University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dissertation Information

 Dissertation Proposal: You should meet with your full Dissertation Committee as early as you can to propose your thesis.  Typically, your advisory committee will form the core of your dissertation committee.  You should realize your proposal is not a contract that commits you to conducting only what is proposed. Instead, the dissertation proposal provides you the opportunity to think deeply about your research and formulate a research plan with the expert advice from your committee.  Early completion of the proposal is key to a timely degree completion. You can change experimental plans as your research unfolds.  The Dissertation Proposal Form should be completed and turned in to the Graduate Coordinator’s office. 


Dissertation Committee Composition: Doctoral committees/final oral examination committees must have at least 5 members representing more than one graduate program, 4 of whom must be UW-Madison graduate faculty or former UW-Madison graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement. 3 must be Psychology or psych-affiliated.  At least one of the 5 members must be from outside of the student’s major program or major field.


Dissertation Defense: As part of the thesis planning, you should consult the Graduate School’s “Guide to Preparing Your Doctoral Dissertation”  These publications contain important information concerning formatting your thesis, submission of your thesis, and deadlines for completion of degree requirements.  You and your Dissertation Committee will set a date for the Oral Defense of the thesis.


Timeline: The date chosen for the defense must allow sufficient time prior to your departure from the University for revisions suggested by the Committee to be incorporated into the final version of the Dissertation.


        *At least 4 weeks before the final Oral Examination, please contact the Graduate Coordinator so you Final Ph.D. warrant can be ordered.


        *No later than 2 weeks before the defense and after the details have been approved by your major professor, you should   provide the Graduate Program Office with the date, time, and place of the Oral Defense. An announcement of the defense will be e-mailed to faculty, graduate students, and affiliated faculty.


        *The completed Dissertation should be delivered to your Committee at least 2 weeks before the oral defense. If the Dissertation is submitted later than this, the date for the defense will be rescheduled automatically by your major professor to allow at least 2 weeks for review. Any change in this schedule must receive prior approval by all members of your Committee.


Defense: The thesis defense normally consists of a public presentation of the thesis followed by a closed meeting with the Dissertation Committee.  At the conclusion of the defense you will be asked to leave the room and the Committee will discuss whether to accept the thesis. This decision will be based on the quality of the public presentation and of the written Dissertation. The Committee will not approve the Dissertation until it is judged to be a satisfactory final version acceptable for the Ph.D. degree and for submission to the Graduate School.


Thesis: While the details of your Dissertation will be determined by you and your Dissertation Committee, all Dissertations are expected to be of publishable quality and to conform to a general standard. The Dissertation should be written in a style that is compatible with that commonly used for manuscripts published in major scientific journals.