A dissertation embodying original research constitutes the major requirement of the program. The dissertation is written under the guidance of a faculty sponsor and is defended before a University committee.

As a student progresses on the dissertation proposal, it is wise to establish a working relationship not only with the sponsor but also with other faculty members who will serve as readers of the dissertation at the time of the defense.

Each student must submit a written proposal detailing the dissertation plan to the doctoral coordinator for approval. The proposal must be accompanied by an approval of dissertation proposal form signed by the sponsor and by three other faculty members, indicating their willingness to supervise the dissertation. Approval forms are available in the Doctoral Office.

A seminar on the dissertation topic is presented by the student before the four faculty members who are to approve the proposal. This seminar serves as an oral examination: the student must answer questions about both the thesis proposal and the related literature.

Candidates can expect to spend at least one year of full-time work on the dissertation.