Dissertation Research

The next step is the research itself. There are many different methods and approaches. Some types, especially theoretical research, are conducted in incremental steps. Other types, especially experimental research, require planning and executing experiments, with results evaluated to determine what findings can be concluded.

For most students, the first research results are obtained working closely with an advisor. As students learn how to do the research and to identify credible research results, they will often design and implement their own experiments to obtain original results. Students become researchers in their own right, making original contributions to their field.

Research Review

At least three months before the final oral defense or examination, the student and Advisory Committee meet for the research review. It is an opportunity for the student to present the PhD dissertation research to the committee. Though the student may very well obtain additional research results between the research review and the oral defense, the research presented at the review should be sufficient for a PhD dissertation.

Writing the Dissertation

After the research review the student’s main efforts are directed toward writing the dissertation. The level of Advisory Committee involvement should be agreed upon by the committee and the student at the research review. For example, a student may send individual chapter drafts to each Advisory Committee member or share several complete dissertation drafts with the advisor, incorporating the advisor’s suggestions and comments, before the rest of the Advisory Committee sees any part of the dissertation. No matter what model of interaction is agreed upon, the student should anticipate that substantial time might be required to incorporate corrections, revisions and improvements.

Scheduling the Final Oral Examination

Once the dissertation is finished and the Advisory Committee’s suggestions have been incorporated, it is time for the final oral examination.

Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination, or defense, is a public presentation of the research and results. The presentation should contain general background information tailored to the comprehension level of other PhD students in the CS&E program, followed by new research results. Complex research details may be fully understandable only by those familiar with the research area, but the candidate should make every effort to present the material in a way that is clear and engaging to the general audience.