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  Status). 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 should be submitted electronically to the SLAT Program Office and to the committee members.   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) Once finalized, the student should submit an electronic copy of the final version of the Dissertation Proposal to the SLAT Program office, copying all committee members.  The Committee Chair(s) will submit their approval of the attached proposal via email directly to the SLAT Program Office.  Other committee members have three business days to respond to the proposal.  The SLAT office will interpret the silence of all committee members, with the exception of the Chair, as approval.

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 the 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. 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 on the Graduate College website:   https://arizona.app.box.com/v/grad-gsas-dissformat.


D5. Dissertation Defense and Completion Timeline

SLAT encourages all Doctoral Candidates to complete and post their dissertation by their tenth (10th) semester of enrollment in the SLAT program. Students must follow Graduate College policies and procedures for the oral defense, completion, and submission of the Dissertation: https://grad.arizona.edu/gsas/degree-requirements/doctor-philosophy. If a student has not completed their dissertation  by their tenth semester, they will not be in compliance with the satisfactory progress to degree timeline (https://slat.arizona.edu/students/guidelines-for-satisfactory-academic-progress/), and will lose priority funding status for the remainder of their time in SLAT.  Students may continue to work toward their degree past the tenth semester with the understanding that SLAT may no longer be able to provide funding for their studies. 

 In addition to Graduate College policies regarding the dissertation defense and posting procedures, SLAT Doctoral Candidates must abide by the following: 

    1. Final Oral Examination Defense Examination:  The SLAT program requires that both the Doctoral Candidate and the Dissertation Committee Chair be physically present for the duration of the final oral defense examination.  One committee member may remotely access the oral exam via video or audio feed. The member participating from a distance must have a pre-arranged backup communication plan in case of technology failure. The purpose of this policy is to minimize possible interruptions to the defense so the exam may be completed in full on the day and time scheduled.    


  • Five year-timeline:  As per Graduate College policy, Doctoral Candidates must have posted their degree within five years of passing the oral comprehensive exam (https://grad.arizona.edu/gsas/degree-requirements/doctor-philosophy#time-limitation). If a SLAT Candidate has not posted their dissertation within the five-year timeline, they may re-take the comprehensive exam at the discretion of the student’s Doctoral Dissertation Committee and the SLAT Chair.  If a Doctoral Candidate is to be denied the opportunity to re-take the comprehensive exam, this denial must be reviewed and affirmed by vote of the SLAT Executive Council. If a Doctoral Candidate believes they have been unjustly denied the opportunity to re-taking the exam, they may appeal the Executive Council’s decision through the Graduate College grievance process: https://grad.arizona.edu/policies/academic-policies/grievance-policy.  
  • Fifth-year Re-take of the Comprehensive Exam:   The purpose of retaking the comprehensive exam five years after passing the first oral exam is to ensure that SLAT doctoral candidates remain current with research innovations in their field of study, and to provide them with specific tools to complete their dissertation within four (4) semesters of the exam re-take.  Fifth-year comprehensive exam re-takes involve the following:


    1. Assembling a full comprehensive exam committee with a minimum of four members.  
    2. The timing of the written and oral portions of the exam will follow SLAT’s comprehensive exam policy.  
    3. The written portion of the fifth-year comprehensive exam re-take will consist of full drafts of at least three dissertation chapters, including but not limited to:  a literature review, a methodology chapter, and a third chapter to be determined by the Doctoral Candidate and the Committee Chair.
    4. The oral portion of the exam will follow the same guidelines as the initial oral exam, and will include developing a timeline for completion of the dissertation within four (4) semesters and providing specific insights into how the candidate can complete the degree within this timeframe.  The Doctoral Candidate and Committee Chair must be physically present for the duration of the oral exam. One committee member may join by remote access. A back-up communication plan should be pre-arranged to ensure full committee presence for the duration of the oral exam.
    5. If a doctoral candidate does not complete the dissertation within the approved extended timeline, they will be discontinued from the SLAT program.  
    6. There will be no second opportunity to re-take the comprehensive exam after a fifth-year re-take.