Your Third Year and Beyond
In your third year, you must/should register for the required 10 required Dissertation Research credits (GGHS 899). These 10 credits can be distributed across the fall and spring semester as you choose. If you are on a Graduate Assistantship, it is imperative that you register for these credits in your third year. If you do not, you will have to pay for them out of pocket.
Most third-year students have completed all necessary course credits. However, students on an assistantship can choose to take a small number of additional courses, using their tuition remission.
Beyond Your Third Year (ABD – All But Dissertation)
When you have completed all the required credits for the PhD, but are still writing your dissertation, you must remain in “full-time status” at UMass Boston by registering for, and paying, the “Program Fee.” You will not be allowed to graduate without paying for the semester(s) between your candidacy and your graduation.
Doctoral candidates must complete and defend their dissertation within 8 years of entering the program. Students may petition for an extension in extenuating circumstances, but extensions cannot be guaranteed.
GGHS Dissertation Guidelines
Best Practices for Dissertation Advisors and Advisees. The completion and defense of a dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral degree. Dissertation formats vary across disciplines and countries. Typically, GGHS dissertations follow one of two formats common in North American and many international universities:
- A single authored monograph (sometimes called “book-style”) dissertation project: This format often consists of a 5-8 chapter, single authored manuscript of 50,000 to 80,000 words. This is the most common format in the GGHS program. The chapters typically include an introduction, research objectives, a critical literature review, discussion of theoretical and conceptual foundations and frameworks used, methods, results/findings, interpretation, discussion and conclusions.
- A “Trio of published and publishable articles” dissertation project. In this case, two articles must have received final acceptance for publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly venue. The third paper must be judged by the dissertation committee to be ready for submission to a peer reviewed journal. While individual papers should be stand alone publications, taken together they should also embody a recognizable, unifying theme and research project.
- Doctoral students must consult with their doctoral advisor and doctoral committee members about venues before submission. Such publication venues should be included in the Web of Science Journal Citation Reports. All three published and publishable papers must make original empirical, theoretical, and/or methodological contributions.
- Typically, the “full dissertation” for defense should include the three published and publishable papers, as well as an introductory paper/chapter and a conclusion which explicitly discuss the overall research project and its contributions to knowledge and research. A critical review of the literature must also be included. This might be an additional stand alone paper/chapter, or it might be included within the other parts of the dissertation.
- Typically, papers in the dissertation are single authored. If any portion is to be co-authored (typically first authored), this would require specific authorization and agreement from all members of the dissertation committee.
The dissertation should constitute a coherent, explicitly related set of chapters and papers. Further, consistent with UMass Boston rules and widely shared professional norms, a dissertation is deemed to complete the requirements for a doctorate degree only by members of the candidate’s dissertation committee and following a public defense and an oral examination (see below). The judgment/assessment of external articles or book publishers or peer reviewers do not and cannot replace the assessment of the doctoral committee.
Finally, doctoral students should understand that the choice of dissertation format has very significant implications for post-doctoral job, career and publishing opportunities. As such, the choice of format must be stipulated in the dissertation proposal and approved when the proposal is defended by the candidate and approved by the doctoral committee.
Completing the Dissertation, Scheduling a Defense & Graduating
Completing the Dissertation: Doctoral students should be working closely with their committee chair and members of their committee as they draft and complete the dissertation. In cooperation with their committee chair, students should plan their dissertation completion and defense about 3-4 months in advance. They should not expect to be able to defend immediately upon finishing a complete draft of the dissertation.
According to UMass Boston procedures and expectations, doctoral committee members should review a full draft of the dissertation prior to a defense being scheduled. All committee members should have read the complete dissertation and agreed that the student is ready to schedule a defense prior to the defense being scheduled.
- Committee members should have at least one month to review a full draft of the dissertation, in order to give feedback to doctoral students and in order to be able to assess whether a student is ready to move toward a defense.
- Committee members may or may not want to review a revised draft before agreeing to schedule a defense. If they want to see revisions, they should have at least 3 weeks to review a revised draft of the dissertation before the defense.
Once all committee members agree that a defense date should be scheduled, Doctoral students should coordinate scheduling with their committee chair, all members of their committee, and the GGHS departmental staff (Kelly Ward-Mason) to schedule a time that works for all, in a room that can accommodate the defense. All members of the committee must participate in the defense, but some members may participate virtually (via Zoom or other virtual options).
Doctoral defenses are usually scheduled to take 2.5 hours. The dissertation defense consists of two components, a public lecture and an oral examination. The oral examination will normally be scheduled immediately after the public lecture.
- The lecture is open to the university community and the broader public. The candidate should expect to present the dissertation research in a talk of roughly half an hour, with another half hour reserved for questions from the audience and answers from the candidate. Committee members may ask questions at this stage, but they will likely reserve their questions for the subsequent oral examination.
- The oral examination will include only the candidate and the committee members, as well as any other participants that both the candidate and all the committee members agree to invite. The audience attending the public lecture is asked to leave before the oral examination begins.
At the end of the oral examination, the candidate is asked to leave the room to allow the committee members some time to deliberate and discuss the oral examination and the dissertation. The candidate and any remaining audience members are then asked to return to the room for the committee’s decision.
The student can pass the final oral examination only with the unanimous approval of the members of the committee. If, at the final examination, two members cast negative votes, the candidate will be informed that he or she has not passed the examination. If there is only one negative vote, the degree will be held up pending satisfactory resolution of the objections by the student and the dissenting member of the committee. Final program approval is represented by the signature of the graduate program director.
The dissertation committee generally requires some revision of the dissertation following the oral examination. Required revisions can range from minor changes to substantial. The candidate must complete these revisions to the committee’s satisfaction before depositing the dissertation with the Office of Graduate Studies (OSG).
The OGS format editor will then review the dissertation for format and will indicate any necessary further revisions. Once these are made and the format editor has approved them, the final submission of the dissertation to OGS can take place. University rules about the formatting of the dissertation, and dates and deadlines for submission, can be found here.
All doctoral students MUST meet UMass Boston deadlines for applying to graduate,
Doctoral degrees are awarded in May, August and December. Note that for graduation the dissertation must be defended, revised, had the revisions approved by the committee chair, and be deposited with the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) by the deadline for format editing review. This is what the OGS called as ‘initial submission.’ For complete information, please refer to the OGS Thesis and Dissertation page.
Dissertations must follow a required format. There are OGS format editors who review your dissertation and guide you through the process of meeting the standards. Details of the requirements and deadlines for each step are described here.
Note that these requirements include a hard deadline for submission of the final version.