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  School of Communication and Information 2021-2023 Ph.D. Program in Communication, Information, and Media Program Program Requirements Dissertation Requirements  

Dissertation Requirements

Below is an overview of the dissertation process after the qualifying exam is passed. More detailed and current information is available for current students in the annual program handbook which is linked at

1. Selection of Dissertation Chair

In consultation with the program director or area coordinator, the student identifies members of the Ph.D. faculty appropriate to serve as chair given the research topics of interest. The student consults with these individuals, and a chair is determined through process of mutual selection and with final approval of the program director.

2. Selection of Additional Committee Members
The chair and student select three additional faculty members to serve on the dissertation committee. The chair and candidate finalize the committee. A committee consists of the chair plus at least two members from the 
communication, information, and media (CIM) program faculty and one member outside of the School of Communication and Information, or outside of the university, as appropriate to the dissertation topic. The proposed committee is subject to review and approval by the program director. Additionally, when proposed committee members are not members of the Rutgers University graduate faculty, a CV must be reviewed by the program director who then forwards it to a dean of the School of Graduate Studies for final approval. When approved, a formal letter of invitation and appointment is issued by the School of Graduate Studies. Please allow at least two weeks lead time for such review.

3.  Preparation of the Dissertation Proposal
With the guidance of their chair and the committee, the candidate prepares a formal Dissertation Proposal, which will normally include a statement of the research problem and/or rationale for a proposed project, an overview of relevant literature, alternative research methods that might be employed, a statement as to the value of the proposed project, the research protocol, and a bibliography. When the chair is satisfied that the proposal is acceptable in general, the chair schedules a meeting of the committee for purposes of formally reviewing, approving, or suggesting further modifications and notifies the Ph.D. office of the date. The evaluation process includes an oral examination by the chair and committee members. When the proposal is acceptable to the chair and committee, they indicate approval by signing the Dissertation Proposal Title Page. (See Title Page format here: and click on Dissertation Proposal Sample Title Page). A copy of the signed Title Page and the proposal is given to the Director to be kept on file in the Ph.D. Program Office. The topic of the Dissertation Proposal cannot be changed, subsequent to its approval, except in extraordinary circumstances when adjustments are approved in consultation with the chair and committee members and with the approval of the program director. The SGS requires that the Dissertation Proposal will be signed within one year of passing the qualifying exams.

4. Public Presentation of the Dissertation Proposal (optional)

When the dissertation proposal has been formally approved by the committee, the dissertation chair and candidate may select a date for presentation of the dissertation proposal at a Ph.D. colloquium, held on Wednesday afternoons. Multiple approved dates are available during the fall and spring semesters, and students should sign up for a presentation date through the program office. The signed proposal must be filed with the program office at least one week before the presentation is made. The presentation should include highlights from the proposal document and also allow for a question-and-answer period (approximately 30 minutes total, depending on number of presenters). (See the appendix in the Ph.D. Faculty and Student Handbook for additional information on supporting presentation materials.)

5. Dissertation Defense

Throughout the dissertation writing process, the candidate is encouraged to consult with the committee as appropriate to guide their research. When the candidate has completed the dissertation to the satisfaction of the chair, the oral defense can be scheduled at a time that is mutually agreed upon by the candidate, the chair, and the members of the committee. The candidate must send their dissertation to the entire committee no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled dissertation defense. At least two weeks must be allowed for committee members to read the dissertation prior to the oral defense. The chair or the candidate should notify the Ph.D. Director and Ph.D. Office when the defense is being scheduled and the Office will assist in booking a room and logistics. The SGS requires that the Defense be held at Rutgers, with the chair and candidate physically present. It is allowed for one or two members to attend the meeting virtually (usually the outside member.)

At the oral defense, the candidate is typically removed from the meeting for the first 15 minutes to give the committee time to discuss the dissertation and agree upon lines of questioning. When the student is invited back into the meeting, they are typically asked to give a brief overview of the dissertation prior to the start of questioning. Each committee member is given an opportunity to ask questions of the candidate. When questioning is complete, the candidate is asked to leave the meeting again while the committee consults and decides on the outcome. The chair will make notes about any revisions to the dissertation that are requested by the committee and oversee the implementation of those edits by the candidate. Once a decision is reached, the candidate is invited back into the room and the committee's decision is shared with them.

Prior to scheduling the defense, the candidate should review the SGS's Checklist for Ph.D. Degree (see and follow all instructions carefully, in order to make sure all appropriate paperwork is submitted to SGS prior to graduation and that the dissertation is properly formatted following the style guide (see link to Checklist) to meet all requirements. Candidates should plan to schedule their dissertation defense at least two weeks prior to the deadline to file all degree requirements with SGS for the desired degree date to allow sufficient time to make revisions and schedule the public dissertation presentation.

6. Final Approval by Committee and Chair

Following the successful defense of the dissertation, the candidate will work in consultation with their chair to implement any revisions that were desired by the committee. When the dissertation is complete in a final form, the chair and committee members acknowledge their approval by signing the title page (See and click on Dissertation Title Page bullet to see the approved format) and the Doctoral Final Defense form (see to download form). Typically, the committee members will sign these documents at the dissertation defense and the chair will withhold their signature until all revisions are completed. When all revisions have been implemented to the satisfaction of the chair, they will add their signature to these forms to indicate final approval. When approved, the candidate submits one (1) copy of the completed dissertation to the Office of the Ph.D. Program. A check in the amount of $40 (note that this amount may change) to cover the cost of binding must accompany the copy.

7. Public Presentation and Program Director Approval

The Program Director, in consultation with the candidate and the chair, schedules a public presentation, which is required by the SGS and is open to faculty, students, and friends. This is usually scheduled as part of the 600 Ph.D. Colloquium series on Wednesday afternoons at 1:00pm. The candidate also provides 30 copies of the "Abstract" with an attached biographical sketch for distribution to the program faculty and students. (See on Handbook & Key Forms tab and Dissertation Public Presentation Guidelines).The Public Presentation must be done prior to the SGS deadline for final submission of all degree information.

The presentation should include highlights from the dissertation document and also allow for a question and answer period (approximately 30-45 minutes total). Following a satisfactory presentation, the Program Director indicates final approval of the dissertation by signing the Doctoral Final Defense form (available from the Program Office, and online from SGS at, which the candidate must return to the Office of the SGS (25 Bishop Place, CAC). See Dissertation Public Presentation Guidelines here: ( click on link)

For additional information, contact RU-info at 848-445-info (4636) or
Comments and corrections to: Campus Information Services.

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