The Dissertation

The dissertation is the most substantial scholarly work you will complete as part of your doctoral program. It is a culminating experience, rather than just an evaluation piece that occurs at the end of your program. The dissertation is an extension of work during the program. The dissertation is practice-based dealing with issues faced by educational organizations. It should have relevance to your professional setting.

The dissertation belongs first to you. The dissertation chair and other dissertation committee members will assist you in researching and writing an excellent dissertation. Over many years, a style for the dissertation has developed. The dissertation is a report on the results of a scholarly study.

The dissertation is usually completed in five chapters. In Chapter One you provide an introduction to the study and its rationale. Chapter Two contains a literature review showing how the study relates to previous research and scholarly thought. In Chapter Three you detail the design of the research. In Chapter Four you describe the results of your research. In Chapter Five you discuss the significance of your research findings. This five-chapter format is often adapted for a particular study. The program has approved six and even seven-chapter dissertations, particularly in the area of qualitative research. The steps in creating a dissertation are briefly described below.

Roles of Chair, Committee Members, and Doctoral Candidate
You, your dissertation committee chair, and your dissertation committee members are responsible for creating the dissertation and assuring that it is of doctoral quality. You plan and conduct the research and write the proposal and dissertation. Your dissertation chair takes primary responsibility for assisting you. Committee members provide additional assistance as needed and participate in approving your dissertation proposal and your completed dissertation.

You need to allow sufficient time for your chair and committee to review your proposal and dissertation drafts. You should expect that it may take up to two weeks to receive a response. Normally the proposal and dissertation require multiple drafts. Often, doctoral committees will require you to use an editor to assure the written quality of the dissertation. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

Expenses of Dissertation
In addition to tuition, doctoral candidates may incur the following expenses:

  • Costs related to conducting the dissertation research, e.g. postage for questionnaire mailing
  • Costs for editing the dissertation (varies)
  • Cost for APA editing of dissertation (varies)
  • Cost for binding of dissertation (currently $15 per copy)
  • Cost of including dissertation in ProQuest database (currently $55)

Your first step is to write a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal is a description of the research to be conducted. The proposal creates an agreement between you, your dissertation committee, and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) about the research to be conducted. The dissertation committee approves your proposal first, and then it goes to the IRB. Once the proposal is approved, no major changes are permitted in the research design without the approval of the dissertation committee and the IRB.

The proposal usually consists of three chapters and additional information required by the IRB. The three chapters parallel the first three chapters of the dissertation (introduction, literature review, research design). The proposal will not finalize the first three chapters of the dissertation but should have all the components of those chapters. For example, if the literature review is not completed, it should allow the committee to understand what the completed literature review will contain. A statement of additional topics to be included in the finished literature review is required.

Your proposal should comply with the formatting rules for the dissertation. All drafts of the proposal should be accompanied by a title page, listing the title, your name, names of your committee members, and date of the draft. Include a running head on all pages of the proposal comprised of your name and the date of the draft. When you complete the proposal, remove the running head from your final proposal.

Oral Defense of Proposal
Your chair will schedule an oral proposal defense when the chair and committee agree that your proposal is ready. You and your committee will attend the oral proposal defense. At the defense, you will present an overview of the proposed dissertation, using PowerPoint. The committee may require you to make additional changes to your proposal before it is approved. Another defense may be scheduled if the changes are substantial, or approval of less significant changes can be delegated by the committee to the chair. When the proposal is approved, the committee members sign an approval form and place it in your file.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)
After passing your proposal defense, you submit your dissertation proposal to the IRB for review of the treatment of subjects. The IRB's task to is assure that subjects understand the research project and their involvement in the project. The IRB meets monthly and normally requires receipt of the proposal two weeks before its next meeting. The proposal must comply with all the requirements of the IRB, which are stated separately in IRB documents. Your proposal must contain the IRB cover sheet, your resume, a timeline for completion of the research, any permission letters required for research to be conducted in a school district, and copies of consent forms that subjects must sign before participating in the study. Doctoral candidates are encouraged to follow the IRB guidelines carefully to avoid delay in approval of dissertation proposals. Your research can begin only after IRB approval.

Overview of Remaining Dissertation Procedures
After you have passed the IRB, you collect and analyze your data and write the remaining chapters of your dissertation with the advice of your dissertation chair and committee. When the committee agrees that your dissertation is ready, they will schedule an oral defense. After the oral defense, you will make any additional changes required by the committee and get final approval from your chair. Then the dissertation is submitted to an editor to double-check for proper APA format. After all changes are made, the dissertation is submitted to the Aurora University library for binding and to ProQuest to make the dissertation available on-line. Additional details of these procedures are provided below.

Due to the intense involvement of you and your committee the dissertation process, careful scheduling is crucial. The following timeline is intended to provide general guidance for you if you wish to complete the doctorate degree in 3 years. The first 2 years focus on course work, with some attention to the dissertation; the final year is mainly devoted to the dissertation. Each dissertation may have unique features that alter this timeline; a fixed timeline cannot be created that will address every dissertation. It is helpful for you to identify a general dissertation topic early and to choose a committee chairperson and members as soon as practical.


  • Fall Year 1: Consider dissertation interests, questions and data collection (discussed in EDU 7110/8110)
  • Spring Year 1: Research dissertation topic (literature review part of EDU 7010/8010)
  • Summer Year 1: Continue refining your dissertation topic and literature research
  • Fall Year 2: Create research design (assignment in EDU 7100/8100 and EDU 7190/8190) Select dissertation committee chair and, perhaps, members
  • Spring Year 2: Write proposal, defend it, and pass the IRB
  • Summer Year 2: Gather data, continue literature review, or other appropriate tasks as defined by dissertation committee
  • Fall Year 3: Gather data, continue literature review, or other appropriate tasks as defined by dissertation committee
  • Spring Year 3: Analyze data or other appropriate tasks as defined by dissertation committee
  • Summer Year 3: Complete dissertation and defend it
  • August Year 3: Complete degree

The format for the dissertation is described below. An electronic template containing the format is available on Moodle. If you use the template, you will reduce the cost and time needed for final APA editing of your dissertation.

  1. Number of copies: Candidates must submit an original and a minimum of two copies of the dissertation to the dissertation committee chairperson prior to the defense.
  2. Form and condition of original manuscript: The original manuscript must be printed on 8 ½" x 11" white, unlined paper that is 24 pound and has 25 percent cotton content. Printing must appear on only one side of each sheet. The original manuscript must be accurately proofread. Computers or word processors are recommended for writing dissertations.
  3. Type Styles: Any legible 12-point font will be acceptable, but styles with serifs are recommended because they normally have greater legibility. Originals should be printed on a laser or full letter-quality printer. Do not use running headers or footers, and use boldface sparingly.
    • Margins: Original manuscripts and copies must have these uniform margins:
    • Left margins must be 1 ½" throughout, including footnotes, appendices, charts, graphs, tables, etc.
    • Right margins must be 1" throughout.
    • Top Margins: First pages of all chapters must have a 1½" margin at the top. All other pages must have a 1" margin at the top.
    • Bottom margins must be 1" throughout.
    • Spacing: The text of the dissertation must be double-spaced. Footnotes or endnotes must be single-spaced.
    • Pagination: Use lowercase Roman numerals to number your introductory pages (title page, acknowledgements, dedication, etc.) with the title page bearing no number, but include it in the sequence. A Table of Contents is required, and on it list all preliminary pages, chapter headings, bibliography, and appendices (if any). Use Arabic numerals to number the remaining pages of the text, including appendices. Page numbers must be centered at the top of the page.
    • Endnotes: Place them at the end of each chapter. Please consult with your dissertation chairperson about preferences. Begin endnotes on a separate page at the end of the chapter and single-space, with a double space between each note. Notes should follow the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) Stylebook, Sixth Edition.
    • References: Append a list of references to the dissertation. The list must contain (alphabetically by author) all references that are cited within the dissertation and must follow APA style guidelines, except the references should be single spaced, with a double space between each note.
    • Copyright: If your dissertation is to be copyrighted, indicate so as follows: © Copyright [date]. Copyrighting your dissertation is optional, so consult with your dissertation chair person. ProQuest can copyright your dissertation if you request that service.
  4. Condition of copies: The College of Education requires that you assume full responsibility for the correctness of content and form of all copies of your dissertation. All copies must be clear and legible. Copies must be from high-quality photocopiers and must not have smudges, streaks, or smears; carbon paper copies are not acceptable. All pages must be present and in proper order before submitting copies of the dissertation to the committee.
  5. Title Page: The title page of the original manuscript of the dissertation must contain the title of the dissertation, author, date, and copyright statement (if copyrighted).
  6. Dissertation Acceptance Page: This page must contain the ink signatures of your committee members after the dissertation has been defended.
  7. Abstract: When the original manuscript is submitted, an abstract must also be submitted, consisting of not more than 350 words. The abstract is placed after the acceptance page.
  8. Model Pages: See the model pages for the Title Page, Dissertation Acceptance Page, and Abstract in the appendix of the handbook.

Oral Defense of Dissertation
Oral defense is an opportunity for you to explain your dissertation research to the university community and engage in a dialogue with the dissertation committee about the research. It is the event at which the dissertation committee formally passes judgment on your dissertation. The dissertation committee may approve the dissertation, approve pending revisions, or reject the dissertation for major revisions. It is most common for the committee to approve a dissertation, pending revisions. The dissertation chair will schedule a defense when committee agrees that your dissertation is ready for oral defense.

The dissertation committee chair opens the oral defense by describing the process of the defense. Then, you present and defend your dissertation. Limit your presentation to 20 to 30 minutes and focus primarily on the research design, findings, and conclusions/implications. Any professor, dean, doctoral candidate, or other guest may attend this presentation. At its conclusion, all your guests will be asked to leave the room. You and your committee will discuss your dissertation. At the conclusion of this discussion, the committee will ask you leave the room. The committee will discuss its decision. If revisions are required, the committee will agree on those revisions. The committee will ask you and any guests to return to the room and will announce its decision.

If your dissertation is approved, or approved with minor revisions, your dissertation committee members will sign and date the acceptance page of the dissertation. Dissertation committee members will provide you any required minor revisions.

If the dissertation is not approved, you will work with the dissertation committee to revise your dissertation until the committee can approve the dissertation. Another oral defense will be required.

Post Defense
There are several specific steps that you need to follow after your dissertation defense. These are your final steps in the dissertation process, necessary before you receive your Ed.D. diploma.

  • After the dissertation defense, you must make any revisions required by the committee. The dissertation chair will oversee those changes until the dissertation is appropriately revised.
  • The dissertation will next go to an editor to check for APA style. You can receive a current list of APA editors from the Program Secretary.
  • Send your dissertation to the APA editor.
  • If no changes are needed, or after the needed changes are made, make sure that nothing has been changed by the editor inappropriately; then print the dissertation.
  • Copy the dissertation on white paper, 25% cotton content, 24 pound. Make as many copies as you want to be bound by the library. You will need to complete an order form from the library. The current cost is $15 per bound copy. You must bind one copy for the library. Normally you also bind a copy for each of your committee members. When your bound copies are ready, the library will notify you.
  • Finally, there is a form to complete to put your dissertation into dissertation abstracts, an on-line database of dissertations. The current fee is $55. If you want ProQuest to copyright the dissertation there is an additional $65 fee. Submit the following items to the Program Secretary:
    • completed application,
    • a copy of the dissertation title page,
    • copy of the dissertation abstract,
    • an electronic copy (PDF format) of the final dissertation on Compact Disc, and a,
    • a cashier's check or money order for $55.00 dollars for publishing or $120.00 for publishing and copyrighting made payable to ProQuest.
      The Program Secretary will forward the materials to ProQuest.
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