Doctoral Dissertation Policy

The Department of Sociology at Western Michigan University follows all of the Graduate College policies regarding the doctoral dissertation procedures. The doctoral dissertation:

  • Is an unpublished document submitted to the graduate faculty of the University by way of your doctoral dissertation committee.
  • Is a report of your investigation as one of the requirements of the doctoral degree.
  • Shows evidence of your competence to design, carry out and report an original and important sociological investigation.

As you conduct your dissertation research, you may find the Graduate College's services to be useful.

Dissertation committee

Your dissertation committee must consist of a minimum of four members:

  • Major advisor who serves as chair. It is your responsibility to choose your major advisor and secure permission from that individual to become an advisee. Your major advisor must be a full-time member of the graduate faculty. Since your major advisor will guide you in preparation of your dissertation, select a person whose interests in sociology are pertinent to your major interests. You should see your major advisor at least once a semester to report progress and to be sure you are meeting deadlines and other degree requirements. Your major advisor will supervise your dissertation research and help you appoint a dissertation committee.
  • Two additional members of the sociology graduate faculty.
  • One faculty member from outside of the Department of Sociology.

You may request additional members from the Department of Sociology or from other departments. Once you and your major advisor settle on a dissertation committee, complete a committee appointment form. Changes in your dissertation committee or major advisor require the submission of another committee appointment form.

Permission to elect doctoral dissertation hours

An application for permission to elect doctoral dissertation hours (SOC 7300) is required. Following your first enrollment in doctoral dissertation hours, you must enroll in SOC 7300 each fall and spring semesters continuously until all your dissertation requirements are completed and approved.

If you are unable to complete your dissertation within the first 15 hours of registration, you will be required to continue to enroll; however, only 15 hours of SOC 7300 will count toward meeting program requirements for your degree. If you plan to graduate during a summer session, you will need to be enrolled during that summer session.


You are required to write and defend a doctoral dissertation prospectus by the time you complete 45 hours in the doctoral program. Your prospectus must include:

  • A precise statement of the objective and importance of your research (research is construed in the broadest terms consistent with the demands of degree attainment).
  • An initial exposition of the literature pertaining to your problem or theory pertinent to your research.
  • The methods, including research design, data sources and methods of analysis through which your research will be pursued.

Your prospectus must be developed in concert with your major advisor and approved by your dissertation committee at a formal prospectus meeting prior to the initiation of your research. The admission to doctoral candidacy form must be signed by all committee members and returned to the Graduate College and the graduate advisor for inclusion in your file. The doctoral dissertation research will be carried out under the supervision of your major advisor and the dissertation committee, with whom you should have regular and frequent consultations.

In the development of your prospectus, you and your major advisor should create a contract specifying:

  • The schedule of work to be completed and distributed for dissertation committee review.
  • Ample turnaround times for committee review and your response to their comments and suggestions.
  • A schedule for meetings with your major professor and committee members.

While this contract may be altered from time to time by the uncertainties of the research process, it should be committed to by all parties.

Human subjects approval

If your dissertation involves human subjects, you must have prior approval of your research proposal by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board before data collection can begin. Policy guidelines and application forms are available from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Oral dissertation defense

In preparation for your oral defense:

  1. Complete and submit a graduation application to the Office of the Registrar two semesters prior to your anticipated graduation date. This application for graduation precipitates an audit that informs you of any problems that might delay the scheduling of your oral thesis defense.  The oral dissertation defense can be scheduled only after the audit is complete and your dissertation committee has approved your dissertation for defense.
  2. Schedule a two hour block of time for the defense. Inform the director of graduate studies of the date and time of the oral defense at least two weeks in advance. Your oral defense will be presented to your dissertation committee and other interested persons.
  3. Complete a dissertation defense scheduling form, which must include an abstract of your dissertation. This form must be received by the Graduate College two weeks prior to the scheduled time of your defense. 
  4. Prominently post your oral defense announcement including the date and time in public areas in the department.
  5. Prior to the time scheduled for your oral defense, obtain three copies of a dissertation approval form appropriate to the size of your committee. These will be submitted to the Graduate College along with your dissertation.

Submission of dissertation to the Graduate College

Following a satisfactory audit from the Office of the Registrar and a successful defense, make corrections or changes directed by your dissertation committee. Prepare final copies to be submitted to the Graduate College along with the dissertation approval form. The Graduate College offers a check-in form for the submission of the dissertation which should be followed closely. The Graduate College also maintains a list of deadlines and other important dates, including the deadline for submitting a dissertation in order to graduate in a particular semester.


When your dissertation receives final approval from the Graduate College, the dean of the Graduate College will sign the appropriate forms and the dissertation will be sent for microfilming. The original will be forwarded to Waldo Library and the microfilm copy will be sent to University Microfilms International to be archived.