Fourth Year/Dissertation Defense

The USC Graduate School confers PhD degrees so please refer to their website for more details on conferral dates, required forms, submission deadlines and submission steps. 

Thesis/Dissertation Submission

Dissertation Committee

  • Consult with faculty advisor to determine committee (all tenured/tenure-track, at least 2 from Rossier and 1 from USC outside of Rossier)
  • Committee must have 3 members including your advisor as chair, but may have more
  • Contact program office if you have any committee questions or exceptions
  • Submit dissertation committee form to program office (found in forms section)

Dissertation Proposal

  • Statement of purpose (i.e., what you intend to do and why).
  • A review of the pertinent literature that addresses the theory and empirical work that informs your research and relates to the questions being posed
  • The hypotheses or research questions that will be posed in your study
  • The research designs, including: the type of methodology to be employed e.g., qualitative, quasi-experimental, etc. and why this design is appropriate given the purpose of the inquiry. This section should also include a discussion of the data sources the student will draw upon and any logistical and/or human subjects protection issues that can be anticipated and how these will be addressed; the sampling plan; operationalization of the variables and the measures and data collection techniques you will use; and the data analysis plan, including the kinds of analytic procedures to be used and why these are appropriate to answering the study questions   or hypotheses.
  • A work plan which details the tasks to be done, the time frame within which they will be accomplished, the resources (including cooperation needed from agencies) that will be necessary to complete the work. A Gantt or Milestone chart is helpful
  • A draft of a complete Human Subjects application, which will be ready to be submitted to USC immediately after the proposal hearing
  • A bibliography.
  • Appendices, including copies of instruments
  • The fully developed dissertation proposal not only affords the student an opportunity to think through the conceptual, methodological and practical issues that will arise, but it is also a way to explain and defend the proposal to the committee. The proposal must be of sufficient length and detail, to serve as a kind of contract between the student and his/her committee. To the extent that this process has occurred at the proposal stage, the committee will be in a better position to critique the work and assist the student with his/her future research

Dissertation Guidelines

A dissertation is an original contribution to current knowledge in the field and a demonstration that the PhD candidate has achieved sufficient mastery in the field to pursue independent research and scholarship. A dissertation represents the individual candidate’s research and writing. In fields where collaborative research has become the norm, the candidate is the sole author of the dissertation and specifies his or her contribution to the research and also delineates colleagues’ contributions.

Three Paper Dissertations

  • Papers should be connected and students must write an introductory chapter
  • Papers can be coauthored but student should be lead author
  • Papers that have already been published can be used

Please keep the PhD Program Office updated on your progress as you write your dissertation.

You must be continuously enrolled in EDUC 794 while writing your dissertation.

Be sure to meet the TWO (documents and manuscript) Submission Deadlines for each semester

Before Final Dissertation Defense

  • Follow the Guidelines for Submission (general outline of steps below but see grad school website for details)
  • Create Thesis Center profile
  • Upload signed dissertation committee form
  • Complete survey of earned doctorates (found on Grad School website)
  • Morning of defense-generate electronic Approval to Submit form to be sent to committee

Final Defense Meeting

  • Remind committee to approve electronically (they will have received an email from

After Final Defense

  • Monitor Thesis Center profile to ensure all committee members have electronically approved
  • Make sure committee approves before document upload deadline of given semester (deadlines are always at 12pm (noon), not a minute later!)
  • The Thesis Center will email you once you have been approved to submit your manuscript
  • Upload your manuscript before the manuscript upload deadline of the given semester (deadlines are always at 12pm (noon), not a minute later!)
  • Continue to check your USC email and monitor your Thesis Center profile as they might require formatting changes
  • Ask your advisor if you should upload to ProQuest