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Dissertation

Students will work closely with their graduate advisor and members of the advisory committee to plan, write, and defend a dissertation. The dissertation should demonstrate the student's ability to conduct original research and to present the results of that research in a way that makes a meaningful contribution to existing research. The dissertation process, consisting of a prospectus, a dissertation, and a final oral defense, will be the student's culminating experience in the doctoral program.

Advisory Committee Meeting

The CRDM Program Committee recommends that doctoral students organize a meeting of their advisory committees to discuss the theoretical foundation and general approach planned for the dissertation during the process of studying for the preliminary examination. Because of the interdisciplinary makeup of each student's advisory committee, it is important to seek input and consensus from the committee before writing the prospectus. This meeting should occur before the Preliminary Exam.

Dissertation Prospectus

Following completion of the preliminary written examination and before the oral preliminary exam, the student will submit a draft dissertation prospectus to the advisory committee. The prospectus should:

  • Identify a significant problem or opportunity for which the dissertation will be a researched response.
  • Articulate a clear topic and direction for research; often, the topic will be expressed as a question or a set of related questions.
  • Ground the problem to be addressed in existing scholarship in order to argue that the dissertation will be an original contribution to published discussions on the topic and that it will not significantly overlap with previous research.
  • Discuss details of a workable and appropriate research method, including any literature to be surveyed, data to be collected, field research to be conducted, or other relevant methodological processes.
  • Outline the chapters of the dissertation.


​The discussion of the prospectus may take place:

  1. At the end of the oral portion of the preliminary exam. By the end of the oral portion of the preliminary exam, the advisory committee will suggest any necessary changes to the prospectus and will recommend whether or not the student is ready to advance to the next stage of the dissertation.

  2. At a separate committee meeting, after the student has passed the preliminary exam.

It is at the discretion of the dissertation chair to decide when the prospectus will be discussed. Nevertheless it is highly encouraged that it is discussed face to face, with all the committee members.

After completion of the prospectus discussion, all committee members must answer a survey about the student’s performance on the prospectus [http://goo.gl/forms/uoWklfXoA9]. The advisor should ensure that all members complete this assessment immediately following the oral exam. This rubric is for program’s assessment purposes only, and will not be shared with the student or faculty. Forms can only be accessed from your NC State google login. If the committee has an external member, then the chair can request a hard copy of the form.

The Dissertation

Coursework: Students should take CRD 895 while doing research. Once research is completed, students should take CRD 899 while writing the dissertation. This is important for accurately recording student work and progress through the degree.

The dissertation is a comprehensive study based on original research that is written in partial fulfillment of requirements for the CRDM doctorate. It has a clear theoretical foundation and employs a rigorous methodology. The manuscript is written so that it reflects the highest standards of writing valued in the Communication and English disciplines. Although all dissertations will be different, most successful dissertations will:​​

  • Articulate a meaningful and precise topic that contributes to existing research.
  • Advance our understanding of the phenomena, processes, histories, or contexts that are the focus of the study.
  • Ask meaningful research questions and then report original research that answers those questions.
  • Articulate the consequences of the research so as to highlight their significance.
  • Demonstrate the author's mastery of relevant theories and methods of research.
  • Demonstrate the author's ability to write clearly and at a level that would be suitable for publication.
  • Read like a book as opposed to a collection of essays. All components of the dissertation should be woven together and presented as a coherent discussion of a single topic.
  • Present the author's voice as one that is authoritative and confident.


Final Oral Examination (The Dissertation Defense)

The final step in a student's successful completion of the doctoral degree is the oral dissertation defense. In this examination, the doctoral candidate defends the methodology, data, and conclusions developed in the dissertation, and relate its overall significance to the field. A unanimous vote by the advisory committee is required to pass the examination. The graduate school representative will attend the final oral examination to ensure a fair process and will sign the report on the final oral examination. However, the representative is not a voting member of the committee.

After completion of the prospectus discussion, all committee members must answer a survey about the student’s performance on the defense  [http://goo.gl/forms/aj9EfyAuth]. The advisor should ensure that all members complete this assessment immediately following the oral exam. This rubric is for program’s assessment purposes only, and will not be shared with the student or faculty. Forms can only be accessed from your NC State google log in. If the committee has an external member, then the chair can request a hard copy of the form.

Scheduling the Final Oral Examination

In order to graduate within a particular semester, doctoral students must successfully pass the final oral examination by the deadline listed in the Graduate School handbook calendar [graduate school handbook section 3.21] and submit an approved, completed dissertation within the required time frame. These deadlines are not flexible, and missed deadlines have consequences. For instance, students may be required to pay another semester's tuition to remain a doctoral candidate.

Thus, students in their final year are encouraged to develop a clear schedule that lists all Graduate School due dates and work backwards from those to schedule the oral examination. Scheduling the committee meeting for the final oral examination is no easier than scheduling the preliminary examination, so students should consult with their advisory committee and set the date at least one month in advance. The committee should include the Graduate School Representative (GSR) from the preliminary exam, so students should ensure that the GSR is available on the dissertation date proposed. The committee should have at least 3 weeks to review the dissertation prior to the defense date.

Once the date is set, the doctoral candidate should initiate the Request for Approval to Schedule the Doctoral Oral Examination, complete the top portion, gather signatures, and return the form to the CRDM Program Associate at least 10 business days before the final oral examination date. The Program Associate will ensure that it is submitted to the Graduate School. After approving the request, the Graduate School will send to the graduate advisor the Admission to the Final Doctoral Oral Examination form.

After successful completion of the final oral examination, the graduate advisor, advisory committee, and the graduate school representative will sign the Report of the Advisory Committee section on the Admission to the Final Doctoral Oral Examination form. The CRDM Program Associate must file the completed form within 5 days of the examination.

Thesis Editing and Microfilm Charges

The student must schedule an appointment with the Graduate School's thesis editor to ensure that the Graduate School's requirements for dissertations are met, in addition to those already required by the CRDM program. The student can schedule an appointment with the Graduate School's thesis editor as soon as the Graduate School has approved the Request for Approval to Schedule the Doctoral Oral Examination. Please note that as Graduate School deadlines near, it becomes more difficult to schedule time with the thesis editor.

NC State also requires that doctoral students pay for their dissertations to be microfilmed by University Microfilms International (Ann Arbor, MI). This fee includes publication of the abstract in Dissertation Abstracts International. A microfiche of the dissertation is held in the NCSU Libraries collection.

Completing the Degree

By the end of the sixth week of classes in a student's last semester, the student must apply to graduate via MyPackPortal.

When doctoral students submit the final copy of their dissertation to the Graduate School, they must also submit:

NC State will not release the diploma or record the student's degree until these forms have been submitted. Please note that a survey or additional feedback may also be required by the CRDM Program.​

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