Composition and Applied Linguistics Dissertation Requirements

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Composition and TESOL


    The information on this page is intended as an overview. The printed C&T Program Handbook provided when you begin the program is your official source of information.

    The dissertation process begins as you prepare for your Culminating Evaluation. (See the section Culminating Evaluation). This Culminating Evaluation includes three chapters, in proposal form, that address research issues related to the Significance of the Project (Chapter 1), Review of Related Literature (Chapter 2), and Methodology (Chapter 3).

    The three chapters, in dissertation proposal form, are both a blueprint for the dissertation research and a written understanding between you and your committee. It is a blueprint in the sense that it provides the guiding conceptual focus and methodological plan. Although an approved proposal may be changed in minor ways as good judgment warrants, the dissertation advisor and perhaps the committee must clear any major change. It is an understanding between parties in the sense that it describes an agreed-upon course of action and level of effort, i.e., what the committee expects and what you will do.

    A dissertation remains a negotiated document born of your original idea and your original approach. Models of successful proposals are on file in the Graduate English office, but, once again, there is no guarantee that imitating a past proposal will reduce negotiation with your committee. There is no formula to follow for a successful proposal or dissertation, and there is no guarantee that acting upon the proposal will make the dissertation acceptable to the committee.


    Culminating Evaluation meeting: A formal meeting between you and your committee members to address two criteria.

    • Breadth of knowledge—The breadth of student’s knowledge of the field at large (based on readings from course work and for the dissertation).
    • Readiness to do the dissertation—The specific knowledge and readiness the student shows to undertake the dissertation research project as demonstrated by the presentation of three chapters of the dissertation.

    This meeting cannot be scheduled sooner than three weeks from the time you submit your copies of the three-chapter proposal to your readers. You may not begin collecting data for the dissertation until your committee and the School of Graduate Studies and Research have signed off on the Research Topic Approval form and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) has approved your project. (For more information, see the section Culminating Evaluation).

    Research Topic Approval Form: This is a School of Graduate Studies and Research form to be completed by the student and committee and then submitted to the English Graduate Office during the first semester after completing course work. The School of Graduate Studies and Research gives the final approval for you to begin your research. (This approval occurs after IRB approval, if your study requires IRB review.)

    IRB or Human Subjects Review: The Institutional Review Board of the School of Graduate Studies and Research must approve all research plans which involve the study of human participants. The IRB operates independently of the Graduate English programs. Meeting dates for this committee may be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies and Research. (See School of Graduate Studies and Research for deadlines.)

    Pilot or preliminary study: A pilot is a reduced version of your actual study, usually conducted in order to see how the actual study is likely to proceed. In many cases, it is highly recommended.

    APA and MLA: These are the two choices for style guidelines; the decision to select one or the other should be made in consultation with your dissertation advisor. Your proposal and dissertation should follow closely the one you choose.

    Dissertation Advisor: This must be one of the sixteen members of the C&T Program Committee. It is best to invite a dissertation advisor who has expertise in publications and presentations in the area of your topic and with whom you have a good working relationship.

    Readers: The members of your committee, besides your dissertation advisor. They must be members of the graduate program in C&T unless special permission has been obtained from your dissertation advisor, the graduate C&T program coordinator, and the School of Graduate Studies and Research. Readers outside of IUP are allowed, subject to approval.

    Roles of C&T Program Coordinator, Dissertation Advisor, and Dissertation Readers

    The dissertation committee consists of three members—your dissertation advisor and two readers. The dissertation must also be accepted by the Graduate School.

    The C&T program coordinator’s role is to provide advice to the candidate and committee about policies and procedures as well as to facilitate or mediate communication as needed.

    The dissertation advisor’s role is that of leading member of the dissertation committee. You will work closely with your dissertation advisor from the inception of your topic through all the stages of the proposal and the dissertation. During the actual research and writing of the dissertation, you will work mainly with the dissertation advisor. Readers will work with you mainly during the proposal stage and at the defense. They may be consulted about questions that fall in their fields of expertise, but normally they respond in writing only to the final draft of your proposal. At the defense, the readers again play an important role in responding to and approving the final draft of your dissertation.

    As indicated on the Research Topic Approval form, the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences may elect to serve on your committee, to appoint someone to serve in her place, or to appoint no one.

    The information on this page is intended as an overview. The printed C&T Program Handbook provided when you begin the program is your official source of information.

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