While working on the doctoral dissertation, the student interacts extensively with JGS faculty, seeking advice from faculty with whom the student shares research interests. A dissertation chairperson will be typically selected by the student by the end of his/her second year of study. With the consultation of this dissertation chairperson, the student will typically select his or her dissertation committee members during the third year of his/her study. The dissertation committee members help the student formulate and pursue his or her dissertation topic.
Working on the dissertation involves two important milestones. The first involves the defense of a dissertation proposal that explains the nature of the student’s planned dissertation research. When the student has developed a written dissertation proposal that his or her advisor judges is ready for oral defense, a formal proposal defense before the dissertation committee is held. At the defense, the student proposes his/her dissertation idea, discusses its significance to the development of knowledge and explains the research methods to be used and any preliminary results. JGS doctoral students will typically propose their dissertation defense proposal by the end of their third year of study. The second and final milestone is the dissertation defense. When the written dissertation is judged complete by the student’s advisor, it must be defended orally in a final dissertation defense before the dissertation committee and the general Rice community.
Doctoral Dissertation Committee
There is no formal process for creating a dissertation committee. As a student progresses to the dissertation stage (typically after the end of the second year), he or she begins working with a faculty advisor. The advisor may be one of the student’s summer paper advisors. This advisor typically then becomes the chairperson of the student’s dissertation committee. As the student develops the dissertation, he or she selects other members of the committee on the advice of the chairperson, or by approaching other faculty members who have shown interest in the dissertation topic. The JGS rules regarding committee membership are as follows:
- The dissertation committee is composed of at least three members who must be approved by the Director of the Ph.D. program.
- All committee members must be tenured or tenure-track faculty members.
- At least two committee members must be JGS faculty.
- At least one committee member must be a non-JGS Rice faculty.
- At most, two committee members may be tenure track or tenured faculty members at universities other than Rice University.
- The committee chairperson must be from JGS.
- At least three committee members, including the chairperson, must be present at the dissertation proposal. The committee vote must be unanimous for the student to pass the dissertation proposal. Any committee member who will vote in absentia should sign in advance either the regular committee approval form or an absentee member approval form that is available from the Ph.D. Office.
- At least three committee members, including the chairperson, must be present at the dissertation defense. The committee vote must be unanimous for the student to pass the dissertation defense. Any committee member who will vote in absentia should sign in advance either the regular committee approval form or an absentee member approval form that is available from the Ph.D. Office.
Members of the dissertation committee change only in exceptional circumstances.
Scheduling the Dissertation Proposal or Defense
- The student sends the proposal/dissertation to all committee members who discuss whether it is acceptable.
- When the proposal/dissertation is deemed acceptable, the student works with the committee members to find a mutually agreed upon day and time for the proposal or defense.
- No later than one week before the proposal/defense, the student must provide a copy of the dissertation proposal or dissertation to each of the committee members and to the Ph.D. Office.
- A formal announcement about the proposal/defense should go out no later than two weeks before the scheduled date.