstrates the candidate's mastery of research methods and tools of the special field; and (3) it demonstrates the student's ability to address a significant intellectual problem and to arrive at a successful conclusion.

Aided by the dissertation advisor, the student should promptly select a dissertation topic. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that approval, if appropriate, has been granted from all regulatory offices (IBC, IRB, IACUC, etc). After the General Examination, most of the student's time will be devoted to research and writing the dissertation. The student must enroll in enough hours of Research for Doctor's Dissertation (course 6980) to satisfy the requirement of the program and to meet the minimum 90-hour requirement of the Graduate College.

Thesis/Dissertation guidelines are found on the Graduate College website.

4.11.1 - Requirements for Enrolling in Dissertation Research

The initial enrollment in 6980 (Research for Doctoral Dissertation) must be for at least two hours and only students who have completed the General Examination and have been admitted to candidacy by the final date to enroll for the upcoming semester may enroll in 6980. Subsequently, each doctoral student must maintain continuous enrollment in at least two hours of 6980 during each term until the requirements for the degree are completed.

4.11.2 - Dissertation Reading Copy

The doctoral candidate should prepare and distribute reading copies of the dissertation to each doctoral committee member. The reading copy should be in an acceptable dissertation format and must include all figures and tables, numbered pages, and a complete bibliography.

It is the responsibility of the student to assure that the dissertation format complies with the Graduate College standards as defined in the "Guidelines for the Preparation of the Master's Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation." When the copy has received preliminary approval of the major professor, it should be submitted to the Graduate College along with a memorandum from the major professor indicating approval of the reading copy and listing the members of the reading committee. Reading copy deadlines are printed in the Academic Calendar for each semester. Students must submit their reading copy as a PDF.

The Graduate Dean will direct the committee to read and determine whether the dissertation demonstrates the student's discipline. They may accept or reject it. If they reject it, the student will be given another opportunity to submit an acceptable dissertation to the committee and the Graduate College. If they accept it, they may require changes and corrections. When the dissertation is in an acceptable format to the Graduate College and a degree check indicates the student has completed all course work with acceptable grades, the student may schedule the final oral examination.

4.11.3 - Final Oral Examination-Dissertation Defense

The final oral examination is a defense of the dissertation and is open to the public. The student must be enrolled for at least two hours in the semester he/she is to take the final oral examination.  Any changes in the doctoral committee must be approved by the Graduate Dean.  The Graduate Dean may exercise a prerogative and appoint an observer for the Graduate College who would not be a voting member.

At least 10 days before the defense, the candidate must submit to the Graduate College an Announcement for the Final Exam and an abstract of no more than 350 words. The Dissertation Defense Announcement form and Committee Approval of Defense Date are located on the Graduate College website under Current Students\Graduate Student Forms.  Authority for the Defense of the Doctoral Dissertation and other forms are mailed to the student's major professor before the final oral exam.  All members of the committee must sign the form and signify whether the examination was satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

 Advances in electronic media have made it possible for the oral defense to be held without the presence of every member at the same location. The Graduate College must be notified of remote participation in advance of the defense. The student, the committee chair, and the majority of the dissertation committee must be physically present at the same location. Other committee members may participate remotely via audio or video conference. Nevertheless, the integrity and significance of the oral examination process must not be compromised by the absence of a sound committee.

Copies of electronic signatures for committee members who have been approved to participate remotely will be accepted on the Authority Report Form for the Dissertation Defense. Original signatures from all members are required on the final dissertation signature page.

The results of the dissertation defense must be reported to the Graduate College within 72 hours. A unanimous report from the doctoral committee is expected; however, on occasion some dissenting reports are received.  If one member dissents, the dissent is recognized as a minority report.  If two members of the doctoral committee dissent, a minority report must be filed and the Graduate Dean will investigate and make the final decision.  If more than two members vote unsatisfactory, the defense is judged to be a failure. Only one attempt is granted in defending the dissertation. If the defense is determined to be unsatisfactory (failure), the decision is final and the defense cannot be repeated. Furthermore, the student will be dropped from the rolls of the Graduate College and candidacy for the doctoral degree will terminate.

Nothing herein shall prohibit such a student from reapplying for admission to the Graduate College and pursuing a doctoral degree in another major field so long as the student satisfies all necessary degree requirements under the rules and regulations of the admitting department, Graduate College and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

4.11.4 - Depositing a Dissertation in the Library

Students must submit their dissertation in electronic format to the Graduate College through the OUHSC ProQuest Administrator.  A paper copy of the thesis signature page containing original signatures of the thesis committee or digital signatures of the thesis committee must be submitted to the Graduate College.   All Dissertation Committee members must sign the signature page or submit a written dissent to the Graduate College.  The written dissent must be submitted at the time of the final signed signature page to the Graduate College.

After approval by the Graduate College and the student’s mentor, the final copy is uploaded to the OUHSC University Library through the ProQuest database. 

The final copy of the dissertation must be delivered to the Graduate College within 60 calendar days of the oral defense. Students planning to graduate in a particular semester must meet specific academic deadlines and may not have 60 calendar days available. University graduate deadlines are listed in the OUHSC Academic calendar. See Graduation Deadlines Section 4.12.

Failure to submit the final copy within 60 days will cause the results of the defense to be set aside, whereupon the student must offer the Graduate College a new reading copy of the dissertation that carries preliminary approval of the major professor. When the committee has accepted this new reading copy, the student may schedule the defense of the dissertation, according to the policies and procedures defined above.

It is essential that all dissertation candidates make themselves responsible for the complete and accurate collation of their materials before turning them in to the Graduate College. If utilizing copyrighted material in the dissertation, students must obtain permission from the holder of the copyright for such reproduction; without permission, the author of the dissertation is liable to prosecution once the dissertation has been made a published document. The student and mentor must sign and submit the form “Permission to use Published Materials in Dissertation/Thesis”.

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