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D. Dissertation

Students who are studying for their comprehensive examinations, preparing their dissertation proposals and/or writing dissertations register for SLAT 920 Dissertation units. Registration for these units is controlled by the department, so students wishing to register for SLAT 920 units will need to contact the SLAT department and request to be registered under the appropriate section for the appropriate number of units (1-9). Each SLAT faculty member is assigned a different section number of SLAT 920. Students should register for the section number assigned to their dissertation director. The 920 section numbers of SLAT faculty can be found on the online schedule of classes. As faculty assignments change, 920 section assignments also occasionally change, so students should check each semester that they are requesting enrollment in the correct section of SLAT 920. Alternatively, students may, if they wish, register for 920 units in the home department of the Chair of their Dissertation Committee. However, 920 units should not be mixed; that is, students should avoid registering for some SLAT 920 units and some departmental 920 units.

D1. Dissertation Committee

Immediately after successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, students should select and obtain approval of their Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee should consist of at least three and normally not more than five faculty who are members of the SLAT Interdisciplinary Committee, including one faculty member who will be designated Chair. The Chair must be a “regular” SLAT faculty member (see SLAT Faculty). One member of the Dissertation Committee (not the Chair) may be a non-member of SLAT if the Dissertation Chair and SLAT Program Director agree that the faculty member will serve a unique and significant role on the Committee, subject to approval from the SLAT Executive Council and the Graduate College.

The student should discuss dissertation research plans with all potential members of the Committee to obtain their input and to determine if they are willing to serve as Committee members. Faculty members on the Dissertation Committee will often include faculty who served on the student’s Comprehensive Examination Committee, but carry-over from one committee to the other is neither automatic nor necessary.

In order to officially establish dissertation committee membership, the student must submit the Doctoral Dissertation Committee Appointment form via GradPath.  The SLAT Program Director will determine if faculty representation on the Dissertation Committee is appropriate for the proposed study. S/he may make substitutions or additions to the Committee as warranted, in consultation with the student and other SLAT faculty. 

Any request for change in the membership of the Dissertation Committee after it has been approved must be submitted through GradPath via a new Doctoral Dissertation Committee Appointment form.

D2. Dissertation Proposal

1) No later than six months after completing the Comprehensive Examination, the student should submit an abstract of the dissertation proposal, along with a memo from the Chair of the Dissertation Committee stating that the Chair considers the proposal ready for public presentation, to the SLAT Program Office. This should be done at the time the date for the public presentation is chosen (at least ten working days before the presentation). It is assumed that all members of the Committee have been consulted regarding a working draft of the proposal. Within 30 days of the public presentation, a final approved version of the proposal, together with the SLAT Dissertation Proposal form signed by all members of the Dissertation Committee, should be submitted to the SLAT Program Office. Alternatively, the final version of the Dissertation Proposal may be sent electronically (within 30 days) to committee members and the SLAT Program office.  Committee members may submit their approval of the proposal via email directly to the SLAT Program Office.The purpose of requiring the final version of the Dissertation Proposal AFTER the public presentation is to allow the writer to incorporate suggestions made at the presentation into the final version of the proposal.

2) The Dissertation Proposal should be no more than twenty pages (double-spaced) in length. It should include the following information:

  a) An explicit statement of the major hypotheses to be tested or questions to be examined.

  b) The potential importance/significance of the research, the relation of the project to the literature on the topic, and to major theoretical issues in the field.

  c) An explicit description and justification of the research methods to be used.

  d) The availability and quality of data for the research.

  e) Plans for completion of the research, and a time-line that includes an estimate of the time that will be required for completing data analysis and the dissertation write-up.

  f) A bibliography of no less than two pages listing sources most important to the dissertation topic.

3) The purpose of the Dissertation Proposal is to demonstrate to the Dissertation Committee that:

  a) The problem selected is of the appropriate scope, importance, and relevance for a dissertation;

  b) The student controls the core literature for the topic selected; and the student has selected a reasonable approach (theoretical and methodological) to follow in solving the problem, at least in the initial stages of research.

4) The Chair of the Dissertation Committee is encouraged (but not required) to convene one or more meetings of the Committee to deliberate on a student’s Dissertation Proposal prior to approval. In any case, students should seek advice and input from all members of the dissertation committee.

5) A copy of the final version of the Dissertation Proposal with the signatures of all Dissertation Committee members indicating their approval should be submitted to the SLAT Program Office (see the Dissertation Proposal Form available on the “Forms” section of the SLAT webpage).  Alternatively, the final version of the Dissertation Proposal may be sent electronically to committee members and the SLAT Program office.  Committee members may submit their approval of the attached proposal via email directly to the SLAT Program Office.

6) It should be kept in mind that successful completion of the final dissertation defense will require approval of the Dissertation Committee (more than one negative vote will result in a grade of “fail”). It is clearly in a student’s best interests to clarify and resolve potential issues related to research questions, scope of data collection and methodology at an early stage and throughout the process. Such clarification is especially critical in an interdisciplinary field, where committee members may not share basic theoretical and methodological assumptions.

D3. Public Presentation of Dissertation Proposal

Candidates must present their dissertation proposal at a public forum within six months of passing the Comprehensive Examination. This is usually during the semester following the Examination. An extension of the time period to a year following the comprehensive exam can be granted by the Program Director in consultation with the Dissertation Director. Extension for a longer period requires that the candidate petition the Executive Council. The student should schedule the presentation with the SLAT office no later than ten working days before the presentation. Once the student has successfully presented, revised, and submitted an approved draft of the proposal, SLAT will submit the Dissertation Prospectus Approval form via GradPath, and the student will be fully eligible to advance to candidacy.

D4. Human Subjects Review

Before any research involving human subjects is conducted for the dissertation (including observing or interviewing), students must obtain Human Subjects approval both from SLAT and from the University Human Subjects Committee. All procedures and forms involved with the use of human subjects can be found at the University of Arizona Human Subjects Protection Program website.

All study personnel, including the dissertation director, must complete the “Human Subjects CITI Training” and have that training documented for Institutional Review Board (IRB) review. See for more information about the required training. To obtain approval for human subjects research:

a) Fill out the application for Human Research.

b) Work with your Dissertation Advisor for Academic Review and obtain their signature.  

c) Submit a final digital copy of the form to the SLAT office for the signature of the current SLAT director.  

Next, obtain approval from the University of Arizona’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) via the Human Subjects Protection Program.

Proposals are submitted electronically to the campus-wide Human Subjects Protection Program for their approval. For details about the submission process, please see directions at, found in the investigator’s manual maintained by that program. NOTE: despite the hand-carried alternative noted in that document, the IRB no longer accepts anything other than electronic submissions. (For more information please see the instructions found at the end of Form F200 Application for Human Research, or call (520) 621-5515).

Once you submit the proposal, HSPP staff will work with you until the proposal meets IRB guidelines. When the IRB approves your project, HSPP will send you a letter stating their approval or indicating that your project does not need IRB oversight.

Obtain any additional authorizations as required (for instance, research involving any Native American tribes on the reservation would require additional approval from the tribal government). Only after the approval letter and any additional required authorizations are on file with the Human Subjects Protection Program may you begin research involving human subjects.

D5. Dissertation Style

Subject to the approval of the Graduate College, SLAT Executive Council, and Chair of a dissertation committee, dissertation style and format may follow the established professional conventions of any of the cooperating departments (e.g., MLA, LSA, APA). Graduate College regulations are outlined in a separate publication.

SLAT students can decide between three dissertation styles: traditional monograph, three article dissertation, or multi-modal project.  The decision about which dissertation style to utilize will be made by the student and the dissertation committee.  More information about dissertation styles can be found in Frequently Asked Questions about the SLAT Dissertation.

Last updated 26 Apr 2016