The dissertation has a long-term impact on one’s career path, including but not limited to the range of jobs one would be eligible to apply for. Therefore, students should take great care in the choosing the topic and designing the project. Students should write the dissertation with the intent of turning it into a scholarly book. While there is no minimum or maximum length for the dissertation, typically a dissertation in American Studies is approximately 200 to 350 double-spaced pages.
Dissertation research and writing is generally a solitary process that requires extended periods in the archives or in the field as well as at one’s desk. In addition, many students undertake the dissertation away from campus. For smooth completion of a strong dissertation, students should maintain regular contact with their committee members, especially their chair, and receive ample feedback along the way. While each student has different ways of working with committee members, it is expected that students will be revising chapter drafts multiple times based on the committee’s input before completing the dissertation.
The time required to complete a dissertation varies widely, depending on such factors as the student’s previous background, the nature of the project, and available funding. Ideally students will complete the dissertation in their fifth year of study, but students should be aware that a dissertation in American Studies can take three or more years to complete. It is strongly recommended that students apply for external fellowships and grants that will not only provide necessary funding but also strengthen one’s academic qualifications.
Students must give committee members ample time, usually no less than four weeks, to read the completed dissertation and to determine whether it is ready for defense. When the entire committee has approved it for defense, the student must get the Graduate Chair’s approval to schedule the oral defense. The defense is a public event and must be announced in the UH events calendar. The entire committee must be present at the defense. In cases where any of the committee members is out of town on the scheduled defense date, the member may participate in the defense through Skype with the approval of the Office of Graduate Education. During the defense, the student may make a brief statement about the dissertation. The committee members will then ask questions and make comments on the dissertation, and the student is expected to defend her work. A majority of the committee members, including the committee chair and the outside member, must vote “Pass” in order for the student to pass the defense. The student may be required to make some revisions based on the comments made during the defense before submitting the final dissertation to the Office of Graduate Education. The dissertation must conform to the STYLE AND POLICY MANUAL FOR THESES AND DISSERTATIONS.
Upon the successful completion of the defense and the submission of the dissertation to the Office of Graduate Education, the student will earn a PhD.