PhD: Forms, Important Dates and the Dissertation Process

    Important Dates

    SLAS P2
    The final dates to defend and submit dissertation for committees and readers are:
    • Spring 2021: Dissertations must be defended no later than April 2, 2021 (Email the Program Director of your Intent to Defend no later than March 5, 2021).
    • Summer 2021: Dissertations must be defended no later than July 30, 2021 (Email the Program Director of your Intent to Defend no later than July 2, 2021).
    • Fall 2021: Dissertations must be defended no later than November 5, 2021 (Email the Program Director your Intent to Defend no later than October 1, 2021).
    • Spring 2022: Dissertations must be defended no later than April 1, 2022 (Email the Program Director of your Intent to Defend no later than March 4, 2022).
    • Summer 2022: Dissertations must be defended no later than July 29, 2022 (Email the Program Director of your intent to Defend no later than July 1, 2022).
    • Fall 2022: Dissertations must be defended no later than November 4, 2022 (Email the Program Director of your Intent to Defend no later than September 30, 2022). 

    Selecting a Dissertation Committee and Readers

    SLAS P4

    Dissertation Committee Members

    A Dissertation Committee is composed of the Dissertation Committee Chair and two other full-time Marywood University faculty members, or one university faculty member and an outside expert. Committee members are to be invited based on consultation with the dissertation chair.

    A committee member must hold a terminal degree (Ph.D. or equivalent) and can hold an academic or professional appointment. When an outside expert is invited to be a committee member, then the curriculum vitae of the outside expert must first be submitted to the Dissertation Committee Chair for approval. Outside members who are appointed to the committee are not compensated for their service and serve on the committee voluntarily.

    Retired or former Marywood faculty may continue to serve on the committee either as a member or as chair, if approved by the Dissertation Committee Chair.

    The committee members' primary responsibility is to ensure that a scholarly product is the result of the dissertation process. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following:

    1. Evaluate the candidate's research proposal.
    2. Provide written and/or oral feedback on various drafts of the candidate's dissertation chapters.
    3. Attend all meetings of the full dissertation committee.
    4. Attend the candidate's dissertation defense.

    Prior to registering for dissertation credits, the Dissertation Committee Appointment Form must be completed and submitted to the Ph.D. Program Director.

    Dissertation Committee Chairperson

    It is the responsibility of the faculty Dissertation chair to guide the student as needed in the research endeavor, in consultation with the dissertation committee members, during the proposal meeting and thereafter until a successful defense is achieved.

    Students are encouraged to find a faculty Dissertation Chair while registered in SLAS 6012 (Pre-Dissertation Seminar). A Dissertation Chair must be a full-time Marywood University faculty member with a terminal degree.

    A student who is an employee of Marywood University may not have their immediate supervisor serve as the chair of their Dissertation committee.

    In addition to the responsibilities listed below under Role of Dissertation Committee member, the Chair's primary responsibility is to guide the candidate through the dissertation process. Specific responsibilities include the following:

    1. Helping the candidate with the selection of other committee members.
    2. Determine when meetings of the Committee should be held.
    3. Direct the defense of the candidate's research proposal for feedback and approval.
    4. Determine when each section of the candidate's work is ready to be reviewed by all committee members.
    5. Assess the progress of the candidate at the close of each semester by assigning a letter grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress, in accordance with the University's academic calendar due date for final grades.
    6. Determine when a pre-defense meeting of the Committee and candidate will be held.
    7. Determine with the other committee members, when the candidate's dissertation is ready to be defended.
    8. Direct the defense of the dissertation.

    Dissertation Readers

    The Candidate and Dissertation Committee to select two Readers at least three weeks prior to the scheduled dissertation defense date. Readers are to ask questions and present their feedback to the Dissertation Committee. A Reader must hold a terminal degree from an accredited university and to be selected either from the faculty pool at Marywood University or from outside of the university.

    How to Select A Dissertation Chair and Committee?

    Source: Lunenburg, F. and D. Irby. (2008). Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Selecting your committee is a very important step in the process of preparing your dissertation or master's thesis. The chairperson of the committee usually has broad power and influence throughout the process of completing the dissertation or master's thesis. Therefore, the selection of a chairperson for your project is a very important decision. In collaboration with your chair and committee, you will delimit your topic, develop your proposal, conduct your research, and write your dissertation or master's thesis. Ultimately, your committee will judge the quality of your project. In this chapter, we present some suggestions that might help you in selecting your dissertation or thesis chair and other committee members.

    Before choosing a faculty member as your chairperson, consider the chair's role. As mentioned previously, your chair will have broad power and influence over the dissertation or thesis process. While the specifics of this role vary from institution to institution, from department to department, and from chairperson to chairperson, some general functions of the chair are relatively universal. First, the chairperson will approve your dissertation or thesis topic. Second, the chairperson will approve, in consultation with you, the other committee members. Third, the chairperson will approve every line, section, and chapter of the dissertation. Fourth, the chairperson will determine how committee members will be involved in the dissertation or thesis process. Fifth, the chairperson will decide when you are ready to defend your dissertation or master's thesis. And, ultimately, the chairperson will determine whether you will be granted the degree.

    Most departments have rules concerning who may and who may not serve as dissertation or thesis chairpersons. Some universities allow only those individuals who are on the graduate faculty to serve as dissertation chairs; that is, faculty who have adequate, recent publication records and who teach graduate classes. These rules are based on the rationale that faculty who do not have active programs of research will lack the necessary skills to guide a doctoral research project. Rules regarding who may chair master's theses may not be as stringent as those concerning doctoral dissertations. Because practice varies on who may and who may not serve as dissertation chairs, we recommend that you learn your institution's rules as soon as possible. Knowing your institution's local ground rules will help you avoid considering a potential chairperson who is not eligible to chair a dissertation or thesis.

    You must consider the following factors in choosing a chair: (a) expertise, (b) accessibility, (c) feedback, (d) success, (e) personality style, and (f) attitudes toward methodology. The importance of each one will be discussed in turn.

    Expertise Ideally, it is in your best interest to find a chair with expertise in your topic area. You may want to read some of your potential chair's publications. In our opinion, following this advice generally will produce a better product. Obviously, the closer your chair's area of expertise is to your topic, the more competent he or she will be to (a) identify difficulties you may encounter as you proceed with your study, (b) direct you toward literature sources pertinent to your topic, and (c) guide your choice of methods for collecting and analyzing data. Furthermore, a chair who has an interest and competence in your topic area is likely to be more invested in your project; that is, think through the project more fully and keep a vigilant eye on your progress than one who is not knowledgeable about your topic area, and, therefore, may lack interest in it as well.

    Accessibility Another important factor to consider in selecting a chair is accessibility. Several things can interfere with a chair being consistently accessible to you during the life of your project. When considering someone as a possible chair, you should think about these things. Nationally known scholars may be too busy with their own research activity to give you the time you need. Other faculty may have active clinical practices or be away from campus frequently due to consulting commitments. Faculty members who have nine-month contracts with the university may not be available during the summer. Faculty who are planning a sabbatical leave may potentially interrupt your progress. Another faculty member may be planning to take a position in another university and, therefore, may not be available during the progress of your project. One of the authors of this book had her chair go on sabbatical leave during the final semester of her dissertation work; therefore, a new chair had to be appointed. Popular chairs may have an excessive number of dissertations or theses to monitor, because they are in high demand.

    Then there is the issue of tenure. Whereas nontenured faculty contracts may not be renewed, tenured faculty members are likely to be more stable. You will need to consider the relative accessibility and stability of potential chairs, along with your own time constraints and projections for completion.

    Feedback Typically, the chair provides the first line of quality control for the dissertation or thesis. And usually the chair will approve the proposal and final version of the project before you will be permitted to forward chapters of the dissertation or thesis to other committee members. Therefore, look for a chair with a reputation for reading, critiquing, and returning written drafts promptly.

    What is a good turnaround time? A good rule of thumb is to allow two weeks for a response. After that, a tactful inquiry may be appropriate. Obviously, students should recognize that it might take longer during very busy periods (e.g., end of grading periods, holidays, and before graduation deadlines when all students want to finish their projects).

    You should balance timelines of response with the thoroughness with which the potential chairperson reads submitted material. Some chairs provide vague feedback (e.g., rewrite this section), while others may provide detailed comments (e.g., "You need to identify the three main factors and then evaluate them in light of the theories you have discussed."). Waiting longer for a chapter to be returned by a chair may have some positive consequences. First, if you satisfy a chair who provides a thorough critique of your work, you are less likely to encounter serious problems with other committee members. Second, you will be better prepared for your proposal defense and final oral defense of your dissertation or thesis. Third, once you have satisfied your chair's standards, he or she is more likely to support you if one of your other committee members becomes overly or unreasonably critical of your work.

    Success Success at bringing students to graduation is an important factor to consider when selecting a chair. Because you are concerned with completing your degree, count how many successful students your potential chair has; that is, what percentage of the chair's students finish their degrees. Consider that criterion cautiously because some faculty members may not have had the opportunity to chair doctoral dissertations or master's theses.

    Personality Styles Personality styles matter to some people. Writing a dissertation or thesis is a collaborative process between you and your chairperson. Obviously, you want a chair with whom you can work reasonably well. You will need to assess the match between what you expect from your chair and your chair's notion of the best way to perform his or her role.

    Chairpersons vary greatly in how they work with students on dissertations and theses. Those at one end of the continuum closely monitor each phase of the students' work, in some cases stipulating exactly what is to be done at every step, and then require the student to submit each section of material for critique. Chairs at the other end of the continuum tell students to progress on their own and to finish a complete draft of the project before submitting it for evaluation. Most chairs will probably fall somewhere between these two extremes. Chairpersons also differ in the way they provide criticism. Some are blunt and even derisive. Others are direct and kindly in critiquing students' work. Still others are so cautious of students' feeling when pointing out weaknesses that they fail to guide their students in correcting deficiencies. In the latter case, someone else on the committee will have to step up and perform that duty; for the role of the chair and committee is to ensure that the candidate has met the university, college, and department standards.

    Students also have personal preferences with whom they want to work, in general. For example, some students prefer to work with female faculty members, while others prefer to work with male faculty. Some students prefer to work with older people, while others prefer younger faculty.

    Attitudes Toward Methodology Faculty members often differ concerning their preferences for a particular research method. A research method comprises the strategy followed in collecting and analyzing data. The major distinction in classifying research by method is the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative and qualitative research can be broken down further into several distinct types, each designed to answer a different kind of research question. Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data, which are usually rendered in the form of statistics. Advocates of quantitative studies tend to prefer such types as descriptive (or survey), correlational, causal-comparative, and experimental research. Proponents of such studies claim that their work is done from within a value-free framework.

    Qualitative research involves mostly nonnumerical data, such as extensive notes taken at a research site, interview data, videotape and audiotape recordings, and other nonnumerical artifacts. Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and the participant, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry. Qualitative researchers emphasize the value-laden nature of inquiry. Proponents of qualitative studies tend to favor such research approaches as case study, ethnography, ethology, ethnomethodology, grounded theory, phenomenology, symbolic interaction, and historical research.

    You need to examine the match between your preference and your potential chair's preference for a research method. Many faculty members accept both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including the authors of this text. We believe that the issue is not which method is better, but rather which method (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods) will best answer the particular research question or direction of inquiry.

    Stages of the Dissertation Process from Start to End

    PhD 1

    1. Before Starting the Dissertation Process

    • Complete all required courses (including the Qualifying and Pre-Dissertation Seminars).
    • Secure a Dissertation Committee Chair and two members. The Chair and one committee member have to be full-time faculty members of Marywood University. The third member can be from outside the university. Each member must hold a terminal degree from an accredited university.
    • Electronically (as an Email attachment) submit a completed "Appointment of Dissertation Committee" Form to the Program Director. 
    • Complete IRB's online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) as well as IRB application 

    2. During the Dissertation Writing Process

    • Complete at least 9 credits of dissertation research. 
    • If the dissertation has not yet been defended after satisfactory completion of 9 dissertation credits, then a continuous registration of 1 dissertation credit per academic semester is required until successful defense. 

    3. Prior to Defending the Dissertation

    • Notify the Program Director via email of your intent to defend at least one month prior to the scheduled date of your dissertation defense (no form is required). 
    • Provide an electronic copy of the dissertation three weeks prior to the scheduled defense to the Program Director and Committee members. 
    • Register for Graduation. 
    • The Candidate and the Dissertation Committee to select two Readers at least three weeks prior to the scheduled defense date. A Reader must also hold a terminal degree from an accredited university.

    4. Defending the Dissertation

    1. All dissertation defenses to be conducted through Zoom or Google Meeting. 
    2. Dissertation defense should not be longer than 45 minutes, followed by questions and answers. 
    3. Have a minimum of two copies of the "Dissertation Cover Page" (use the form provided in the "Forms" section of this page) and all committee members must sign the form once the dissertation defense is successful.
    4. Readers to ask questions during the defense and present their feedback to the committee.
    5. A majority vote of the Dissertation Committee members and at least one Reader is required to pass the defense.
    6. The Candidate can pass with provision that the research mentor supervise the corrections or additions to the final draft of the dissertation.
    7. Once passed, the student must submit a copy of the signed Cover Page to the Program Director and keep another copy for own record. 

    5. Dissertation Format

    • APA Style as described in the most current Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is to be followed.
    • The Copyright Act of 1976 provides for statutory copyright protection for any work fixed in a tangible medium. Following the Dissertation title page, the following copyright notice should be affixed on a separate page: "© year - Author’s Name All rights reserved."
    • The left margin must be 1 1/2", the right, bottom and top margins must be 1". These margins must be respected for graphs, charts, illustrations, etc. Use font size 10-12 using the same style of font or typeface throughout.
    • Front matter may include: acknowledgements, list of illustrations or tables, glossary of terms.

    6. After Defending the Dissertation

    • Provide the Program Director with an electronic Word copy of the completed dissertation no later than two weeks after successfully defending your dissertation.
    • If you are interested in bound copies of your dissertation you may contact Marywood University's Library.
    • Students are strongly encouraged to present their research to regional, national, or international professional audiences. Research mentors typically are also willing to assist in the development of the student’s dissertation into a manuscript for publication. In these cases, the student is to have first authorship.
    • If after two years the doctoral student does not publish his/her data, then the dissertation chair gains ownership of the data and may publish the results as first author.
    • Submit your dissertation for publication at the program's flagship peer-review journal, the Journal of Applied Professional Studies. All dissertations that were successfully defended are eligible for publication at the journal. 

    For detail information of the dissertation process please read the Student Handbook available on this website. 

    How to Defend a Dissertation Successfully?

    PhD 3

    According to Foss and Waters (2007), the dissertation defense begins as soon as you start working on your dissertation. Defense in the context of the dissertation process refers to the presenting, explaining and defending of your ideas. It also includes laying out the rationale behind your choices and decisions, for example, regarding theory selection and research methods. Efforts to recruit your chair and other committee members will entail some of this communication behavior. Seeking approval for your dissertation proposal, the foundation of all your research activities, will also entail a bit of defense.

    Throughout the process many exchanges with your chair and other committee members will involve explaining and defending your ideas and decision. However, the most important event is the actual dissertation defense which comes at the end of a long and arduous process and which may have unfolded over a number of years. The dissertation defense is a significant milestone signaling closure on your graduate student career.

    The dissertation defense can be divided into three distinct components the preparation, the defense, and follow-up. 


    • Attend the defenses of some of your colleagues.
    • It is very important to adhere to the program's rules, required forms and deadlines covering the scheduling of a defense.
    • Begin very early to schedule and coordinate the date, time and place for the defense. Committee members and chairs have very busy schedules.
    • Have your manuscript reviewed before the defense to be sure it is consistent with APA formatting requirements. You want to present a polished document for the committee in preparation for the defense.
    • Maximize your opportunity in the pre-defense meeting to raise any issues or concerns. Ask your chair and committee members what questions and issues might be raised during the defense. Prepare to address them.
    • Organize your material for presentation. Create flawless presentation of the material you will be covering on the defense. Finally, time yourself and practice presenting the material and answering questions.


    • Meetings may begin with brief comments by the chair, introducing you and members of the committee and setting up a timeline and procedure for the presentation and follow up questions.
    • Your presentation material should briefly cover the research question, literature review as it relates to your theory, methods and analysis, major findings and recommendations for future research.
    • Do not read the PowerPoint or from a prepared paper (you may glance at a short note as a guide). Maintain eye contact, be clear, calm, confidant, and charming. 
    • Avoid jargon, repetition, and editorial comments.Maintain an academic quality both in content and presentation.
    • During the defense, the committee may take turns asking you questions and discussing among themselves points of interest or disagreement.
    • Some questions to anticipate include identifying the weaknesses of your study and post-dissertation research plans.
    • Two Readers are required, appointed by the Dissertation Committee Chair. Readers to ask questions and present their feedback to the Dissertation Committee. 
    • When all questions have been asked and answered, everyone (including the defending student, staff, administrators, family, friends, guests and the public) will be asked to leave the room while the Dissertation Committee and Readers deliberate. At this time the committee and readers will be deciding by vote whether to pass you on your defense and dissertation.
    • A majority vote of the Dissertation Committee and at least one Reader is required to pass the defense.
    • The desired outcome of this meeting is the chair's greeting you with the statement "Congratulations, Dr....... The defense was successful and the committed has passed your dissertation."
    • Have your committee sign two copies of the Cover Page of your dissertation on an acid-free paper. Keep one copy and submit the other to the Program Director. 


    • You may plan a small reception for friends and family.
    • Attend to the revisions the committee asked you make during the due period.
    • Provide copies of your work to your chair, committee members, Program Director, family and friends. You may also provide bound copies to your library.
    • Overall, the dissertation defense process includes the following ten steps (Lantsoght, 2014):
    1. Know your committee
      2. Know your assumptions and limitations of your conclusions
      3. Prepare Effective PowerPoint Presentation 
      4. Prepare for questions that are right at the edge of your dissertation
      5. Trust yourself
      6. Brush up on your literature knowledge
      7. Know your schedule for the Big Day
      8. Eat well
      9. Get enough sleep
      10. Enjoy your big day


    Foss, S. and W. Waters. (2007). Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, Inc. 

    Lantsoght, E. (2014). The A-Z of the PhD Trajectory. NY: springer.

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