Doctoral Dissertation

The following is some brief information on the process for completing a dissertation in the PhD in Political Science program.  For links to several recent dissertations produced by graduates of our department please see the IRIS section of the Northeastern University Libraries website.

Detailed information on submission guidelines for students nearing the completion stage of the writing of their dissertations can be found at the Graduate School website.

A dissertation is required of all students. A student has five years to complete the dissertation once doctoral degree candidacy is attained. Once degree candidacy is attained, registration for must be continuous until graduation requirements have been met.

For each of the first two semesters that a doctoral candidate is working on a dissertation the student must register for POLS 9990 – Dissertation. For each semester beyond the two Dissertation registrations, the student must register for POLS 9996 – Dissertation Continuation until the dissertation is approved by the Graduate School and is submitted to the University library. Students do not have to register for continuation during the summer unless that is when the defense occurs.

Doctoral dissertation requirements are fulfilled in several stages:

  1. Forming the Dissertation Committee: The dissertation committee is put together by the student based on consultation with and the approval of the Chair of the Doctoral Program. The committee is typically composed of three members and normally may include up to one faculty member from outside the department or the university, but must be chaired by a full-time, tenured member of the Department of Political Science. The committee approves the dissertation proposal and works with the student throughout the dissertation process, including the oral defense.
  2. The Proposal: Before the end of the first semester of doctoral candidacy, the student submits to the dissertation committee a written proposal specifying the topic, approach, and research design, and describing the resources available for completing the research. That semester students must attend the department’s dissertation proposal workshop. The proposal should demonstrate the student’s comprehension of the literature in the areas of research and should present a reasonably detailed plan for conducting research. Guidelines for preparing the proposal can be found here.
  3. Formats: There are two possible formats for a dissertation. One is the more traditional book-length manuscript, and the other is composed of several journal-quality manuscripts and an integrative essay. Consult the Chair of the Ph.D. program for more information on these options. The dissertation must meet all requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
  4. Research and Writing: The student thereafter writes a dissertation that presents an original approach or insight into the topic under investigation. It is based on research utilizing primary documents as well as secondary literature, and reflects the methodological approach established at the proposal stage. The student is advised to maintain constant contact with the chair of the dissertation committee throughout the process.
  5. Defending the Dissertation: At a time when the dissertation committee so deems, the student will orally defend the dissertation before the committee and any other member of the University community who wishes to observe.
  6. Submission: Once the dissertation has been successfully defended and is deemed complete by the committee, the student shall submit the completed manuscript to the University, following the precise guidelines for submission provided by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. No degree can be granted until the University has formally accepted the dissertation and his been officially submitted.