The dissertation is the undertaking that distinguishes a doctoral degree from other academic degrees and contributes to the reputation it enjoys as the highest degree that academe can offer. It is evidence that the student can perform as an independent and original scholar and make, as the Graduate Catalog phrases it, "a substantial contribution to knowledge."
Ideally, you will begin work toward the dissertation the day you begin graduate study. You should carefully select related courses that will lead toward a specialization in a given area and allow you to produce a connected body of work. The "unfinished business" and unanswered questions of any course provide prime material for dissertation topics. Seminar papers may lead to proposals or even dissertation chapters. Preparation for candidacy examinations should immerse you even more deeply in the texts, criticism or theory you have identified as a major area, particularly if you design a special field examination. The value of the working relationships you establish with faculty in your area of interest cannot be underestimated. You should not, therefore, view the dissertation as a completely separate requirement to be put off until the time of candidacy examinations but as the culmination of a process that begins much earlier.
The Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee consists of three members of the graduate faculty, one of whom serves as director of the dissertation and two of whom serve as readers. Well in advance of the oral candidacy examination, you will have identified a dissertation director who will help to recommend the other members of the dissertation committee to the director of graduate studies.
The Dissertation Process
After completing 60 hours of graduate course work (typically 30 in the M.A., 30 in the Ph.D.), passing language proficiency, passing candidacy examinations, and defending a dissertation proposal, you will enroll in ENGL 799 as you begin formally writing the dissertation. Thereafter, you must enroll in at least one hour of ENGL 799 every semester (including summers) until graduation, for a total of thirty hours. This rule applies with no exceptions unless you request and receive a formal leave of absence from the Graduate School.
Upon the completion of the dissertation to the satisfaction of the dissertation director and the other two members of the dissertation committee, you may proceed to the oral defense of the dissertation. In addition to the manuscript form and content required by the departmental committee, the dissertation must conform to the requirements of the Graduate School as specified by the NIU Thesis and Dissertation Office. At the time of the defense, the manuscript may be in final draft, pending identification of generally minor changes during the defense, or in a "defense draft" which awaits final revision following the defense.
You can find forms and deadlines governing the dissertation process by visiting the NIU Graduate School's Student Resources.
Ph.D. Program Links
- Handbook (PDF)
- Dissertation Manual (PDF)
- Degree Requirements
- Dissertation Requirements
- Candidacy Examinations
- Learning Outcomes
Ph.D. Student Resources
- NIU English Doctoral Success Guide (PDF)
- PhD Timeline (PDF)
- Dissertation Manual (PDF)
- Professional Development