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Dissertation Content

A doctoral dissertation makes an original contribution to knowledge, as defined in a discipline or an interdisciplinary domain and addresses a significant researchable problem. Not all problems are researchable and not all are significant. Problems that can be solved by a mere descriptive exercise are not appropriate for the PhD dissertation. Acceptable problems are those that:

  1. pose a puzzle to the field at a theoretical, methodological, or policy level;
  2. make analytical demands for solution, rather than mere cataloging or descriptive demands; and
  3. can yield to a reasonable research methodology.

The doctoral dissertation advisor, reading committee, and oral exam committee provide further guidance and details with regard to dissertation content and format. General formatting and submission guidelines are published by the University Registrar. The American Psychological Association (APA) publication guidelines normally apply to GSE doctoral dissertations, but is not required if the advisor and relevant committees determine that an alternative, and academically acceptable, protocol is more appropriate.

Published Papers and Multiple Authorship

The inclusion of published papers in a dissertation is the prerogative of the major department.  Where published papers or ready-for-publication papers are included, the following criteria must be met:

1. There must be an introductory chapter that integrates the general theme of the research and the relationship between the chapters.  The introduction may also include a review of the literature relevant to the dissertation topic that does not appear in the chapters.

2. Multiple authorship of a published paper should be addressed by clearly designating, in an introduction, the role that the dissertation author had in the research and production of the published paper.  The student must have a major contribution to the research and writing of papers included in the dissertation.

3. There must be adequate referencing of where individual papers have been published.

4. Written permission must be obtained for all copyrighted materials; letters of permission must be uploaded electronically in PDF form when submitting the dissertation.  Please see the following website for more information on the use of copyrighted materials:

5. The submitted material must be in a form that is legible and reproducible as required by these specifications.  The Office of the University Registrar will approve a dissertation if there are no deviations from the normal specifications that would prevent proper dissemination and utilization of the dissertation.  If the published material does not correspond to these standards, it will be necessary for the student to reformat that portion of the dissertation.

6. Multiple authorship has implications with respect to copyright and public release of the material.  Be sure to discuss copyright clearance and embargo options with your co-authors and your advisor well in advance of preparing your thesis for submission.

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Jeremy Edwards
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Caroline Stasulat
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